By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 3:38 am
Long before anyone knew much of anything about the iPad, people were expressing strong opinions about it. But the opinions that matter most didn’t begin to get formed until April 3rd, the day Apple’s tablet finally went on sale. That’s when teeming masses of consumers spent their own money on iPads, took them home, and put them to an array of utterly real-world tests.
We gave those folks a few weeks to explore their new gadgets. And then we fielded a survey earlier this month to gauge the satisfaction level of some of the first iPad owners. More than six thousand people responded, the largest response to a Technologizer survey to date.
Executive summary in case you don’t feel like reading the rest of this article: They like it. A lot. Ninety-eight percent say they’re satisfied with their iPads overall; ninety-six percent think it’s a good value. In category after category–3G service, most of the individual bundled apps, battery life, speed, the absence of Flash–a majority of respondents are pleased.
In only one major area did unhappy campers dominate: A majority aren’t pleased with Apple’s App Store approval process. More than half also wish Apple had given the tablet printing capabilities, a memory-card slot, and a front-facing camera.
The extremely warm response for the iPad isn’t astonishing. (Come to think of it, it’s reminiscent of the raves we heard about Windows 7 in our survey about that operating system.) Early adopters, pretty much by definition, are people who are extremely excited about a new product; unless it abjectly fails to deliver on its promises, it makes sense that they’d be inclined to be upbeat. (Here’s a story idea for somebody–maybe us–for another time: Conduct a survey of people who bought iPads and then returned them.)
Still, there are plenty of interesting tidbits in our data. And the cumulative experiences of six thousand iPad owners serve as a useful reality check on the device’s pros and cons as reported in reviews.
As usual with our surveys, a disclaimer is in order. We aren’t trying to capture a demographically representative sample of all iPad owners and we didn’t normalize the results. The opinions you’re about to read reflect only the experiences of the folks who took our survey–readers of Technologizer and other sites (such as Daring Fireball) that linked to it. Which is fine by us: We were dying to learn what you thought.
Before we solicited opinions, we started by collecting some basic background information. Sixty-two percent of respondents have the Wi-Fi-only model–not surprising given that it’s cheaper and has been available longer–but owners of the 3G model are well represented, too.
Seventy-one percent live in the U.S., the first country to get the iPad.
A third of respondents are the earliest of early adopters: They bought their iPads on April 3rd, the day the tablets hit the Apple Store. Sixty-one percent have been iPad owners for a month or more, making them old hands–relatively speaking–who have had time to form considered opinions.
Everybody assumes that people who already own and like Apple products have a high propensity to buy iPads. And in the cast of our survey respondents, at least, everybody is right. A whopping 82 percent use the iPad with a Mac; ten percent use both a Mac and a Windows PC; just eight percent use only Windows.
Actually, respondents are nearly as likely to own an iPhone as they are a Mac. Kindles, BlackBerries, Android phones, and other devices trail way behind.
Among respondents who have 3G iPads, most are happy with the wireless service. Fifty-nine percent are totally or very satisfied; fifteen percent are somewhat satisfied. Twenty-two percent are neutral, and only four percent are dissatisfied. The figures below are for all respondents with 3G iPads, in both the U.S. and other countries. But those who live in the states–who are presumably using AT&T–reported results that were largely similar to those in other countries.
Thirty-six percent of 3G iPhone owners who took the survey are somewhat or very satisfied with the value of their data plans; another 27 percent are somewhat satisfied. Twenty-two percent say they have no opinion on the matter; eleven percent are somewhat or very dissatisfied. Three percent say they’re totally dissatisfied. As with the previous question, the responses from U.S. iPad owners and those in other countries didn’t differ much. (We conducted the survey at the very tail end of AT&T’s unlimited data plan offering; it would be interesting to ask again now that new buyers must choose a plan that gives them a fixed amount of data each month.)
In the chart about iPad’s bundled apps and Apple’s iWork ones below, orange represents extreme happiness, blue shows happiness, purple indicates mild-favorability-bordering-on-neutrality, and red means unhappiness. (Only ratings from people who have tried each app are shown.) Enthusiasm runs high for almost everything–especially Safari and Maps. Notes is the only built-in app that inspires noticeably less excitement: Around half of the people who have tried it think it’s fair or poor. And the iWork apps get decent numbers overall, but fewer people think they’re excellent than with most of the standard programs.
When we asked about key iPad features, orange (“Totally Satisfied”) and blue (“Very Satisfied”) again dominated. A whopping 79 percent of respondents are totally satisfied with the device’s battery life; 66 percent are totally satisfied with its speed; 60 percent are totally satisfied with its user interface. Weight and size weren’t received with the same level of bliss, but 75 percent of respondents still said they were totally or very satisfied. And while there have been widespread reports of trouble with iPad Wi-Fi, only eight percent of respondents said they were somewhat, very, or totally dissatisfied with their Wi-Fi experience.
We also asked about features which Apple could have included in the iPad but didn’t–and here the respondents were more critical. In the chart below, lots of purple and red indicates missing features which many people want: Printing was number one on their wish list, followed by a front-facing camera and a built-in slot for memory cards. The iPad’s sealed battery turns out not to be particularly controversial–more than three quarters of respondents are okay with it, and sixty-one percent say the fixed one is better.