On the surface, Apple’s soon to be released iPad and Amazon’s already available Kindle appear to service the same market: eBook readers.
Amazon’s Kindle is available in two varieties. There’s the smaller screen US$259 6″ (15cm) Kindle, and the larger US$489 9.7″ (25cm) Kindle DX. Both have the same feature set, so the US$230 price difference just buys you more screen real estate. I’ve listed the prices there in US dollars because that’s what Amazon will charge you for them even though you’re shipping them to Australia. As such, depending on how the currency conversion goes, the price of the Kindle may fluctuate on a daily basis.
The local iPad prices have finally been set in stone. Pricing for the WiFi-only models starts at $629 (16GB), $759 (32GB) or $879 (64GB), while the 3G and GPS equipped version costs $799 (16GB), $928 (32GB) or $1,049 (64GB). As yet, unlike the iPhone, no carrier has said they’ll sell the iPad on a phone-style contract basis, but data plans have popped up starting at $20 for a 30 day expiry period. That’ll get you 1GB of usage from Telstra and 2GB from Optus. At the time of writing, Vodafone had yet to commit pricing, but it’s not a great stretch to suggest they’ll fall somewhere in line with Telstra and Optus anyway.
In the Kindle’s favour, the cost of the device includes lifetime wireless data access for browsing and buying books from Amazon’s Kindle bookstore. Pick a title, and pretty much anywhere in Australia it’ll be sent to your Kindle for quick and easy reading. In the US, the Kindle also offers limited web browsing, and will shortly offer Twitter and Facebook compatibility, but the “International” model doesn’t offer web browsing, so it seems unlikely we’ll get Twitter or Facebook either. The Kindle uses an e-ink solution that mimics the look of real paper — to a certain extent — and uses very little power. Charge your Kindle up, and it’ll last a number of weeks.
The iPad, on the other hand, uses a more traditional LCD display, as you’d find in a notebook or netbook. This has the downside that power consumption is much higher, but it’s readable by itself without any external light source. It’s also a much more capable device, somewhat akin to — but not quite like — a notebook or netbook. It doesn’t come with free lifetime data, but then what you can do with that data is far more wide reaching.
The iPad is somewhat akin to an iPod Touch with a touch of Frankenstein to it, and as such most iPod Touch/iPhone Apps will run on it, save those that need phone or camera functionality. It’s a more complete device in that it’ll handle a lot of simple computing tasks, but only one at a time. Like the iPod Touch/iPhone, there’s no multi-tasking capability out of the box, although the promised 4.0 iPhone software update due later this year may deal with some of those woes.
The iPad’s likely to be more expensive than the Kindle for the foreseeable future, although the difference between the Kindle DX and iPad 16GB isn’t that great after currency conversion and GST are taken into consideration. The Kindle hits the eBook market quite hard and with focus, and if all you’re after is an eBook reader, it’s the one to beat in single use terms. There are plenty of competitors in the wings. The iPad’s an eBook reader, but also quite a bit more, and it’s priced somewhat accordingly.