1. Computing

Can Apple’s iPad Tablet Make Voice Calls?

First tablet computer from Apple is currently like a data-only smartphone

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Apple iPad tablet

Apple iPad tablet

Image © Apple
Jan. 27, 2010: Apple on Jan. 27, 2010 unveiled the long-rumored iPad, which is its first tablet computer.

With all the hoopla surrounding its launch, this article hones in on two aspects of the iPad:
  1. The fact that it’s essentially a data-only smartphone for surfing the mobile Web.
  2. The conversation about its potential voice component (as you’d find in traditional cell phones and smartphones).
Wi-Fi vs. 3G

Apple has currently unveiled six models for the iPad tablet. Three have Wi-Fi and three have high-speed 3G technology.

The three Wi-Fi models can get online for free using your home wireless router, a Wi-Fi connection at a coffee shop, etc.

The Wi-Fi models (which don’t have GPS for turn-by-turn navigation) are priced at $499, $599 and $699 with 16, 32 and 64 gigabytes of storage space respectively.

The three 3G models can surf the high-speed Web from anywhere with a good AT&T 3G signal. This means you don’t have to be tied to the smaller footprint of where Wi-Fi zones exist.

The 3G models (which also have Wi-Fi along with GPS) are priced at $629, $729 and $829 with 16, 32 and 64 gigabytes of storage space respectively. The 3G models, though, require a no-contract data plan with AT&T.

There are two 3G data plans being offered by AT&T for the iPad:
  1. 250 megabytes of data for $14.99 per month
  2. Unlimited data for $30 a month
The iPad Voice Conversation

While some would debate whether or not the iPad can be configured for voice calls in the future, the simple fact is that it isn’t designed to do so now. But it could come later.

An analysis into the hardware of a data-only 3G model reveals that the tablet could be used for voice calls. There is currently no software application, though, to allow for phone calls. The iPad, which is compatible with nearly all iPhone apps, features the following hardware that is similar to what you find in many cell phones and smartphones today:
  1. UMTS/HSDPA technology at 850, 1900 and 2100 megahertz
  2. GSM/EDGE technology at 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 megahertz
  3. 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  4. Bluetooth 2.1
To make the iPad into a voice-capable smartphone, adding a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) application would enable phone calls. Because the screen is so large and you likely wouldn’t want to hold a 9.7-inch device up to your ear, you could then pair a Bluetooth earpiece with the device for the actual talking and listening.

To officially allow the iPad to be used for voice traffic, AT&T would also need to support it in its terms and conditions. While it currently does not, that could change in the future. Also, be on the look out for Verizon Wireless to potentially support the iPad with its 3G network.

Apple says the iPad Wi-Fi models are set to debut 60 days after its Jan. 27, 2010 announcement, which means on or around March 27, 2010. The company says the iPad 3G models will go on sale 30 days later, which means on or around April 27, 2010.

Would you want to use the new iPad for voice calls? Chime in on the About.com iPad poll!

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