According to a litany of complaints at Apple's support site, many of the iPad's first owners are experiencing trouble connecting with Wi-Fi networks. Weak signals, dropped signals, poor or even nonexistent download speeds ... the stories are eerily similar to what we heard from early iPhone owners complaining about AT&T's (NYSE: T ) network.
The former Ma Bell won't have anything to do with these devices for another 30 days, when the 3G edition ships, but today's iPad problems appear to be just as pervasive, and just as troubling. "Went to the Genius bar today with my day old iPad and described the same symptoms everyone else is experiencing to the Apple tech," wrote support poster Minpeak yesterday. "He was able to replicate the weak Wi-Fi and exchanged my iPad."
But the problems didn't end with the exchange. The poster's new iPad was "continuing to have the weak reception" as of last night.
More broadly, many of the users who complained about Wi-Fi on the iPad said they had no trouble with connecting their iPhones or other Apple devices, which could indicate a hardware issue or even a design flaw.
At IntoMobile.com, tests showed the iPad performed considerably better when connecting to an Apple network. "There may be a correlation between non-Apple Wi-Fi networks and weak iPad Wi-Fi signals," wrote Will Park, the site's Editor in Chief. "Our Time Capsule is pushing wireless bits with strong signal to our iPads. The iPads connected to our Linksys wireless router are seeing signal fluctuations and dropped connections."
Calls and emails to Apple seeking comment hadn't been returned as of this writing. Nevertheless, all evidence points to the iPad having a problem that needs fixing -- bad news for Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) and mixed news for Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , which has positioned itself to profit if readers enjoy the iPad as a home for their ebooks.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) can take a breath, but they can't relax. Apple's retail stores were designed for problems like these; they allow users to grouse to a live person and receive prompt service.
For now, there's a chorus of complaints about the iPad, a rare lemon from an Apple that consumers expect used to make sweet and delicious gadget pie.
Is the iPad defective, or is a tune-up all that's needed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.