Thoughts on the iPad
I recently became the owner of an iPad -- the WiFi + 3G 32 GB model that just went on sale this past Friday. Having had four solid days of using it, I think I'm going to hold on to it. For now.
Here's what I like about it:
1. It's fast and responsive. From booting up in a matter of seconds to switching between apps and manipulating images on the screen, I detect virtually no lag. The A4 processor that Apple is using handles its business well. The Safari web browser is fast, too.
2) It has a robust battery. Using it as much as I did through the weekend, I found that I could go for about 36 hours before I needed to recharge it. That does not mean I used it for 36 hours straight, mind you. The battery life is estimated around 10 hours of straight use.
3) It offers a new way of interacting with others, not just a new way of interacting with a device. What do I mean? This tablet is fun to pass around and show and share things with others. One night, my wife and I used it buy stuff online from Amazon, pay bills and do other tasks -- all while sitting across from each other at the dining room table. We just kept passing it back and forth. For us, this was new behavior. It also brought joy to my 18-month-old daughter, who loved the bigger screen while she played with some educational/kids apps I had downloaded. We also drew with our fingers using Adobe's free Ideas app.
4) Great screen. The touch screen is luminous. I find that when it's dark, it's easy to spot the fingerprint smudges. But when the screen is on, it's brightness cuts through them and you hardly notice them. Mind you, this screen is so bright and powerful that I've found that I've had to dim its brightness, especially when reading books. The virtual keyboard, I confess, takes some getting used to. As a guy who types 60+ words a minute, the keyboard has reduced me to "hunt and peck" typing. But I expect that to change as I get accustomed to it.
5) I don't have much of a problem with the quality of iPhone apps that are expanded to fit the iPad screen. Sure, they're a little jagged around the edges, but they're far from unusable.
6) Favorite apps so far: The Netflix app and the ABC video player are super cool. Kudos to those two companies for jumping on the new platform and giving users a lot of options to watch quality content on the iPad. The New York Times' "Editors Choice" app (left) is very cool and perhaps the best expression of a newspaper in a digital format that I've ever seen. They got it right.
7) I like the minimal nature of the device when it comes to a lack of ports and other doohickeys. I like how thin and light it is. Apple has chosen to sacrifice some functionality for making a device that's light and easy and fun to use -- and I think that only means people will use it even more.
What I don't like about it:
1) iPad apps are more expensive. And there seem to be fewer free ones in the App Store. If most apps you bought on an iPhone are the price of a cup of coffee, the apps in the iPad App Store are the price of a grande mochachino.
2) The iTunes software that you have to sync your iPad with is becoming a chore to deal with. But, while some say the iPad isn't a true standalone computing device because you have to sync it with iTunes on another computer, I actually see that as a potential strength. If you lose it or it gets buggy, it's relatively easy to just reboot the device and reload your apps and much of your content, without losing the farm.
3) User profiles: as a device that my wife and I will use together, the iPad needs the ability to configure apps and user preferences based on individual users who are authorized to use the device. This device wants to be shared between people -- let them create their own profiles and log-in settings.
I look forward to the next update to the 4.0 update to iPhone OS, which I think will make navigating the iPad a bit easier. For one, I'm looking forward to having folders to store related apps in. This would cut down on flicking from screen to screen to select apps.
Also, multitasking is expected in 4.0 -- and the iPad could really use it. The bigger the screen real estate, the more ambitious your tasks and projects tend to be.
All in all, for a first generation device, I'm surprised at how polished it is. I was expecting something a little rougher around the edges. Granted, it's still missing a bunch of things that many people are craving right now.
The two biggies, I think, are a built-in camera and Flash support. I'm not so rabid about including a camera in the iPad. I understand the desire for video-conferencing, and I could see that working well.
But generally, I don't see this device as a natural fit for taking pictures and shooting video while on the go. For that, I'll stick to my iPhone or a small digital camera. I'm also not so disappointed in the lack of Flash.
If Steve Jobs' criticism of Flash is to be believed, the last thing I'd want is a mobile device like the iPad that's balky and slow due to Flash support. It would defeat its purpose as a light, lightweight and thoughtlessly easy to use device.
I'm waiting to see if/how/when competing manufacturers make tablets that do support Flash, to see if it can be done well. For me, "done well" means Flash doesn't eat the battery and cause crashes or system slowdown.
I have yet to use the AT&T 3G network on the iPad, but I have no reason to believe that it would not be a good experience here in Baltimore. At the moment, my AT&T data service on my iPhone in this city is excellent. My phone coverage, however, is average to mediocre. I still get dropped calls with regularity. But again, if I'm just surfing the Internet on AT&T's 3G network in Baltimore, I can't say I've had any problems with my iPhone. If I encounter any problems with the 3G network on the iPad, I will definitely post an update to this post.
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