Friday, May 07, 2010

IPad Review 2

The iPad, after a week

So I've had the iPad for a week today. I'm writing this review with the wireless bluetooth keyboard and Pages sitting in a comfortable chair with the device just resting on the arm of the chair and the keyboard on my lap. It's actually pretty comfortable. [And now I'm continuing to write this while sitting on a chair at the airport with the iPad propped up in a baggage trolley and typing on the bluetooth keyboard. Geek points ++]

So what do I think after a week of using the device? I wouldn't be without it now. It definitely is not the best for some tasks, but it's perfect for others. And the flexibility is it's real selling point. There's just so much you can do with this device and it's only been available for a month. To really understand what this means, wait for 2 years and when the weight and price drops to $200. Wait until children are glued to these devices for playing games and learning. And wait until there are apps that make 50 types 30 second tasks almost instant and this device (and the inevitable copies in the market) is here to stay.

First the stuff I don't like. It desperately needs to solve the file system problem. The market is bifurcating around online solutions like Dropbox and that's fine but the connecting interfaces between applications has been purposefully stymied and it shows. Not having a unified approach to filing actually cripples this functionality. I know it'll change, but it's half-baked right now and it's annoying in practice. The iWork apps are great but don't import/export very well and always drop formatting detail or just plain detail. Advanced Excel formulas like sumproduct() just get stripped when converting and most Word styles get stripped too.

Can't wait for the iPhone 4.0 changes, but fall is a long way away. Multitasking and apps that take advantage of the multitasking interfaces will be very welcome as that's one of the constraining characteristics of this device. The other missing piece is having to reach and touch the screen when you've got the bluetooth keyboard activated. Right now you have to do the same with a computer but you have a mouse. While it's totally possible to implement a bluetooth mouse driver and render a mouse cursor on the screen, I really doubt Apple would do that too, even though it would go a long way to not making the user reach up and touch the screen. It would make a lot of sense though as the bluetooth keyboard and stand make this quite a dockable computer. Being able to command-tab would be HUGE although I doubt Apple will implement the support when using a bluetooth keyboard (but how many hundreds of times a day do I use that keyboard combination).

Apps need to catch up, though I'm not complaining much. Wait another 1-3 months and we'll see a landslide of incredible functionality. A big thanks to those people that have made awesome iPad apps already. Here's a list of the apps I use and love:

Kindle, IMDB, At Bat 2010, Now Playing,, Marvel and Comics, Plants vs Zombies HD, GoodReader, Instapaper, Labyrinth 2 HD, ABC Player, Brushes, Pinball HD, Pandora, Bubbles, Time Editor's Choice, Guardian Eyewitness, GoToMeeting and of course my app, Reef Fish Book HD :).

iPhone apps I'd love to see for iPad are:

Skype, Taskpaper, Files, Tweetie, digg, Wired

I was listening to a talk on a gdgt round table podcast and people that had tried to make the iPad a laptop replacement have felt constrained but this device is about context and specific use-cases right now. For example, watching streaming video by just standing the device up against the wall while cleaning the kitchen is totally possible. The speakers are so clear and so good you can hear the video over the sound of running water. The screen is so bright and clear you can see it easily from across the room. It's great for quick google searches for recipes.

I love reading on this device - the huge screen and brightness control means I'm consuming a bunch of material via kindle, safari, instapaper and via twitter. Comics are great to read and there's a few free ones (I'm yet to buy one). It's a far more pleasurable device to read this material on than a laptop screen. You can hold it closer to your face than you would a laptop. The device does get a bit heavy but it's not so bad. You just lean it on things or prop it up.

My wife loves the brushes application. She's artistically inclined and was drawn to this app immediately. Watch out - if you think you won't have to share the iPad with your the family members, think again. This thing is seriously fun.

The pinball HD app with it's speedy graphics and pinball sounds is so great on the iPad. The Labyrinth app is wonderful for kids. And don't get me started on Plants vs Zombies. I have to ration myself on that app because it's so much fun. Your hands blur over the screen in this gameplay - if you think it's the same as a regular computer then imagine using both hands and multiple fingers to capture falling sunlight and using another hand to drag new plants down to the field. It's so much fun and so much more tactile than the ordinary computer experience.

People have complained about needing to touch the screen to do certain things - you can't use the keyboard for everything. But it's not bad - the cursor keys work, as do option-arrow to jump word by word and even option-shift-arrow to highlight by word. So I think keyboard support will get even better over time.

Something else that's really significant is that this is a device that is to be shared with others. I actually prefer to download pictures from my camera to the iPad to view them - it's so much better than on a laptop screen. I guess on a 27" iMac you might find a better experience for viewing but this one is very good. The iPad photo app desperately needs editing and favourites though because it's such a good way to vet photos. If you could mark photos and then upload them to Google/Picasa I'd be in heaven but I may need to wait awhile for that to be a reality.
Okay well we're now at the boarding gate about to head to Australia. While the honeymoon is definitely over, this device is fitting into my life in all sorts of great ways. I'll upload this to the blog over my 3G connection. The tweet about it. Maybe I'll write more later - there's more to say.

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