I was pretty excited the day I heard about this thing. Now I’m typing this very blog post on it, sitting on an airplane on the way to California. What follows here is less of a review (5 thumbs up!) and more of a commentary on why I think this thing is the beginning of something.
iPad Form and Feel
The specs on the device don’t really do it justice. The screen is much bigger than an iPhone, but not exactly as big as a laptop screen. It weighs about as much as a dinner plate, which is light to move around but heavy to hold one-handed. The aluminum is a bit slippery to the touch, but I’ve got the apple case on mine which is thin but tactile enough that I don’t expect to drop it. While adding a case adds thickness, it doesn’t matter that much because the iPad is much too big to put in a pocket.
The screen is the same buttery-smooth glass as the iPhone. Fingers slide around very easily, though they do cause quite a bit of smudging. The buttons are all distinctly placed and easy to access. The headphone jack occasionally seems to be in the wrong place, but that it easily corrected by rotating the screen. Almost every app rotates around so that there is no top or bottom of the device. Overall the device is plenty big to see and light enough for a lap, which secures it in that middle space between iPhone and MacBook.
iPad Function and Performance
This thing is fast! The biggest problem that has plagued many similar portable devices is speed, and the iPad delivers better than anything I’ve ever used. You tap or swipe something, and things start happening immediately. The Wi-Fi is quick and browsing websites feels as fast as using a desktop.
The function of this magical thing is most called into question. If I already have a laptop, desktop, and an iPhone, why would someone ever need an iPad? Well, the short answer is you don’t need it, but you probably really want it. The iPad combines much of the portability of the phone with the power and relative size of a laptop. Using the apps loaded on the device along with some from the app store you can:
- Play games where you touch the screen
- Surf the web on a large screen
- Read and respond to email with a full keyboard
- Administer websites from a command line
- Design websites using mockup and graphics apps
- Edit, share, and upload photos
- Write blog posts (like this one)
While that likely doesn’t cover 100% of what you do in a day, it probably covers 75-80%. And in doing so, it lets you do the things you need (or want) to do from a couch, coffee shop, airplane, or even the beach with the 3G model. The battery life will cover you all day, as it is pretty true to the quoted 10 hours. I got only 9 hours with the 3G, but that is still much longer than I would get if I was constantly using the iPhone or even a laptop.
Worth the cost?
I, like many other people, fully expected the iPad to cost over $1000 when it was first announced in January of this year. I was blown away by the entry-level price of $499. For some people, that $499 version (16GB, Wi-Fi only) will be good enough. I settled in on the 32GB model with 3G, which rang up to close to $800 after taxes and such. Throw in the case and a couple of other extras and it’s closer to $900. Then, pile on the $80 on apps I have spent so far and I am almost at that $1000 mark. Even then, I think it all has been worth it.
The iPad changes my entire day. I wake up and am able to read my RSS feeds on a large, light weight screen while sitting in bed. That’s about 20 minutes a day. I take the iPad to work and use it to check and file email, test web designs, and keep up with social media. At night, I take it home and I browse the web from the dinner table or while on the couch. I use it as a giant remote for the media center computer hooked up to my TV. All in all, I probably spend about 3 hours a day with the device.
While I could do most of those things from a phone or a laptop, they are so much nicer on the iPad. It has the best balance of being powerful and portable than any other device I’ve ever used (and I’ve used a few). Having a great experience for 3 hours a day is entirely worth the cost of the device.
Future of computing
There was much debate before the device was released (some of which I contributed to) about the effects of the iPad on the future of computer. I do believe that touch is something that will be around for the relative future, until we get Minority Report style gesture interfaces. Using the device needs little or no training to jump in and start browsing or using apps. That jumps a major hurdle in using almost any other computing device. The iPad was made for people who aren’t that in to computers, but who use email, social media, and the internet at large.
A big part of the negative side of the discussion comes from individuals who want a normal computer with a touch screen. This is not the iPad, and I don’t think it describes the future of computing. When you really think about the level of abstraction that is involved in a normal desktop, it’s pretty mind-blowing. If you come in with the goal of wanting to look at pictures, you have to find the right folder, open the pictures (usually 1 by 1), and flip through them while they are surrounded by a window with menus and buttons and other extras. On the iPad, you tap the photos app, and there they are. When browsing a photo, your options are limited to what you can do with that photo at that moment. Many people are scared of that word ‘limited’, but I think the reduction in UI junk helps you to accomplish your goals at that time.
All of this said, the iPad can’t do everything. I won’t speak on Flash, because that has been talked to death, but the iPad is also incapable of some other things. As I said before it tackles about 80% of computing tasks. But remember, this is just the first iteration. The biggest thing the iPad has going for it is that it makes the things you want to do easier and more fun.
I’ve had my iPad for just over a week, and I love it. I carry it around with me and have already used it for movies at the gym, in a client presentation, while taking notes, at home, at my desk, and on an air plane. Much of those things can be done other ways, but nothing can do all of them the way the iPad can. Check out the iPad at your local Apple store or borrow one from your local Apple fanboy so you can understand what I am talking about.
While this review was written on an iPad with both the onscreen keyboard and a Bluetooth one, the post was published on a desktop.