The iPad is primarily about media consumption, not creation. The potential is there for more, but it’s up to the apps and OS to still realize it. After 2 week of usage while at home, on the road, and at the office, this is the most succinct summary i have been able to come up with.
A little over 2 weeks ago I picked up a 32 GB iPad (WIFI only) after about 10 minutes of of hands on usage at one of my local Apple store. This was after a week of internal contemplation on why I would need one–most of this contemplate was triggered by an understanding of how much time I spend looking at computer screens daily and the recent San Francisco Magazine article Tech Gets a Time Out. I also waited to give the typical Apple new product hysteria time to pass, but I’ll be honest that after a few minutes of use I knew I needed to purchase one though I couldn’t really explain why. I have spent many an evening using the iPad at home, at the office, and on a week long trip. What better way to learn the strengths and weaknesses of a new device than to use if as a replacement for your current device.
The iPad is not a replacement your current laptop. Especially if you consider yourself a power user.
I typically spend anywhere from 25-40 hours a week actively working on the computer (the cost of being a knowledge worker). This includes jumping between up to 15 different applications during a day. Downloading files, creating files, saving files, sending files. Huge amounts of typing. The iPad alone (minus external keyboard) just couldn’t cut it as my only device. I couldn’t go one entire day without needing to break out the laptop. Especially when I needed to work on a file or when my hotel didn’t have WIFI available in my room…though the attention I got in the hotel lobby bar was more than usual. 🙂
[For the record, I did type at least half of all these reviews on the iPad. Eventually realizing that the WordPress App for the iPad didn’t support cut/paste! So the second half and final editing was done old school…on a physical keyboard.]
While the user interface of the iPad is revolutionary, I believe that is still suffers from a few core issues that currently limit it’s potential as well as suffering from the typical 1.0 product issues. Over the past weeks I have been collecting my thoughts about the iPad and will summarize them in this multipart review (each part will be posted a day or two after the previous):
- General Review (here)
- List of Areas for Improvement
- iPad for Consumers
- iPad for Business Users
- iPad for Photographers
- My Current Favorite iPad Apps
Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re not a power user the iPad may be a great secondary computer. You just need to have another computer in the house to activate the iPad via iTunes. And to back up the iPad. Oh, and then there is the fact that the iPad only supports a single user…so it’s kind of hard to share between family members. But, for someone who only needs to check a single email account and possible visit web pages (like my Parents), the iPad may be an ideal solution. No more remote troubleshooting of wires and plugs with my Father after the grandkids visit and my Mother might even actually use it on her own. (This was my backup plan when purchasing the iPad…until my wife confiscated it for 3 hours one night…)
It does take some time to get use to typing on the iPad, especially if you are a touch typist like myself. I find myself constantly looking at the keyboard instead of the text that I’m typing. If I look at the text, the lack of tactile feedback causes my fingers to drift causing mis-spellings that auto correction can’t even guess at or, even worse, I accidentally touch the text area causing the cursor to jump. A colleague of mine indicated that some studies show that the fastest typers are on the iPhone/iPad keyboard once they get use to it. If this is so it can only be at the cost of people completely giving up on typing what they wanted by letting the OS auto correct their mistakes to what it thinks they meant. Not sure if I’m comfortable with that trend…
Ideally, if there was a OS level text to speach capability that applications could tap into, this would truly make me change my tune here. While you can add a keyboard to the iPad, that’s just seems like a legacy boat anchor on this cutting edge device. The ability to quickly enter data into the iPad with voice is something that I think we need to keep an eye out for in the future.
It is much more comfortable to use the iPad than a laptop, especially for doing stuff like reading email (not necessarily responding to email) and surfing the web. You are truly holding the content in your hands and can sit more comfortably than with a laptop. Typing on it is a bit more tricky, as I found it not really usable to put my feet up on the coffee table with the iPad in my lap for typing. I needed the iPad higher up on my lap to type comfortably and it kept sliding down. Similar issue when trying to type on the airplane, I found myself with the tray table down and me hovering over the iPad while typing. Though both of these will be different for each use based upon their build. If you are watching something on the iPad, you will eventually want to rest it on something to give you hands, arms and/or neck a break. This is where a easel style iPad case is a must have. The best one appears to be the one from Apple, except that they seem to have under estimated the popularity of their case as they are sold out at all the Apple Stores I visited and back ordered on the online store. Alas, I wait and suffer until mine arrives.
I did hear a unconfirmed rumor of a better case coming out in the near future, just not sure if that’s an upgrade of the Apple Case or a new 3rd Party one.
The iPad is a great platform for consuming media. Whether that is surfing your favorite (non-flash) websites; watching a streaming Netflix movie, one you have stored locally, or a TV show from ABC; reading your favorite news site, newspaper, or book, you can do it all beautifully from this one device. Oh, and rumor has it there are some nice games for the iPad as well…
Again, the comfort factor for the iPad comes through here. You have your own personal high quality screen. A great headset and your good to go. I find myself walking around the house with the iPad getting caught up on news and blog reading. And I have watched more Netflix steaming movies recently than I have the physical discs they send me. The real risk here is how much time you end up spending staring at a screen. Just like Crackberry and iPhone addiction, iPad addiction is sure to be on the rise.
It would be nice if multiple user support was added to the iPad in the future. It would be good to be able to log into my own iPad view of apps, bookmarks, and email accounts separate from those of my wife’s. Even at a lower price point, I don’t see buying a second iPad anytime before a new hardware version (with a front mounted camera) comes out.
Unfortunately, I have experienced the WIFI signal problem. I get severe WIFI signal degradation on the iPad where I don’t with my Laptop. After moving the home office out of the future nursery I installed an Apple Airport Express on the other end of the house to boost the WIFI signal and iTunes enable a stereo. Amazingly, the iPad doesn’t seem to be able to pick up the signal or get handed off to the stronger signal of the Airport Express, even when I’m standing right next to it or connecting anew to the network in front of it. This has been annoying at most and something I hope will go away when I upgrade my primary WIFI router to a newer model that fully supports 802.11N.
Net Net: If you’re a consumer needing a new computer for just web access and email, the iPad should be seriously considered. If you’re a business user and want the iPad for something more than attracting attention for the next few months at the hotel bar, think about what you really need your computer to do. Add a docking station/keyboard if you need to do any heavy typing. Make sure you invest in an iPad case that can be used to prop the iPad up at different angles as this will make using the iPad much easier. Just don’t expect the iPad to replace your primary computer just yet. At least not until iTunes free iPad activation and cloud based backup of the iPad data becomes a reality.