Thoughts on the iPad...
Published Sat, 4 Sep 2010
I picked up an iPad (finally) about a week ago. I had to resort to ordering online from Apple, since my preorder at JB Hifi had gone almost a month unfulfilled, and the staff there didn't seem confident that they'd ever get any iPads.
Apple was true to their word and delivered in roughly a week from when I ordered.
Unboxing the iPad - it's definitely got a real "wow" factor to it. Everyone that sees it seems to want to touch it - I guess that's a good thing. I would probably stop short of saying it was "magical" though. Unless I'd combined the iPad with some other substance(s), in which case breadcrumbs and dandelions might appear magical also.
Stuff about the iPad that was better than expected -
- Typing on the iPad is actually surprisingly easy and accurate. I touch type quite quickly and I'm not significantly slower on the iPad than on regular laptop keyboard. And I'm faster than on my 9" ASUS Netbook in terms of speed / error rate. This was a pleasant surprise.
- Web browsing on the iPad is good, and the absence of Flash has only been an occasional annoyance. The most annoying is video sites - the Youtube application alleviates this. But other sites like Vimeo are left high and dry. In addition, analytics apps like Google Analytics and Clicky (both of which I use quite a bit) are graph-less.Pages render fast and flawlessly. Only occasionally does the touch interface cause issues - but that's something I expect to diminish as iPad picks up steam and Android tablets hit the market.
Personally, I hadn't previously considered the absence of ":hover" as a scenario in older sites I've designed, so I imagine as devices become more prevalent amongst developers, we'll be more inclined to consider touch interfaces.
- The Kindle app is great! Amazon's e-book reader is no-frills and designed for serious reading. I found Apple's iBooks to be too gimmicky, trying to look like a book.
The Kindle app allows you to easily customise the text size, colour and brightness and using the "Sepia" mode and reduced brightness it pretty much replicates a similar contrast ratio as reading a paper-based book, and is easy enough on the eyes. Probably still not as comfortable as a real book, but I guess it's a trade off of sorts :)
The Kindle app displays only the book text as you read. Pressing the left side of the screen turns back a page, touching the right flips a page forward.
- There are a couple of other great apps - Flixster is one that I'll use quite a bit - it's free and mixes Rottentomatoes.com movie reviews with trailers and session times at your local cinemas. Convenient and actually superior to a web-based experience.
For the most part apps like this have been few and far between though, in general web-based apps/sites seem to be just as good as iPad apps, and in many cases superior.
This is a nice segue into the not-so-great aspects I've found thus far -
- It's heavy. The iPad is mostly battery and LCD screen, so it weighs quite a bit. It's not like it's too heavy to pick up or anything, but after reading from it for a while, you start get uncomfortable.
It's hard to actually find a comfortable way to use it for long periods of time. With a Netbook or Laptop you need a surface to rest it on, and the screen is elevated - with the iPad you need to find both a position which is comfortable to hold, and comfortable to see. The result is that I've ended up with a stiff neck or sore wrists, or both after using it for a while.
- Motion sickness - hasn't been a problem for me - but my wife felt sick after using it for a few minutes due to the scrolling effect that the iPad uses when you "pull" the content on the screen.I'm not sure whether this is common, but I guess you'd want to check whether it affected you before you bought one in any case!
- Integration - the iPad does its best to make it difficult to integrate into my life. The lack of a file system or SD Card reader makes using any "content creation" apps on the device pretty much worthless.
The current solution requires that you add and remove files through the Application tab of iTunes and then sync your device. I'm not going to jump through that many hoops to edit documents or images on a device which runs inferior software to my Netbook or Laptop.
With Safari on the iPad giving access to most web-based cloud content services, I don't know why you'd bother with dedicated apps.
The worst part is, there's tremendous potential here, but I'm guessing that Apple's closed, walled-garden approach is probably going to stop it reaching that potential.
- Leading on from that, quality of apps on the iStore is pretty terrible. It might be that everyone has tried to jump on the iPad band-wagon hoping to get rich, quick.
The other factor I think though, is that with a phone or music player based application, we want apps that are simple and limited in focus. Those are apps that work well for those devices.With the iPad being closer to a computer than a phone, expectations around the scope and functionality that apps should have is a little different. It remains to be seen whether developers are able to provide a level of quality and scale that works for the iPad for the sort of money that people are willing to pay in the iStore. Particularly when some of these apps have been commoditised on the desktop or web-based platforms already.
- Most of the games I tried were pretty crap. The sorts of games that work on the iPad seem to be pretty much the same as the iPhone - i.e. touch based gesture games with simpler control requirements. All the attempts to replicate standard game types from more traditional platforms, looked great, but played like toasters.
- Web browsing - I know I listed this in the "good" section also, but for the sort of browsing I do, the limited memory and lack of multi-tasking in the iPad are problematic for efficient browsing.I feed-read most of my content and switch between tabs where I might record certain notes and check things out.
This style of web browsing is much faster and more comfortable on my desktop PC using Chrome and my favourite plugins, as well as access to all my other software at the same time. Maybe I'm a power user, but for anything other than casual browsing, I feel restricted on the iPad.
- Small gripe - typing correction can be a pain the butt. Particularly typing in email addresses and the like, which often don't contain dictionary words. Each time you do this you need to tell the iPad not to correct the "mistake".
Overall - it's certainly a cool toy. Though, I'm still not really sure what or who it's for exactly.
I'll be interested to see what Android tablets can offer as they come to market, and whether the more open nature of the Android platform can offer some of the desktop integration / ease of use that I feel is lacking from the iPad.
About the Author
Richard Nichols is an Australian software engineer with a passion for making things.
You might also enjoy reading -
- Thoughts on the Wordpress & Thesis GPL hoo-haa
- Converting Ebook Formats - .mobi to .epub
- Laughing all the way to the bank... "60 Mario and friends"
- Detecting Which Browser In Java Servlet/Filter