Those of you who have been following the blog for a while know that I have been tracking the iPad since many moons. I even promised I would go and buy it when it came out despite my abhorrence of Apple and its closed, uber controlling policies. Well, Steve Jobs is now several hundred dollars richer on my account and I may have enabled the Evil Empire, but at least I kept my promise.
Initially, there were several concerns I had when I saw the early pictures. I thought the black bezel around the screen would be too thick and would serve as a distraction. I also thought that the device might be too difficult to get a good grip on given that it appeared a little too smooth and shiny. That may have equated to ultra slippery. Finally, the lack of a camera had really put me off when I scanned the spec sheet. I was looking forward to being able to use a device with a decent screen size for Skype video calls.
As it turns out several of my concerns were unfounded while others were probably pretty close to the mark. But the most irritating things about the iPad end up being ones I neglected to pick up on from the spec sheet. They’re the kinds of things that you really only realize once you’ve started using the device on a regular basis.
First off, the bezel is not a problem at all. You do need some space between the side of the frame and the screen and this black bezel provides just enough. It doesn’t look visually odd either, as it did in the demos. The device is a bit scary to hold in your hands though because you realize it weighs just enough to probably self destruct if it fell to the floor. Therefore a carrying case/cover for the iPad is a must on this account alone. The device is thin and svelte, but given that practically you are adding the thickness of the cover too, it might as well have been thicker with more a sound rugged design. But thats just not Apple, is it?
The lack of the camera still bothers me a little but I see myself doing things other than Skype most of the time. In the end this is not a huge deal. Though I still think the next version of the device will probably come with a camera and we will all kick ourselves for buying too early. Such is the lot of the early adopter.
A big driver for me to purchase the iPad was the iBooks app and its potential as an ebook reader. It doesn’t disappoint. I have now read over one hundred pages of PG Wodehouse novels and I can definitely get used to this… I didn’t find the display hard on my eyes. While a hard glass and metal device is in no way as warm and friendly as a printer paperback, the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks in this case.
My two biggest issues with the iPad though, are the keyboard and the lack of Flash support. Flash is a huge deal and it is no less than a complete bummer that you surf the web on this otherwise perfect web appliance only to find thst significant parts of site functionality won’t work because they’ve been implemented in Flash. No watching TV shows on project free tv or surf the channel, no Flash based app sites, big gaping white holes on many corporate webpages that use Flash for their front page animations and banners. In short, not good. Now of course Apple is on a crusade against Adobe Flash. They are trying to evict it from their ecosystem entirely. While they don’t support it on the iPhone either, the iPad really makes you miss it; its screen size is so perfect for surfing that a Flash-less experience is just a pity. Oh well. I guess we’ll have to wait a few years until the world adopts HTML 5, because Steve is already on record for saying that he will never allow Flash to make it to the iPad or iPhone.
The other big issue is the keyboard. Frankly, it is pretty miserable. I’ve gotten used to the iPhone keyboard, but that is basically one hand typing. With the iPad you would think there’s enough room to use both your hands and type fast like you would on a Netbook or Laptop, but there just isn’t any good way of using both your hands to type on this virtual keyboard. You end up making way too many mistakes and the lack of tactile feedback when you’re touch typing, is just weird. There are also a lot of obvious keyboard features missing, like the Pg-Up, Pg-Down, Home and End buttons. Most of this post was typed on the iPad but I eventually got frustrated and moved to a PC to finish it. It takes a good 20 seconds to scroll all the way up or down in a text box with no scroll bar. The only way you can do this on the iPad is to keep your finger pressed, wait for the magnifying glass (cut/paste tool) to appear, and then slide your thumb or finger above the text box while the scrolling occurs. Painful and SUPER SLOW. Wouldn’t have killed them to just put a Home key on the KB to get through situations like these in a jiffy.
The elephant in the room used to be the lack of multitasking, but there’s no point talking much about that any more because the iPhone OS 4 update which is already in beta now supports multitasking. What remains to be seen is whether it is as smooth and battery friendly as Apple have claimed it to be. More on that later.
So for now, I guess the conclusion is that the iPad is by no means an information creation device. Typing on it is pretty hard and without a Bluetooth keyboard, you’re just not going to get much done other than a few quick emails. And why would you buy a Bluetooth keyboard? If you’re going to sit down with a big old keyboard, might as well whip out the Laptop.
There are also a couple of other shortcomings like Flash and the lack of a camera. On the whole, as an information consumption device – a web/document browser and book reader – the iPad scores fairly high. I am by no means ecstatic about it, but I don’t regret purchasing it either. I probably would have if I splurged on the 3G/64G model. I think $500 is about the most you should pay for the utility an iPad is going to give you. Skip the more expensive models for sure.
Software stuff that I think will be remedied soon involves multitasking and some key, missing apps. I am keen to see how iPhone OS 4 performs on the iPad with multitasking, and would also like to see versions of popular products such as Skype and Dropbox make it to the iPad. The iPhone versions work ok, but it’s a shame to waste the extra real estate when you have it. As I play around further with the iPad, I’ll try to keep posting updates about my experiences. Till later!