Well I've had my iPad for close to 2 weeks. I'd like to post my thoughts now that I've had the time to use it in a number of real world situations. I also plan to discuss iPad's potential and how it may well reshape computing as we know it. There is an iPad user who is trying to go "cold turkey" and you can read his blog at ipadalone.com. I am not trying to go "cold turkey" but I am trying to get my iPad to function well enough to allow me to sell off my Ubuntu 9.x Acer Aspire One netbook and function with only my Macbook on my desk and my iPad everywhere else. There are dozens if not hundreds of iPad reviews up around the internet. I stumbled across iPad reviews by a couple of users who love to read: One is here and another is here. More recently (May 4th), I ran across a review by Mitch Wagner at Computerworld. He tried to leave his notebook at home and carry only the iPad on a business trip. His experience of iPad's limitations was not unlike mine. More here.
I'll start with the conclusion and you can read on for details if you like.
What iPad is.
Ipad is a media consumption device. You can read ebooks, watch movies, listen to music and play games. iPad is able to run useful applications originally released for iPhone, but they run either in a tiny box or in a rather awkward looking "2x" mode. I mainly have native iPad apps on my device but I do have a few iPhone apps I simply couldn't do without.
What it is not.
iPad is not a netbook or computer replacement. That doesn't mean you cannot get away with using it as such, it means you will have to suffer when it comes to doing things that "should be easy." There are apps to make it easier to "do real work" but even the best of them cannot get around some limitations of the device. Yet. Update: As of early May, jailbreaking is out for iPad and allows multitasking and file system access. I'm resisting. So far...
The iPad Experience.
Steve Jobs said the iPad is magical. In some ways it really is. The ability to ditch the keyboard and interact only with a 1024 x 768 screen that has long battery life is something you have got to try to fully understand it. Is browsing on the iPad better than on a laptop? Most of the time, the answer is yes. However, there are some sites that call for features (like drag and drop inside the browser) that are best handled with a mouse and iPad is unable to support those features at this time.
Applications are an integral part of the iPad experience. There are several thousand iPad apps. Already more than for Blackberry or for webOS and it's only been on the market 2 weeks. Impressive. Then there are 180,000+ iPod apps that can "fill in the gaps" to bring capabilities to iPad until native apps become available.
The size and weight of the iPad is simply wonderful. I love walking around with something that weighs slightly more than a legal pad, is the same size and allows me (if I wanted to) to carry all of the notes from all of the classes I've ever taken. I believe that we are finally seeing the end of the "L shaped" notebook that we have all been chained to for too long.
I said I'd start with the conclusion so here it is. The iPad has enough functionality to let me sell off my netbook, but only barely. Let's look at what it does (that I happen to want or need)...
With the above list of capabilities, almost everything I once used my netbook for is covered. I can start the process of wiping and getting it ready for ebay or craigslist. I only wish Apple would make a few tweaks to make things go more smoothly. Why don't I talk about some of those limitations now...
Of course there are limitations on a first gen device, especially when its OS is traditionally targeted at phones.
The most glaring limitation (for me) is file management. I don't want to have to plug in the USB cable to get files on and off my iPad. The other alternative? Email. I must email things back and forth to myself to get them on and off the iPad wirelessly. There are some third party workarounds but they are limited to ftp, webdav and http protocols. iPad refuses to participate in SMB (windows) or AFP (Mac) file sharing.
Another limitation is the touchscreen and the browser. It means you never have ctrl-shift. With today's implementation, you can never drag and drop. This means that you cannot rearrange blocks in Drupal admin. The rich text editors for Wordpress and Drupal do not work with the iPad. Google Reader presents feeds differently on the iPad than on the desktop. Update: It is possible to get the desktop appearance for google reader by changing a setting from "mobile" view to "desktop" view. That really helps for my preferred method of reading feeds as one long list and having them automatically marked read as I scroll by them.
The walled garden of the Apple app store is another limitation. I cannot run StyleTap without jailbreaking, not that I would want to, I'm just saying.
Memory. I'm not sure how Apple decided to only put 256 meg on the iPad but it seems inadequate, especially when I consider that multitasking is coming.
On screen keyboard. I find myself getting pretty frustrated typing on the iPad. I use a Bluetooth keyboard for any lengthy typing. The on screen keyboard registers unintended keystrokes if idle fingers get too close. It's difficult to get used to. Perhaps after weeks of use I can get better at it but right now it's pretty frustrating.
The Bottom Line
Would you rather be carrying the machine on the left above or the one on the right? I'll take the iPad. Five years from now everybody will take the iPad even if they don't know it yet.
iPad is the first in a wave of computers in the thin tablet form factor. Our daughter has an hp tablet forced upon us by windows-loving IT folks at her school. She hates it. It weighs close to 8 pounds with the extended battery. It has had to be repaired countless times and she is a freshman! Just this morning, she asked me if she could have a Macbook.
Now that Apple has joined the tablet party, others are running in. There will be Windows 7 thin and light tablets, unlike those heavy HP dinosaurs. There will be Android tablets. There will be Linux tablets. I bought my iPad on Day 1. Just as Star Trek (original series) brought us the Motorola Flip Phone form factor, I have been wanting a computer in this form factor ever since seeing John Luc Picard use one on Star Trek Next Generation. I was near the front of the line on launch day. And the lines weren't too long. It seems the haters were out in force in the tech blogs ranting about how the iPad is "just a giant iPod touch". No. The iPod touch is a teeny weeny iPad. I had also bought a Mac Mini on day 1. It, (along with the iMac) spelled the end of the microwave oven size desktop computer (finally!).
With the iPad, the future of portable computing has arrived and I'm glad to be in on the ground floor. I'll take my lumps with the quirks and keep on going and I'll probably be able to sell my iPad quite easily when it's time to upgrade. In fact, the time to upgrade may have already arrived. I went in iTunes to look at movie selections and I can pick up Avatar for $14.99. I also saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy for $14.99. Wow. But LOTR takes up 8 gig and I have a 16 gig iPad. I might be returning mine tomorrow for a 64 gig model.
The killer app that brought me to the iPad was ebook reading. I found that there is a lot more potential for this platform and I wouldn't be surprised if iPad (and other tablet) sales surpass netbook sales in a couple of years. I expect iPad to dominate the tablet market for years to come as It will be difficult for other solutions tocompete well with the responsiveness and ease of use of the iPad at the same price point.
The Details: Hardware / Softwrare OS / Software apps...
In the articles that follow, I expand on the Pros and Cons of this device as well as speculate about how the next generation of tablets will look. I also talk in depth about the apps I use and why I use them. I hope you find this information useful, if not for making a purchase decision about the iPad for yourself, then at least to betteer understand why many (including myself) think it will make such a large impact on computing in the years to come. Follow the links for detailed articles below...
Size and Weight
The iPad is a beautiful device. It weighs 1.5 pounds but still feels heavy in the hands. While it is light for a computer, it feels heavy compared to a paper notebook. It is about 1/2 inch smaller than an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper on the sides and about 1 inch smaller vertically. It's larger than a journal but smaller than a college-ruled notebook. At half an inch thick, the iPad feels small and easy to carry. I prefer to carry it in the Apple case which is a $39 add-on option.
The screen is dazzling and easily readable with its brightness at the default setting. I set mine even lower and get even better battery life. In bright light, the brightness needs to be turned up a bit and the iPad is not really readable in direct sunlight. Reading in the dark at night is easy when in reverse video. The screen is glossy and seems like a magnet for reflections in whatever room I am using my iPad. It's easy enough to adjust my posture to avoid most reflections but I'd love to find a matte screen protector. There is no screen cleaning cloth included with the iPad but the screen is a fingerprint magnet. Fingerprints are more noticeable in brighter lit environments like outdoors.
The viewing angle of the screen is wonderful. I can set it down on a table in front of me and still read it easily, though perhaps not quite as easily as having it tilted up but not nearly as bad as all the laptop screens I'm accustomed to.
I have had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the touchscreen and I do not have any dead pixels. It's pretty easy to check for dead pixels. Simply toggle between two vastly different color schemes in the included wallpaper or triple-click the home button to get reverse video. If a pixel was stuck black, you'd see it pretty quickly.
This is a touchscreen device so switches are kept to a minimum. There is the home button, which can wake up the device. There is the power switch, which can wake or sleep the device. There is a rotation lock switch and two switches for up and down volume control.
There is a standard iPod dock connector at the bottom and a headphone jack at the top. Apple has promised a VGA output accessory, and a "camera connection" accessory which should be able to read SD cards. A usb cable and wall wart are included in the box with the iPad.
The wifi iPad model supports bluetooth and wifi. There is an ubran legend that we got GPS but I don't believe it. Pairing Apple's bluetooth keyboard is easy. I have not tried to pair a mouse but I plan to try it later (A mouse is part of the kit I'd hope to use with my iPad for remote control of my Mac). When a bluetooth keyboard is connected, the onscreen keyboard stays hidden and I have a very "computer like" experience using my iPad.
The iPad wifi works very well in every location I have tried it. I have an Airport Extreme at home and it has worked flawlessly. Every hot spot I have tried has worked flawlessly.
Unfortunately the iPad does not seem to have implemented some network protocols I'd like to see. I bring this up here because these are OS issues rather than app issues. There is no AFP and no SMB. There is no built in screen sharing application and I have to resort to third party software to control my Macbook. I'd really like to see my iPad show up in Bonjour with a dropbox folder so people can send me files if I want them to. I'd like to be able to browse network drives from the OS, not third party apps.
If you fire up the maps app on the wifi iPad, you'd swear you had gps. If you take a drive with the maps app, your location gets updated in fits and starts as you pass wifi hotspots. Eventually, as you get out into the corn fields, you get an "unable to determine location" popup once the software gives up finding any location via wifi. This caused some confusion in the forums over at Macrumors and users argued back and forth about whether the iPad had gps. It does not.
The folks over at iFixit have taken apart an iPad and given a detailed overview of how it is put together and what's inside.
Updated 4/19/2010: The second video above is from TechRestore.
iPad Software: The OS
The OS is wonderful and terrible at the same time. It is wonderful to have an instant-on device that is capable of reading PDF files. More on this later. It is wonderful to have a device that is so blindingly fast. It is wonderful to have a selection of several thousand iPad apps available through a seamless app store. It is wonderful to have access to over a hundred thousand iPhone apps available through the app store. The OS is wonderfully stable. I have had my iPod Touch restart a few times over its life but my iPad has not done this once. I have had a few apps quit, but they never affected the OS. For a first release first gen device, it is very stable.
Slightly Terrible at the Same Time
It is terrible that out of the box, the only way to read PDF files is by having a live internet connection. There is no Apple-provided provision for "carrying around" anything but music, ebooks, photos and videos, and files associated with applications that are only visible to the application they are associated with. Oh, I almost forgot. You can take a senimental journey back to 1999 and dig out that USB cable to get files on and off your iPad despite it's built in wifi connectivity. Oh, and you can email things to yourself. So basically managing files on the iPad requires imposing on another computer's generosity.
Lack of Flash, Yay! (I think)
Lack of flash support. My son is a member of the a cappela group at University of Michigan: Amazin' Blue. Normally I can't stand flash and I support Apple standing up to Adobe. I went to Adobe to look at the order form for CS5 and they use flash for the order form. Order forms have been part of plain html since the beginning but Adobe replaces such a rudimentary element with their proprietary solution. And yes, it is a proprietary solution regardless how hard Adobe tries to get "flash everywhere".
Apple iPhone OS is not the only environment where flash does not work. Most smartphones won't display it either. But for Steve Jobs to trash Adobe in front of the world at the iPad announcement seems to me to be going too far. It is a corporate squabble that belongs behind closed doors, not fanning the flames of mostly-meaningless debate by end users who don't know action script from objective C. I have mixed feelings about the lack of flash. I used to run flashblock on all my browsers. As browsers became more stable and more tolerant to adobe products crashing (reader, flash and shockwave), I got rid of flashblock. I guess I'd just like to see Apple and Adobe work things out without me in the middle. Then I'd be able to read my son's web site from my iPad. Instead, I get a blank screen and no explanation why it doesn't load.
There is no multitasking. This is promised in OS 4.0 but it does not exist today. It's not such a big deal most of the time but there are apps that don't know how to "pick up where you left off" and the multitasking APIs coming in the fall should help (if the developers elect to use them).
You can drag apps around. You can set wallpaper for both the lock screen and the home screen. You can enable the home button single and triple click for different things. I set triple click to inverse video so I can use iBooks at night.
Frankly there isn't enough customizability for a computer of this size and price. We will have to wait for OS 4.0 in the fall to get more control including folder organization of apps.
Included With the OS
You get Browser, Email, Calendar, Memos, Settings, Photos, iTunes, iPod, Maps, You Tube, Videos, and App Store but no calculator. You can buy he 3 iWork apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) for $9.99 each from the app store and since they are made by Apple, I'll include them here in the OS portion of my review.
The browser is the same as the iphone but better on a larger screen. Some sites detect iPhone browser and switch to a crippled version. One example is google reader which on the desktop displays unread articles and their preview text in line with a preview window at the bottom for easy, rapid reading. On the iPad, google reader forces you to click each article which in turn leads to two page loads. Too inefficient for me to seriously use for reading hundreds of articles at a time. I'm evaluating third party RSS readers but haven't settled on one yet.
There is more wonderful here in the browser. Despite a few quirks in not working on a handful of pages, the browser is stinkin' fast. This is the way the internet was supposed to be. Not bogged down while the browser fetches god-knows-what and cruches it. You know that complaint people have about every page having to reload? Yeah, I've got that complaint too. A little. The iPad browser is so fast, I don't mind so much that every page has to load almost every time I touch it.
Email on the iPad is a pleasure to use. There is one sticking point I hope Apple deals with. I aggregate a number of emails to my mobileme account. When I reply to an email, I want it to be as whoever the email was addressed to, not my mobile me account name. Apple still doesn't get this so while I read my email in the Mail app, I send email from the Gmail third party app. I'll talk about the Gmail app later. For now, let's carry on looking at the apps that come with the OS.
Email is pushed to my iPad from my Mobile Me account. There is no unified inbox, but that is supposed to come with OS 4.0. Email looks like it does on the desktop. I prefer reading email on my iPod Touch and my iPad to reading it on my Blackberry.
When you click on an attachment, you can open it in the associated application. For iWorks apps, this leads to an "import" dialog. When you want to email a document out again, you get an "export" dialog. The only way to "copy" the document off your iPad onto another computer is by the usb cable. If you compose a message in Mail, you don't get to pick an attachment, but most iPad apps offer a way to email documents and you can compose a message then. Of course this means you cannot possibly send one email with a PDF, pages and keynote files created or modified on your iPad. You would have to send 3 emails.
I prefer using email in potrait orientation. I like seeing a list of my messages on the screen rather than having to click "inbox" to get a popup of messages and having them go away again as soon as I select one to read. I guess it takes getting used to and I'm more used to the behavior in landscape mode where the messsage list is always there.
The calendar app is a pleasure to use and even the month view is useful at the resolution of the iPad screen. Calendar events are pushed to the iPad from MobileMe. I have not tested creating an appointment on the iPad to see if it shows up back on the desktop.
The memos app is quite useful for quickly taking text-only notes. You can email the note to yourself when you're done (if you're in range of wifi).
Under general settings, you can check your memory, serial number and software versions. You can change brightness and wallpaper as well as switch on or off auto brightness. I keep auto brightness on. I turned off sounds for email and calendar so my iPod Touch is the only device oinking at me when I have an appointment.
There is also a preference pane for each installed app that requests one. The ones at the top of the list are Apple apps like Pages, Numbers, etc. But it's clear that every app can get a preference pane in Settings if it wants one.
I can't really do Photos justice because I have never sync'd anything over from iPhoto to my iPad. I shut off sync to save time. I'll turn it on this evening (if I have time :o) and report my results. For now, I can say that the photos app works well and viewing photos on the iPad is an absolute pleasure. It seems like some intelligence goes on behind how photos are shown, resized and cropped. I like how easy it is to set wallpaper from the Photos app or from Settings.
I found the time to make iTunes buy stuff and I think I need the 64 gig model. I went looking for movies to watch and found the LOTR trilogy for $14.99 but it was close to 8 gig! I think my iPad has to go back... so I can get more built in memory. I'm not planning to carry around a lot of stuff, but if I carry around 2 or 3 movies, my device is suddenly over half full!
Sorry, Apple. I use Rhapsody for music. This is a 16 gig iPad after all. Still, I do have several hundred meg of my "favorite favs" that I could load so I'll do that soon and get back on this app. Well I went in an bought Marvin Gaye "What's Going On" for $1.29 when I probably have several copies rolling around here somewhere. But it allowed me to see more of how the iPad really works. It's sweeeet! So I start Marvin playing in the background and decide to shut off the device. He keeps playing. I turn it back on and the lock screen has a control where I can pause or whatever. Then I notice what looks like a flower icon. I click it and the iPad is now cycling through all my photos with Marvin Gaye playing in the background. Now I know I gotta hide this from the rest of the family. If they keep thinking this is another one of Jeff's geeky toys and if I make sure there is a boring old RPN calculator on the screen whenever they come in the room, I might be able to hide out for a few weeks.
Google Maps found my location right away, presumably from wifi since I was indoors and my iPad couldn't "see" any gps satellites even if it did contain a gps chip which I am convinced it doesn't. This app only works with a wifi connection because the maps need to be loaded from google. Perhaps when multitasking arrives the maps can remain on the device and the state of the app preserved so I can pick up the maps I want, then wander away from wifi and continue to browse them as long as I don't go outside of the area I already downloaded.
Here is an app I only glanced at. It seems about the same as the iPhone version. It allows me to watch youtube videos without flash. Often, when I click a link for a video, I get switched to the youtube app.
I haven't touched this. Perhaps I will load a movie to my iPad just for testing. Hmmm... What should I grab? I've got plenty of dvd's lying around to rip... I'll think of one and rip it so I can have it with me when I've got some down time away from an internet connection. I would never bother with something like this on a netbook or notebook but with the iPad form factor and battery life, it's a no brainer for me to invest some time converting some videos to keep with me on my device, and give up a gig or 2 of storage for them as well.
I downloaded a Shakespeare lecture from U of M from iTunes U. It took up 400 meg. I can watch it, then archive it so I don't mind. It came down over wifi. So the whole usb joke only applies to content I create. I can get anything I want via wifi, I just can't give anything except by email.
This is much better than the iPhone / iPod Touch app store and is much more web like. There is a cover flow based featured apps section. There is the ability to search or pick from one of 20+ categories to see top paid and free apps for that category. By default, iPhone apps don't come up but you can easily get to them. Updates seem faster on the iPad than on my iPod touch. This might be due to the faster processor since everything else (internet connectivity, etc) is roughly the same.
iWork: Pages and Numbers
I've been tied up and haven't gotten back to update my OS review with details about the iWork products. Meanwhile, Ars Technica has a spot-on review that sheds light on this whole gimpy situation. more at ars...
more to come...
Ipad Software: The Apps
I'll start with my favorites and try to work my way through all the ones I have used enough to be able to write a review about. I begin with my favorite, Amazon Kindle...
Ok now we get to the part I've been waiting to get to. The "killer app" that convinced me to buy an iPod touch was Amazon Kindle. I wanted to be able to read books on my 'touch. Once I got the 'touch, I also got ereader. Ereader has a lot nicer interface than Kindle, but I like Amazon's book selection and pricing a lot better. So when the iPad was announced, I decided to do some more reading on the iPod Touch to see just how far I could take this. My plan was to start Lord of the Rings on the iPod Touch and finish it on the iPad. I read too fast. I read LOTR most of the way through, my iPod Touch died, I then read a bit on paper then on my Mac, then finished on my replacement iPod Touch before the iPad arrived. Now what was I going to do? Well I picked up The Hobbit and started reading it. I was able to read the Hobbit on the iPod Touch and on the iPad. Once I read it on the iPad, I never wanted to go back to the tiny screen except out of necessity. I don't have my iPad with me 24x7 but I do have my iPod Touch along most of the time. The nice thing about Kindle software is it lets you sync across devices. As long as there is wifi wherever I'm reading, if I put down one device and pick up another, the new device knows where I left off on the old one. Amazon Kindle requires you (on the iPod Touch) to go out to Amazon.com in Safari to buy books. They then get loaded wirelessly. Very slick, but once I got iBooks I realized the Kindle store integration is not as slick as iBooks. Still, I stick with KIndle for purchased titles because I'm not tied to one device to read my stuff.
The Kindle software takes advantage of the large screen. It comes with page flipping animations like iBooks but they are turned off by default. Kindle has fewer font settings than iBooks, but it has a night mode that is easily accesible and better than iBooks' night mode (inverse video). I've taken some screen shots comparing Kindle and iBooks and I will upload them as I get time.
While you are reading on an iPod Touch, you see your position but have no idea how far along you are. On the increased screen real estate of the iPad, you get a progress status bar that lets you know exactly how far along you are. This would have saved me from finishing LOTR too soon on the iPod Touch and I would have had enough "left over" to effectively evaluate iPad.
I purchased LOTR on Kindle for $12.99. It would have cost $20 on eReader.
I'm breaking my own rule here. I planned to review all the Apple apps on the OS page but I think the Kindle and iBooks reviews belong together on one page. I've talked about ways Kindle is better than iBooks and they mostly boil down to book pricing, book selection and not being tied to iThings forever to read your books. With the announcement of OS 4, you are only tied to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Perhaps Apple will make provisions for people to read their iBooks on OS X and Windows, too. Time will tell. Until they do, Kindle beats iBooks by a hair. Still, I should review iBooks because it is the flagship "Kindle (hardware) killer" app. Illustrations look a lot better in iBooks than in Kindle. In landscape mode, you get two pages side by side while Kindle reflows text. iBooks has "pages" which are more likely to have a correlation to physical book pages than Kindle's baffling "position" numbers.
I downloaded a sample of LOTR on iBooks. It would have cost $14.99 which is quite a bit more than Kindle charges. The better illustrations aren't enough to sway me to iBooks but the lack of backup reading capability is enough to convince me not to buy an "iPad only" version of a title. At least not yet.
iBooks has a lot nicer font settings than Kindle. There are plenty of fonts and sizes, however there is only one color scheme. If you want reverse video, you have to set up the triple click shortcut for the home button to toggle it on and off (or go out to Settings whenever you want to toggle it). You are then left with a bright white glaring status bar that is as bright as the sum of all the text you are reading. Hopefully Apple will fix this soon.
What's the most important app to review after iBooks? Goodreader. The OS doesn't come with a way to download pdf files for later viewing. You have to have an active internet connection and you download them every time. Goodreader is able to download them to a "directory" which is really somewhere in its own application space because no other apps can see them, only Goodreader. But here's the thing. Goodreader can launch other apps for different kind of files. Oh, and Goodreader can browse web, ftp and webdav sites to download files. Sorry, it can't get file shares on SMB (Windows) or AFP (Apple) network drives and time capsules, but it's very useful just the same. Another feature of Goodreader is it runs a little web server on your iPad that you can surf to from your PC to send files to your iPad or receive them. Again, the only files Goodreader can see are files in it's own "directory". Another feature is that when you receive an email with an attachment, you can choose to "open in Goodreader". This is what you should always do. Never "Open in Pages" or Numbers because those apps end up hiding the file in their "application space" and you can't see it except with the app you sent it to. If you send it to Goodreader, you always have a copy of the file as you downloaded in Goodreader's space for as long as you want it.
Pcalc is available as a free version. Go ahead and get it and use it. When (you notice I didn't say if?) you decide you love it, go ahead and register it. Pcalc is an excellent calculator and owning it on your iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone gives you a copy on your Mac as well. Sorry windows users, no Pcalc for you. Pcalc supports RPN or arithmetic calculations.
I now have 4 music generation apps on my iPad, but my favorite is Magic Piano. Don't think your iPad is a musical instrument? Check out the following youtube video...
Flight of the Bumblebee is one of the prerecorded songs available in Magic Piano. Each tap on the screen plays one note. I just tried it on my iPad and sure I could get the notes right but not the timing.
more later...updates are ongoing but not quite daily...