My First Three Days with the iPad
With the iPad’s release on Saturday, there has not been a shortage of reviews of the much anticipated – and heavily scrutinized – new product. Apple gave some media folks (mostly big, old media company writers who love to write nice things) the product a week early and several of them published mostly positive overviews including David Pogue at The New York Times, Walt Mossberg at The Wall Street Journal, and Edward Baig at USA Today. Tom Gideon at PC Mag and Joshua Topolsky at Engadget have also written widely circulated critiques. Despite this plethora of other commentary on the web, I thought I’d throw in my two cents (well, actually $499) since there are a few key areas that are either off-base or ignored by other writers.
First of all, the keyboard has gotten a ton of unfair flack. Sure, it’s not great for any typing you have to do which is number or character heavy, but for standard old typing (like this blog post) it’s fine. In fact, I’m writing all of the text for this post on the iPad and I’d estimate I’m significantly faster than on my iPhone, but definitely slower than a real computer keyboard. This touchscreen is great, but still doesn’t solve the problem of not being able to “feel” when you’ve made a mistake. With that said, it’s only been three days so it’s likely I will improve speed and accuracy with this thing. Overall, however, it’s much better than anyone out there is claiming (especially when it’s used in “laptop position” with two free hands).
This is by far the biggest disappointment for me. Amazon’s Kindle and the Pandora apps are both amazing (I’ll elaborate more on that further down), but very few of the most popular free iPhone applications have been re-written for the iPad (at least not yet). As a result, when one clicks on Skype, ESPN’s ScoreCenter, Yelp, etc. a small screen-within-a-screen the size of an iPhone loads. One can double the size of this display on the iPad which helps some, but that comes at the cost of stretched out pixels like old-school Mario Bros. I understand sites like ESPN and Yelp might think iPad users will just use regular Safari to visit their pages, and although this might be true, the BBC iPad app is so slick that other content providers should consider following suit. BBC has really thought about the screen size, how articles should sort for easy viewing, shrinking sizes of pictures in text, and on and on. It’s impressive.
As for the Kindle and Pandora apps, these are the two best free apps I found and they are both fantastic. I prefer Pandora on the iPad to both the iPhone and internet versions because they have created a very unique experience and leveraged the strengths of the iPad hardware. Pandora on the iPad shows more info than on an iPhone, and because the exact screen size of the iPad is known (unlike a computer monitor), everything fits neatly as opposed to some issues I tend to have on the web-version. I already listen to a fair amount of radio on my AppleTV and iPhone, but the Pandora app will displace both of those because it’s so easy.
As for Kindle, I should likely devote an entire blog post rather than this measly paragraph to the ramifications of the iPad for Amazon, but before I get around to that, here are my quick thoughts. I predict Amazon stops selling the physical Kindle device in the next 18 months because of the iPad. They might keep making the white reading devices and give them away for free to get people buying electronic books, but the Kindle doesn’t hold a candle to the Kindle app on the iPad (sorry, bad pun). Being able actually type for search (Kindle’s keyboard is a joke), bookmark and highlight more closely to how one would with physical book, and “flip” around pages are features where the Kindle iPad app dominates its physical Kindle predecessor. Apple isn’t going to beat Amazon any time soon in available book content because Apple’s e-bookstore is a fraction of Amazon’s, but Apple has certainly won the hardware battle (and the commitment by Amazon to make a great iPad app is likely a nod that they’ve been defeated).
LIMITATIONS ON THE WEB
I thought that not having Flash was going to be a major downside, but it’s actually okay. I can’t speak for others, but I actually visit sites with Flash less often than I ever realized (side note: this is likely because Flash is falling out of favor with developers since it’s bad for SEO, but that’s another post in-and-of-itself). Anyway, no Flash means no NCAA basketball games on CBS or any of Hulu’s content, but even when the iPad does get Flash, I’m sure Steve Jobs will block this and force people into the iTunes store for this type of content so it likely doesn’t matter much.
One big surprise on the web which has flown under the radar in other reviews is how bad all of Google’s features are on the iPad. Google has really dropped the ball here. For example, they haven’t yet adjusted their code to recognize the iPad as a “desktop” device as opposed to a “mobile” device. As a result, you have to click on “Desktop” at the bottom of every page in order to see your Gmail normally (otherwise you’re stuck with some sort of funky mobile version which is tough to navigate on the iPad). Also, it’s currently not possible to edit anything in Google docs (yep, view-only) and Google Reader looks better in any other format (iPhone included). I’m not sure if this is intentional by Google or some sort of shenanigans Apple is pulling, but it’s a major bummer.
Overall, the iPad is great, but it’s still a “nice to have” not a “need to have.” Getting it made sense for me because it replaces an aging five-year-old computer that was on it’s last legs and previously was used exclusively for surfing and writing short emails. For the extra couple hundred bucks over a new netbook, the iPad was worth it.
One other side gripe I have is that I don’t understand why the device needs to use a wire to sync content to other devices. It uses WiFi to do everything else so why isn’t there a setting to passively cull content from my laptop and AppleTV? Sure, it might be faster via a wire and won’t kill the battery as fast, but at least give the user the option! I would love this feature.
P.S. The most recent reports show that Apple has sold 300,000 units as of the publishing of this post which equates to more than 78 units sold per minute. Not too shabby, but nowhere near the iPhone numbers. The jury is clearly still out on this “category.”