iPad Notes and Review

I promised my incoherent thoughts on the iPad after days of use and here they are… in no particular order.

iPad notes

  • Carrying it is awkward. There’s just no good way to carry the iPad by itself. You’d think it would be natural to carry it like a textbook, but it isn’t. No matter which way you hold it, your fingers are grasping slick glass on one side. it doesn’t feel secure or natural. Therefore…
  • A case is mandatory. I tried to get away without buying one as they’re ridiculously expensive (for what they are) but the iPad just needs something. I think, perhaps, in the future I’ll get one of those portfolio types similar to a zipped up paper pad, but for now I’ve just got a neoprene sleeve.
  • Videos are fantastic. Hand down, video looks great on this thing. Whether it’s iTunes movies, videos I’ve made myself for my Apple TV or Youtube videos, they really shine. The lack of a 16:9 aspect ratio isn’t that big of a deal. Youtube videos on webpages now play inline rather than jumping you to the YouTube as the iPhone does, which is very refreshing and apps like ABC’s TV service is magnificent. Pity ABC hasn’t got jack to watch. Here’s hoping soon for Hulu, CBS, NBC and the others to follow suit. I hear, but haven’t seen the Netflix streaming rocks, but I don’t have a Netflix account, nor am I likely to ever get one until the have a pay-as-you use plan rather than a flat monthly fee. Not enough movies in the world that I want to see to justify a monthly expense.
  • Brightness control is inconvenient. The iBooks program recognizes that easy to adjust brightness is critical for using a screen like this and builds it right into the program. Sadly, I’m learning that’s a forbidden, undocumented API that Apple alone uses and other programs cannot use it without risking Apple’s wrath or rejection. To change the brightness otherwise, you have to dig into settings, which is a hassle when you’re just moving from room to room. Supposedly, the iPad has auto-brightness but it doesn’t seem to work too well. I’ve not noticed any dimming or brightening at all.
  • Many apps are “splitting” into an iPhone and an iPad path. I think it’s pretty clear that Apple would like all developers of iPhone apps to use the dual-target, universal binary to produce a single app that runs on both platforms and takes advantage of the environment its running on. There are pros and cons against that modality. Yes, it’s great when I pop open a program that I had previously purchased on my iPhone and discover it’s been ported to run bigger and better – and yes, it is better – but at the same time, any graphic intensive program would require that higher resolution graphics be stored within the application bundle, resulting in bloated app packages, straining your already full iPhone for no benefit to the iPhone. Consequently, many programs now have iPhone and iPad versions. This is confusing because I don’t know which app developers might have released a newer better version since it is outside of the normal upgrade path provided through iTunes. But that’s not all…
  • Apps are beginning to cost more. That’s great if you’re a developer. iPhone apps have been pigeonholed into the free/$0.99-4.99 paradigm because that’s the prevailing wisdom. iPhone apps are an impulse buy and that means low-price. The price is completely divorced from the amount of effort involved in the development. Apple has sent a signal by releasing Pages, Numbers and Keynote at $9.99 – it’s OK to charge more for advanced apps. That’s great, but it certainly will (should) slow down app purchases. That said, I think I’ve spent more on iPad apps already than I have in their entirety on my iPhone. OmniGraffle has put out what looks to be a kick-ass flow charting/design program, but at $49.99… it’s going to have to wait. Come to think of it, Omni Group’s programs on the Mac are always just a little too expensive for my blood.
  • iPad apps are better. Ooo, this will probably get me in trouble with somebody but, here’s how I see it. iPhone OS is brilliant, it really is a ground-up rethink of the computer operating system which is what was needed for the iPhone. Previous mobile phone approaches (are you listening Microsoft) took the computer OS and scaled it down. That is, they cut it down. That was the wrong approach. Let’s face it, the iPhone’s screen is small. There’s not much room to work with and they made it work. Now, on the iPad, it’s like they’ve been taking steroids. It is bigger and better and the ground-up rethink is really paying off because you can do so much more, but you’re still working within an intimate space. I don’t know that you could continue to scale it up indefinitely, but at the iPad’s size, it’s wonderful.
  • Any purchased iPhone/iPod Touch apps you have will transfer to your iPad. In case you didn’t realize that, the copy protection applied to your purchased apps is applied at the iTunes library level, not the device level. That means if you’ve already purchased it, it will load right onto your iPad, assuming (a) that you’re using the same iTunes library and (b) the app is compatible with the iPad. (It might be possible that one isn’t, but the vast majority are.)
  • iPhone apps don’t cut it on the iPad. There’s an odd sort of delight when you pop open one of your iPhone apps and it turns out it’s already ported to the iPad. More importantly, there’s a crushing letdown feeling when you open on and all you get is the iPhone penalty box. Similarly, there’s a letdown when they don’t. The single size mode just feels bad and the double-sized mode looks awful. Very few of the programs I have on the iPhone are acceptable on the iPad.
  • My Bejeweled 2 scores are going way up. That having been said, at least Bejeweled 2 is passable on the big screen in double mode, and my scores are going way up. It’s much easy to see and manipulate those little jewels on the bigger screen.
  • I am not enthralled with programs that have functions that only work in one orientation or another. That requires a little explanation. You may recall the other day that I said at the Best Buy I was having some problems with Pages on the iPad. Specifically, I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the damned document and start a new one. Answer: You can only have that menu in portrait mode. In landscape, which is the easiest to type in, the menu doesn’t come up. I don’t like that. Developers – stop it. Do not do that. Bad developer, bad, bad, bad. Rolled up newspaper time for you. The user should decide which orientation works best for them.
  • You can type on it. At least, you can type on it better than the iPhone. In landscape orientation I can type two-handed, 10-fingers and quite quickly; however, punctuation is still penalized by having to switch to a secondary keyboard mode and it begins to jar the fingers knocking on the screen after a short period of time. I’ve never really had too much trouble with typing on the iPhone, but the iPad is better – hands down. (Actually, I think all my typing problems on the iPhone are actually a plot by the developers of the iPhone Facebook app. I think they’ve written the code to randomly misspell one word in every Facebook post I make, not matter how careful I am.)
  • Not enough books and you can’t see what they are until you own an iPad! The iBooks reader is gorgeous and works well, but, before I bought the iPad, I wanted to know what books were available. No can do, the only way I can find to see what’s on the iBookstore is to have an iPad and iBooks. Silly Apple. There aren’t enough books (yet) in the store, and hardly anything on sciences (especially paleontology.) I imagine there’s plenty of fictional bestsellers for the dim sheeple, but I don’t care.
  • Kindle works nicely, but isn’t as polished as iBooks. Amazon cranked out their Kindle app for the iPhone rather quickly and it’s also very nice. I liked it on the iPhone, but after purchasing a couple books, I never finished them. It’s too much of a eye strain to read them on the phone. Joy of joy, my previously purchased books synced right onto the iPad and were at exactly the point I left off. I’m finally going to get to finish Capture the Saint by Burl Barer (the only Saint book I haven’t been able to buy in print) and The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. (I know, I know, you’d think I’d have read that, wouldn’t you, but… I haven’t. But I will now.)
  • There is no comfortable position to sit and use the iPad. At least I haven’t found one. It’s too heavy to hold as a book for long periods of time and I think that may be exacerbated by the thinness of it. It feels a little unnatural to hold, but then a lifetime of holding books feels natural because that’s what I’ve done for a lifetime. I have a size and a weight expectation. We’ll see if time will change my opinion on this.
  • Mail and Safari are particularly nice. They’re really nice, The big screen for Mail and the inline videos for Safari really seal it as a great way to browse and read mail. There’s a buggy or two in Mail, especially when changing orientation. You can get out of a mailbox, work your way back to the root, even start down towards another mailbox and, if you rotate the screen, you’ll find yourself back in the original mailbox you started from. That’s annoying. It’s especially bad when you have the iPad fasted to the airbag section of your car’s steering wheel and using it to read mail while you’re driving. Sometimes if you make a fast turn, you spin the wheel enough to change the orientation and you loose your place*. Thank Apple for the orientation lock.
  • No problems, so far, with wireless. Others are reporting problems with their wireless connections. I’ve not experienced any problems. It worked first time, zero hassle, immediately. it even worked when we took it out to restaurant yesterday and glommed onto their free by authenticated network.
  • File sharing is weird to implement. Programs can now “save” files into user space for later retrieval, such as Pages being able to save PDFs, Word Docs and Pages Docs for moving to another computer, but it’s all done through iTunes and completely non-intuitive. I knew it could do it, but I had to look up how to do it on the ‘net. Minus several points for hiding this important feature where no one would look for it.
  • I wonder if the need for apps will decrease on the iPad when people realize the browser is more full featured. Steve Jobs recently pointed out that, at least for the iPhone (and therefore the lion’s share of this market) people use apps more than web browsing – hence the initiative to create Apple’s iAds service for monetizing apps – but I wonder if that’s because an app can deliver a much better experience than a web app on the iPhone? Safari’s browser is much better on the iPad. It’s possible that people will again begin to shift back towards online services over apps.

Those are my thoughts so far. Perhaps they seem a bit negative, but they aren’t. All in all it’s a great little device and the potential seems limitless. Next time, I’ll talk about some of the specific applications, like Popular Science Mag+ electronic magazine and Marvel Comics e-comic reader. (I’m going to have a guest reviewer and well-placed insider in the comic book trade giving me his feedback before I write that one. Will the iPad finally kill the comic book? Will there be a super-hero created by bitten by a radioactive iPad? Find out next time… or whenever I get around to it, same bat-time, same bat channel.)

*Oh, and people, that part about the driving and stuff… totally a joke. Like my wife would let me have the iPad when I driving. She’s totally monopolizing it to read The Lightening Thief.