So it’s been nearly a month or so since the iPad hit the streets in the US and 48 days since I got mine. In that time, it has become an indispensable item in my hi-tech arsenal. With the iPad reaching far-off lands and foreign shores today, it’s time for the first in a series of thoughts about the various apps I’ve installed on my iPad.
First, I’ve got a few thoughts about the iPad in general. There’s nothing particularly earth-shaking or revolutionary in my thoughts on the device but they warrant repeating.
Unlike the iPhone, the iPad is not a ubiquitous device. It isn’t just magically at your hip and unless you’re in the habit of carrying a knapsack with you, as a student might, you have to plan to have it with you.
I had the same exact problem with my laptop. When I went places I had to decide, with the convenience of having the computer with me outweigh the inconvenience of having to carry it and keep an eye on it when I’m not using it? 99 times out of 100 the answer was, “no”. With the iPhone, it’s “yes” 99 times out of 100. The iPad falls somewhere in between, and I’m still developing my habits in this area. If I go out for breakfast on a Saturday morning amongst the loonies at Chick-Fil-A, I’ll take it with me. Free Wi-Fi, a playground for the kids and reasonably neat food is a perfect combination for the iPad. Around the house, unless someone else in the household is using it, it’s pretty much always in the room with me. It’s awesome for reading my mail, checking the web, reading my RSS newsfeeds or just grabbing it for a quick games of solitaire in a down moment.
It’s also quite sufficient for making (typically shorter) blog posts and online comments. Typically it gets tiresome after 3 or 4 good-sized paragraphs. (I’m not typing this review on the iPad, but I could have. I can’t say the same for the iPhone.)
The iPad was billed as a “content consumption” device, and that’s certainly true. but as you’ll see from a few of the apps I use, it’s a lot more versatile and developers are beginning to make some awesome content manipulation and creation applications for it.
One thing that the iPad does, exactly like the iPhone does, is to encourage you to end up with software you never use but you can’t bear to part with. Unlike the iPhone, iPad software is often much more expensive. In face, I have one app on my iPad that cost $50. I probably don’t have a total of little more than $50 worth of apps on my iPhone.
Looking at the first page, and going in no particular order but vaguely left to right, top to bottom, here’s what I’ve got.
Calendar, Contacts, Notes, Maps, YouTube, Safari, Mail, iPod are all basically the same as the iPhone, but scaled up. Videos is new, but is mostly the video function of the iPod made into a distinct app. Videos on the iPad are gorgeous and while I generally poo-poo the idea of a person video device, I regularly use the iPad to watch Dr. Who episodes for review. The iPad, with easy backward and forward, high resolution and headphones makes for a great environment to really concentrate on a show (and thus give me more details to pick on.)
Pages and Numbers (I have no use for Keynote) are nice implementations of Apple’s word processor and spreadsheet. On the Mac, I use Pages, but I tend to avoid the “fancy stuff” with templates and rather just start with a blank page and type. As such, Pages on the iPad suffers from the 3 or 4 paragraph and I’m tired syndrome, but it does doa good job of rendering more complex page layouts. Numbers, which is much less typing intensive, it really nice. For what i use it for it’s as good as the full version and more convenient on the iPad.
Wikipanion is an app I have on both the iPhone and the iPad, and I wouldn’t be without it. It’s a great interface on Wikipedia that works better than a web-based search. This is a common theme on iPhone OS devices. Apps can be made better than web pages – bucking the recent trend on the Internet in the recent years.
Google search is a standalone Google application, it’s main superiority over the browser based version (it is in the tool bar on Safari, afterall) is that it has voice to text search capabilities and they are quite good. The iPad’s microphone is remarkably good – every bit as good as the one on MacBooks. In fact, the iPad works great for Skype, which really surprised me.
Photogene and PhotoForge are two photo manipulation apps. I have several others on my iPhone, but these two have made the jump to full iPad apps and the added screen space really makes the difference when doing photo manipulation. Photogene is the more polished of the two apps and has a lot of Photoshop like filters and adjustments, but it doesn’t have an retouching tools. PhotoForge is less polished, but has some cloning and smudging tools – which is why I have both on the iPad.
NewsRack is my RSS reader. It ties directly into my Google Reader account and this is the app I use more than anything else on the iPad. I have hundreds of RSS feeds I monitor and NewsRack makes it simple. On the iPhone I use ByLine, which I still like better, but ByLine hasn’t made the jump to the iPad and native iPhone-only apps mostly such blown up on the iPad. Yes, they work, but, you really feel the pain. I’m hoping ByLine gets with the program and gets an iPad version out soon. Not that I have any real complaints about NewsRack.
iThoughts HD is a MindMapping software, which I like much better than MindMapping on the MacBook simply because you can carry it around like a notebook and do your mapping on-the-fly in meetings. The fingers to screen paradigm, rather than mouse to screen, really shines for this type of program. MindMapping is about taking notes and organizing thoughts and the iPad is a great way to do it.
OmniGraffle is a longtime Mac graphing/template program (similar to Visio on the PC). Their iPad version costs an astounding $49.99, but I have it here because I do lots of charts likes this. Normally I do them on giant sticky notes on my wall – and my coworkers can attest, I have them everywhere with design and flow ideas. I bit the bullet for OmniGraffle for the iPad because, like iThoughtsHD, I felt this would finally be the right tool for doing this sort of design on the fly, in meetings and other impromptu situations. For $50, I have a few complaints about how it works, but I’m confident these are mostly bugs that will be resolved soon. Text boxes in UML diagrams in particular are irritating as they keep resizing and double text while you’re editing it. But if you’re doing flow diagrams, it’s pretty much perfect.
WordPress is a free interface to WordPress blogs, like lonelocust.com. I use it for blogging, but detest the fact that you have to do all formatting in HTML. The iPhone and iPad keyboard is not friendly for type XML elements like <b></b> This limits how much I’m willing to blog in the program. Recently I’ve started experimenting with BlogPress, a not-free app that seems a bit better, but still limited. This is an area when someone could really make huge improvements.
Solitaire City is probably the second most used app on my iPad. I love a good game of solitaire and Solitaire City is great. Easy to use, has lots of games and variations and is just a nice, rich visual presentation. If only it would not shout “Yaaahooooo!” whenever you win a game. I could really do without that.
Next, there’s ReelDirector, a video editing program. Honestly, I’ve not had much time to test this on the iPad. I purchased it for the iPhone and they’ve since updated it to be iPhone/iPad native in a single version. Many developers are making second versions of iPad only software and from a development standpoint, there are legitimate pros and cons for either way. It’s seems that what’s happening mostly, though, is that developers are realizing if they upgrade their iPhone version to be native on both, everyone just gets a free upgrade. If they make a separate version, they get paid twice and they almost all charge more for the iPad version.
I wouldn’t have bought ReelDirector for the iPad but since it was a free upgrade, I’ll try it. The interface on the iPad seems a lot easier than the iPhone version, but there’s a problem with content. On the iPhone 3GS, you can shoot video, then edit it with ReelDirector. If you sync you photos to a computer, the videos and photos are removed and then synced back as part of your normal photo albums. Video, by default, are not synced back and so disappear from your phone, so you have to make that change to your settings to have an archive of video available for the program.
Second, you can’t put videos on that weren’t shot with the iPhone – at least I haven’t been able to trick it into accepting them.
Finally, the iPad has no camera, so, you have to shoot on an iPhone 3GS, transfer to your computer through iTunes, then have iTunes sync the videos onto the iPad, otherwise, you’ve got nothing to edit. That’s too much of a pain in the rear. If I’m going to sync it to my computer, I’ll just use iMovie or Final Cut to edit. I guess if all I had was Movie Maker on a PC, I might push it back to the iPad to edit elsewhere.
Finally, I have iBooks and Kindle at the bottom, two e-readers. I like them both. Ibooks is easier, more visually appealing and has in-app purchases of books, but Kindle has a much larger book selection and you can sync your last read location across several machines, such as real Kindle. Honestly, they’ll be selling “real” Kindles and Sony e-reader in the discount bin at Big Lots in a year. Who would want one of those horrid things when you can have an iPad which does so much more.