Recently I posted my thoughts on iMovie on the iPad 2. I an exercise of complete redundancy, here’s are those same thoughts (more or less) in video form.
Recently in conversation, the topic of using the Flip HD and the Kodak Zi8 mini-camcorders came up, and specifically, how well do they work with Apple products, like iMovie. As it happens, I own both the Flip and the Kodak camera, so I put down a few thoughts on them. For anyone who might find this comparison helpful, here then in a slightly edited and revised version of those thoughts.
I’ll start by saying that, as a camera, I prefer the Zi8 in virtually every way to the Flip HD with the exception of the shape of the bottom of its case, which is, I admit, a rather trivial – but valid – complaint.
As far as I can see, picture quality, macro ability, picture format options (30 or 60 fps, for example), SDHC card compatibility, spare battery capable, low-light ability… in every way, the Zi8 surpasses the Flip. It’s my “go to” HD camera – although I use my iPhone 4 often because it is always with me; however, as a camera, the iPhone 4 is still pretty limited.
My complaint about the “bottom” of the Zi8 is simply this: It’s rounded. Both have tripod sockets, but with the Flip, the flat bottom means you can, in a pinch, stand the camera on a table. The Zi8′s round bottom makes that virtually impossible, making a tripod mount absolutely necessary.
So, as a camera, the Zi8 is my preference, but if the question is: Which camera works best with a Mac (or, perhaps I should say, “Apple products” then I’d have to say that the Flip is somewhat more compatible.
First, let’s look how it works with the iPad.
I’m starting with the iPad because it is probably the most inflexible environment to use the camera with and supports a narrow range of formats as opposed to the Mac.
If you want to use a camera of any kind with the iPad, you must have the iPad Camera Connection Kit, which is a pair of dongles for the iPad. One is a USB dongle, which allows you to connect a standard USB cable to the iPad and then connect that to a camera, just as you might connect your camera to your computer. The other is an SD card reader, for plugging SD cards directly into your iPad. (These dongles can only be used to get stuff onto your iPad, not back off of it.)
Both the Flip and the Zi8 have built-in USB connectors so that they may be plugged into a computer without having to carry a cable. This is a great feature, but a little awkward depending on what other USB devices you have and the configuration of your computer. The Zi8′s is flexible and allows slightly greater freedom in connecting the camera to a computer. The Flip’s is fixed and I always have to disconnect all other USB devices from my MacBook Pro before I connect it. You could, of course, use an extension cable, but that defeats the purpose of having the connector built-in.
Using the camera connection kit USB Connector the Flip connects and the videos can be imported directly into the iPad. Under the same circumstances, the Zi8 causes the iPad to complain that it needs “too much current” and it will not recognize the device. Score one point for the Flip.
Using the camera connection kit SD Card Connector the Flip cannot connect because it doesn’t use SD cards. The Zi8′s cards are easily read and imported. Score one for the Zi8.
I’m going to make a note here that under each camera’s appropriate connection method, you can see thumbnails of the videos. That’s good because you sometimes don’t want to import every picture or video and you need to see a thumbnail to decide which ones to import.
However, once the videos have been imported into the iPad… you can no longer see the Zi8′s thumbnails… you get a generic icon that says “movie”. The Flip ones have thumbnails and can be watched on the iPad. You cannot see a thumbnail or play the Zi8 video on the iPad. That’s 2 points (thumbnail and playable video) for the Flip and non for the Zi8.
So, if you’re using the Flip with the iPad exclusively, I’d clearly recommend the Flip as the superior camera in terms of usability with the computer equipment. This is especially likely to be important if Apple ever releases iMovie for the iPad. Flip videos may be immediately editable. Zi8 videos almost certainly will not.
The Mac and iMovie
Let’s ignore everything I said about the iPad now and concentrate solely on the Mac. In this instances, I am referring to the iLife ’11 series of software. I was using them on older versions, but I’ll confine my remarks solely to the current version.
If you plug either camera in, iPhoto sees them as cameras and will import and play the videos. No problem and this is how I use both cameras, importing the videos directly into iPhoto ands then using them in iMovie from within iPhoto. They both work fine.
The Flip comes with some nasty video management software which is, at least, fully Mac compatible. I don’t like this software, but it does work. It is not necessary and can be ignored. On the other hand, this software also does the firmware updates to the Flip, so ignore it at your peril. There have been several updates since I bought the Flip. I do like the fact that the Flip has a planned mechanism for updating their firmware.
The Zi8 has none of that, and, as far as I can tell, no firmware updates since I bought it, nor does there seem to be a user-friendly way to do the updates when they do happen.
However, iMovie also has the capability to import directly from the camera, selecting only the clips you need, if you prefer to work that way. iMovie recognizes the Flip as a camera, it does not recognize the Zi8 as a camera. You have to get your Zi8 videos in from iPhoto or direct file import. Score one for Flip.
Otherwise, all things are about equal.
So… if I and my iPad were on the road without computer, and I need to view my videos, the Flip would be the better way to go.
On the Mac, since I use iPhoto to organize my videos anyway, this isn’t an issue and I use the same workflow for both cameras, therefore I prefer the better and more flexible Zi8 as a camera.
Forget all the iLife ’11, OSX 10.7 Lion and MacBook Air at the Apple Event today, the really fun announcement was FaceTime for Mac.
I’ve been playing with it all afternoon, and there are a couple interesting things about it that aren’t immediately obvious.
For starters, video quality is good (with a caveat), both from Mac to Mac and from Mac to iPhone. Initially, video quality was poorer on one end of the conversation, but through testing, we determined that the MacBook’s built-in iSight camera (now FaceTime camera) did considerably worse under low-light conditions; however, this was not a FaceTime issue, as we got the same result from iChat also.
The FaceTime program itself is basic, and does nothing more than make or receive calls from your address book (with a caveat). When you first install the program, you register with your Apple ID, identify the email address you want associated with your Mac and you’re done. It’s that simple.
So here are the interesting things I’ve learned.
- You can place FaceTime calls directly from Safari, using the URL format of “facetime://firstname.lastname@example.org” or “facetime://phonenumber”
- This works on both Safari on the Mac and Safari on the iPhone 4.
- Using this technique, you can bypass the need for someone to be in your address book.
- FaceTime, once installed, “stays resident” on your Mac. It appears to load a hook at boot time and your Mac and it will respond to incoming calls even when FaceTime isn’t open
- I wonder, though, how it will respond when I take my Mac to another wifi network? Is it beaconing my address on a regular basis? What information is it sending?
While there are some issues concerning how FaceTime is being maintained constantly diligent, I think this will make a big difference in people making video calls. One of my main complaints about FaceTime is that you don’t know, when you call someone, if they’re not answering, of it they’re not on a WiFi network. Similarly, if the Mac required that you have FaceTime open, callers would likely have to call first to see if you were ready to take a FaceTime call, which really defeats the purpose of the whole thing.
I do think this explains why FaceTime wasn’t built into iChat.
I just couldn’t afford to wait 4 weeks for my damn free bumper. The new smaller form factor caused the phone to slip out of my holster today. Can you imagine if I’d lost the phone? It’s not worth risking it, so I picked up one of the cheapest I could find at Best Buy and, frankly, it makes the phone 100% better.
Not only did it completely resolve any variable signal issues, but it now fits in the holster and the unpleasant edges are softened just enough that the phone now feels great in my hand.
Plus, it’s green and I like green. A Lot.
Back on July 17th, I ordered an iPhone 4.
I knew about the so-called antenna-gate problem, and I waited until Uncle Steve gave the word for free iPhone bumpers/cases to mitigate the problem. I’d also been down to the Apple Store and checked out the issue myself. Even inside the Apple Store it was apparent that signal strength was distinctly altered by the way you held the phone, but, the potential for problem that this might cause versus the benefits was not sufficient to stop me from ordering one. Especially since I had always intended to have some form of bumper case on the iPhone 4. It was clear that Apple would be supplying free bumpers, but details of how that would happen were not yet announced.
Now I can tell you why their plan blows.
I was given an estimated delivery date of August 12th because of the backorders! I would have ordered a bumper at the same time, but they weren’t available to be ordered (for free of for cost) because of the pending free bumper program.
So, would I just get a bumper along with the phone? No, when the details of the program were released, it turns out you have to download an app for the iPhone 4 and order from there. I heard a lot of people say how clever that was. Bullshit, it was.
Until I received my phone, I wouldn’t be able to order the (necessary) bumper. Inconvenient, but I supposed I would be able to live with it for 3 or 4 days until my bumper could arrive after I ordered it.
Last Monday I received shipment notification that my phone had left China, arriving on August 9th, although the Fedex website said August 10th. It arrived in Alaska by Wednesday and there it stayed, and was, according to their site, still in Alaska when I left work Friday afternoon. Imagine my surprise when it was sitting in my house when I got home 30 minutes later!
For grins, I checked the Fedex website and my phone was still in Alaska. 2 hours later and the website was updated to show that it had been traveling down the coast since Wednesday.
My first order of business was to get the phone activated. When you upgrade an existing phone via mail order, when the new phone is plugged in, it automatically transfers the service from the old phone, and this process was fairly painless. My old phone shut down within 5 minutes and my new phone activated within 5 minutes after that. I restored the backup from my old phone and that, ultimately, took many hours. Once it started to sync music, I got bored with watching my new phone do nothing and cancelled the sync and saved it for bedtime.
Once the phone was in my hands, I started checking all my applications. All my passwords were gone, but that’s a minor inconvenience and probably a “good idea anyway”. Once I got that sorted out, we went out to dinner for some field testing.
Without a bumper, in places, I’m having significant problems with signal strength. On some occasions, when I pull the phone out of the holster, I have no 3G and No Service, which is well frustrating. Setting the phone on the table resolves the problem.
It was imperative that I order my bumper right away. Here’s why the program blows. I’ve already waited 3 weeks for the phone, which I have to have before I can order the bumper. Now, I have to wait another four weeks for the bumper! They need to get phones and bumpers into the customers’ hands at exactly the same time.
I’ve tried using a piece of plastic film over the sensitive antenna areas, and that helps, but it won’t stick, so I’m left holding my phone gingerly and awkwardly, or learning to type left handed while I wait for a glacially shipped bumper.
Enough griping about the bumper issue, lets talk about the phone.
I’m not a fan of the new form factor, which surprises me. I think I preferred the rounded edges. That said, the unit feels firm and solid in your hand, even a bit heavier than the old 3GS, but that may just an illusion. I do like the new buttons.
The new Retina display is awesome. Everything looks crisp and sharp. Even under a loupe it looks great.
The “new” camera produces nice pictures, but the flash and video light has a bluish cast to it. Still, it’s better than nothing. The distance of the flash seems pretty short, but adequate for shots in dark restaurants. There’s a certain quality of being lighted by a flashlight to it. The HD video is very nice, but I’ve yet to determine how much video I’ll actually be able to record, since my phone is perpetually 95% full of music.
Phone calls… I don’t know. I’m not due to make a phone call for a another few days. I’ll let you know when I’m forced to talk to somebody on the phone.
The processor is zippy and it feels as quick as the iPad.
Finally, the big thing is supposed to be battery life. It’s better. Difficult to quantify, though. Last night at about 11, my phone was down to 39% and I hadn’t done a lot of driving (My car stereo charges my phone) so that’s probably a bit better than the 3GS, but I’ve not suffered from the battery problems that other people report, perhaps because I don’t waste my time talking on the phone. I have noticed that when the 3GS has bad signal, batery life is seriously degraded. Since I don’t have a bumper and my signal is all over the place, my battery life may not be up to the capacity it would be if I had a bumper.
I want my bumper.
Now, the debate about keyboards is mostly over. When the iPhone came out naysayers and competitors alike all said, “I’ll die before you rip my ‘real’ keyboard from my cold, dead hands!”
And while there’s still people out there like that, the competitors have largely fallen by the wayside and adopted software keyboards. Adam Smith’s invisible hand of capitalism once again shows us the way to the future. While that may reflect the evolutionary path forward, is it really the best? What are the long-term implications?
Long-term readers of my blog will know that I love my iPhone. It is a transformative device, much the home microwave oven. Things are simply not the same once you have one.
I have little or no problem with the software keyboard, but I do recognize its limitations and frustrations. Then my iPad comes along. I love my iPad. I find that it is increasingly marginalizing my laptop in my life.
As a side note, while Apple may have played the “Windows is oh-so-vulnerable” and “Macs just work” cards heavily during the renaissance, I’ve long felt that the reason Apple Mac sales have increased is because they’ve built and bundled a machine that correctly addresses what people really do with their computers. We don’t do spreadsheets and word processing, we do email, web-browsing, photos, videos and music. They correctly assessed that the market isn’t about a computer “being a tool that can do anything” but instead made a tool that does what people do.
A good craftsman doesn’t blame his tools but he always has the right tools for the job. Having once worked in one of the trades, I can tell you the difference between having the right tool and a makeshift or general purpose tool is the difference between night and day. (Alton Brown and his stand on uni-tasking tools be damned.)
This, above all else, is the brilliance of the Mac resurgence. And, of course, like all computers, the Mac is still a tool that can be made to do most anything. That is still the nature of the programmable computer.
The iPad is a bit of a refinement over the Mac in this respect. It’s an even narrower tool, focused on an even smaller subset of day-to-day computers, but, significantly, still a subset that makes up the vast majority of those tasks. Most of us don’t make movies, we watch them, we don’t make music, we listen to it and we show off more pictures than we take. Use that assumption and make the device a more convenient form factor and Apple has (it would seem by sales numbers) hit upon the winning formula again.
Yes, there are times when I’m using my iPad and need to do something that I cannot do, but that’s increasingly less often as third-party apps come along to do the most amazing host of things. If I’m not at work, where I still use my laptop for software development, I can go days without using the laptop. The largest deficiency area of the iPad when we were in Taiwan is the inability to load pictures directly from my camera to the iPad. (Yes, I know there’s a camera-connection kit, but I couldn’t obtain one, and they still seem to be in constrained supply.) The laptop is increasingly irrelevant. With an SD card reader and a built-in camera (rumored for later iPads) the laptop will slip further into obsolescence.
Let’s diverge for another tangent for a moment. Apple has got a new data facility being built in North Carolina, and it’s a monster. Lots of people suspect that, in conjunction with clues based on Apple’s purchases of other companies, that iTunes will be adding a streaming service. I suspect that’s true. Why not? If you actually can rip people off for a monthly “service” fee instead of actually selling them a product, any businessman would. The health club industry has given us the model for all our future personal bankruptcies.
But actually, I think Apple has something grander in mind. I think the iPad (and the iPhone as well) are going to go (hopefully optionally) from computer mandatory to computer optional. I think they’ll begin to offer (iPads at first) the ability to buy, setup and use an iPad without needing a computer at all. It will be perfect for someone like my dad who, rather than replace his aging computer, could downsize to an iPad – provided that he had sufficient room somewhere in the cloud for his mail, contacts, music, pictures and videos. Many other computer-less people I know were interested in the iPad, until they learned it didn’t replace a computer, it had to be an extension to one. That’s what’s Apple is up to, if they’re smart.
I have no doubt they’re smart. One day soon, iPad will have the words on the box, “Requires computer with Mac OSX 10.X or Windows PC with Itunes or MobileMe account.”
Back on topic, because that’s not what this post is about, it’s about that damned software keyboard. It works sufficiently well for Twitter, Facebook, Friendface, Jitter, Flickr, most e-mail, notes and websites… but it fails miserably when i want to make a post like this one.
So, does that mean the iPad fails as my primary device? No, it means my behavior changes and I stop writing long blog posts.
I’m afraid the ipad will be the true dawn of the age of Twitter. People will voluntarily express themselves in 140 snippets.
Considering most people haven’t got even 140 characters worth of anything meaningful to say, perhaps that’s a good thing.
The changing face of travelling fascinates me. On my first trip to Taiwan, I didn’t have a cell phone, digital camera or laptop computer.
Oh how things have changed!
On this trip, we’re kitted out for every eventuality. Irene and I both have our MacBooks, our iPhones and my iPad.
Linking it altogether, I brought my Airport Express for wireless access for everyone.
You know what? 75% of everything I do is on the iPad. About %15 is on the iPhone and the remaining 10% on the MacBook. If it weren’t for Photoshop and tweaking photos beyond what I can do with Photogene on the iPad (wonderful app!), and recording the Skyped podcasts, I wouldn’t need the MacBook at all.
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.
I promised my incoherent thoughts on the iPad after days of use and here they are… in no particular order.
- 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.
I’d written up this long, convoluted post about my travails trying to get an iPad, but by the time I’ve gotten around to posting it… I finally got an iPad. I guess I’ll recount the story anyway.
Let’s rewind to Saturday, April 3rd, the very first day of iPad sales. As you may recall, it was at that point that I started saying, “I want an iPad.”
Saturday: We went into the Best Buy on Camelback road at around 8:00PM and, although the store wasn’t terribly busy, there was still a cluster of people around the Apple mini-store. There were 4 iPads on display, all of them was being tested by children. A small group of people were standing by hoping to get to play with them.
One teenager, the oldest, seemed the most oblivious, so I came and stood right next to him and made a big production out of trying to watch everything he was doing. He was still oblivious.
After about 5 minutes, his parents and a couple other kids came over, he then started to explain the iPad to them in great detail. After two or three minutes of him gushing on, his mom said, “Have you been on this the entire time since we left you?”
She looked at me, “Are you waiting to try this?”
…and she kicked him off and gave him a bit of an earful. Good for her.
While I’d been waiting, I’d noticed that people were actually buying iPads – they weren’t out of stock.
I played around with it and came to my somewhat surprised conclusion. (Which I’ve documented elsewhere) I went and got Irene and the kids and, after a little wait, got them onto an iPad. Moments after Irene said, “I want one.” I checked with the Apple guy who told me they had a “couple left” of each of the models; however, Irene wasn’t quite ready to buy.
We went home, leaving that damned teenager once again reattached to the iPad and giving his family a lecture.
On the way how we thought about it. We considered turning back. Best Buy closed in under 30 minutes. We just had time… but… we didn’t.
We went home to check to see if there were any government employee discounts. There aren’t.
We checked to see of there are any educator discounts. There aren’t.
Amazon hasn’t got them, so there’s no tax-free option.
Basically, if we wanted an iPad, there’s no option save for paying the $499 + tax.
I checked online and realized that Best Buy was closed on Easter. That meant that whatever stock they had at closing time Saturday would still be there at opening time on Monday. I hatched my cunning plan: An early lunch, timed to arrive exactly when Best Buy opened and an iPad would be mine!
Other obstacles got in the way, but ultimately, I found myself pulling into the parking lot of Best Buy, 5 minutes before they opened, fully expecting to walk in, straight to the iPads and buy one before they had a chance to run out.
Apparently, 40 other people had that idea, too, because there were that many people standing at the door waiting for it to open… and so I didn’t get an iPad. Again.
Tuesday: At lunch, John and I went to the Apple Store at the Biltmore. They have many more iPads on display and, just as at Best Buy the other day, Could see that people were buying and leaving with them. I decided to buy one right then and there. When I finally got the Apple Store employee’s attention (they were very busy) I learned that they didn’t have any 16GB models left, just 32s and 64s. I won’t be too harsh on him, but he indicated first that they got less 16s than the others and that people were realizing that 16 just wasn’t enough. I felt like I was being given a very direct suggestion that I should buy a bigger iPad; however, that’s not in the cards. The 16 is absolutely the most I can possibly afford
The Apple Store guy had no idea of when the next shipment would be in.
Friday: I had read on Thursday that people who had pre-ordered their iPads and didn’t get an April 3 delivery date, began receiving notices that their iPads were winging their way out of China. Figuring that Apple would no doubt also getting more stock at this time, I decided to try again. The kids had a half day at school and so I left work at lunchtime and still had an hour to go before picking up the kids. I stopped in the Apple Store and the same guy was there. I asked again about the 16s and the answer was negative. “Just 30 minutes ago we got a truck load of 32s and 64s, but not 16s. They don’t tell me how many we’re getting, what types or when they’ll arrive.”
Discouraged, but still with about 45 minutes to kill, I started playing with the iPads on display. 5 minutes later a female Apple Store employee came up to me and said, “Excuse me, [Apple Sore guy] (indicating the guy I’d previously spoken to) tells me you’re interested in a 16GB iPad.”
“Yes”, I said.
“I’ve got good news. 3 minutes ago a truck pulled up with a shipment of 16GB iPads.”
…and so I have an iPad, but not before she really put the hard press on me to buy… MobileMe (which would have extended my existing subscription out to about 3 years), AppleCare for the iPad (even if you want an extended warranty, you don’t need to buy it until 1 year has nearly passed), a case and/or docking accessories.
I existed the store 5 minutes later with nothing except an iPad.
I’ll post some thoughts on it tomorrow, but for now, the whole family is really enjoying it: Except when I have to fight to get to use it, that’s already becoming a problem.