My thoughts on Apple's iPad

I recently was the recipient of an Apple iPad for Christmas this season. As the owner of an iPhone, I wanted to find use case scenarios for where it would provide functionality/utility beyond what the iPhone could already provide. The iPad I discuss is the 16GB WiFi model.

First Impressions

Right off the bat, coming from an iPhone 3GS, the iOS interface is familiar and the features are intuitive. Anyone who has invested in learning the nuances of iOS on their iPhone will be glad to know that their skills will largely transfer to the iPad. The construction is solid with the glass screen and aluminum body – it feels substantial in your hands. By the time I received my iPad, the orientation switch had been reprogrammed into a mute switch. The documentation included in the packaging still described it as the orientation switch. This later became a problem when I would attempt to read from it in a half laying down position, and the orientation would change constantly as the gyroscope moved around inside of the device. It is now a setting you can change under the settings icon.

Props

iBooks

Reading eBooks and PDF files on the iPad is a dream. As a graduate student, I spend a large majority of my time reading white papers published by other academics, and the iPad excels at serving them up in a well organized library. Thanks to the implementation of multitasking, you can now run the iPod and listen to music while you read a PDF. This cuts down on having to break out the laptop and the iPod to do this task, or to waste paper and print out the file as a hard copy, which is especially important if your department has a printing page quota. Another great thing to consider is if your textbook publisher has a textbook in eReader format, you can download the textbook onto your iPad and be able to search the text with queries (this is a GREAT feature).

Mail

Setting up and managing multiple email accounts is easy with the iPad.  While I am not a fan of the concept of a unified inbox (I like everything clearly separate, especially email) it works with all of the major mail protocols, and you can set the security features you need for your email. I was able to get everything working within 10 minutes.

Flexibility & Momentum

Apple is clearly the leader in the tablet revolution that is occurring right now in the tech field. The critical mass iOS has achieved by volume of devices sold to the public means the number of apps available is extremely large. There is just about an app for anything that you can imagine, with many large corporations embracing the smartphone & tablet wave and providing goods and services for consumption on the iOS ecosystem. iPad is the premier iOS device and the one designed specifically for content consumption. The integration of the app store and iTunes into the iPad with no need for a computer of any sort provides a direct link from your wallet to Apple’s coffers. This efficient exchange of dollars for apps makes using the iPad so easy as well as dangerous to your wallet. There are even thousands of free apps (if you’re a broke college student like myself) that do just about everything you’ll want your iPad to do, however the paid apps are usually ad-free and more efficient at the task you’re trying to do.

Gripes

Safari

One of the first gripes that I had with the iPad came when I began putting safari through its paces. The lack of tabs is probably the most notable, as each new window needs to open in a new page in the page browser window within safari, and then the iPad zooms in to the selected page and loads it. I imagine this has to do with how the A4 CPU handles system memory and the GFX chip handles its memory. I suspect that having more than one page loaded at a time would eat up too much of the system resources (which Apple is usually stingy to begin with – when compared to Android devices) and begin to slow down other apps that need to use CPU cycles. Considering that using the larger 10” touch screen for browsing is one of the iPad’s main draws, cutting down the safari experience is probably a mistake, although it is understandable under the circumstances of the current hardware revision.

Spell Check & Correction

Second, the spell checking and correction features are horrid. The corrector jumps up constantly as you are typing messages or attempting to type in a search query and changes your word if you do not press the small x on the new word as it pops up. Thankfully, this is a feature you can turn off, but as long as it is on, it will aggravate you to no end, and the messages you send to your friends will make little sense (some are actually quite comical).

iTunes Mutli-Device Management

Finally, iTunes management of multiple iDevices is lacking. After plugging in and setting up my iPad for the first time and downloading apps for it from the app store, my apps became a jumbled mess between my iPhone, iPad and iPod. The only real easy way is to set each device to manual management and disable auto synchronizing for music, books, apps, etc. Inconvenient to say the least, but I have found no other way to manage multiple devices.  Also, upscaled apps look pretty bad, and I either use the browser to just use the mobile web page for a particular company’s website – assuming they only have an app for iPhone/iPod touch. iPad native apps are naturally  the best in terms of performance and style – and provide a better experience overall.

Conclusion

In Conclusion, I’d say the iPad is a very cool and fun device – if you already have a bunch of devices (music player, smartphone, laptop computer) it can serve as a good consolidation device. Light enough to just toss in your bag, with a battery that lasts about as long as the working day it will be there for you when you need it. Rumblings of the iPad 2 are already starting to pour out onto the Internet, and if Apple has spent the time addressing my gripes, iPad2 would be a very recommended “buy”.  iPad is in no way a serious content creation device, and is also not a laptop replacement. Its role is best served as a complementary device that works within your technology ecosystem. As of today, I’d say get one if you want one, but Steve Jobs & the “reality distortion field” are working overtime on this project, and as “magical” as the iPad is, I felt like I bought a prototype instead of a final, well polished product. iPad 2’s dual core CPU, additional VRAM & main system memory should provide the experience everyone desires.

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