the iPad experience
I got an iPad. Shocking! I’d like to say that deb (who has some good app recommendations here) made me get an iPad, or that it was forced on me but that’s not really the case. I wanted one despite my efforts to not want one.
The iPad represents a shift towards a kind of computing that is both attractive and terrifying. An experience that is highly tailored with most of the ugly underpinnings hidden away behind a curtain of abstraction. Those same ugly underpinnings that let you do interesting things with your computer if you’re of a technical bent.
That first paragraph (and a bunch since) was typed on my new iPad using the WordPress app. Typing is something I haven’t had a lot of practice doing yet but so far it isn’t quite as bad as most of the reviews have led me to expect. Well, let me clarify a bit: typing in portrait mode is not awesome. In order to hold the thing, you need your hands. This forces you to type with your thumbs and the iPad is wide enough that this is awkward. Landscape-mode typing is pretty nice if you can lay the iPad flat, say, on your lap. Of course then it’s tilted away from you if you’re at all reclined, so it’s at a bit of a funny angle. You may find you need to contort yourself into variations on the fetal position to find a “comfortable” seating angle. Still, for a first try, I was touch-typing pretty quickly on it with not too many mistakes.
I said before that I wasn’t interested in the iPad. I certainly tried to hold out despite being bombarded by ads, friends, parents asking me when I was getting one and deb, enthusiastically suggesting we get them. Yes, dear reader, I am weak. Weak with the need for new gadgetry!
I think the iPad is a new class of gadget. I’ve tried suggesting that my Dell Mini 10 was a suitable competitor for the iPad (look! it’s got a real keyboard!) but honestly, it’s different. I consider the iPad to be more of a big iPod than a full-blown computer. I can sync music and videos to it including my huge backlog of Ted talks. It’s nearly ideal as a couch pad for looking things up on the web or for light reading. I’m looking forward to traveling with it in place of my 1st generation ipod touch. I think I’ll still be using my Kindle for longer bouts of reading however.
I got the iPad 64GB with wifi only. I was really tempted by 3G, but without the option to share my existing data plan with it, I was not that interested. Sure, Rogers has a decent plan at $35 / mo for 5GB, but that’s on top of my cell phone plan. I’d even consider paying 10-15 / mo to share my existing data plan between the two devices. I think Rogers missed out there. Also, wifi is going to be more available in more locations over time so eventually, it won’t be that big a loss. And I can use the extra $400 / year or so to, I don’t know… upgrade my phone!
The iPad only comes with a couple of accessories in the box. A USB-Dock cable and a wall-wart style power adapter. The usual minimal pamphlets and Apple stickers are also included. I was a little surprised at the included power-adapter. It looks like an older-style MacBook adapter with the detachable two-prong plug. I’d have expected something a little less chunky, maybe like a slightly bigger version of the iPhone power adapter. The USB cable seems to have been updated a bit with a squarer piece on the USB end. The actual dock-connection seems to keep getting smaller though which makes it hard to grab onto to remove it from the iPod… pad.
The first things I bought for it were the Apple iPad dock (sans-keyboard) and a sleeve for carrying it around.
The sleeve was from Kensington and claimed to be “for the iPad”. Whoever designed it, had probably heard there was an iPad coming, took a stab at the dimensions and sent it off to manufacturing. It’s terrible. There’s enough room inside of it to probably store two iPads and a bunch of other stuff along the edges. I should have checked with it in store on some of the demo units they had out. I’ll replace it with something classy from Sena when they’re available.
The Dock is a dock. Not much to say there except that: a) it’s substantial in weight, which it should be because the iPad itself is fairly hefty and, b) it’s hard to actually dock the thing in it. The iPad uses the same old dock connector that all iPods have used since the beginning. It’s practically an industry standard! The problem is, the iPad is much bigger, and lining up that little slot with the dock’s edge connector is tricky, requiring lots of leaning over and scrutinizing-with-your-tongue-sticking-out-concentration to get the connection right. It’s more fiddly than it should be. Also, it works for portrait mode, but not landscape. I’d like a landscape dock for movies or pictures. As it is, it works well enough for standing the thing up on my desk.
If you’re excited about playing all your iPhone or iPod games on your iPad, or you have a slew of apps, don’t get too excited. They kind of suck. Sure, you can load them and even double their size, but with the exception of a few of the games I’ve tried, it’s not great. Orbital works and doesn’t look too bad from the chunkier pixels. Some apps I’ve tried are also acceptable, but I would have thought Apple of all companies would have made a better effort to make them look better. Proper font sizing and the nicer on screen keyboard for starters.
After syncing all my stuff, the first thing I did was delete most of the non-iPad apps.
The built in apps have all been updated for the new screen size. Some with some cute interface flourishes that would be grossly extravagant on a regular computer. iCal and Contacts have book-like wrappings around the edges. Mail and Safari are about what you’d expect and Mail works quite well. Safari is a bit frustrating with it’s simplicity, but the bookmark syncing with MobileMe is nice.
A few of my favorite apps that have been updated to work with the iPad include Instapaper, Kindle, and Stanza. There’s a separate version of Good Reader which I also recommend.
While taking a sweep through and finding which apps were iPad-ready, I loaded up and was pleasantly surprised that it worked with my new fat iPod. This post started at that moment and I’ve been continuing to use it to write and edit it. It works well, though you don’t get a rich text editor like you do in the online app. No big.
Another happy accident was learning that colloquy was already universal. It looks great and seems to work pretty well though I haven’t figured out how to get notifications to work.
This is a gem of an app recommended by Mr B. If you have a collection of videos in various formats (avi in xvid/divx, mkv, maybe others), you install a server on your Mac or PC and feed it your videos directory. Then with the app on your iphone or iPad, connect to your server and play video converted on the fly. You can also queue up conversions to save on CPU cycles. Very cool and works well on the videos I’ve tried.
Normally on the iPhone I like using Twittelator pro. The version for the iPad looks a little crazy in the UI department so I thought I’d try something different. On the recommendation from several friends, I thought I’d give Twitteriffic a shot. So far I’m liking it. It’s simple, offers a nice set of features and has some unobtrusive ads. I guess there’s a pro version for money but so far I’m happy with the lite version. Also, Twitter in safari is decent, but I wish I could default to the full web version rather than getting dumped into the mobile version all the time. It’s the main reason for wanting an app at all. How about a pref @twitter?
The lack of iPad support in Beejive was a little annoying and made worse by a $10 grab for a new HD version. That left me without a nice-looking IM app. There is a version of AIM for the iPad however which is quite slick, despite a confusing and probably useless Lifestream section that hooks up your AIM contacts twitter, flickr, delicious and whatever other streams they choose to associate with their account. For AIM messages though, it’s great and has an interesting interface.
There is already a ton of apps available for the iPad and I only skimmed the surface of them here. As I find others I like I’ll be sure to drop some reviews. I’ll follow up soon with a review of some games.