This is by no means a thorough review of the iPad, it is merely my thoughts on my experience with the iPad and where I believe the tablet market is headed (if you want to skip all of this you can find my list of hits and misses at the bottom of the post). First off, I’d like to thank Apple for having the gusto to produce the iPad. In my opinion the iPad is the first succesful attempt at a tablet (don’t believe me?) because Apple didn’t attempt to make it a computer in tablet form as all the predecessor tablets attempted to be. Apple’s approach to the iPad, primarily a media consumption device, is most likely the key to it’s success (not that it’s technical and aesthetic brilliance don’t count for anything). Maintaining the ability, albeit with limitations, to create content puts the iPad in the realm of a useful device in a small form factor capable of competing with most home computers. Not because the iPad is a computer in tablet form, but because many families use their home computer for little more than web browsing and some document creation.
Using my own family as an example, the family computer is rarely used for anything other than checking email, browsing the web, and for the occasional homework assignment. Not exactly the kind of stuff that requires supercomputer processing power. Enter the iPad. Instantly on, easily accessible, sharable, and portable. What is there not to like about it when considering a replacement for the aging and tiring family computer. So that’s just what I did. Of course, this is where some of the media creation limitations of the iPad can become a bit frustrating but for the most part there are apps to solve many of these problems.
For sharing of notes and shopping lists we use PlainText (I’ll cover our transition from Evernote to PlainText in a later post) which integrates seamlessly with Dropbox. Without Dropbox I don’t think the iPad would be a viable replacement for our family computer, but thankfully, Dropbox allows us to quickly and easily share files between multiple devices. Games? Well, for the most part the iPad has replaced a computer, Xbox, Wii, and Gameboy. Link two iPads via wifi, sit the kids on the couch with Shrek Kart HD, and you’d never guess they weren’t competing using a full gaming console. Or, listen to the discussions about who is leading a Yahtzee challenge, has the most words in Bookworm, the most eggchievements in Chicktionary, completed the most levels in Isaac Newton’s Gravity HD, or gobbled the most ghosts in Pac-Man. Enough of how the iPad has replaced our family computer, on to what I think of the iPad.
First off, I am thoroughly irritated by the fact that Apple has chained me to iTunes. I don’t own an Apple computer and I choose not to use Windows as my home operating system. Yet in order to activate my iPad I am forced to use a Windows computer with iTunes. I initially thought this would be the end of my interaction with iTunes other than for the rare iOS update, but much to my dismay I am forced to use Windows on a regular basis in order to download podcast subscriptions even though there is a version of iTunes on the iPad. I can’t image what Apple was thinking when they made this decision. I am surely not going to purchase an Apple computer just because I am being forced to use iTunes on a computer to subscribe to and receive updates to podcasts. Apple’s decision to force me to rely on a computer based iTunes actually prevented additional purchases of the iPad for family members who do not have home computers. I can’t imaging giving a family member a $500 paper weight since it would surely become one due to their lack of a home computer from which to run iTunes to activate and manage their iPad.
The overall form factor is excellent. Anything larger would be too cumbersome and anything smaller wouldn’t be as useful (or enjoyable to use). While it’s weight can get a little tiring when reading while lying down I haven’t found it so heavy that I stop reading, I simply change my position. In fact, I’m reading for fun significantly more than I was before purchasing an iPad and have real world paper books I haven’t finished because I find holding a book so uncomfortable compared to the iPad. I have no complaints about the screen for reading. Yes, it’s glossy and can be very reflective, but again, I have always found a solution to that particular problem when I encounter it.
The virtual keyboard could use some improvements. In particular I find that I use the apostrophe significantly more than I use the exclamation point yet the exclamation point is on the alpha keyboard while I have switch to the numeric keyboard to access the apostrophe. I find the single jack for headphones and microphone very frustrating. Including cursor keys with the virtual keyboard would be a great enhancement when trying to place the cursor in a specific location within a word. The current situation of forcing the cursor to the beginning or end of a word forces me to needlessly retype words to change a single character.
There are times when I would really like to dictate while listening to something else (thank goodness iOS 4.2 came along) but the single jack forces me to use low quality, uncomfortable headphones with an incorporated microphone. If iPad version 2 is going to include a front facing camera I feel the need for a secondary microphone jack is a must. The iPad with a front facing camera has great potential as a podcasting, Skype, or other video conferencing device, but without a secondary microphone jack it will be severely hampered in this respect.
Apple’s position as the king of photo editing computers for a few decades now accompanied by their decision to make a camera connection kit for the iPad that fails to support CF cards baffles me. Many, if not all, professional sports photographers still use CF cards because they are faster than SD cards. I guess this can only be attributed to Apple’s focus on the consumer market for the iPad.
Having said all of that I leave you with my final thought. Apple is repeating the same mistake it made in the 1980’s when IBM licensed replication of its processors to anyone willing to pay the right fee. That is why I am typing this post on an IBM based computer. That is why every computer I have owned since my Commodore 64 (not counting an Osborne 1 I briefly possessed) has been an IBM clone. I fear Apple has made a similar mistake with the iPad. Sure, Apple was the first to successfully launch a tablet device. Sure, Apple has done a pretty darn good job with the first version of the iPad. However, I feel Apple has focused so narrowly on media consumption they are going to lose an entire market, ney, many markets, to manufacturers who produce tablet devices that are not only simple and beautiful for media consumption but are equally capable of media creation. No, I don’t expect to do any serious photo editing on an iPad. No, I don’t expect to write a novel on an iPad (although with a bluetooth keyboard I surely could). The form factor and potential functionality of the iPad make it an ideal replacement for the corporate laptop or netbook that is used for little more than email and document collaboration. Only time will tell and history will determine if Apple is the true innovator for producing the first succesful tablet device or if Apple is merely the springboard from which other manufacturers will surpass Apple’s innovation with practical, useful, cost efficient tablet devices.
- Overall size
- Display size
- Display quality
- Variety of available apps
- Apostrophe location on virtual keyboard
- Need for a computer to activate through iTunes (update OS, etc.)
- Need for a computer to subscribe to podcasts through iTunes even though it has its own iTunes app
- Inability to automatically receive updates to subscribed podcasts via the included version of iTunes
- Inability to put the cursor precisely where I want it
- Disabling the external rotation lock in iOS 4.2
- Lack of CF support with the camera connection kit
For those curious about the case seen in the photo, it is not what I carry my iPad in while it is handcuffed to my wrist, it is a RedHead pistol case.