I’m one of those crazy people who went to stand in line last Saturday morning to pick up one of the much anticipated Apple iPad tablets. After using it for the last few days I thought I would share my impressions, both pro and con. So here are some comments in no particular order.
I Liked: One of my main reasons for buying an iPad was to use it as an eBook reader for technical books and magazines. I’ve been an eBook proponent since the late 1990’s and usually do all my recreational reading (Science Fiction/Fantasy mostly) using Kindle on my iPhone. For recreational reading that works great, but reading things like computer manuals its terrible. So I was very pleased to find that the Kindle for iPad app was available on day one when I started downloading apps.
I Disliked: The second app that I tried out on my iPad was also a reader. I’ve used Goodreader for years to view PDF documents on my iPhone. It works well, but the size of the iPhone screen makes it almost impossible to use effectively. I buy a lot of the technical books that come with full PDF versions and as a trainer I have access to courseware that also comes in PDF format. Goodreader for the iPad lets me view these files full size, without having to re-flow the text. You see the same format that you do on paper and that’s great. But unlike every other eBook reader Goodreader turns pages by clicking on the top or bottom of the screen instead of the left or right. This makes it less intuitive to use. I’ll still use it because its the best one I’ve found, but I wish navigation was better.
I Disliked: That brings me to another complaint I have with software vendors for the iPad. There’s no standardization on whether an iPad version of an app is just a new version or a different app. For some apps (like Goodreader) you need to purchase a new copy of the same application to get full iPad support. For others all you need to do is upgrade your current iPhone app to the new version and it works on the native iPad resoultion. I understand that in many ways the new iPad versions are different, but I’m still put off by having to buy essentially the same app all over again.
I Disliked: Which brings me to the iWorks apps. At $9.99 each I will probably buy all three eventually, but for some reason I thought they were included in the iPad OS. I was surprised when they weren’t there and more surprised when they couldn’t be downloaded for free like the iBooks app. But that’s enough whining about little things. Lets get back to what I liked.
I Liked: I was concerned by some of the early press that reported the iPad felt “heavy” to hold. I’ve used PC tablets for years, and have found that they really are two heavy to use for extended periods if you don’t have a table to lay them on. I was pleasantly surprised by how light but solid the iPad feels. Yes, you will want to hold it with two hands if you are using it for a long time, but there is just no comparison with a full PC tablet. I can easily hold it in one hand or sit with it in my lap and read, just like any other textbook.
I Liked: I know a lot of people think that the absence of flash support is a major shortcoming and I do wish it had flash, but it really hasn’t been a deal breaker for me. I have watched streamed video on my home computer from time to time, but not often. However, I tried the new ABC player on the iPad and I can see why some people feel this is the wave of the future for TV. I suspect I’ll use my iPad to watch streamed TV and videos a lot more frequently than I do now.
I Liked: I’ve got to admit that using iPhone apps on the iPad is not what I was hoping for. The screen doubling to re-size the app makes most apps look decidedly grainy. But its well worth it to have an app that you can use until the vendor builds an iPad specific version. I was pleased to find that most of the apps I really wanted to use on my iPad already have an iPad version so I don’t have to put up with the grainy screen. And most of the rest have already announced that they are working on an iPad release. The one I’m anxiously waiting for right now is the Olive Tree Bible reader. The iPhone version works fine on the iPad, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with the full iPad.
I Liked: I’ll just talk about one more thing that surprised and delighted me. I used to be a collector of comics (until I decided it was too expensive and took up too much shelf space). I’ve gotten some of the comics available for the iPhone over the last couple years and although I was impressed it really didn’t move me to start collecting again. But comics on the iPad just might. Again, the full screen comes close to the page size of a paper comic, so the reading experience is similar. And the color is amazing. The illustrations just seem more vivid than they ever did on paper. Then there is the whole storage thing. No more dedicating multiple shelves to storage. I can keep my whole collection on a hard drive or some backup DVDs. The selection is still a bit limited, but if it continues to catch on I may just have to start collecting again.
So what’s my final verdict? Yes there are minor annoyances and some limitations. But overall I love my new iPad and haven’t regretted standing in line to buy it for a minute. It won’t replace the laptop that I normally carry with me almost everywhere, but it will definitely go with me on future trips. And it will replace the need to carry a number of very heavy textbooks and training manuals that I used to carry. If there is one area that I think the iPad will radically change over the next few years its education. I really think this may replace a lot of textbooks that students lug around today.