We spent several hours playing around with a new iPad this weekend, despite the distraction of perfect spring weather in New York.
Two-word review: It’s great!
We’ve clearly just scratched the surface with what Apple and third-party developers are going to do with the gadget.
But mostly, we’re really just glad we never bought a Kindle or a netbook.
The display is incredibly beautiful, and both text and graphics look very nice on it. Web pages are fun to zoom around. It's zippy. And the battery life is more than enough.
The iPad user interface -- in some senses, a sized-up version of the iPhone, but with new techniques -- was really done well. The natural textures, which grace the UI in a few places, are a nice touch.
After testing out a bunch of apps, and playing some games, watching a few minutes of a Netflix movie, surfing the Web, and reading a few chapters of an e-book, we had a bit of a feeling of, 'Now what?'
Sure, that's going to happen with any new gadget. But in this case, for something we'd been anticipating for so long, we still felt like we were missing bigger marching orders.
No doubt over time, developers and Apple will make some really interesting, useful applications for it. And, of course, the Web is great to have. We think we'll definitely use the iPad on a regular basis, and probably won't have to worry about it just collecting dust.
But we're going to need better things to do than using the Kayak app to look up prices for plane tickets we've already purchased -- our sad excuse for 'product testing' last night.
It's clear that in the early stages, this is going to be more of a media consumption device than a productivity tool. (Though there are some cool media creation apps already, such as painting and music apps.)
So it's very nice that Apple and developers have loaded the App Store with actual substantial media apps, including ABC's and Netflix's. And, of course, Apple's iTunes music and video store.
Apple's e-reader app looks nice, and its built-in store is an advantage over Amazon's rival Kindle app, which boots you into the Web browser to buy books in a less-optimised environment.
But so far, we're not impressed by the selection in the iBookstore. None of the books we wanted to buy this weekend were available.
No 'Rework' by the 37Signals guys. (Its publisher, Random House, still isn't onboard.) No Tokyo guidebooks for our upcoming vacation. (No real 'Travel' section at all, actually.) No 'Kitchen Confidential' by Anthony Bourdain. No 'The Big Short' by Michael Lewis. (OK, that's not out for the Kindle, either.) No 'Liar's Poker' by Michael Lewis.
Maybe we're looking for the wrong books. But we're not finding what we're looking for. So for now, we'll keep shopping with Amazon.
I personally don't like laptops, so this isn't going to fly with everyone. I've always been a fan of desktop computers, which have bigger and better displays, typically cost less for better performance, and have faster hard drives.
And now that I have an iPad to carry around, the 27-inch iMac on my desk is the only 'real' computer I need. Specifically, I don't think I need a laptop anymore, and when my MacBook eventually burns out, I probably won't replace it.
The iPad will be good enough for all the 'work' stuff I need from the laptop -- email, Web, light text-editing, light photo editing, even capturing pictures from my digital camera. And obviously all the 'fun' stuff I need from the laptop -- watching videos, distracting myself on the plane, etc.
I don't think the iPad is a laptop killer for everyone. Apple's MacBook line is not going away -- plenty of people still prefer notebooks to desktops. But it probably will be the end of laptop buying for me.
There's a lot of stuff missing from the iPad. We don't really care that Apple left off the Stocks and Weather apps from the iPhone. But we're a little confused as to why it left out the World Clock app. Besides being a cool app to have, it's home to the all-important iPhone alarm clock.
So there's no alarm clock on the iPad. What the heck, guys?
Sure, if you always have an iPhone around, perhaps you won't need a separate alarm on the iPad. But it would be nice to at least have the option. Especially because we think a lot of people will keep their iPad near their bed.
An executive from Vertu, the luxury phone line from Nokia, once told us that the alarm clock is the third most-used feature on a phone, after calls and messaging. Maybe that's changed over the last few years, but it seems like a feature the iPad should at least offer one.
It's especially lousy because an alarm clock is one of the few apps that a third-party developer could not offer very well: Only Apple apps are allowed to run in the background on the iPad (so far; this may change with a software update). You wouldn't want to be stuck using an iPad alarm clock app from a third-party developer that you were required to remember to leave running all night.
Our favourite example of how the iPad is a visitor FROM THE FUTURE is the Scrabble app by Electronic Arts.
Specifically, we're impressed by its multiplayer mode: It's built to take advantage of the fact that several populations have incredibly high iPhone penetration. Players can download a free Tile Rack app for their iPhone, and use it to store their tile rack of letters for the game they're playing on the iPad.
Facebook is the most popular iPhone app but it's not on the iPad. That left us feeling that something big was missing.
And we're not the only ones who were looking for it: The no. 9 best-selling paid iPad app right now is some crappy $3 (!) app called Facebook Ultimate! for sale by someone named Dilraba Ibrahim. That person definitely had a nice weekend.
Yes, the iPhone app could work on the iPad, but it looks crappy. Yes, Facebook.com works in the iPad's Safari browser, but we kept getting logged out and kept clicking the wrong things. Very frustrating.
The iPad -- like the iPhone, and the Web -- needs its own user interface. We understand these things take time, and better late and awesome than early and buggy. But it seems between this and infrequent updates to Facebook's iPhone app, the company has dropped the ball a bit in mobile.
The Facebook app for the iPhone has an incredible 31 million monthly active users, or more than a third of the roughly 75 million iPhones and iPod touch devices on the market. So we and many others will be excited to use it when it launches.
People -- especially Americans -- still watch a disgusting amount of TV. This is a perfect place for the iPad to be a complementary device.
If there's actual stuff that you can do on your iPad to enhance the TV experience, it could be neat. For example, we'd love to be able to play the same 'Wheel of Fortune' game that's on TV, and see if we're really as smart as we think.
This probably isn't a situation for which you're going to want to watch other video on your iPad. Though maybe a few other angles of a baseball game, if synced perfectly, could be cool.
When you touch a screen all day, obviously, it's going to pick up some fingerprints. But even with obsessive hand washing, ours looks really marked up. We suppose this would be much worse if Apple didn't include a 'fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating' on the display. And it's not so bad when the display is actually on. Mostly a it-looks-creepy-when-it's-turned-off thing. But we're going to need to invest in a nice cleaning cloth. Especially if this thing is going to live anywhere near the living room or kitchen.
As feared, typing on the iPad -- especially in portrait mode -- is not very fun. Especially if you're holding it up with both hands and trying to type with your thumbs. The keys in the middle of the keyboard are especially tricky to reach. But this is a tradeoff we're happy to make. Just as on the iPhone, the extra screen space (and lighter weight of the device) is well worth the extra clumsiness when typing. We don't think we'll be writing very much on the iPad, and we're happy to have a lighter device and bigger screen to read the Web and play games with, even if it means typing in Google searches will take a little longer.
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