The Truth About The iPad, Day 300: I Barely Use It Anymore

DFiP 300

The main thing you need to know about my iPad right now is that I’m not sure where it is.

It’s definitely at home, because I’ve stopped bringing it to work most days. I think it’s next to the bed, because that’s where I’ve been using it the most lately, to read for a couple of minutes until I get sleepy.

But I’m not positive. Because I haven’t been using it that much.

The truth is, my iPad — once the star gadget in my life — now mostly fills in off the bench.

I used to make time just to use the iPad,┬ábecause it was so fun and so new. I don’t really do that anymore.

The novelty has worn off. Baseball has been in the offseason, so I haven’t been streaming Cubs games to the iPad at my desk every day. And, you see, there’s a new toy in my life — a MacBook Air — that I’ve been getting a lot more utility out of.

I still think the tablet is the future of the personal computer, especially for non-technical, mainstream users. (The iPad has certainly been a huge commercial hit already.) And I fully expect the iPad to get better, cheaper, more powerful, more useful, and more popular over time.

But for now, I haven’t really been using it much.

The first 100 days with my iPad were an amazing honeymoon

Last August, after owning my iPad 3G for 100 days, I wrote that it was my 'favourite computer.' 'It's the one I enjoy using the most. And I wouldn't want to be without it.'

I still think the touch-based user interface is amazing, and there are some things I only want to do on an iPad, like reading in bed, watching movies on plane trips, and playing some games that are better on the iPad than my iPhone.

But things have changed as the iPad's novelty has gradually worn off.

The new MacBook Air has taken over as my portable computer of choice

Most people don't need to run five apps at a time, keep 10 browser tabs open, do work at nighttime in a content management system that doesn't work very well with a touch UI.

And most people aren't going to buy two new computers in a year.

But I did, and the new MacBook Air has mostly replaced the iPad as my go-to portable computer. It's better for taking notes during meetings, it's better for multitasking, and it's better for goofing around on the Internet/doing more work while I'm watching TV at home.

So, what do I still use the iPad for? Mostly reading the web

When I'm not doing work or using 30 browser tabs, and just want to read the web, the iPad is still my favourite device to use.

Browsing with a touch interface is still more fun than using a mouse or trackpad pointer -- except when I accidentally graze the wrong part of the screen and end up clicking links I didn't mean to click, or auto-scroll up to the top of a long page.

And I rarely run into problems about the iPad not supporting Flash. Occasionally there's a video I can't watch, but almost all of the time, I'm able to read whatever I want.

I also watch a fair amount of video on the iPad

The channels on the TV at my gym are crappy, so most of the times my iPad leaves the house these days are so I can watch something better on the elliptical. I typically try to watch shows on Netflix, when the AT&T 3G connection allows (rarely), or something I've transferred from iTunes.

During the summer, I watch Chicago Cubs games via the MLB At Bat app on my desk at work. And last July, I streamed a lot of the Tour de France using Versus' HTML5 stream. It was pretty great for that.

The iPad is also nice for watching video (or surfing the web) on plane trips, because it's smaller than a laptop and fits better in economy class seat/table arrangements.

I don't really use Flipboard, Pulse, the Wired app, or any of the other individual magazine or newspaper apps. I have them, but I don't use them.

What I do like to use is Zinio, which has a nice assortment of free magazine articles to read, often from Bloomberg Businessweek (which is looking good these days!), National Geographic, the Economist, Dwell, etc. I have bought a couple of individual magazine issues using the Zinio store, but the reading experience isn't actually that great, so I'm reluctant to subscribe to anything long-term.

As for iBooks and Kindle e-books, I've bought a bunch of books, but don't actually do a lot of e-book reading on the iPad. When I do it at all, it's mostly on my iPhone 4, which is easier to read on the subway, in waiting rooms, etc.

For whatever reason, the folks at Rupert Murdoch's 'The Daily' haven't been able to get it together technically, and Apple is supposedly angry about it.

They ask you to delete the current version of your app before updating to a new one. And guess what? The second time, I forgot to download it again. And I probably won't.

I read 'The Daily' every day for the first week. It was OK, but nothing special. Maybe I'll check it out again someday, if they develop some cool features or start writing about things I care more about. But I don't miss it at all.

I still don't use it on the subway

I've seen a bunch of people using iPads on the NYC Subway since Christmas, mostly if they're lucky enough to have a seat. (Lots of Kindles, and a few Nooks and Galaxy Tabs, too.) But I still haven't really used my iPad on the subway at all.

In part, because I don't want to drop and break it. It's pretty heavy, and can be challenging to hold in one hand for extended periods. In part, because I don't want some crazy jerk to grab it and run when the doors open. A $130 Kindle is replaceable. It would be a real pain to lose a $730 iPad.

But mostly because my iPhone 4 is all I need for my 25-minute subway ride. It's bright and clear enough to read e-books, Instapaper, email, Twitter, etc., can also play music or podcasts, etc. And then I don't have to put it back in my bag when it's time to get off the train, the way I would with an iPad.

I finally found a sleeve that I love

As I wrote in my 100-day iPad review, I don't like Apple's standard iPad case. It's nice that it can prop up the iPad for typing and video watching, but it feels terrible and looks cheap.

A naked iPad is a beautiful thing, so I just wanted to find an attractive sleeve to transport it in.

And I found one! There's a guy in Minnesota named Nedrelow who makes these gorgeous wool sleeves by hand. (Also for the MacBook Air, and cool 'Book' cases, too.) They're not cheap, but they look nice.

The best apps have been the built-in browser and maps apps.

Twitter's is pretty good, but still a little weird to use. Instapaper is nice. The Scrabble app is pretty cool for parties. I spent an entire night playing Angry Birds, but that was it.

I'm surprised that there's no official Alarm Clock yet. Or a Facebook app.

And that I've been spending $30/month for AT&T unlimited data service (just to keep my grandfathered ability to get unlimited data) all winter but have barely been using it.

There is a very slim chance that I'll buy an iPad 2

I think Apple is going to sell a lot of iPad 2s, but there's probably no reason for me to upgrade.

The rumoured new features -- a front-facing camera, faster speeds, lighter weight, etc. -- sound nice, and would be helpful to have. But they're not something I'm in a hurry to upgrade to.

Maybe in another year or so when there's a higher resolution screen and 4G wireless, for crisper reading and better video streaming.

Now read what I said about the iPad 200 days ago

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