I will begin by admitting that I am an Apple fan. I do not own a modern Mac, but I own two iPhones and use an iMac at work (and am anxiously awaiting the release of the i5 MacBook Pro). I love the iPhone, and have found at it has almost replaced my home PC for e majority of my daily usage (email, web surfing, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, etc).
At home and work, my iPhone is a constant companion. So, when I heard rumors of the iPad, I was intrigued from the very beginning. However, I am skeptical and needed to know it would deliver on the promises…or at least have good reason to believe. I avoided pre-ordering and decided to instead reserve one at my local Apple store. That way, I could actually look at it in person before making the financial commitment, and still be guaranteed one should I want it.
To pull the trigger on this purchase, I needed the iPad to be exactly what Steve Jobs said it would be: positioned right in between the iPhone and a laptop, offering value and functionality that neither had. I wanted an easy user experience, high quality graphics, quality materials, long battery life and an improved user experience. I did not just want a bigger iPhone, I wanted something that would leverage the increased size to offer new features.
In the interest of full disclosure, when I went to the Apple store about 10am on April 3 (waiting to let the lines die down before I went), I was 97% sold. It would have taken an unpleasant surprise to make me chose not to pick up my reserved iPad.
I was planning to make this a new home media device, maybe even using it as a photo frame. It would be for my kids to play games like Smack Talk, for my wife and I to check email and social networking updates, and for ad hoc web browsing or book reading around the house. Although these would still be a great use for a second iPad, I quickly began to see that my initial iPad would be a business tool. I will do a follow up post on the iPad as a business tool, and stick to a simple review of the iPad for now.
First, when you open the box you are looking at what looks like a small MacBook Pro screen. You have a brushed aluminum body with a vivid glass screen and display. The picture quality is amazing. It boots fast, even from a cold boot. The new processor is a clear performance improvement over that of my iPhone 3Gs. I also found the weight and form factor to be pleasant, not too heavy or bulky and easy to carry.
Yes, I was the geek that took his Apple Newton to the iPad launch
The new layout for mail, calendar, contacts and notes was very impressive, making good use of the increased screen real estate. The sound quality was actually a little better than I expected. Some of the upscaled iPhone apps like Facebook look grainy, while other upscaled apps like Brothers in Arms look pretty good. Then there are apps like Pandora and The Weather Channel that have been reworked for the iPad, and they look amazing.
There has been a lot of buzz around the iPad as an eReader, and it lives up to the hype. iBooks look amazing and are very simple to download. You can also highlight words to open a selection box allowing for copy, search, dictionary look ups and bookmarks. You can drag your finger along the bottom of the book to quickly jump to any page in the book, swipe your finger to turn the pages, or use quick keys in the upper right to adjust font size and brightness or to perform a word search. Having used my PDA phone/iPhone as a Bible reader for over 4 years, I have found the ability to perform word searches in books to be a huge plus. You can also simply search for the word “free” in the iBooks bookstore and you will find thousands of free books. For most books, you can also download a free sample of the book that will include the first 30 pages or so.
Typing in portrait mode is a true hunt and peck experience, but I have found the landscape keyboard to be very useful. In fact, I am typing this entire post from the WordPress app on my iPad. It only take s a few seconds to adjust to the keys, and a fee minutes to kick the poor habit of not watching what my pinky fingers are doing. At first, I had a tendency to let my pinky fingers rest on the keyboard and this generated a lot of unwanted keystrokes.
To make typing even better, Apple has finally embraced the HID protocol within bluetooth. HID, or Human Input Device, will allow a bluetooth keyboard to be paired to the iPad (and soon the iPhone wi OS4). I have an old ThinkOutside folding bluetooth keyboard that I used to use with my previous PDAs and Windows Mobile phones. This was the first thing I tested on my new iPad, and it worked perfectly. Though I am not using it now, it does make typing much easier. Another advantage of the bluetooth keyboard is that you get rid of the on-screen keyboard and regain that screen space.
iPad with my folding bluetooth keyboard and a MiFi hotspot
For a case, I recommend the black folding portfolio case from Apple. Apple is simply calling this product e “iPad case”, and it folds back to make a stand. This can be used to either hold the iPad upright for display or at a slight angle to improve typing. I would strongly recommend this case. I also hope to add a screen protector soon, as finger smudges do tend to build up on the screen. I currently use the Power Support anti-glare film on my iPhones, and plan to buy one of these for my iPad as soon as it is available. I have found these to be very good at both reducing finger smudges and reducing glare outdoors.
For battery life, I have been very impressed. Even with bluetooth and wifi turned on all the time, and with a great deal of daily usage, I am getting two days out of each charge. Here is a link to a more deliberate battery test from Cali Lewis.
Overall, I am very pleased with my purchase. When I truly believe in something, I can be a pretty effective spokesperson. In the last week, I know of 4 people that have left a demo of my iPad and gone straight to the Apple store to buy one. My only challenge is how to balance this between being a home media device and a business tool…without having to buy a second one. In fact, the support for distinctive users would one of my few complaints.
I have been open with my likes, so I will be open with my dislikes. I wish that I could separate my content from that of other users. For now, if I want to share this with my family, I may have to stop syncing it with my work email. I cannot risk an accidental deletion or an errant email being sent from that account. Given that I am constantly tied to my iPhone with access to my work email, this may not be much of a sacrifice…but still an inconvenience. I would also like to see a common file store for all apps to place files in. All in all, those are my only two wishes. I have a few ore things that I would “like” to see, but I already know they are on the horizon with iPhone OS4.
I also chose the WiFi version of the iPad, without built in 3G. I could not stand to pay another monthly fee for internet service that was tied to one device. My thoughts were that I would either get a mobile hotspot like the Verizon MiFi or hope that Apple/AT&T will fulfill their promise to enable tethering on the iPhone. You can also jailbreak an iPhone to make it a mobile hotspot, but have always been very reluctant to do that with a device I rely on so heavily.
I will follow this post up with one on business uses for the iPad, and another on my favorite apps. For now, I will close this off and upload fit to my server. I will still use my computer to do a final review and to add some images. I can do that from this app, but I need to get this post completed. Maybe I will explore more of these new WordPress features in a follow up post.