I would like to preface my comments below by saying that I’ve been using the iPad for several weeks now and have tried to address some iPad complaints that I’ve heard. Also, I’ve tried to build some comprehensive thoughts about how the iPad functions under several different environments including the business and personal consumer spaces. So to my thoughts…
Usability and Accessories:
The iPad is extremely easy to use and understand, has a great battery life, and is incredibly fast. A person can throw the iPad under their arm or in their bag and carry it to a meeting or to the gym. It’s very durable and sturdy. The screen will get smudged from the oils on your fingers (iPhone users are all too familiar with this), but it’s really only noticeable when reading or watching a video. I have a micro-fiber cloth tucked away behind the flap of my iPad case, and it’s very simple to grab the cloth or use a shirt sleeve to wipe down the screen.
I would also like to mention that Apple’s iPad case is a must-have for this device. It drastically increases the usability of the device by acting as a lap or table-top stand. It’s a bit pricy at forty bucks, but you need to just figure this into the price of the device.
Typing with the touch-screen keyboard can be quite effective once you get used to it. But the wireless Apple keyboard is also a great accessory for the iPad that can definitely increase productivity when using the device in an office environment. This corrects some of the problems with Pages as well, like the missing tab key on the touch-screen keyboard.
Update: May 28, 2010 – A new update to the Netflix app allows for viewing movies through the iPad on your TV using the VGA Adapter
One accessory that disappointed me was the iPad VGA adapter. I thought that this would duplicate your screen on any monitor or projector, but this isn’t the case. It will only project certain things from certain apps. It will work with Keynote (Powerpoint), your Videos section, and the YouTube app, but not for browsing the web, e-mail, or watching Netflix movies. Hopefully, this functionality will change with future updates.
Safari (iPad’s Browser):
If you’re familiar with the iPhone, then you’re familiar with how to use the iPad’s browser, since they are nearly identical. This was a bit of a letdown for me considering that I would like to have seen greater functionality for the larger device. Although, I suspect that much of this functionality will be added or upgraded in the future, the iPad’s browser currently has the limitations that I have noted below:
- Only 9 Browser Windows (open pages) can be open at a time. This will be a problem if you’re used to a tabbed browser and like to jump back and forth between several windows (especially when doing research).
- No find capabilities. When I’m browsing a very long site on my Mac, I will commonly hit Cmd-F and search the current page for the exact text that I’m looking for. This is especially true when researching a topic through Google and visiting a large number of websites with a bunch of text that doesn’t relate to what you’re looking for.
- No Flash. This is a much debated topic that I won’t get into, but so far, it hasn’t been an issue for me when browsing on my iPad.
iBooks, Kindle, GoodReader (eBook Reader):
The iPad is, in my humble opinion, the hands-down best ebook reader available on the market today. I own a Kindle and have been using it for over a year. My daughter has a Sony E-Book reader. I’ve also spent some time playing with Barnes & Noble’s Nook. NONE of these compare with the iPad in terms of usability, compatibility, and experience.
The iBooks app creates the best reading experience that I’ve found and has two display options, a landscape two-page view similar to reading an actual book and a portrait view (I prefer the landscpape). But if you don’t like the functionality of the iBooks app or can’t find the book you want in their store, you can always use the iPad’s Kindle app to read Kindle books. Alternatively, you can use the inexpensive GoodReader app to read PDFs and a long list of other document formats. GoodReader also has great file transfer abilities and the capability to connect to outside file servers and third party applications like Dropbox. Borders and Barnes & Noble also have iPad reading apps coming soon for use with their ebook stores.
UPDATE: May 28, 2010 – B&N and Borders KOBO Ebook Apps are Now Available on iPad
One area of concern with the iPad was its lack of an e-ink display. For me, this hasn’t been an issue at all. I’ve actually found it easier to read for long periods of time using the iPad, but maybe this is just me personally. The Kindle is better for reading in direct sunlight, but it’s still not great, and I haven’t found myself in that situation once since owning the iPad. I have, however, utilized the iPad’s ability to read in a dimly lit room almost every night. The Kindle isn’t backlit, so reading in bed is impossible without the aid of a reading light…Not so with the iPad.
UPDATE (5-17-10): Some of the limitations I mention below with styling and tabbing in Pages have been fixed by a new update.
For ten dollars per app, you can currently purchase Apple’s iPad versions of Pages (their version of MS Word), Numbers (Excel), and Keynote (Powerpoint). These programs work fairly well, but there are several areas where I’ve found them lacking. The biggest of which is the lack of styling and a tab key in Pages when typing in landscape mode. Pages and the others also lack an ease of integration found in apps like GoodReader, and the only way to transfer docs (using only this app) is through a sync to iTunes. However, you can connect using an app like GoodReader or Dropbox’s own iPad app, then select to open a file in Pages, Numbers, or Keynote.
I won’t go into great deal with these programs, but my impression of them is that they will get the basic job done in regards to the majority of users’ needs.
It’s also important to mention that Keynote (Powerpoint) works well and that the iPad could be utilized as a wonderful tool for making presentations to potential clients.
Although Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are currently the dominant office suite apps for the iPad, I expect that to change soon. A great app called QuickOffice that is currently on the iPhone will be released soon as an iPad app. This program integrates with a huge list of file servers and third party applications such as Dropbox and allows the user to edit the documents in their Dropbox. Then, when the file is saved, it is automatically synced with the web version of Dropbox and any other computers to which your Dropbox account is linked. I also look for this app to have greater functionality and usability than Apple’s office suite.
Multimedia – Video, Music, and Netflix:
This is a very strong point for the iPad. Watching videos on the device is a joy, and you can use Netflix’s app to watch their entire catalog of instantly viewable movies and tv shows. Over my home network, Netflix movies begin playing in ten to fifteen seconds.
The iPod functionality of the device also works very well, and the built-in speakers can come close to replacing your stereo (for the average stereo listener of course).
Newspapers and Magazines:
A wide array of daily, weekly, and monthly publications are available on the iPad.
- USA Today – free app that works great and is very easy to use
- New York Times – free app, but only displays a select few top stories in each category
- Associated Press – free app that shows all the current articles for the AP
- Zinio – Very slick program that can be used to view magazines. Many of the magazines are interactive with links to videos and additional resources, and many have the ability to display the text of the article in an easier to read text-only format.
- Too many other magazines and Newspapers to list, and many more coming soon. Make no mistake, the iPad (and other devices like it) are the future of the magazine/newspaper industry.
The iPad can of course do lots of other things such as reading e-mail, watching YouTube videos, viewing Google Maps, reading comic books, teach you to play the guitar (lots of great apps for musicians), etc. The sky is the limit on this device, and the number of apps are increasing daily. In my opinion, while this device won’t be a replacement for the laptop of a power user (yet), it can easily handle all the tasks that the majority of users require, and it far outshines the clunky world of the netbook. The iPad is an incredible leap forward today and is only going to get better in the future. At times, I truly have found it, as Apple describes, “magical.”