A weekend with the iPad

My work weeks are hectic these days, so even though I bought my iPad last Monday, I never got to put my feet up and spend an hour or two just *using* it until Friday night. But all weekend I’ve been using it a lot. I’ve now identified my likes and dislikes, at least so far. Let’s start with the bad:

Things I don’t like:

  • No Flash: There’s no way around it; this is a pain in the ass if you watch online video from a lot of places. Apple has YouTube covered via a dedicated app that launches when you click a YouTube link from the browser, but you’re out of luck with most other sites. And I don’t see this situation improving because…
  • …Apple is the new Evil Empire. The iPhone/iPad/Touch ecosystem is a closed one and is getting closed-er by the minute. I won’t rehash the brouhaha they unleashed with the iPhone OS 4.0 SDK here, but what they’re doing sucks. I’m not a fan of Flash either, but sites use it and I want to use those sites. The users are the ones getting hurt most in the fight between Apple and Adobe
  • No exposed file system. See previous post

Things I thought would really bug me but don’t:

  • No multi-tasking. Aside from music apps (ie, Pandora), not having multi-tasking hasn’t really bothered me. Going from mail to browser to mail again, for instance, feels no slower than it does on my Droid (which does have multi-tasking). The fact that the apps are closing and opening rather then backgrounding and foregrounding is more or less a non-issue to me. At least so far.
  • Copy & Paste. Remember when Apple made a big deal about this? The first time I experienced it was a real WTF moment, but after using it a bit, I don’t mind it at all. Here’s how it works. So you want to copy a chunk of text from a web page to save for later. You tap-hold on the text you want to copy. A ‘magnifier’ pops up with a cursor in it; since normally iPhone OS doesn’t have any kind of pointer on screen, this is needed to select a specific letter. So by moving your finger with the magnifier up, you place the cursor. When you let up you get a pop-up menu. Type Select and you get the word you were on pre-selected with handles at top left and bottom right. You can then drag out these handles to grow the selection. Once you have your selection, you tap a Copy button, then switch to wherever you want to paste it. Tap there and a Paste button pops up. Tap that to paste your text. It works in practice a lot faster than it sounds and using the mouse on my PC feels kind of clumsy now. Weird.

Stuff I like:
I don’t have a list for this. I like everything else. I’m loving the experience of using this device. The screen is so crisp and clear that in contrast my desktop monitor seems fuzzy. It isn’t (it has a higher res than the iPad) but since the iPad is hand held I just naturally place it in the ‘sweet spot’ of my failing vision. Younger eyed souls with 20-20 vision probably won’t get this effect but for me, reading the web is better on the iPad than on any other device I own, by orders of magnitude. The iPad feels fun, too. I can lay on the couch, or in bed, and jump from reading a website to reading a comic to playing a game to watching a tv show to looking something up to drawing a doodle all without putting down the device in my hands. The iPad is fast at switching tasks; sometimes I hop back and forth like a madman. Other times I just settle in to enjoy one feature. Yesterday Angela was having a lie down and watching Netflix. I flopped down next to her on the bed, looked over at what she was watching. The iPad screen has great viewing angles; I could see the picture perfectly. Next thing I know, we’d layed there and watched an hour-long documentary on prehistoric beasts on the iPad. It sounds silly I know; we have a 52″ tv in the living room that we could’ve gone and watched it on. But it was the spontaneity of just watching it without any kind of planning that I enjoyed.

That spontaneity is key but I’m still having trouble articulating it. When I’m looking for something to do, I grab the iPad and find something to do on it. Pre-iPad, I’d decide what I wanted to do then go fetch the appropriate tool to do that thing. If that makes sense…

All in all, I’m loving the iPad and at the same time, I’m finding it really hard to put into words why I’m loving it. I love it so much that we went out yesterday and got Angela one; it just seemed unfair that I had this amazing device and she didn’t. So we eat Raman for the next few months… it’s worth it to me and (it seems) to her too. That all said, it’s hard answering people who say that a netbook or a laptop can do everything it can. Because they can. But the iPad just feels good to use in a way that none of my netbooks or laptops do.

So should you buy one? No. Or more accurately, I’m not about to try to convince anyone to buy one. Future versions (and competitors) will be cheaper, faster and more capable. The smart move is to wait. On the other hand, if you’ve been considering getting an iPad and think you want one, then I certainly wouldn’t dissuade you, as long as you want it primarily to consume media. This isn’t a content producing tool. This is a content consuming tool. Yes, you can absolutely produce content on it in a pinch, but that isn’t its strength and it isn’t going to replace your work laptop. At least not this revision.

Never fear, I’m not planning any more posts on this hardware for a while (though I might cover some of the games I’ve been playing on it). I’m not really interested in comments telling me why the iPad sucks and a netbook is better. If that’s true for you, that’s great. No one is asking you to buy an iPad. I have a netbook and I have an iPad. For ME, the iPad is a much nicer experience; your situation is most certainly different from mine.

As for comments telling me that Apple is vile… I completely agree. I hate what they’re doing. But my days of protesting are long behind me; I leave furthering the Cause to the younger generation. I’m going to use the tools that best make my life easier/more enjoyable, even if those tools are produced by a company I detest. I’ve been waiting for a tablet like this for *years* and a good one finally exists. Life is good and I’m going to keep fiddling and let others stop Rome from burning.

One thought on “A weekend with the iPad

  1. Thanks for this writeup! The last paragraph is what triggered my comments over on the Pub. I agree, though, that I may just leave the fight to someone else–my iPhone has been so very useful, it’ll go a long way towards overcoming my distaste for some of Apple’s corporate practices (just as gaming on DOS/Windows boxes has kept me in Microsoft). Good point that Microsoft has begun, just a bit at least, to “play nice” with others. Interesting that that comes around the same time that some innovative design concepts (Surface and in particular Courier) are getting some serious attention there–innovative designs like these formerly being more Apple’s forte!

    Still and all, I am getting more and more ready for an iPad, even an early incarnation (after all, I’ve got other devices with webcams, I might want to get something like the Gemini as well, and, heh, I could always pass my 1st gen iPad on to my wife if I want a 2nd gen! ;P).

    So we’ll see….

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