Thursday, April 8, 2010


So if you're reading along here you were probably asking yourself if I went ahead with the plan on the iPad. Well, the short answer is Yes. I'm an iPad owner. Unlike others that pre-ordered and waited impatiently last saturday for FedEx to arrive, I got up around 9am, drove to to the mall with the Apple Store, walked right in and picked it up. Was in the store for all of 2 minutes and had it hours before the pre-order friends I have.

The first experience is amazing. It really is a new device and you are instantly enchanted by it. For me that lasted about 2 hours. After that I started wondering if the thing would really be useful long term of if its another toy. The best way to describe it is a large iPod Touch. Minus most of the applications. And minus the portability, but add in the honking big screen and better battery.

Despite what Apple says, the iPhone apps don't look good/work well on the iPad. At least all my favorites were just supersized versions of the iPhone ones and were ugly. So bad I uninstalled them. They also only worked in vertical iPad orientation from what I can tell (more on orientation later).

There are surprisingly few iPad supporting apps out there despite the long hype. There are even less free ones. There seems to be a current trend to charge for iPad apps where the iPhone ones are free (NetNewsWire) or charge more for the app on the iPad. Some even charge you twice for the app, once for the iPhone version and once for the iPad one. This leads you to even less apps on the iPad. I described it as 2 screens of apps (that are spaced very far apart for some silly reason). One screen of the stuff that is actually useful and runs on the iPad and another because you wanted more stuff and thats the best you could find. 

So whats good?

  • Email. I found the vertical orientation of the app to be frustrating with the odd mailbox behavior. The horizontal one is a charm. In general i've found most apps are better looking/work better horizontally. I wonder if thats intended?
  • Web. Safari browsing sites etc is really nice
  • Big iPod Touch. Nice big pictures, cover art, movies, music you name it. Its a fancy ipod with great graphics and a nice interface

So what isnt?
  • Some apps from Apple arent on the iPad. Remember Remote? Stocks? Odd that Apple didnt even port their own apps to their new platform
  • A major use case for me was going to be reading/keeping up on my RSS feeds. Well, NetNewsWire is a whopping $10 (way overpriced), but Google reader (mobile or non-mobile) doesnt work on the iPad. You cant scroll/get at stuff in the non-mobile one and the mobile one is tiny. So to me I cant do RSS feeds on the iPad until NetNewsWire gets reasonable (or I get less cheap) or Google fixes things for "the other mobile OS"...
  • Once you have a bigger platform you want to do more. That means task switching. Well the iPad doesnt do that any better than the iPhone so you're missing multitasking, multiple windows etc. Shame to have such a nice screen/device with a single threaded interface. Could you imagine sliding windows around, pinch zooming etc? Sigh.
  • Many of the apps that are on the iPad are skin-deep in beauty. They look good for the first screen or two but lack any real depth. There's great potential there but a long way to go. Especially for them to be worth money to the masses.
  • Apple for some reason tried hard to make some of the apps (Calendar, Contacts) look like a physical calendar/address book. This comes off as cheap and it wastes a good platform. They could have done much better in this area. 
  • iTunes has no ability for you to sort your apps by their support for your device. So if you're like me and have 100 apps for your iPhone and want to only install those that work on the iPad on the iPad, you will be doing a lot of grunt work in figuring that out. They did it right on the App Store, but blew it in iTunes.
  • Major apps that make sense for the device, like Facebook, haven't been ported. Sure the web page looks great on there and thats a plus and you can make a shortcut on the iPad desktop etc. But still. 
  • No camera. Yes we knew it in advance, but a user-facing camera for Skype would have made it an ideal "chat with the parents while on the couch" device. I'm still stuck at a keyboard for my video calls. How lame is that?

So will I invoke my plan to give it to the wife? Well, I asked her. She asked about using Word and PowerPoint. I had to explain there were different apps on the phone. She asked about accessing her files on her iMac. I had to explain there was no synchronization with her iMac but she could port her files to the Apple apps (Pages etc) and then keep them on the (slow) MobileMe. Then she asked about facebook. I gave up. So far the device is failing my "basic user test".

The kid meanwhile wants the new laptop. So I have a nice toy I play with a bit but cant really use much because the things I want to do arent there yet. The apps I use arent ported or are no longer free. Perhaps i'll break down and buy a few. So far the only app I ever bought was OmniFocus for a whopping $20 and i've regretted it ever since since its such a slow piece of junk. Give me more trial/demo apps and then expire them or something. I want to use NetNewsWire before I shell out $10. Especially after how they ruined the iPhone app.

BTW don't get the stand and the case for the iPad. If you put the iPad in the Apple case it wont go in the stand. But yes, Apple will gladly sell you both at the same time without mentioning that. Fortunately they also take back the stand after you find that out :)

So I have an $800 toy (32G version (friend talked me into more room for movies), Applecare (1st gen product and potential to be abused by wife), and case/dock). I hope someday some enterprising developers will make it the product it has the potential to be. It is a game changer, I just wonder if Apple will win the game or just tip people off to how its played?

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