Yet Another iPad Post

Apple iPad ImageOk, one more iPad article. I have to admit, the iPad has me intrigued in many ways. I don’t subscribe to Apple’s slogan that it’s a  “A magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price”. Especially that “unbelievable price” part since it implies “unbelievably low”. Still, the hype that surrounds it, the apps being written for it, and the competitors trying to market competing products will make for an interesting year. The good news is that I’ve started another site – Pad Chronicles – to follow along the iPad trail. So, if you can’t get enough of the iPad, head on over there.

I’ve been using the iPad since Saturday and here are my impressions so far:

  • The iPad is fun to use. The interface is intuitive and the touch interface makes sense and doesn’t seem like it was shoehorned in.
  • It’s heavy. Holding it for viewing or reading can be tiring if it’s not propped against something that takes some of the weight.
  • Despite the fun, there are frustrating walls in the UI.
  • The mail app is one of those walls. While the interface seems to make sense if I think about it enough,  it doesn’t feel right. The fact that every time I go into it a mail message is open drives me nuts. Making it worse is it’s always an old message (the last one I viewed). I have to select the newer messages. I’ve gotten a little more used to it, but it just doesn’t feel right.
  • Screen glare is a problem. It ranges from mildly annoying to completely unusable depending upon the lighting and what I’m trying to do.
  • Like my iPad Touch, the screen attracts fingerprints and grime. Maybe because it’s bigger, but it seems worse on the iPad. It does clean easily with a dry cloth (or pant leg) but it can be downright disgusting when I put that black screen down after extensive use.
  • I didn’t plan to watch a lot of video on the iPad but I gave it a try and I’ve been using it more than I expected. I’ve been watching my own videos along with Netflix streaming and it’s been good, unless I’m in a place that I can’t maneuver to eliminate the screen glare.
  • The default wallpaper seems to be a bad choice from a company usually so concerned with looks. I changed it because the stars looked like scratches or dirt which was more annoying than the real smudges.
  • The speaker is mono, but better than the iPod Touch’s. With the Touch I really need to use headphones for any audio. With the iPad the the speaker is usable without headphones. Like I said, it’s mono. It’s also not something you’d want to play music through and expect to fill a room. But I can watch video with the sound through the speaker without a problem. I predict some stereo speakers on the next model.
  • Some of the apps are buggy, probably due to the lack of real hardware for testing. But in general performance has been great.
  • The on screen keyboard isn’t going to be used to write the great American novel, but it doesn’t suck and it’s usable and better than I expected. That said, don’t buy an iPad expecting to create a lot of content. I’ve answered some emails and done some simple web forms. For that it’s fine.
  • There’s still a premium for a lot of iPad apps. Can’t really blame the developer’s. If people pay the price it’s not gouging since there’s no rule saying we need to buy them.
  • There isn’t any multi-tasking (at least for 3rd party apps) and I have no complaints about that. There is the ability to save the app state when switching apps which is what I really want. (Although some apps don’t save state due to either security or bugs). If multi-tasking is added later I hope there’s a way to enable it at the app level. Music in the background is nice at times, I can’t think of much else I want spinning CPU cycles when it’s not front and center.
  • I also don’t miss the camera others say should be there. I guess it would be OK for video conferencing. That’s if you find a way to prop it up at the right angle. As for taking pictures – the word “awkward” comes to mind. If there had been an optional camera I would have passed.
  • The “unbelievable price” claim by Apple really gets under my skin. This is not inexpensive. I’m sure Apple maintains their nice margins on the iPad.

There’s probably more negative bullet point than positive ones in my list. But still, I’m happy with the iPad. It’s a version 1 device and the one next year will be better. But that’s always true. Wait and the hardware always gets better and cheaper. In Apple’s case the price points often stay the same but the hardware improves. While I did consider cancelling my pre-order due to the price, once I got it I never considered returning it and I’ll be using it daily for a long time.


The iPad Arrives – First Impressions

Apple iPad ImageI’ve had the iPad for just under a day and a half now, here are my impressions so far. Firs off, I never bought into Apple’s “a magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price” hype. That hasn’t changed, which isn’t a bad thing. I also think the surveys that ask “why did you, or will you, get an iPad” and list a bunch of line items miss the point, at least in my opinion. There’s probably a better choice, or will soon be a better choice, for each of those line items.

It was heavier than expected. Yea, I read the specs that said it was 1 1/2 pounds, but it feels heavier. It also feels solidly built but I’m not about to drop it to find out how solid. The screen also becomes a mess of fingerprints after a little. I mainly noticed this with the iPad off and the light hitting it just right. The fingerprints didn’t bother me while I was using it. Like the iPod Touch, the screen cleans right up. The one thing that did bother me was screen glare. At one point it was so bad I couldn’t watch the video. Most other times I just had to change the angle a bit.

I had a chance to watch several hours of video on the iPad this weekend although I don’t expect video to be a big usage for me. In this case it was video I’d ripped from DVD. Syncing to the iPad was painfully slow (so is syncing to my iPod Touch). It did tell me that there was some video that wasn’t synced because it couldn’t be played on the iPad. This was video that plays OK on my Apple TV. I haven’t had a chance to look into it yet. I also didn’t try the iTunes option to convert to an iPad compatible format.

Setting up wireless networking was straight forward, It connected to my Wireless N network which is an Apple Airport Extreme. It also connected just fine to a Verizon Wireless MiFi although I didn’t get to use the MiFi very long.

There are people who say the iPad will be a Kindle killer. Well, if the Kindle is a platform to sell books for Amazon, rather than a physical device, then the iPad is a Kindle helper. I spent more on Kindle books this weekend than I did for iPad apps. The Kindle’s e-ink just doesn’t cut it for books heavy on code samples, graphics or photos. At least the small one doesn’t cut it. Maybe the larger Kindle DX is better. While they’re readable on the PC or Mac with the Kindle App, I didn’t want to be tied to a computer screen. So I’ve added a few reference books to the Kindle library. It’ll be helpful to be able to pull up the computer reference books while on the computer and not have to flip back and forth between apps. I can read Kindle books on any computer, my Kindle (of course) and now my iPad. My iPod Touch can handle them too, but I won’t do a lot of reading on that small screen. (Still, nice to have the option.)

I did do about 20 minutes of reading on the iPad without feeling any eyestrain. Still, the screen is bright and if it’s inverted to white on black then the text is bright and most pictures look like negatives. For extended book reading I’ll probably stick to the Kindle, even though it requires external lighting.

It’ll be the Apps that make or break the Kindle for me. The extra screen real estate should come in handy. In addition to running the apps that ran on my iPod Touch I added the following iPad apps:

Book Apps: Marvel Comics – I’m not a comics reader, but this app could turn me into one. The app is free and there’s a couple comics available for free to try it out. Kindle – I already mentioned this one. iBook – I gave the sample book a spin. Nothing about it would make me leave the Kindle ecosystem. InstaPaper Pro – was a fixture on my Touch and now it’s universal and takes advantage of the iPad.

News Apps: USA Today – Their website drove me away long ago, but the app organizes the news nicely. It is USA Today so there’s not a lot of in depth reporting. NPR for iPad – This is an iPad specific version of their app. I liked the iPod Touch app but haven’t had much time with this one. BBC News – Integrates web articles, video and radio. AP News – nice looking app for AP news. These apps seemed to all cache articles when connected as I was able to read some without a wireless connection.

Productivity: Evernote – another fixture from my Touch that’s been updated for the iPad. Bento – A database app I avoided because it’s Mac specific. But I gave in since I had a couple uses. Nice app that’s implemented nicely on the iPad. It’s a low cost app so this may not be much of a downside, but if you want it for multiple platforms you pay for each version. I suspect the iPhone version would work on the iPad but that seems like it would be a waste of space using a small piece of the screen.

Games & Entertainment: Civilization Revolution for the iPad – I kicked my Civ addiction a long time ago but gave it and got it for the iPad. NetFlix – Netflix released an app to stream videos. I gave it a try and found it a bit buggy but usable. Somehow I got two videos streaming at the same time. Well, one picture, two sound tracks.

There’s been complaints that the screen isn’t is a widescreen aspect ratio. I didn’t find it very annoying. I think the 4:3 aspect ratio helps in portrait mode and gives the iPad better balance than if it was 16:9. The widescreen video looked OK, but yea, there are bars at the top and bottom. There’s also the option to fill the screen top to bottom and crop out the extra on each side.

Overall I’m happy with the iPad. I’ll be using it around the house mostly. It’ll replace my netbook in a lot of cases which says more about what I use the netbook for rather than what the iPad can do. It’ll be easy to grab the iPad and check something on the Internet, check my email or check something in one of the apps. I’ve yet to try any serious typing but I found the keyboard better than I expected. Since I’m not a touch typist I don’t miss the lack of physical keys as much as a touch typist would.Still, I expect to pull out the netbook if I plan to do a lot of typing.

OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #48: iPad Anticipation Edition

Apple iPad ImageThe iPad frenzy is in full swing. Shipments are being tracked, store reservations are being confirmed, Apple marketing is trying to set new records in superlative usage, and yes, my iPad is due to arrive on Saturday.

I did have an urge to cancel my pre-order. Mainly because the price puts it in the luxury category for me, even at the base version. I take issue with Apple’s superlative laden adds that keep calling it a “magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price.” Ok, they don’t say “low price” but that’s their implication. And no, I’m not saying they’re overcharging for it. Like I said, I’d put it in the luxury category for me. But please stop implying this is a rock bottom price, especially considering this is a device Apple intends to use to sell us more content. All this hype is turning me off.

The hype I’ve been reading about seems to be emphasizing three uses: video, eBooks, and magazines/ newspapers. The main criticism I’ve seem is that it’s just a large iPod Touch.  I’ll start with the criticism. To me being a large iPod Touch isn’t a bad thing. I like my iPod Touch and just having more screen real estate would be a plus.

As for the three areas of hype – meh. I don’t see myself buying a lot of content to use primarily on the iPad (with one potential exception). I can see me copying some of my existing videos to it when I go on trips but I don’t anticipate a lot of that. I still using my Kindle for eBooks and I hope the rumored Kindle iPod app makes it through the Apple approval gauntlet. There are books that aren’t suitable for the Kindle’s e-paper screen so are limited to the Kindle PC (or Mac) app. Having them available on the a portable device would be a big plus. But I do like the Kindle as a book reader since it’s eeasy on the eyes. I’m skeptical whether I could read a book on the iPad without getting tired or a headache. Reference books or browsing on a PC screen is one thing, but reading a novel is another. So I’m unlikely to buy eBooks though Apple if they’re just limited to the iPad or my Mac. The Touch is to small for extensive book reading (too much scrolling required). Of course, it also depends on price and I’ll no doubt buy one book to try it out (then again, there will be the public domain books, just like on the Kindle).

It’s the magazine/newspaper area that may get me to fork over more money for content, at least the magazine area. The Kindle isn’t a great newspaper reader. It’s just not the same as a real newspaper, which is why my subscription never survived the trial period. It’s OK when I had time to read the content in a linear format. But the way the Kindle handles headlines (strange truncating) doesn’t make for pleasant browsing. The lack of any sort of layout also makes it difficult to notice which articles are intended to stand out. As for magazines, unless it’s a word intensive magazine there’s not much point. All this could be improved upon if properly implemented on the iPad. But then there’s price for this content, which appears to be all over the place. If publishers want to put ads in their magazines it’s fine with me, assuming they avoid intrusive tactics like pop-ups.

I currently use my iPod Touch for checking email around the house and a little web surfing and the iPad is a natural for that. But if I’m going to get my money’s worth out of the Kindle it’s going to be my own content (PDFs maybe) and some apps that haven’t even seen but will take advantage of the iPad in ways not possible on the Touch.

So the iPad should arrive Sunday. While I’ll be home to take delivery it’ll be a busy weekend and I might not have much time to play with it. On Friday and Saturday I’m stuck doing the weekend of work for a project and then Sunday it’s Easter with the family. So if the iPad lives up to its hype I may have to take time out of what’s usually reserved for sleep.

In other (non-iPad) news…

I upgraded my cell phone to a Motorola Droid last week. I’m still getting used to it but so far I like it. It doesn’t hurt that despite being a more capable phone I actually lowered my monthly bill.

It’s been a busy couple of months with the day job so even though I haven’t written much for this site, there’s not a lot I’ve been having fun with that hasn’t already been made it to the site. Hoping to get into having some fun with the computers real soon.


Apple iPad Pre-ordered

Apple iPad ImageWell, I went ahead and pre-ordered an Apple iPad on Friday. I usually don’t pre-order a $500 piece of tech site unseen. OK, I pre-ordered the iPod Touch 3rd gen when it was announced but I’d seen and touched the earlier versions and was simply waiting on the latest upgrades before buying.

So first I had to justify pre-ordering a new piece of technology. I trust Apple to have thought about the design and function of the iPad to create a usable interface. Sure it looks nice in the video but all the hype actually turns me off. Still, I have faith, while based on the iPod Touch I don’t see Apple simply making a big iPod Touch. I am concerned about bugs and manufacturing issues as they seem to be affecting Apple lately and this is a completely new piece of hardware. But the bottom line was I know I would be buying this version of the iPad and not waiting for the next version, so might as well get it as soon as possible.

So the next question was: Which model? I knew I didn’t need or want wi-fi. The AT&T link kills the iPhone for me as I won’t do business with AT&T due my own experiences with them. But even if I could use another carrier I don’t see myself needing 3G on this. So that eliminated the 3G models.

Typically with Apple I end up getting the fastest CPU and most memory I can afford, finding it easy to justify the extra hardware. In this case I couldn’t come up with good reasons to go above 16GB. It will be mostly used around the house or at least return home every night. Most of my current 16GB iPod touch is currently consumed by music. While I might keep a few playlists on the iPad I don’t see it containing a significant number of songs.

So I broke with tradition and bought the cheapest model.

So what will I use the iPad for:

  1. Reference – I have high hopes for  Evernote on the iPad and that’s my primary filing system. But I also hope to put my own PDFs that I use for reference.
  2. Books – I like the Kindle and enjoy reading on it. But there are types of books that aren’t suitable for the Kindle. While there are exceptions, books with a lot of charts and tables or programming books with code samples are usually hard to read. Things got a little better with the Kindle 2 but a nice color screen should be better. I suspect I’ll still read novels on the Kindle as I expect it to be easier on the eyes. I am concerned about book pricing through Apple but even if I stick with my own books already available on PDF or a non-DRM’d format I’ll be Happy.
  3. Magazines & Newspapers – While I’ve gotten away from newspapers and magazines I grew up reading them and still like them. I’ve drifted away from them because of the clutter they cause and my inability to keep them organized. I’m cautiously optimistic pricing will be in line with current subscriptions and not priced as a “premium service”. I kind of liked newspapers on the Kindle in that it was easy to go through the info. But it was a linear experience and I couldn’t flip through the paper to see what catches my eye. The headlines in a table of contents just isn’t the same thing. Sure, the iPad will have some demo friendly page turn animation but hopefully that can be turned off once it becomes annoying (which will be about 90-seconds in).
  4. Video – I’m hoping the video viewing matches the hype. It’ll be nice to be able to have a few videos on it and watch them.
  5. Readily available computer. Rather than grabbing my Netbook or going to my desktop to check out something on the web or make a note I’ll probably use the iPad. (Much of this has already gravitated to my iPod Touch anyway.)

I suppose it depends upon how you define success but I think the iPad will be a success for Apple. Mainly because it can be different things to different people. Despite Apple’s claim of reasonable pricing I do think the biggest question for someone is whether the planned use of the iPad worth the cost. I’m not sure I could justify the iPad cost against my planned usage, at least not until the iPad actually exists in public. And let’s face it, books, movies and newspapers/magazines are an added cost. But I’m a tech and gadget geek which goes a long way to justifying the cost. Adding to that is I’m sure I’ll still be using it in a year.

So it’ll arrive April 3rd and we’ll see if I regret the decision.