Not quite an iPad review – my initial thoughts

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You may have noticed a few iPad articles creeping into my writing recently. I made a conscious choice to avoid the iPad when it first came out. At the time I didn’t see how it fit into my computing habits. I love reading on Amazon’s Kindle, so I don’t need an e-book reader. I already go back and forth between several different laptop computers of various sizes, so the iPad didn’t really seem like it would fit. What made me decide to buy an iPad? My major motivation became a fear of falling behind on covering a growing segment of computing usage. It’s hard for me to stay on top of computing solutions if I don’t use the source of the questions.
Now that I have one, I’m finding I really like the iPad for a number of things. I like it for reading anything that isn’t a book. While I installed the Kindle software on the iPad, I still like Amazon’s Kindle better for reading. There’s something about the backlit screen that I still don’t like as much as I like the Kindle’s text. I do like reading all the blogs I subscribe to using an app called NewsRack. Flipboard looks pretty for reading things from Twitter and a select number of blogs, but I think the effect of reformatting content into a magazine style wears off after awhile. ReaddleDocs works great for PDF, Google Docs, and a bunch of other online document storage solutions (including my personal favorite, Dropbox). The iPad is an excellent way to browse photos and share them with other people. Watching video on the iPad is an outstanding experience when compared to other screens of the same size. It plays music too, but so far I haven’t used the iPad as a music player.
What about productivity? As long as you install TextExpander to autofill frequently typed phrases, the iPad works great for jotting down notes in your favorite note taking app (I use Evernote). It’s handy for responding to emails that only require a sentence or two. I’ve written a few 500+ word files on the iPad, but I’m not sure I would continue to do that without a Bluetooth keyboard connected. I’ve already tested out connecting remotely to a Windows desktop from the iPad, which works great but seems largely unnecessary. And for the serious geek, you can still get shell access to do command line work on remote servers.
If you publish content for a living as I do, you could do far worse than the combination of Photogene for quick photo editing and upload to Flickr, BlogPress for publishing articles, NewsRack for reading feeds and sharing the good stuff out to Twitter, and ReelDirector will work to edit some types of movies in a pinch although I don’t expect it to replace desktop editing ever.
My two biggest gripes about the iPad relate to interacting with Google-owned websites. Google Docs is basically a read-only site in Safari on the iPad. The vast majority of apps are read only two. Fortunately, I found a workaround and figured out you can edit Google Docs using Office2 HD. The other thing I haven’t figured out is how to reply to comments on YouTube videos. Commenting seems like a mundane task, but if someone comments on one of my videos, I get an email notification and would generally like to respond when appropriate. The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe these are both the result of competition in the cell phone space between Apple’s iPhone and phones using Google’s Android OS, but I think it’s just because Apple dumbed-down Safari for the iPad. I also find it annoying that Apple still doesn’t offer an easier way to get non-Apple video content onto their devices.
Does this mean I think everyone should rush out and buy an iPad? No, many people simply don’t need it. If you are considering buying a Netbook, I would strongly consider buying an iPad instead. Overall the iPad performs better than any Netbook I’ve used from a computing power perspective. If you’re worried about the ability to type, get a Bluetooth keyboard to go with it. If you commute on a train, bus, or ferry, the iPad is a far better form factor than a laptop for most forms of media consumption. If you don’t type much but want to have the convenience of a computer you can take with you, the iPad is an excellent option, because it does a great job of stripping away all the stuff you wouldn’t want from a computer without leaving you with any features you really miss.
How about you? Do you own an iPad? Are you planning to get one? Why or why not?

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10 comments

  1. I love my iPad; I too was a little slow to get one–1st gen worries. It is not a laptop replacement, though: mainly because of some of the things you mentioned. Steve Jobs should realize that by stopping the war between him and Adobe and Google and Microsoft, MORE people would get the iPad. I have found Open Office to be the best Office Suite when MS isn’t available, but Safari won’t let me access it. Like you, I find that because I can’t access my Google apps except to read, I get frustrated in that area. Copying and pasting is difficult, too. I find I have to email links to my Evernote account instead of copying a whole page like I do at my computers. I read Kindle on my iPad because I never had a separate Kindle and I do NOT want yet another gadget to carry around. Overall, it is good for gadget geeks and those who could use the functionality you allude to. I will try some of those other apps you mention. Thank you.

  2. I’ve had an iPad now for three months. It’s the best and most enjoyable device I’ve ever bought. I have been a solid Windows user since the times of the 286 PC.
    So this is my first personal exposure to Apple products other than seeing my daughter work on hers that was supplied to her by her school at where she teaches.
    Over the period of use the iPad has not failed me once.
    An interesting fact while passing thru the airport security scanner I noticed the iPad had two long rectangular batteries side by side.
    My favourite apps are news readers checking and sending mail my photo collection and photo twiddlers like Strip Design. Music is good on long trips in the car as I connect via a cable using a earphone socket on the pad and similar connection in the car.

  3. I did eventually buy an iPad and have never regretted it. It’s great for Twitter, Netflix, general web surfing, Bible study (apps), catching up on news, you name it. It’s very fast, powers on instantly, I even use it now as a replacement for my chord sheets in music. I read once that the iPad is perfect for content consumption, but not the greatest for content creation – mostly because of the onscreen keyboard. I couldn’t agree more. I still can’t imagine typing a 2-page document with it – frustration would overtake me and it would probably go flying out the window.
    Darrell

  4. Between my Android phone and my two laptops (late ’06 MacBook Pro, early ’10 Win 7), I feel I’ve pretty much got my computing needs covered.
    I need to get a computer for my oldest soon. If the price came down, I might consider a tablet vs. a netbook, but it would depend on the software for locking down a tablet for safe use by a child. There’s a long history of such software in the PC/Mac world. Not so much in the device world AFAIK.

  5. One of the big features I love about netbooks is the ability to attach external storage and transfer files around. While on trips, my wife and I can take pictures all day, and then transfer them to her netbook in the evenings so we have more space the next day. We can even back them up on other USB devices too, giving us another backup if something were to happen to the netbook itself.
    I don’t believe this is possible using just an iPad, but I’m hoping that some of the Android tablets that are released soon will have this ability. The form factor of a tablet is nice for the light computing we do while we’re on vacation, but I don’t think an iPad fits the bill just yet.

  6. I have just gotten an iPad and also have a netbook. I would agree that if one is go to buy one or the other then theiPad does everything you need. I bought both of these mainly for travelling so that I could blog and keep up to date on email and upload photos.
    I did get the keyboard for the iPad as well.
    I also use a desktop PC or laptop at home as well.
    The iPad is currently sitting on the kitchen island and is great when I am cooking and following a recipe!

  7. The iPad Camera Connector kit, which is really just two dongles for USB and SD card connection, makes it pretty easy to backup your photos to an iPad. I take it a step further and backup everything I can to Dropbox (or whatever your favorite online storage may be) so that if the devices get broken or stolen the files are still somewhere.

  8. Jake – seems like “damning with faint praise.” Scanning your article I see the following. I think I’ll wait:
    I still like Amazon’s Kindle better for reading. There’s something about the backlit screen that I still don’t like as much as I like the Kindle’s text.
    I do like reading all the blogs …but I think the effect of reformatting content into a magazine style wears off after awhile.
    As long as you install TextExpander to autofill frequently typed phrases, the iPad works great
    It’s handy for responding to emails that only require a sentence or two… not sure I would continue to do that without a Bluetooth keyboard connected.
    I don’t expect it to replace desktop editing ever.
    Google Docs is basically a read-only site in Safari on the iPad. The vast majority of apps are read only too.
    The other thing I haven’t figured out is how to reply to comments on YouTube videos.

  9. This is easy – the ’90s ended a long time ago, and I won’t buy a device that doesn’t have a useful USB port that allows me to use devices I already own and like. That includes keyboards, storage, cellular broadband, headsets, etc. I won’t pay the hidden JobsTax for this, and although I’ve owned and enjoyed my Droid phone for almost a year now, I won’t buy an Android-based tablet without those capabilities either. Frankly i just don’t understand why anyone puts up with this devolution of computing devices – we should be pushing for greater utility, not less. This isn’t difficult – most of these devices already have Linux and in some cases Mac drivers, but the vendors are playing stupid games to try and extract more money after the sale. Well, OK – that is their right; and MY right is not to buy their crippled overpriced product just for the cool factor.

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