iPad – first hands on reactions
Posted 2 May 2010 @ 5pm in analysis
This week I finally got my iPad. Let’s dive right in about what I’ve experienced.
1. I got the iPad WiFi version not 3G. The reason is simple – without paying $130 for the 3G version, you can tether the iPad over wifi to any 3g wireless access point. So you could get Sprint MiFi, a jailbroken iPhone with MyWi (note: I don’t condone this, carrier charges may apply, bla bla bla), or any variety of wireless access points, and as the technology gets better you can always tether to 3G, 4G, 5G, and on and on. So no point in spending extra cash for 3G in the iPad, imho. Besides we all know AT&T is a complete fail when it comes to 3G, although that might be improving soon-ish, one would hope.
2. Reading on this screen is an absolute pleasure. Reading the web, and especially news with something like the Early Edition RSS reader which turns your feeds into a newspaper style layout, is a hell of a lot more efficient than doing it on your computer. I have a 27″ iMac. I prefer to read feeds on the iPad. Nuff said. I do have some concern with reflections in some lighting conditions so I’m considering getting an anti glare film cover.
3. Music apps. I completely didn’t think about this when I bought the iPad but it’s incredible for making music. Already tons of awesome synth, sequencing, drum machine, and other apps have been put out. Many of them as accurate emulations of very expensive hardware. A $500 device whose UI can be morphed to that of any music making machine (and beyond) is pretty incredible. For just a small taste check out the video here of just one of the midi controller Apps available. Having the iPad is like having a minimoog, a kaoss pad, a multitude of sequencers, and all kinds of apps that aren’t even possible with real hardware. All in one portable device you can take on the go and work on music. The music apps tend to be $3-$10 a piece which is very reasonable considering their multi-hundred-dollar hardware equivalents. Actually being able to touch the buttons on screen works a ton better than trying to play an onscreen keyboard with a mouse on my computer. What’s more, people have actually come with some great apps that let your iPad control your computer via MIDI/OSC, over WiFi. With computer to computer networking the latency can be reduced to 2-5ms (I haven’t tried this yet), which is apparently below perceivable threshold.
4. Feel in the hand – it’s a little too heavy to be held with one hand. Very comfortable for two hands, or while sitting down and resting in your lap area. But we still have a little ways to go until we have Star Trek style tablets that don’t seem to weigh anything at all. I expect Apple to be releasing an iPad TNG sometime in the next five years as technology improves, so no worries there :). What is absolutely certain is that this form factor is the way of the future 90% of tasks you do on your computer don’t require much typing, and for interacting with content, a touch screen is a lot more efficient and of course more fun, than messing around with a computer. I wish it had a brightness switch that was easier to access than through the settings menu. But I’m sure a jailbreak will solve that soon enough if it hasn’t already.
5. iPad as radio and tv – this is pretty great. I have it docked next to my computer so while I’m working I can listen to radio separately on this screen. Yes it’s an expensive $500 radio, but the touch interactivity and browsability of the excellent Pandora and NPR apps makes it worth it. You can also stream Netflix and ABC videos to it so it works great as a small desktop TV. The only thing I wish it had was proper iTunes video streaming (on my computer I can start watching a movie while it downloads). Couldn’t figure out how to make that happen on iPad. Probably something that will be fixed in a future software release.
6. It’s *fast*. I mean blazing fast, apps open instantly. Even though we’re getting multitasking in 4.0, it almost feels unnecessary with the speed of switching between apps. Safari opens with the last page you viewed instantly, so does Mail, and other apps. Third party apps are a tiny bit slower but even the most demanding ones like a software synth only take about 3 seconds to open.
7. Games are z-o-m-g. I’m not a gamer, but I just had to download NOVA (that’s basically Halo for iPad). The graphics are amazing and because the UI is not limited by any physical controller you get innovative things like being able to drag your controls around the screen to place them where it’s comfortable for you. There’s also the ability to use multitouch gestures in games, for example two finger swipes to throw grenades or opening doors by turning their locks with three fingers. Graphics are gorgeous and fast. Another cool game that’s completely free is GodFinger which lets you control a little world. I bet people who are into farmville will fall in love when they see this app. This is by the same people who made Rolando. Very clean vector style graphics and a great physics engine.
8. The popular apps that I’ve downloaded so far, by and large show a level of UX thoughtfulness and clean design that goes beyond most anything I’ve seen on desktops or on the web, even among apple software. It’s just a pleasure to use all these apps. Most every app that has an equivalent website (amazon, ebay, npr, weather.com, bloomberg, etc). All these apps are designed better, work better, and are easier and faster to use than their web equivalents using a keyboard and mouse. Either it’s some kind of UI guidelines that Apple has put out, or maybe just people stepping up their design game, but I’m really happy to be using these apps. There’s an incredible design renaissance going on here and in large part it’s thanks to Apple for providing a device like this.
9. Battery life. Is pretty much awesome – in standby mode it can live seemingly forever. Two days without any charge, with very moderate use (15 minutes per day) and it’s still at 95%. If you do intensive things like gaming the battery goes down significantly. But I believe the 10 hour advertised battery life is not far from the truth, with ‘standard’ use (internets, and such).
10. It pairs nicely with the bluetooth keyboard that shipped with my iMac. The only problem is that many of the ‘shortcuts’ you’d expect (like apple-L to get to the search bar of safari) don’t work. So you have to use your finger to select stuff, and switch back to the keyboard for typing. A little more thought put into interacting with iPad via keyboard would be awesome. For example having shortcuts to go to the home screen, ability to select an app from homescreen using arrow keys, a shortcut for getting to the search screen, etc. All these would make keyboard usage instantly more pleasant. Hopefully something like this will come in a future update.
On the lack of Flash: um..really haven’t noticed it. YouTube works. TED.com works. Netflix works. ABC shows work. Vimeo works. Flickr videos work. CNN, Reuters, and NYT videos all work. Customized news apps deliver even more video content if all that isn’t enough. And honestly I don’t miss any of the evil flash ads. Look at all these sites who rushed to embrace HTML5 video because of Apple’s abandonment of Flash. I applaud this effort. Good riddance to a crashy, cpu-hogging, outdated hack for cross platform video.
That is all for now.