So, to mark the completion of a metric ton of writing on Friday, I hit the Apple store to see if I could get lucky and snag a 3g Ipad. Turns out I could, and I’ve been running around with it for the past few days. It’s a pretty spiffy device, and I figured I’d share my observations so far.
- I have wanted a tablet computer for 10 years or more at this point. Apple has done a lot of not-great stuff, but by actually opening this market up to devices that cost less than 2 or 3 thousand dollars, they have earned a lot of points in my book. Also, this totally looks like I always envisioned the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy looking (though in my mind the HHGTTG was the size of a Kindle).
- As other reviewers have noted, the battery on this thing is a beast. 12 hours of use, no problem. The downside is that it takes a long time to charge, so developing a habit of plugging it in at night is a good idea.
- The 3g seems to work like a charm. Coverage has been good, data flows nicely. The speed difference from wifi is noticeable, but not onerous. . I shelled out for the unlimited 30 days for $30 because the alternate plan (250MB for $15) doesn’t hold up for me. 250mb is a trivial amount of data – for comparison, I’ve used 344 MB on my phone over the past 7 days. The $15 plan exists primarily for marketing purposes and as emergency connectivity, and possibly for people who will be in and around wifi 90% of the time.
- I also shelled out for larger storage capacity, going for the full 64 gigs. In retrospect, I think that may prove to be an unwise decision. The Ipad is a little half-assed at handling local content – it’s real strength is as a conduit for remote content. Certainly, it’s nice to be able to upload my gaming PDFs and a little music, but since I’m not actually uploading a ton of movies to this thing or treating it as an ipod, I’m not sure I’m really going to stretch its storage limits.
- That said, the gaming PDFs? Oh man. They’re a delight to read. Goodreader is the best 99 cents I’ve spent yet.
- Similarly, what comic books are available (through the Marvel and Comix apps) are incredible. The convenience and readability has resulted in my dropping money for a few BOOM titles (Irredeemable and Unknown) purely out of curiosity and giving them a read. I think pricing needs to still be sorted out, and different titles are doing it in different ways. The smartest ones are offering collections/trades of old issues as cheaper bundles, and charging more for more recent titles. If they can find the right price to content ratio, then this will be a gold mine. However, the comics industry is so intensely trained to overcharge that I’m not entirely confident that they won’t kill the goose, especially since this model would KILL the secondary market, which might have some pretty dire ramifications.
- I’ve been trying to use it for work, for note-taking and other things I might use a laptop for. So far, it’s ok. The big limitation is the apps. Some apps are good at taking notes, some are good at organizing them, but I have yet to find one that’s does both. That said, I expect the solution to that will present itself in time. The onscreen keyboard definitely seems up to the job, but it’s less useful than bringing laptop to do the same work. However, it is also a less of a barrier between you and the other people, and when it come time to brainstorm and collaborate, the ipad excels, if only as a fantastic digital whiteboard.
- And speaking of apps, you can see the evolution of the apps as they go. Most of the first generation apps are in need of UI fixes because they were based on a best guess about how the Ipad would work, but they’re getting those fixes quickly. There are still plenty of iphone apps that clearly SHOULD exist on the Ipad, but they’re just not there yet.
- And yes, I know the app store is closed and evil and stuff, but compared to it, the Android store mildly sucks, the Blackberry store is like punching myself in the face, and maintaining apps on a truly open device, like the Nokia n series is like dental surgery. I am tolerating closed and questionable in favor of “works”
- I’m still carrying my kindle. For straight reading it remains superior, but it remains to be seen if the difference is so great as to support the need for a second device. The reality is that since the ipad can’t fit in my pocket, it’s going in a bag, and if I already have a bag, I probably have room for the kindle.
- I also got a bluetooth keyboard and have been pretty happy with it. It’s not quite as nice as a laptop for writing, but it works pretty well if you just intend to write. Doing anything more complicated than that is actually a bit of a pain – keyboard and touchscreen is far more awkward to me than keyboard and mouse, especially when you have to worry about knocking over the touchscreen. That said, it’s actually kind of fun to use it in a NON-writing configuration – typing into the keyboard with the device off to the side. I wouldn’t do anything long that way, but it’s kind of novel.
- The apple case has worked fine for me, and because it’s not obvious, I mention that I think that flappy bit is supposed to get tucked under your ipad. Strangely, it is often more comfortable to hold it in my hand with the case in display mode, effectively making the grip portion much bigger. Doing so opens up the hand and makes the weight of the device much less noticeable.
- I have yet to be too impressed with any of the games, except maybe Plants vs. Zombies. I’m delighted that Small World is there, but it requires a second player and the interface is occasionally weird.
- Todo and calorie counting apps are still fighting it out to see who the heck is actually going to be useful for less than $20.
- Tweetdeck is visually fantastic, but I’m sticking with twitteriffic because it actually has all the listed functionality. In a rev or two, I’ll probably switch.
- Yes the RPG potential is huge. No, it’s not even faintly there yet.
- The mail client is not as good as the gmail web interface, but *is* good enough that it has made yahoo mail useful again.
- Using the Ipad for a while has made me realize a few things about the rest of the market, most importantly about Android. If an android tablet can really offer strong Google integration, especially with docs, that’s going to be HUGE. The Ipad excels at handling material that’s in the cloud, so to speak, and you can see people fumbling their way to figuring out what that should look like. This is finally the device for which a google office suite is something other than a novelty or a statement of rebellion (or cheapness). The bad news is Android doesn’t get a free pass. I dig my Droid, but it’s got to be better than it is now to play in this space.
When the ipad was announced, I was on the verge of replacing my netbook (a first gen HP with terrible battery life, a half-broken charger and a too-small hard drive) for portable writing purposes. I put off doing so in the hopes that the ipad could serve that purpose. So far it seems to be, but to be honest it has yet to really be put through the paces. Novelty is distracting, and it puts a bit of a rosy glow over things. I still love my Ipad, and I expect I’ll continue to love it for things like watching netflix, reading comics and doodling, but will it hold up for real work? I look forward to finding out.
1 – And a Towel