Reflections: A day and a night with the iPad

Mel Martin
M. Martin|04.04.10

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Reflections: A day and a night with the iPad
Getting an iPad was an unplanned part of my day. My original idea was to wait for version 2, but I found myself at a local Best Buy taking pictures and interviewing people in line, and the manager came out and said there were some available. Bingo. Reality distortion field. Up went my hand.

I spent yesterday afternoon and last night getting a pretty good idea of what this baby does and doesn't do. Here are a few preliminary thoughts:

Setup is easy, but a bit slow. I plugged it into iTunes, selected what music, movies and apps I wanted to copy to the iPad and I was on my way. It seemed like the sync took forever, and subsequent syncs are VERY slow. Lots of spinning beach balls. Maybe it's my system. Maybe not.

The iPad alerted me that there were quite a few app updates that gave direct support to the higher resolution screen, so I was happy for that.

How is the iPad to use? In a word, interesting, liberating, sometimes frustrating. It's heavier than I thought it would be. I think for most people, it is not a one-handed device. Sitting on my lap, or on a table, it's just dandy. As others have noted, the iPad is very snappy. Web pages render quickly, graphics are quickly updated. The screen is beautiful, and movies and photos look striking. The screen is very reflective, so you may have to fiddle around with angles if you are in a room with sunlight streaming in.

The screen is also a fingerprint magnet. No worse or better than the iPhone, but you grab the iPhone occasionally, and you may be using the iPad continuously. Those smudges start to add up, and Apple doesn't provide a cleaning cloth. Shame on them for that.

The video app has been separated from the iPod app. Not sure why (Ed: Probably a hint at how Apple wants to divide content distribution in the future), but if you are used to the old way you may be scratching your head trying to play a movie.

Mail works well, I miss the unified inbox of Mac OS X, but reports say the feature is coming. All my mail accounts copied over in the sync, and overall the Mail app is a pleasure to use.

Typing on the keyboard seems fine. It didn't take as much getting used to as the iPhone keyboard did. Maybe I'm learning, maybe it works better because it is larger. I didn't feel the need to fire up a Bluetooth keyboard, and dragging a keyboard around the house kind of kicks the whole portability thing.

Every iPhone app I tried worked just fine. You can blow them up to fit the iPad screen, and some look OK. Some not so great. I expect every day we'll see updates to apps to fix that.

For apps that were designed for the iPad, the results are very positive. USA Today, the AP News app and the New York Times Editors' Choice look really nice. Dragon Dictation worked well and I liked the full screen GUI.

As an ebook reader, the iPad is just fine. Text is not as sharp as on my Kindle, but I like the idea of having it on a nightstand and being able to read no matter how much ambient light is in the room. The Kindle app, which has been updated to support the iPad, works very nicely. It doesn't have the fancy Apple page-turning animation, but frankly, I consider the effect a distraction.

The Apple book store is very thin compared to the Amazon offerings. That will change over time, but I was hard pressed to find something I wanted to read.

The Maps app is very nice on the larger screen. Even without GPS, location services used Wi-Fi and located me within about 60 feet of my house. That was a bit of a surprise.

Battery life is outstanding. I ran it all afternoon and all night. Didn't plug it in overnight, and in the morning I still had 72% power left. It means the iPad can be a device you have around the house to use all day without sweating about getting it plugged into the a power outlet.

Is the iPad revolutionary? It might be. Revolutions tend to creep up on you. People will find new and unique ways to use this device, and app developers will take advantage of the larger screen and extended battery life to give us new ways to interact with our content.

I doubt it will be a revolution for newspapers and magazines. Time Magazine and Popular Science are charging 5 bucks per issue. That's far too expensive in my view and offers no price advantage over the printed versions. This may change if some of these publishers come to their senses.

It's too soon after launch to really know what the iPad means. It's not just a bigger iPod touch. When you interact with the iPad, it's clear this is a different beast. It's something new, even if the OS and the icons look the same.

Apple has changed the face of computing before. Some will love the iPad. Some will hate it and make fun of it. Whatever your feelings, watch to see if the rest of the industry tries to copy it. If they do, it will be a pretty clear signal that Apple has once again defined and refined our relationship with technology by taking both bold and evolutionary steps.

The iPad has already changed my daily routine. It's easy to grab, and interacting with email and the web is a joy. Even having a movie in your lap is an unexpected pleasure. Will the iPad "change everything?" It's not a cure for cancer, or a step toward world peace, but it may change the direction computing takes. It's fun to be along for the ride.

Did the iPad exceed your expectations, or do you have buyer remorse? For those that haven't snagged one, is there one in your future? You can voice your opinion on this morning's poll.
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