The company showed off a few early third-party demos at the launch event, including games from Gameloft and EA, and a new version of the popular Brushes application which is currently available on the iPhone. The New York Times
was also on hand to show its native application for the device, which boasts a number of features specifically catered to the iPad's screen real estate. Apple also demonstrated its new iPad-specific suite of iWork apps, including Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. All were rebuilt entirely for use on this device, and will be available at launch for $9.99 apiece.
What it's like to use
If you're thinking that using the iPad is a lot like getting around on an iPhone, you're dead right -- and that's by design. Apple clearly wants users to have a painless transition from their smaller devices to this -- Steve even said as much during the launch. The experience is almost identical, save for a few places where Apple has extended or tweaked functionality to utilize the expansive screen space. In general, getting around is what you expect -- lots of icons in a grid on the homescreens. No widgets here, no extra data, no real additions at a glance. Moving into and out of apps is the same single press experience. Even the lock screen is identical (though it does include a button for starting up a slideshow of pics -- yay!).
It's the apps that are really different
. For instance, in mail you now have a view of your message list and your current email in one look -- if you switch to portrait, you get just a message view with a drop down menu for your list. The calendar app is completely different, coming off more like a date book than just a grid of days or list. We didn't get a lot of time to play with it, but it looks far more robust than its iPhone counterpart. Apple's new ebook app -- iBooks -- is one of the more visually impressive pieces of software on the device, giving you handsomely animated page turns, along with display settings and search functionally accessible through a contextual menu. The iBooks app also uses a handsome (though awfully familiar) bookshelf motif which allows you to navigate your collection.
As we said before, the Store apps now share more functionality with their desktop big brothers. When you're looking at music or apps, you can call up a pop-over display that gives you a snapshot of info. It's a great UI change that we hope makes it to some iPhone apps. Instead of the common in-one-screen-out-to-another use that you're familiar with, this provides a much more contextual and speedy solution. Similarly, many apps involve top-and-hold functions to access deeper functionality -- akin to a contextual right click.
Applications like Safari and maps utilize the previously mentioned drop-down menus, but also take advantage of Apple's pinch zooming functionality. Obviously getting around in these two applications will feel very familiar, but it should be noted that Apple hasn't really added any additional gestures, such as being able to rotate the map you're looking at (something we've seen on the Surface, and seems to make sense here). Safari works just as you'd expect it, even the tabs are handled with separate "cards," though it does add drop-downs for the bookmarks and share options. Oh, and another thing about Safari -- there's still no Flash support here
, so if you were expecting to enjoy your favorite NBC programs or watch HD Vimeo content while lounging around your apartment, you're out of luck.
Typing on the iPad can be a little difficult. Holding it in your lap is fairly easy, but as you can see in our video up above, when it's flat on its back on a table, it tends to move around a bit given that it's curved. If you're holding the device in portrait mode, it's possible (though not that easy) to type with your thumbs, but you're more likely to be hunting and pecking with a single hand (unless you have some large paws). Luckily, when it comes to holding it, Apple provides that large bezel around the side, so you're not actually touching the screen when you're gripping it. If you're interested in handwriting recognition or stylus input -- you're out of luck. From what we can tell there's no handwriting recognition here besides the Asian character input, and Apple certainly isn't selling a stylus accessory for this device. The company seems to be sure that the way to go with the iPad is keyboard-only input. Hell, they'll even sell you an external keyboard!
Overall, this isn't a sea-change experience. If you know the iPhone and iPod touch, you know this device... and that's how Apple wants it. However, we're not ruling out the possibility that between now and the launch date Apple won't include some new functionality with this thing -- as said earlier, the weather and stock apps are conspicuously missing, which gives rise to the possibility that Apple may have a widget concept in mind here. We're hoping the company decides to expand on some of this at least -- particularly when it comes to running more than one app at a time, because we don't think the use cases shown off are super compelling for most users at this point.
Besides the standard music and video partnerships Apple already has for its stores (and those aren't changing yet), the company has teamed up with give publishing houses to start bringing ebooks to the iPad: Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachett. We don't think that's going to equal the number of titles you can get on a Kindle or Nook (not by a long shot), but we do think the iPad will be a magnet for publishers -- more partners are sure to follow.