October 13, 2010
Today a friend of mine asked me what I thought of the iPad. Well, I think I love it. It really is a cool device, as long as you understand what it can do and what it cannot. In the two or three weeks that I have had it, I have seen that most of the thoughts I had about the device were confirmed and there have been a couple of surprises as well. I am using it at work as well as for fun and it definitely has a place in both scenarios. And I am writing this blog entry on the iPad as well. It seems to be working out really well.
What makes this device special is that it’s portable, has a great screen, and the battery life is spectacular considering what it is. I am using it as a notetaker, an RSS reader, a PDF reader, a magazine platform, a music maker, a remote control, a cookbook, a gaming platform, a timer, and a mail tool. So I think one of the really great features about this device isn’t really a feature of the device but the fact that Apple has built such an incredible application marketplace which 3rd parties have joined.
But it’s not all perfect. While it’s battery life is amazing, it’s battery life is one of it’s biggest weaknesses. 10 hours on a charge means that the Kindle will always be with me for fiction, long reads, and newspapers. Plus reading on the Kindle is just a nicer experience for most things. Another major problem is that the USB cable only gets a slow trickle charge when plugged into the Mac. Although the power brick is tiny, it means another thing to pack (and accidentally leave behind in the hotel room). While the device is small, it’s not quite thin and light enough to compete with the Kindle, which is another reason I won’t be leaving the Kindle at home for any trips. And while it’s overall design is gorgeous, the one mistake they made was not including a hardware switch for adjusting the brightness. I guess they could have skipped that had they made it sense the brightness in the room, but they forgot that too.
As I mentioned, I think it’s the apps that make this thing really shine. So what are the apps that I am using? Obviously there is Safari and Mail. And unlike their counterparts on OSX, these don’t suck. For some reason there is no ToDo list on the iPad, but IMExchange2 does a wonderful (free) job of showing me my tasks from Exchange. I love Manton Reece’s Tweet Library to get a handle and search through all my Twitter traffic, although I often use Tweetdeck for more day to day usage. Reeder is my current RSS reader and it’s integration with Instapaper (which is also installed) makes it even easier to skim through my feeds. GoodReader is an almost perfect PDF reader and it’s integration with DropBox, GMail, and other cloud services makes it easy to get documents onto the device. In fact I think this app means I won’t be carrying my Kindle DX anymore.
But wait, didn’t I say that the iPad is not a replacement for the Kindle??? Well, yes I did. And it’s not. I have two Kindles: a DX and the newer smaller device with 3G and WiFi. I get the New York Times on that smaller device and that will continue to be with me where ever I go. But the larger DX is something I thought I would still use for larger PDFs from work. Although the Kindle is great for longer reads, those work PDFs are more for reference. And searching them from the Kindle is a bit more painful than on the iPad.
So what else do I use? TeamViewer is a great way to access to my home machines remotely as well as the parental tech support duties I have. SimpleNote allows me to see the same notes on my iPad that I see in NotationalVelocity on the Mac and Notes on the PC. I now even have an app on the Blackberry that syncs with that system. And I am writing this blog in it too. The Sonos remote app is an absolutely incredible way to control my music at home. I hadn’t used Zinio in years but it’s now on the iPad and it’s a beautiful way to read full color magazines. World Clock Pro HD is a wonderful multiple time zone clock app I use to figure out when i can call my manager in Seattle. And Digits Lite is a delightful free calculator app with a nice history on the left. Those are all the apps that I use almost every day and are on the home screen on device.
Other apps that I use a fair deal include Epicurious, USAToday, Marvel Comics, BubblesHD, Cut The Rope, iSequence, iElectribe, ThumbJam, and Kayak. And then a whole lot of others that are on there but not getting used everyday. In all, there are 100 apps and counting.
As for accessories, there is one that is absolutely required: a case that props the iPad up at an angle. I got the MacAlly Bookstand and it’s perfect. Yesterday I couldn’t have typed this out since I didn’t have the case yet. I am amazed at how much different typing long texts can be when it’s angled on a sturdy platform. The SD card adapter is also absolutely required for getting files off my card from the camera and audio recorder.
You might have noticed that I did not mention the iPod app. Well, that’s because I haven’t really used it for listening to music. My main music platform is still the Zune because the whole music ecosystem on the Zune is just so much better. I would love to see that change, but I am not holding my breath. That said, I have started using my iPod Touch recently because the Connect system in the new Nissan Qashqai that I got does a great integration with the iPod. Because of that I am making my way through all the back episodes of Core Intuition during my drives.
I really enjoy this iPad and am very glad that I picked one up. Unlike the Mac, this is something I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone and everyone. Apart from the downsides I mentioned above, it’s nearly perfect and I look forward to using it for the next few years.