Saturday, October 02, 2010

IPad Redux - A few more thoughts on the iPad a few weeks in

My previous post on the iPad was made a few weeks after the initial announcement and well before any actual hardware was out. Now both versions of the iPad , the wifi only version as well as the 3G version are out and developers have had a chance to put out some good, possibly great apps.

So back to my personal situation, I was quiet sceptical about the utility of the iPad , at least the first generation model for myself as what was being offered looked half baked and quiet restricted. However I was quiet pleasantly surprised to get a 3G iPad as a gift a few weeks ago and set out to see where the hype ended and reality set in. I'll preface my comments with the note that while I've had it for a few weeks I've not been able to spend a lot of time using it due to work commitments .

My first impression was that it's smaller then I'd mentally thought but at the same time was heavier then expected. The screen is incredibly glossy and bright and has unbelievable good viewing angles which was a very pleasant surprise. The glossy screen while a fingerprint magnet is still much better then the screen on my iPhone 3G courtesy of apples new oleophobic coating.

Still fingerprints do show, especially when the light hits the screen at certain angles, so much so that a microfiber cloth has become my constant companion in my bag, as I seem to be cleaning the screen constantly. But that's going to be a problem with any touch screen device so take it with a grain of salt.

An issue that has been under much debate in a lot of places including one of my favourite forums, Mobileread is how the ips screen fares for reading for long periods of time both indoors and out in the sun. Well, my own usage has shown that at least personally I do find the backlit screen a little more fatiguing then the eInk screen on my pocket pro, at least for longer reading sessions. As such my long form reading, at least for now has and will continue on a dedicated reading device. Part of the reason for that is also the weight. My reader is a lot lighter, allowing me to read one handedly, something which I can not do for longer periods of time on the iPad.

However this does not mean that I don't find the iPad useful for a lot of stuff. Let me Go with each of my use cases in no particular order and how the iPad has fared

One of the main uses I envisioned for the iPad for for sharing videos with other people, and in that the iPad has fared remarkably well. One of the first things I did on getting the iPad was to load on a few videos and then showed them off to my family. Everybody I showed it off to were surprised at how good it looked, and were pretty much gripped. One of the most telling reactions was from my 90 year old grandmother who is usually completely uninterested in tech gadgets. One the iPad was in her lap, she was gripped and greatly enjoyed the watching experience, more so then how we usually show videos to her, on a large screen projector. Something of the personal viewing experience just clicked with her. I saw similar reactions again and again, so I have to say that apple really hit the nail on the head with this functionality.

The second use I envisioned was sharing photos, and here again, apple has succeeded to a great extent, everybody really enjoyed looking at photos, quickie zooming in a and out and going through tons of photos quiet quickly Here again it was the tech uninclined who really got into the experience, so all I can say is Score to apple. The wide viewing angle has been really helpful here as its often four to five around the iPad looking at photos and commenting on and remembering events.

The other main usage I envisioned for the iPad was as a portable workhorse. I'm often out in the field and I wanted to be able to leave my laptop behind if possible and use the iPad to do the few things that i usually need to do when out and about, namely read and respond to emails, search for some information and take notes at meetings. So far the result has been a bit mixed so lets look at each use in turn.

Email has been a mixed bag. While the device is great for reading mails and especially for reviewing attachments (something that is a pain on my smart phone) responding is bit more of a pain. I'm not that comfortable with the onscreen keyboard, and using it when you don't have a flat surface to brace the iPad is a exercise in futility at times. Still it does work more or less. Web browsing on the other had works very well, almost on par with my laptop for most things which is handy when you want to run a quick search for something or follow a link. while I do wish that i were able to do proper tabbed browsing, its not that big a deal.

I usually take meeting notes in Evernote as I like the ability to sync them up to the cloud and have them available on all my devices. while the onscreen keyboard is not ideal, in most meetings I'm sitting at a table so I can use the ipad in landscape mode and it works reasonably well. the Evernote app is really good and works well.

The main issue I run into is not with doing any one of the task but the inability to easily switch between them. The lack of multitasking means that I have to close down and launch another app every time i want to switch gears which can be a major hassle. Fortunately With 4.2 and Multitasking just a few weeks away hopefully a most of these issues will be addressed.

Back to usage I've done some reading on the iPad and as mentioned earlier I've found that it does become fatiguing after a while. However I've discovered that one thing I've really come to enjoy on it is reading comic books. The large colour screen coupled with the speed means that comic reading is a real pleasure. I've a large collection of self created Comic files in both PDF and CBZ/CBR formats and I've been have a great time reading them again. So that's another point on the positive side.

One thing I'll note is that I've been running the iPad with a 3G SIM card in it so the constant on connective has made it very useful. If i were on wifi alone it does reduce its usefulness to me as I'm more like to use just the iPad when I'm out instead of a laptop and with limited availability of Wifi it becomes a much less mobile device.

So over all, the experience has been good but a bit mixed. As a Consumption device, I'm finding the iPad a great device, with it becoming my primary media playback device over the last few weeks. Media creation or anything more then a light workload leads me back to my laptop as I find the lack of multitasking very grating. The battery life however has been a great boon, with it running all day without me having to worry about the battery status. The availability of a lot of specialised Ipad apps has been a boon, and I'll look at them in another post. So in the end, I'll have say that I'm pretty happy with my iPad.