I've had my iPad now for just over a week, and I thought it would be worthwhile to make a note of my initial impressions so I could compare them to my feelings on the device later on.
In case you're unaware, I received a brand new iPad 2 last week as a prize for winning the Synacor 2011 Foosball Tournament. While I can hold my own on defense, I definitely lucked out when the teams were randomly chosen and was paired with one of the best foosball players in the company. It was a tense championship match, but we eked out a narrow victory in the final game.
I've been quite vocal on my feelings towards Apple and their products, so a lot of people were surprised at how excited I was to get the iPad. But let's face it.. it's a free tablet. There was no way I wasn't going to be excited about it. Plus, it provided an opportunity to explore what life is like on "the other side". As an Android user, I've had only brief glimpses into iOS and the App Store.
So what are my initial impressions? The iPad is a lot of fun, but so far I've found no way for it to be actually useful. First, I'll list what it does well.
Comics / Manga
- This is an area the iPad excels at. While I've been wanting to read more manga, I find it too awkward to read on a computer. You have to scroll down on every page just to see it, you have to use a mouse and keyboard, and you have to sit at a desk. This is not the best way to relax and read some manga. However, once I threw some pdfs of Naruto (made by compiling folders of images), I started flying through it. I'm already on chapter 83 after barely a week. If you read a lot of comics or manga on your computer, you might want to consider the iPad or another tablet. It really is the ideal platform.
Games and toys
- I've been having a lot of fun playing some basic cellphone style games like Angry Birds and various tower defense games. The larger screen makes a big difference over playing on your phone. And while I, of course, prefer games on consoles and PC, some games just work better on a large touchscreen. There are also a lot of fun music toys that I've been goofing off with. Stuff like drum machines, GarageBand, virtual guitars, etc.
- If you want to watch Netflix or Youtube on something that's not a TV, the iPad works really well. A laptop works, but is heavy and can get very hot. A phone works, but the screen is too small, and you'll rip through your battery in no time. The iPad is a nice compromise. It can still be awkward to have to hold it up while watching video, but it's not as bad as I expected. If I'm watching video in bed or hanging out on the porch, it is much more natural than a laptop.
Books and articles
- Now, before you start dredging up all of my rants about the superiority of e-paper over the iPad screen, I'll say that those still apply. If you're reading a large amount of text, nothing beats an ebook reader that uses e-paper. It's much easier on your eyes and your battery. However, sometimes you need something more than a giant pile of text. I have a lot of textbooks in PDFs that are awkward to read on a computer, but are great on the iPad. Since textbooks are a larger format and tend to have many diagrams and pictures, it doesn't work well on my small e-reader. Throw it on the iPad though, and it's just like I'm holding a real textbook. It also works well for reading articles on websites. While I'd prefer to have that on my e-reader, it's not worth the effort of transfering it over when I can just read it right away on my iPad. You still get the eye strain (or is it iStrain?) issues associated with reading a computer monitor, but you can hold it like a book and relax on the couch, rather than hunching over a keyboard.
And now, some things that it doesn't do well..
- Maybe this will get better as I become more familiar with the iOS autocorrect system and get some practice on the soft keyboard, but I doubt it. I've been using a soft keyboard a lot more ever since I got my G2 and while it gets easier, it's always annoying. The iPad keyboard is even more annoying because it forces you to attempt typing in a traditional way instead of using an alternate input method like Swype. It suffices, but I can't imagine typing anything longer than a URL or a tweet with it.
- As I mentioned above, reading long articles on websites is actually not bad, but I've found it difficult to browse the web in my usual fashion. Between the awkward keyboard (which forces you to switch keyboard to get numbers and symbols), Safari quirkiness, the lack of Flash support (you don't realize how much of the web is Flash until it's gone), and even little things like a privacy mode (I like to do my online banking in privacy mode), it's just an unpleasant experience overall. I'm sure I'll grow accustomed to it, but I was surprised by the experience given Apple's reputation for godlike perfection.
- The iPad sure is fun, but don't think you'll be getting any work done on it. I haven't found a single way to do anything useful on this machine that wouldn't be better done through a normal computer or plain old pen and paper. I've looked all over the place for some kind of killer productivity app, and I just can't find them. Maybe this is just because I'm too cheap to spring for expensive apps, but that leads me to my next point.
App Store prices and policies
- Just about every app on the App Store costs something (or is free and costs something to use effectively). This seems pretty reasonable until you realize that there are no demos and no returns allowed. And since $2.99 seems to be the standard price for a low end iPad app, you're going to have to cough up 3 bucks just to see if the app is worth using at all. These app prices add up quick. It's also frustrating because sometimes an app might be worth ten dollars, but I'm not going to risk spending ten dollars on an app that sucks just based on the flaky reviews of other iPad users. There needs to be some way to try the app before you buy the app.
Well, this review ended up being a little longer than expected, but I'm glad I got it written down. In summary, if you're willing to blow $500 on a fun toy (and excellent comic / textbook reader), then the iPad is for you. If you're looking at it as something that will enhance your produtivity, forget it. Buy a laptop.