When I decide to buy the Apple iPad, my mind is set on what role the device would play in my life. The iPad is going to be a family entertainment tool for gaming, for information browsing, a bit of music and photography creation and editing, all in the comfort of my private moments. For that reason, I choose the 16GB Wifi model.
The iPad is my first Apple device I have owned. Prior to this, I have never used an iPhone, so the iPad is a whole new experience for me. 7 days later, here are some of my comments.
1. Screen quality
Needless to say, it’s impressive. When I showed my peers the device, the most common response I get is that they love the vibrancy of the screen. The images are sharp and when low-res images are extrapolated, they still look smooth and not pixelated.
The iPad is heavy. It feels like a hardcover book. If you hold it with one hand while using the other to navigate on the screen, and it gets tiring after a while. Balancing it behind the device is a no-no unless you have installed a protective case that gives you some grip.
Protection is the first thing you should do if you want to upkeep the newness of the iPad. I went to Sim Lim over the weekend to look a suitable screen protector and a case. After browsing the shops, I decided to buy an OEM unbranded case from Million Mobile for $39.90. It’s actually an imitation of some branded casing that costs double. The case is very thick, sturdy and adds some weight to the iPad, but it’s well-built, protects the iPad very well, and doubles as an adjustable stand. I think you really need a case that can support the iPad as a stand, because it would be tiring for you to always hold it on one hand and navigate on the other. When you are seated and place the iPad on your lap or on the table, the angle would not be right.
4. Input Methods
Although the iPad touch experience is unlike any competitors, it is only good for apps that rely on finger gestures. It’s a challenge to navigate if you require pin-point accurate actions, like drawing or selecting text. Granted, Apple designed a few innovative ways to assist in the text selection, but nothing beats the speed of keyboard and mouse.
Text entry becomes more challenging with the iPad’s soft keyboard. At any one time, only one finger can contact the screen, so you are not able to type in the natural way as a hardware keyboard. And when you pull up the soft keyboard, you have less screen space to view the content. With these inconveniences, I feel discouraged to do lots of word processing or write long emails.
5. The App Store and the Apps
The iTunes App Store is the one and only site that you go to for all your app needs, and the only way to install apps (except, ahem, eh… ok I shan’t say more). The benefit of a single store is that you do not have to visit multiple sites to find the apps that you need. You will also be automatically notified via the App Store app on software updates, which you can download for free. The App Store also remembers your purchases, so if you try to download a previously-paid app that you have perhaps deleted, the App Store will inform you and you can download the app without paying again. And if you already have the app, the App Store will also indicate that.
There are many ways to find apps and download. You can visit the iTunes App Store itself, or visit many of the independent websites that compiles and recommends apps. My personal favourite is http://appshopper.com/ipad/ , it updates you on any changes to the apps, particularly price changes. Once a while, some apps will offer as free download for a limited time and you have to grab it before the price reverts again. Another site, http://www.freeappaday.com/ , displays the worthy apps in icons and clearly marks which apps are paid and which are free. This site, http://ipad.freeappalert.com/ , shows you the list of free iPad apps that were paid iPad apps yesterday.
You don’t have to pay a lot to get loads of apps. I already have more than 100 apps downloaded on my iPad and so far I only paid for one app: Angry Birds HD at US$4.99 (S$7 at time of purchase). Finding good and useful apps can be rather rewarding, since it’s the apps that gives you the iPad experience, without which the iPad is just a piece of soulless device.
For the frequent web-surfer, be warned that the iPad cannot load web pages running on Flash (thankfully, there is a dedicated app to run Flash-based Youtube videos). To a layman, that could catch them unaware because one doesn’t know if the sites is running on Flash (until one encounters problem).
6. Multi-tasking Limitation
As of version 3.2.1, the only application that can multi-task is Safari. To work around this, most apps are designed to remember where you left off and will attempt to resume the session after you run the app. Some third-party apps that logically require it to run in the background, for instance, IM or Twitter apps, support push notification. When there are new messages, you will be notified by a pop-up window, and you can choose to run the app which will connect online to update the content before they are displayed in the app.
Personally, I find this terribly limiting. It basically means that whatever I do on the current app, I have to finish the session and I cannot run another app at the same time. Some apps developers circumvent this limitation by including a web browser within their app so that the app need not be forced to exit to run the Safari web browser. Other apps developers, for instance, Internet radio apps, pass the radio station link to the Safari web browser so that audio streaming can run in the background, via the web browser, while the user runs other apps (pretend multi-tasking).
7. Wifi without 3G
If you plan to use the iPad wherever you go without worrying about Wifi availability, then you would not regret paying $200 more for the 3G model. In fact, many apps rely on internet connectivity to bring you location-based information and updated news. Connecting online also helps you to work around some of the file-management constraints of the iPad.
At times, I do feel handicapped that I am unable to go online. Fortunately for me, there is a free solution. Joikuspot Light is a free application running on Symbian S60 (and a few other OSes). I have it installed on my Nokia E72 and all I do is to start the app and the E72 instantly becomes a wifi hotspot. This is sufficient for me, although regular use will deplete the E72 battery very fast. iPhone users would not be so lucky, because Apple goes all out to prevent any tethering app to work on the iPhone (unless you jailbreak it).
8. The PC iTunes Software and Sync Reliability Issue
During the first week, I already experienced intermittent synchronisation issues between the iPad and my PC-run iTunes software. Eventually it corrupted the contents in the iPad and I had to restore to factory settings. After searching online for solution, it appears there are some reliability issues arising from the USB connectivity. My advise: don’t trigger the synchronisation process too often when your iPad is plugged to the PC. I guess I must have synced too many times too regularly during the first week as I attempted to download content to the iPad and make frequent changes.
I also do not like the iTunes PC software. Compared to the iPad, the iTunes software is not intuitive to use. Hearing all the accolades of Apple software, the iTunes software is definitely one that Apple should not be proud of (and I hope they can improve on it some day).
9 . USB Docking Cable
Apple’s minimalist design applies even to the USB cable, which is thinner than most PC-based USB cables. The connection port seems fragile and susceptible to damages if plugged at wrong angles. While the design is nice, it doesn’t give me the assurance of durability and ruggedness.
The iPad is a computing device with limited capabilities but unlimited content interactivity. The long battery life, the sleekness of touch controls, the apps that draws limitless and latest information from the world wide web, makes it highly addictive. If you are used to a computer, you have to manage your expectations and to accept the limitations of the iPad. And when you do, the iPad will be your best electronic companion.
The iPad is now available for order at the Singapore Apple online store, so you do not have to queue at the retail shops to get yours.