I have officially had an iPad for 3 or 4 weeks now, and I am ready to weigh in with my thoughts. I know that the iPad 2 isn’t new, and has been talked about to death, but that doesn’t mean you won’t learn something new.
I had long pondered purchasing an iPad. Last fall I was fully intent on getting one when the iPad 2 was released, but when the 11-inch MacBook Air was announced I decided it was more what I was looking for and bought one1. I still love my MacBook Air and think it’s the best computer I have ever owned, but after hearing the constant talk about the iPad, and the iPad-only apps people were always talking about, and a few months ago I started to get anxious. My wife bought a 16 GB iPad 2 WiFi about a month after launch, and while she loved it, she regretted not picking up the 3G version because the places she frequents don’t have WiFi available. So we decided we could kill two birds with one stone, and she picked up the 3G model and gave me the WiFi version.
After fairly frequent use, my initial thought is: believe the hype.
The iPad 2 is a well put together device. It feels solid, its relatively easy to hold and looks magnificent. The theory that it’s just a big iPhone2 is true, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Leo Laporte constantly refers to the iPad as a “content consumption” device, and he’s right. I would classify the iPhone the same way. I often pick up my iPhone when sitting on the couch to check e-mail or Twitter, mostly because its quick and easy and such a pleasant experience. The iPad is just a better version of this. When I am in the mood to read some RSS feeds, the iPad is the best experience for it. I also find myself (again) watching more video podcasts, because it’s so easy to setup the iPad wherever I am (kitchen, office, bedroom) and watch crisp video on 2x speed. Also, Flipboard is such a different and enriching experience as a way to consume Twitter (and the links posted to it) that I find myself constantly looking for new ways to use it, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet.
I purchased a Smart Cover and thus far I am undecided on whether or not that was a wise decision. Don’t get me wrong, the Smart Cover is a great piece of engineering, and I love the auto-unlock/lock and the way that it can be used as vertical or lap stand. But part of me wishes I would have looked more into what else was out there before I plunked down the $40. I still haven’t figured out what my ultimate plans are for the iPad, but even with the Smart Cover, if I am going to stick it in my bag to regularly take places I would probably get a sleeve or something.
The iPad isn’t perfect though. Most of my gripes are minor, but they are still gripes. The iPad allows iPhone-only apps to be run in a windowed mode, or blown up to run pixel doubled as full screen apps. When using the iPad in landscape mode these iPhone apps use their built-in orientation, which means if they are portrait they stay portrait. The only reason this bugs me is because there is so much room to flip the window and show them in “iPhone portrait mode” but orientated properly for iPad landscape. The apps would still easily fit and would make a lot of sense since as far as I can tell every iPad designed app runs in portrait and landscape.
Speaking of landscape, while I understand the reasoning behind putting the Home button at the bottom in portrait orientation to match the iPhone, I have used the iPad in landscape 98% of the time. I often wonder what the reasoning was to not put the home button in the bottom of landscape mode.
Another minor gripe has been my inability to mute the device. I am sure I am missing something, but from what I can tell the only way to fully mute the device is to enable the setting that allows the side toggle switch to be used as a mute button, then flipping it into mute mode. But I prefer to keep the switch configured as the orientation lock. When I do this though, I can’t seem to mute the iPad. Even if I turn the volume all the way down, sounds seem to ring out anyway.
The most talked-about negative with the iPad has been anything that requires a keyboard. I have used the built-in keyboard to send IMs, tweets and a couple of short e-mails, but nothing more than that. I can’t imagine writing blog posts or longer e-mails on the touch keyboard, but it certainly could be done in a pinch. I haven’t yet hooked up my Bluetooth keyboard, but based on my experience using it with my iPhone, I am sure it will make a huge difference.
Overall I have been very happy with the iPad, but I am still struggling to fit into my workflow consistently. I mostly keep it around when my wife and I are watching TV (which usually means I am not on my computer) for the occasional check of Twitter or Facebook. I can see it fitting in perfectly as a vacation computer since it’s small, and generally all I want to do on a vacation is consume media rather than create it. The extended battery life likely helps in that regard too. Also, even though $500 is nothing to scoff at, I would feel much worse if something happened to my computer vs. my iPad.
I would say if you are on the fence about picking up an iPad as a supplemental device, go for it. I was definitely satisfied in that regard. I don’t think it could replace a computer for most people unless you rarely need to type anything more than a few sentences. I think it’s obvious this is a revolutionary device, and in 5 years I expect computers to look more like the iPad, than the MacBook Pro.