Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Weekend with the iPad: A Review

Last week the University had a sale for all University Staff and Faculty on Apple products:  no sales tax.  It was a perfect excuse to get an iPad.  I've wanted one for quite some time, and finally, after my wife had a chance to play with one the weekend before, I was given the OK to plop down the cash to get one.  So, on Tuesday morning at 7:20 AM I got in line for an iPad.  In line is right, there were over 50 people in front of me, and it seems that the Bookstore sold out of all the iPads by the time I got to the register.  But I was able to get one on order.  It was the longest week of my life, waiting for the iPad, but it finally came in on Friday. 

It's much smaller than I thought it would be, with the surrounding bezel smaller than I thought I remembered seeing on the device Steve Jobs showed in January.  It is also very hefty, feeling very solid.  I thought I might have needed a hard external case for the iPad, but it the device is solid enough I don't worry about it now.  The only thing I would be concerned with is scratching the glass, which can be fixed with a good screen cover. 

So what was the purpose for purchasing one?  Well, I had a laptop that was a G4 Powerbook, and it was starting to show it's age.  The battery didn't run long enough for me to be able to do anything while going to work.  And mostly I just wanted to write or play games while listening to music.  I could play games and listen to music with my iPod Touch, but I couldn't for the life of me get any writing done.  The screen was too small to type well, and so many ideas would be lost in the frustration of trying to type it out with my thumbs (I am not a texter, and therefore I have no aptitude for texting).  I wanted something larger that could take the place of my Powerbook and fulfill those needs. 

Well, I did look at a Netbook for a long time, thinking I could use one, but they have one problem:  their clamshell design.  Not that huge of an issue, unless you are sitting in a cramped seat on the bus and want to type,  The clamshell monitor cannot open far enough for me to see what I'm typing, and while I can touch-type pretty well, I would rather not guess at what I am writing.  So that idea was thrown out.  I wanted a tablet like the iPod Touch, but with more space. 

Finally, I got the iPad.  My first impression using the Notes app was that it was amazingly easy to type on, as long as I didn't used my pinkies.  That's because the Shift key isn't quite where it should be for a normal sized keyboard.  But, as I only need it for some punctuation and capitals (which Apple's spell check often fixes), I don't worry about it too much.  And if I really need a full-sized keyboard while on a long trip (like on Vacation), I can use a bluetooth keyboard paired with it.  And I like the fact that I don't need to worry about the hard drive failing, keys being picked off by my son, or any other such nonsense that comes with moving parts.  A capacitive multitouch screen is perfect for traveling.

But the real thing that makes the iPad, or any new device, is the software.  I tried running native iPhone apps on the iPad, but most were very pixelated, looking terrible in general.  So I limited them down to those that looked the best from what I had, and started looking for iPad specific apps. 


I sing in a choir, and often I have trouble turning pages on music.  Ever since I first saw the iPad, I thought how great it would be to be able to have it display music for me.  Of course, I would need to have a way to scan in my music and use it, preferably as a PDF.  But it should be much more than a PDF viewer, because I need to be able to make annotations directly on the iPad while I'm practicing.  ForScore does all that, and gives me a metronome that is silent (visual outline that blinks to the time) so I can keep on beat.  All in all, it's a great app.

Pocket Legends

Some games are pretty basic on the iPhone and iPad.  Some have fantastic graphics and 3D effects.  And still many say that an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game would be too restrictive on the iPad.  Well, as a proof of concept, I present Pocket Legends.  This is everything I have wanted in an MMO, including the option to quest alone (you start your own quest, password protect it, then continue from there).  It's great because it shows just what the iPad is capable of doing with the right hardware in place.  Honestly, I see the possibility of a true 3D Second Life or WOW client being made for the iPad...  if someone makes the effort, that is.

Cloud Readers

This is a great PDF reader app, and solves a problem I have with iBooks:  it will only read ePub files, and I have some PDF eBooks.  And while I can't read encrypted PDF's with the Adobe DRM in this app, I can read all my other PDF's just fine.  It's a great little app, and I'm glad to have it. 

eBook Readers

I love to read, when I have the time, and so I tend to collect large libraries of books.  The problem is, I want to have them with me wherever I go, and so far I don't have the backpack big enough to fulfill this need.  So I have been downloading and purchasing eBooks for many of my reading needs.  I started on my iPod, and it worked great, though I couldn't see a lot of the book at once.  I really wanted to have more of a view of each book, and so the iPad makes eBook reading nice.  Don't get me wrong, I loved reading on the iPod, I just like being able to use the full real estate on the iPad for reading as well. 

Of my eBook readers, I think I like iBooks the most for the experience, Kobo for the night reading option (black background with white text seems to be easier to read for me), and I like the Kindle for overall device compatibility (syncing).  Kobo offers that as well in it's fashion, as will iBooks when iPhone 4.0 comes to market.  I would love to see a Stanza iPad-native app come soon, though, as Stanza was my favorite eBook reader on the iPod Touch. 

So that's a quick outline of some of the many iPad Apps I've found useful in their full real estate glory.  I'm looking forward to seeing quite a few new apps in various areas replace the iPod apps I currently use because they do not have a satisfactory replacement. 

But needless to say, I see tablets like the iPad quickly taking over much of our mobile experience, relegating the Notebook to either replace the Desktop, or breathing new life into the Desktop platform. And I like my iPad.  ^_^

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