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4 days with the iPad

April 10th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted in Geek, Uncategorized, tech

I tweeted (and cross-posted to Facebook) the fact that bought an iPad a few days ago.  A few folks asked for my thoughts on it.  Rather than email everybody individually, I figured this would be the best place to publish my thoughts on the device.  This will not be an exhaustive review, the web abounds with those this week.  Start here if you’re looking for very detailed analysis.

Overall, I’m fairly smitten with the device (32GB WiFi-Only version, BTW).  I find myself using the iPad for the following activities:

Web Browsing

Email

There is nothing really sexy about the email app, but it’s definitely serviceable.  The biggest plus I’ve had with it thus far is more of a compliment for Google.  My mail, calendar and contacts are all part of my Google account.  I had already set everything up once before (to sync with my iPhone), so getting everything on the iPad took only a few minutes.  Both Jen and I keep our Google Calendars up-to-date and shared with each other, which adds tremendously to family harmony.  Having a consistent view of mail, contacts and calendar across my desktop, iPhone and iPad is pretty bitchin’.

News

Web Browsing is very pleasant.  The first thing I noticed here is how incredibly fast it is.  For a device with a 1GHz processor and only 256MB of RAM, it smokes.  Most major news organizations have built custom applications for the iPad.  I’ve only tried the NPR and BBC applications.  I’ve been less impressed with the NPR app, but the BBC application is pretty nice.

If you’re the kind of person that still consumes a lot of news via RSS (news feeds), the NetNewsWire application is pretty nice ($10).  The benefit of this application (versus using Google Reader via it’s standard web page interface) is that NetNewsWire will let you view webpages linked from the feed without having to leave the app and launch Safari.

Social “Stuff”

I find that Twitter is starting to replace Google Reader as my default source for surfacing the day’s news.  I’m using Twitterrific (free version) as my default Twitter client on the iPad.  So far, I’ve got no complaints.  I’ve also heard that TweetDeck is nice, but haven’t taken it for a spin yet.

I don’t spend a ton of time on Facebook and I haven’t seen an iPad-specific version yet.  Any facebookin’ that I do currently on iPad is via Safari.  It works, but is not optimal.  The current Facebook interface is not optimized for browsing with a touch-device.  The buttons and links are just a bit too small to be clicked via a big (some would say fat) finger like mine.  The current iPhone Facebook application is fantastic…my hope is that they release a version for the iPad that leverages the larger screen.

Entertainment

IPTV

The two applications that have gotten the most use thus far are Netflix and ABC.  Both applications are fantastic.  I believe a Hulu application is in the works.  Clearly the world is going this way, and the iPad is shaping up to be a great video consumption device.

Games

This is a great gaming platform.  I’ve download a half-dozen games (Plants-v-Zombies, Minigore HD, We Rule, Let’s Golf among others) and have been very impressed with quality of the games.  I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, as more and more kids are getting iPod Touches as gaming devices.

Music

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the iPad is a very capable iPod.  iTunes and the iPod application work as you would expect.  What I love more than that is Pandora….oh sweet, sweet Pandora.  The only negative currently is that you can’t have Pandora running in the background (something the iPod application conveniently gets away with).  I believe this should all be rectified when iPhone OS 4 is released for the iPad in the fall.

Comics

I’ve never been much of a Comic Book guy…but Ethan is in a major super hero mode these days so comics have been creeping their way into my life.  We installed the Marvel Comics app and I’ve got to say, it’s awesome.  It’s free and there are a half-dozen comics that you can also download for free.  Paid comics are either $1 or $2.

eBook Reading

iBooks

iBooks is Apple’s default application.  I’ve not purchased a book yet, but have downloaded a few of the free books (made possible by Project Gutenberg).  The iBook application is very nice.  You can customize typeface, size, brightness and a host of other items to ensure that you can find a setting that’s comfortable for your eyes.

Amazon Kindle

I have purchased a few Kindle books (they have a software version of Kindle for iPhones and desktops/laptops).  The Kindle app for the iPad works well.  It’s not quite as awesome as iBooks, but it gets the job done and I like the fact that it keeps everything in sync (last page read, etc) across all my devices.

PDF’s

I already have a fairly significant investment in technical eBooks, the majority of which are in PDF format.  I bought the $1 GoodReader app, and it is amazing.  I actually keep all my PDF eBooks in my DropBox account, which GoodReader integrates with.  Everyone has to work with PDFs on a regular basis, pay the $1 and get GoodReader.

Expensive Children’s Toy

Ethan is cut from the same cloth as his father and is infatuated with the iPad.  We have watched a few movies from Netflix (Iron Giant and Scooby Doo), checked out a few comics and downloaded some educational games.  While I do not endorse procuring $500+ items for 3-year-olds, it has proved effective and entertaining with adult supervision.

Final Thoughts

Should you rush out and buy an iPad?  It depends.  If you were already considering purchasing an eBook reader like the Kindle or Nook, I would get the iPad.  While you could argue that the Kindle is a bit easier on the eyes, I don’t think that it justifies the cost considering reading books is all it can do.  The iPad is a very good eBook reader along with all of the things listed above at which it excels.

I have the follow computing devices at home: iMac, MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone.  Clearly this is not going to replace my phone.  I also have a need to have a nice desktop that I can get “real work” done with.  What I see the iPad putting the squeeze on is my MacBook Pro.  While I think that I will still want a laptop in some fashion (the iPad’s software keyboard is nice, but I wouldn’t want to work on it all day), I believe that the few times that I’ll need it going forward, I could get by with something much less expensive than an MBP…maybe something like a Linux-based Netbook.

The part that really has me excited about the launch of the iPad is that I believe it has set the bar for what to expect from a tablet device.  I believe that this will play out exactly in the same way as the launch of the iPhone.  Everyone else in this space will have to bring their A-game and within 2-3 years, you should see a decent crop of tablet devices that *may* rival the iPad in features/functions and most likely be less expensive, at which time a much-larger percentage of the populous will be adopting these devices.

The iPad can only be considered a primary computing device for the least-demanding web consumers.  For everyone else, it’s a fantastic secondary device.  If you already have a family computer, but would like something portable that can be shared by other family-members, the iPad is a good bet.

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