If you have any interest at all in the iPad, you’ve likely read plenty of reviews and maybe even played with one at your local Apple Store. I know I read everything I could get my hands on, from reviews to pontifications on what the iPad means to the future of computing. But still, nothing I read gave me a sense of what it is like to bring an iPad home for the first time. Maybe that’s a good thing. It probably indicates that the reviewers took the time to live with the device for a while before writing about it. Since that ground has already been covered (copiously), I’m going to concentrate on the first 24 hours of iPad ownership.
Out of the box, the iPad doesn’t do a whole lot. Maybe that’s not fair. It does have great photo and video apps that take advantage of everything the iPad’s screen has to offer. But there isn’t much you can do to explore those apps until you sync with you computer. At that point, if you’re an iPhone owner, iTunes will also sync your full compliment of apps. Since the iPad has been available for a couple months, a few of my iPhone apps have been updated to include iPad support, including Amazon’s Kindle app. (Another universal app is Strategery, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to let you use the same account on two devices.)
When I first saw the iPad in person, I was amazed by the screen. There is, indeed, something visceral about interacting directly with your content. While I don’t want to downplay how amazing it is to wrap your arms around the web with the iPad, as a recent iPhone 4 purchaser I can say that you most definitely can tell that you are looking at a screen with lower pixel density. Where the iPhone 4 looks like text on paper, the iPad just looks like a really nice screen. I can imagine how amazing a future “Retina Display” toting iPad will be.
The screen is bright enough and has a wide-enough viewing angle that it is still comfortable to read while laying it flat to type. I’m writing this in the $10 Pages app—sitting on my couch with my legs* stretched out and the iPad in my lap (just where my laptop would be). When holding the iPad in your hands, typing is a strange experience. The iPhone owner in me wants to type with my thumbs, but that doest quite cut it with the iPad. I think John Gruber covered most of this on DaringFireball.net, but I can’t seem to track down the entry at the moment. Typing while holding the iPad is something I’m still working out, but laying the iPad down in landscape mode (with its nearly full sized keyboard) is actually rather enjoyable. Thanks in no small part to iOS’s autocorrection feature.
Aside from sometimes missing the delete key high (and therefore hiding the keyboard) and the spacebar low (meaning I have to try again), I find the on-screen keyboard perfectly acceptable for composing documents, even relatively long emails. I drafted this post in Pages, as I mentioned above, and aside from copying the text into WordPress and adding images, it’s presented here as created on my iPad. Judge for yourself if using the iPad affected the number if typos or the quality of the writing.
I’d read that many developers were using the iPad as an opportunity to sell at higher prices than iPhone apps (which seem to gravitate around $0.99). In limited searching, this most definitely seems to be the case. Developers should certainly charge whatever they want (or need) to charge, and I don’t see it as being an ongoing problem for me, but when you are staring at a mostly blank home screen or looking for iPad equivalents to your favorite iPhone apps, it can be both a daunting and expensive proposition. For instance, after spending $40 on Things for Mac and $10 on Things for iPhone, I won’t likely drop the $20 for the iPad version anytime soon.
On the other hand, there are some free iPad apps, and perhaps the introduction of iAds will bring about even more.
I had hoped to avoid buying Pages, because I figured I would never use the more-advanced word-processing features, but I didn’t find anything quite like I wanted in the App Store, and I was curious to see what Apple had done with Pages. It’s a nice app, and definitely a good first step to bridging the gap between the mobile and desktop.
One thing I didn’t realize was the level of parental control available. While it surely could be improved, it is a great and necessary feature. Invoked within the settings app after defining a four-digit numerical password, it let’s you restrict access to Safari, Mail, in-app purchasing, the App Store and explicit content in music, movies, etc. This is not only handy if you have little ones around, but also if your iPad is being passed around a room for people to play with. Though perhaps you would want to allow Safari access in such a situation.
I definitely miss iOS 4’s multitasking, and I look forward to getting the iPad update later this year. I’ve read the theories on why the iPad debuted without iOS 4, and they make sense (for one thing, the iPad came out a couple months before the iPhone 4 and iOS 4). But as to why the update won’t cone for so many months, I’ll have to chock it up to one of the great many mysteries of major software development. All I know is that I wish I had it now.
Like the iPhone, the iPad screen breeds smudges, but unlike the iPhone, you can’t just rub it on your shirt to clear the smudges. Well, I suppose you can if you wear really, really big shirts. Anyway, if you don’t like smudges, invest in a cloth and keep it handy.
Twenty-four hours in, the iPad has been great, and I’m looking forward to getting to know my iPad better over the coming weeks and seeing where Apple and third-party developers take the platform.
*Thanks to @richmondmom for pointing out a typo (kegs instead of legs). That’s strike one for writing on the iPad (or I need to proof better).