Yes, I know I’ve been slobbering over this gadget the way John Scalzi slobbers over bacon (mmm, bacon …), and that I bought the thing on launch day even after I’d said I’d wait a while before diving in, so I’m hardly going to be considered an impartial source. I am, however, really and truly going to try to be as objective as possible when evaluating the positives and negatives of the iPad (and there are some negatives). Overall, I consider it to be a winner, but your needs/wants/desires may skew differently from mine, so what is “Cool-wow-ZOMG!” for me may be a big fat steaming pile of “Meh” for you. I’m hopeful this review can help you figure that out.
I’ve had the 64 gig wi-fi only version of the iPad for about a day as I write this (Sunday afternoon before heading over to my mom’s house for an Easter dinner). I probably won’t publish this until Monday morning so more people will have a chance to see it (I don’t post much on weekends because I’m busy and you’re busy and we all have better things to do than read blog posts, don’t we?).
Updating my website
I’m writing this on my HP desktop PC and not the iPad. Why is that?
I’m sure you’ve all heard that the iPad doesn’t multitask (it does, sort of, but not in the way that you’re probably thinking). When most people talk about multitasking in relation to the iPad, they mean they can’t play Pandora radio while working on a document in Pages (though you can play music from your iPod app), or can’t flip from a game to the browser without closing the game first. Those are both correct, and somewhat legitimate grievances. The reason I’m not writing this on the iPad (though after this paragraph I think I’m going to try it just to see how it works) is that if I want to insert a link to another page, there’s no way for me to open another browser tab or window. Which means backing out of where I am, finding the page I need, copying the link, re-opening the WordPress admin system for my site, selecting this page for editing … you get the idea. It’s more of a hassle than doing it the “old fashioned” way.
Switching to the iPad in 3 … 2 … 1 …
[later that day ...]
Well, attempting to update this site from the iPad was an exercise in epic fail. It seems that through the Safari browser the admin section of the site is viewed as a regular web page and can’t be edited. I can pinch-zoom and expand, etc., but can’t make the virtual keyboard appear in order to input text.
I did find a WordPress app for the iPad and will try to use that later. But for now I’m still using the PC.
The good news? It looks like multitasking will soon be on its way to the iPad courtesy of the iPhone OS 4.0 (the iPad runs the touch-oriented iPhone operating system and not Mac OS X). The iPhone is getting multitasking this June, so I would guess that the iPad will get it concurrently or soon after.
This thing is fast. It’s instantly on when you tap the home button. Browsing is fast, scrolling is fast, flipping pages is fast, downloading books and apps is fast. Starting a movie is … well, you get the idea. It’s just fast fast fast.
The pinch-to-zoom or double-tap-to-zoom feature is great (and identical to the iPhone). Is a section of a webpage a little too small? Double-tap it or pinch it open to better fill the screen. And the text, even at maximum size, is ultra-crisp and clear.
Almost all of the 150,000+ iPhone and iPod Touch apps will work on the iPad (but let’s face it, there is a lot of crap in the gigantic number). However, there are a number of apps already out custom-designed for the iPad and they’re a smiling stack of super-win.
My favorites are USA Today, the New York Times, and the NPR apps. (Yeah, I like news.) The navigation and ease-of-use of these sites is kind of startling in that it’s so effortless you almost don’t realize how much thought must have gone into them to make them that way. I downloaded a few games designed for the iPad but I’m not really a gamer and lose interest after a couple of minutes but I’ll just say that the larger size alone should make them a pleasurable experience (who said size doesn’t matter?).
iBooks vs. the Kindle app vs. a Kindle Reader
I have iBooks and the Kindle app on the iPad, and my sister-in-law has an actual Kindle Reader, so I got to compare all three at my mom’s for Easter dinner.
I’m just going to get this out of the way: the Kindle Reader is a piece of shit. I don’t know why anyone would pay a couple of hundred dollars for this crap. It’s awful, just awful. E-ink may be good for reading in direct sunlight but it’s a low contrast shitty display in 99% of “normal” reading conditions (i.e., indoors under normal lighting conditions). The screen is too damn small for a single-purpose device designed for reading. The page-turning on this thing is beta-level atrocious. You depress a hard-key to turn the page, the entire monochrome page (no color here) reverses itself so that the background becomes black and the text becomes white (!!!), it all fades out, fades back in still reversed (double!!!), then, finally, becomes normal black-on-white text.
Holy shit is it bad.
This is my sis-in-law’s second Kindle, so it’s a standard part of the software and not a bug. I am entirely dismissive of this device. Navigation with a little joystick-like trackpad is terrible, and feels even more so after using the iPad’s touch interface.
The Kindle Reader is dead after this. There’s no way in hell anyone is going to pay money for a device that does one thing only and does it in a completely shitty way compared to the iPad. Kindle Reader = extinct technology. The software may survive, but the hardware is toast.
[Edit: Apparently the bizarre page transition is due to e-ink's lack of a refresh (which is why it is theoretically easier on the eyes). Since it doesn't refresh, the page needs to be cleared before the next page can be displayed. Ereaders "clear" themselves with a negative screen flash. The Nook apparently does this too. But even knowing why, it still sucks.]
(My sis-in-law is now dying for an iPad and is officially disgusted with her Kindle after seeing how much better is can and should be.)
Enough about that.
The Kindle app on the iPad is much better than the Reader software. It looks more like the iBooks reader with touch controls over text, access to a hyperlinked table of contents, the ability to flip through pages with a flick or touch of your finger, or by using a slider that appears at the bottom of the page when you touch a blank area of the screen. You can also bookmark pages for easy reference later.
It doesn’t have a built-in dictionary, which is a shame, because that’s one of the coolest features in the iBooks app. When you’re reading a book, you can tap on virtually any word and a menu bar appears. One of the options gives you the dictionary definition of the word — the other options are to bookmark the word or search for the word in other parts of the text. The search results also let you carry them over to either Google or Wikipedia.
The advantage to the Kindle app at the moment is that it has a larger selection of books. I wanted to buy David Louis Edelman’s Infoquake — it’s not available through iBooks but was through the Kindle store. I’m sure that this will even out over time (I was, after all, trying to buy this on Day One of the iPad), but for now it’s an advantage for the Kindle.
The keyboard is okay for finger-pecking in portrait mode and I can almost type normally when it’s in landscape mode, but I’m still a lot slower than with a regular keyboard. I’m going to give it a few weeks to see (a) how much I need the keyboard for long bits of input, and (b) how proficient I get, but I will probably get Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard just to have the option.
I am writing this comic book section with the WordPress app for the iPad. The keyboard is still more hunt-and-peck but I think I’ll get accustomed to it over time.
I haven’t read comics/graphic novels since I was a teenager, with the exception of Watchmen, which I picked up in anticipation of Zack Snyder’s slavish but ultimately disappointing movie version.
I’d read that Marvel’s app was pretty great, so I got it. I downloaded a few free comics and checked them out.
I like it. I like it a lot.
The colors and depth on this are vibrant. Blacks are inky, which can be an issue with LCD panels. When you open an issue, a full page fills the screen. But that can make the dialog bubbles rather small.
If you tap on one of the smaller panels on the page, that panel expands to fill the entire page. Flicking through with your fingers transitions from panel to panel. There are also dialogue hot spots so that when there are multiple bits of dialog on a panel, scrolling moves from one dialogue bubble to the next in the proper sequence.
I read an issue of the New Avengers while eating breakfast. It was easy to hold up the iPad on the table at the correct angle for reading while munching some cereal. (No bacon, sorry.) When I put my spoon down I just flicked to the next panel and kept going. It was easy and natural and not awkward in the least.When the iPad case becomes available in a few weeks this will get even easier as it can prop the device upright so you don’t have to hold it.
While there are shortcomings in the iPad (I can hear that gasps of horror! You mean after all the hype it’s not absolutely perfect?!), none of them in any way come close to outweighing the advantages of this device. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s cool, and yeah, it can help you be productive if you want to (I have Pages — the touchscreen word processor part of iWorks — but haven’t had time to play with it yet. This is another place where a keyboard will probably be useful).
Will it replace my desktop? No, but neither was it designed to. It will almost certainly become my primary web browser. It won’t replace buying books at a store, but I will certainly purchase books through both bookstores.
I love it, and don’t regret the purchase for a minute. Check it out for yourself and decide if one is right for you. But I’m going to warn you, once you play with an iPad it’s hard not to fall in love.