In a "sun set to rise tomorrow morning" announcement, I can now confirm that, as a convert to the Church of Steve, I bought an iPad on the day of launch. While it may seem like a given to you, wise readers, I had somehow convinced myself in the two days before launch that I did not need a shiny iPad and would wait a few months to buy one. Of course, by 10:30am on the day of launch, after watching the stream of excited tweets from those who had bought one, I grabbed my car keys and heading into town to pick up a 3G iPad.
In order to put it through its paces, I decided to leave my laptop at home a few weeks ago while we were on holiday for a week. The iPad would be the closest thing to a computer I'd have access to. (Well, Andrew did have his MacBook, should all hell break loose and access to our webservers was needed for some reason, but the aim was to steer clear of it.)
As soon as I opened the box and sync'ed the iPad with iTunes for the first, I simply couldn't put it down. After a day and a half of non-stop use, the battery still had plenty of juice. Since then, the battery seems to have gotten even better with a few full cycles.
I expected the worst of the keyboard, and it's nearly as bad as I thought. I can type at a fair pace on it, almost as fast as I do on a normal keyboard. It's miles better than my first eee PC, which had a ridiculously awkward keyboard. The hiccup is that I have to look at my fingers. As a result, I'll be getting an external Bluetooth keyboard of some sort soon.
I left for the holiday with a half-read paperback of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I knew I'd finish reading it within mere days, but I was too late to grab a copy of the two following titles (The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) before going away so I picked up a copy for the Amazon Kindle, a bit wary of reading on screen.
It turned out to be a great read while indoors or outside in the evening. Even with polarised sunglasses out in the sun, it was just about usable - though only in landscape mode as the screen "disappeared" when in portrait mode, as is often the case with polarised lenses. I wouldn't have been keen to take it to sandy beaches or too close to the pool (but then I don't do beaches anyway!) whereas I wouldn't have been too fussed to see a paperback get wet or covered in sunscreen.
The Kindle reader is, to date, my favourite of the available eBook readers. It has a huge selection of popular, current titles and all paid books I've downloaded to date have been well formatted. Much of the Project Gutenberg books are also available, but generally not very well laid out.
It probably won't replace paperback novels on holiday, but certainly will be the end of carrying books - whether business or leisure reading - on long train journeys.
I didn't have very high expectations for upscaled iPhone apps, but most look good enough that they're usable. They're obviously no match for the iPad-specific apps that take advantage of the larger real estate, but until these become more common, many of the games and useful apps work fine in 2x mode. Some of the games would benefit from simply rotating to be the "right" way around for an iPad used in its protective case, and are progressively being updated.
I can't really comment on using 3G as the Apple Store didn't have the Three SIMs when I came in store, but I can already tell that it'll be very useful. There certainly isn't ubiquitous wifi around here, so 3G will make the iPad useful when travelling around the UK.
Favourite iPad apps
[Note: None of the links are directly to iTunes, since iTunes link are a bit annoying. Most links are to the developer site or app announcement.]
- Evernote is incredibly swish in iPad version and as useful as ever
- The Amazon Kindle app makes for easy reading
- NewsRack is an excellent local RSS reader, sync'ed with my Google Reader account
- Weather Pro HD looks fabulous and provides an overdose of weather data my husband really loves
- Things, a to-do list app, looks great if you need a slick but simple app that can sync with your Mac and iPhone's lists, though I admit that I haven't bought this one
- GoodReader and DropBox work brilliantly hand-in-hand - find the file you put in your DropBox, then view it in GoodReader
Much to my disappointment, I've yet to find a Twitter client I'm satisfied with. Tweetdeck is hopeless and crashes regularly, Twitterific makes poor use of space and the other options also haven't won my heart.
I also hope a grocery delivery company like Tesco creates a good iPad app for food ordering - however, as they can barely get the web-based ordering to look good, I'm not getting my hopes up just yet.
Favourite iPad games
Well, what? You didn't think I'd gone all grown up on you, did you? Of course, I've always loved iPhone games, from the simplest to the quirkiest, so some of my first downloads were game apps.
Some of the early HD games I picked up include:
- The Flight Control classic in HD, still as much fun
- Harbor Master HD, a variation on the above with boats instead of planes
- Plants vs Zombies, a strong Pop Cap game
- Cosmo Kid, a super simple yet beautiful game created by a Cambridge local
- Air Hockey, a game I love in the real world and in its virtual version
There are also a few good contenders for 2x gaming (using the double size button to play iPhone games on a larger scale), including Fare City and Fruit Ninja. If either of these come out with a gameplay variation for iPhone, I have no doubt they'll be great fun.
Where I view it being useful
In the past few years, I've often lugged my very heavy MacBook Pro in its (lovely but also heavy) brown leather and pink satin Lin & Leo bag to London for the day. Getting home at night, I'd feel completely lopsided with a sore back. Yet, my laptop would have had very little use in the meetings - so little in fact that I wondered whether to take it at all.
With the iPad, equipped with the super-useful DropBox app, I can have access to all the key files I need that day - just in case. With the SIM giving me Internet access anywhere, I can stay on top of things in a way that's more comfortable than by pecking at the iPhone keyboard. By leaving my phone alone, it also means that I don't burn down the (less impressive) iPhone battery and can still call home on the return journey to ask my husband to put a bottle of wine in the fridge.
Beyond navel-gazing at my own needs, I can see the iPad being a game changer for people who like to browse the web while watching TV - which seems to be most of my generation. It's a cracking screen for browsing and effortless to use as there's no learning curve for software.
I'd be curious to hear about the favourite apps and most interesting use you've been making of the iPad. What drove you crazy Mac people to get one too? If you don't have one, do you think it's all hot air or are you green with envy?
In the meantime, I'll look forward to iOS4 for the iPad, to see how much multitasking and the new fine touches we're seeing on the iPhone will add to the user experience.