Sunday, May 30, 2010

Initial Thoughts on the Apple iPad

Thoughts on the iPad
VERDICT: A wonderful tool to 'consume' stuff; but a poor device to 'create' content.

I got an Apple iPad last Thursday, the first day it was made publicly available in Canada nationwide. Initially, I had thought that getting one unit itself will require long waits at the Apple store, or early morning queue ups dominated by Apple fanatics. Though I am not a crazy Apple fan, I was more intrigued by the overall hype over this latest innovation from the iconic computer company. Assuming that all of the iPads were sold out by 4pm, I called an Apple store downtown, and was told that some iPads were still available. Several Bestbuy stores have already sold out their supplies then, except the one near where I live. I rushed down at 4pm. Surprisingly, I managed to snag a 3G version, albeit the one currently most popular in the USA, the 64GB model. The lady, an Apple representative, said that all the units are expected to be sold out the same day. I believed her. In fact, there was even a line up just to check out the demo units in the store. Here are my thoughts on this technological marvel. Here goes:

The iPad 64GB-3G Model
All the iPads come with the same kind of packaging. There are 3 Wifi-only models (16GB, 32GB and 64GB) and 3 Wifi+3G models (16GB, 32GB, 64GB). It has the height and width of a Netbook LCD screen, but is less than half the thickness of a typical Netbook computer. The flat LCD touch screen is a beauty.

1) iPad 'Fits' User; not the other way round
I like way the screen 'fits' me rather than the other way. For example, when the screen is facing me, the screen auto-detects the orientation in either Portrait or Landscape mode, depending on which angle I am holding. If I want my friend sitting opposite me to see it, all I need is to pass it to him in any manner, and the iPad flips without the user needing to do anything.

RESERVATION: Not all applications can flip around as well. Most of the Apple programs such as Safari and iTunes work. However, third party programs are not that consistent.

2) LCD Screen
It is exceedingly beautiful. The wallpapers are superb and the quality of the screen can rival the best LCD screens have to offer. I love the flatness and the crystal clear touch-pad, which responds very accurately to my touch. Compared to palmtops and conventional PDAs, I do not even need to calibrate the LCD Screen.

RESERVATION: I feel that the screen is too bright. Even after adjusting the dimmer to the lowest, I can still find my eyes hurting after prolonged usage. Nevertheless, for eBook readers like the iBooks application that can be freely downloaded, there is an additional dimmer facility which can correct this problem. Another thing is the multiple fingerprints that is visible on the screen. Not a nice picture. Imagine the amount of germs on the screen!

3) Battery
There is a super performance battery. The iPad can last from 8-10 hours (non video viewing) and up to 6 hours if watching a video. Assuming that a typical person has 8 hours, works 8 hours and sleeps 8 hours, this battery meets daily usage. The charger provided is a USB one, which also means that charging can be done using any USB port on any computer.

RESERVATION: Not all USBs are made the same. Neither are the charging methods. The fastest way to recharge the iPad is via the power + USB adapter provided inside the box. The slowest is when the iPad is plugged in the USB port of a computer. Though iPod and iPhone power adapters can also charge the iPad, they are regrettably too slow to make a full charge fast. When using computer USB ports, be prepared to wait for more than 8 hours for a 80% charge. When using the provided power adapter, this figure reduces to 2 hours to reach a 80% charge.

4) All-In-One Digital Viewer
This is an age where people want the maximum feature in the smallest available footprint. The iPad will be cutting into the market of digital photo viewers, as its superb LCD screen is able to professionally display photographs just like any digital photo viewer. In fact, with a suitable stand or holder, the iPad can be transformed into a Digital Clock Radio, sleek and beautiful.

RESERVATION: I prefer to see the next generation of iPads having a small memory chip slot, like a mini-SD or SD slot to expand storage. As many digital cameras nowadays use SD cards, it will be a welcome addition to make space in the iPad for a SD slot. Personally, I think using iTunes for the transfer of photo files is in itself too limiting.

When I first setup the iPad, connection to my router was a breeze. However, soon I encounter that the Wifi connections can become spotty at times. Once, I have to turn the whole iPad off to 'reset' them. After a while, the connections come back, but I feel this feature can be improved.

RESERVATIONS: This is one of the top problems of the iPad currently. From what I know, Wifi problems are more frequent for users who adjust the LCD toward the dimmest setting. I believe Apple is prepare a firmware upgrade soon. Until that happens, be prepared for some moments of frustration.

There is an amazing selection of applications out there. Unfortunately, some of the best programs must be purchased. Apple's Keynote, Pages and Numbers suite of programs are available at $9.99 each. Free ones are not as good, although some are quite well done. Be prepared to see many free apps enticing you to upgrade to one with better features.

RESERVATIONS: Being a new release, it is understandable that developers need time to come up with more. However, I feel that having paid so many hundred of dollars for the iPad, getting users to cough up more money for apps is going to be painful.

When I first held the unit, it is amazingly sleek and initially light. However, prolonged use will make the iPad heavier as our hands and arms start to sore.

RESERVATION: I doubt if this iPad can beat the current Kindle or ebook readers in terms of weight. In fact, the iPad is too glaring for my comfort, even with the iBooks application.

Excellent sound quality. In terms of loudness and various sound effects, the iPad for its size works like a champ. There is also a headphone jack to connect external speakers or other auxiliary devices.

RESERVATION: None as yet.

There are so many ways to connect peripheral devices to the iPad. The Bluetooth feature allows one to use external mouse or full-sized keyboard to work on the iPad. With the 3G facility, one can use the iPad like a GPS when navigating toward our destination.

RESERVATION: One needs to fork out extra money for bluetooth enabled devices. Again, having paid so much for the iPad, I had thought that the pop up keyboard is sufficient. Alas, for me as a fast typist, it is not as good.

I get a feeling that this iPad is more a 'consuming' product rather than a 'creating' machine. In other words, if I simply want to download apps, play games, check my email, browse the Internet, locate maps, read news and all other e-consuming activities, the iPad is great. However, when it comes to editing, creating content, I think the iPad is less capable, unless of course we purchase additional peripherals. As a content creator, I find this a major setback.

For a first release, this iPad certainly exceeds my expectations. It is classy to hold, easy to use and is an extremely versatile digital all-in-one. As long as we use it like a digital encyclopedia of information to use to access the Internet, it is a charm. When it comes to content creation, it gets my thumbs down. This posting is re-written after I lost my first version trying to use the iPad to post my first blog message. Guess what? I type this blog on the old faithful IBM Thinkpad running on Windows XP. That is because, I lost my blog data when the Wifi gets disconnected in the middle of my typing online. Some things are meant to work better offline.

It is a worthwhile buy, if you simply want to browse the Internet quickly without needing to wait for your PC or Mac to bootup. iPad is like the iPhone in many ways. Takes a couple of seconds to boot up and to connect to the Internet. Amazing machine, but if you can wait, I will suggest waiting for the second version that irons out the kinks in the first. I trust the second version will be even better. Otherwise, this iPad is still a worthwhile buy.


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