Friday, June 4, 2010

iPad Review

At my work, our department is starting to do some iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch development. This week I had the opportunity to check-out a company iPad to bring home and play with. They want employees to get better aquainted with the device, and who was I to argue?

I brought home the device, hooked it to my computer, then installed pretty much everything that I normally have on my iPhone (my apps, music, and videos). I checked w/ my boss to get the "OK" before doing so, of course. Before I took it back I restored it to the factory settings, wiping out all my personal data.

The result: for about a day I had an iPad with the exact configuration as if I had purchased one myself.

Most of the iPhone apps were as I expected: exactly the same as on the iPhone, but with the option to double the size. Peggle and Sudoku were a little pixelated, but fun to play on a bigger screen.

The iPad-specific apps were very interesting to explore. The extra real estate provided by the larger screen makes a huge difference. There are a lot of improved user interface controls that just aren't feasible on the iPhone's small screen. Apps like Safari, Notes, Calendar, and Email are beautifully improved.

Let's take Safari as an example. The larger screen means that you can keep the controls (address bar, search, next, back, etc.) constantly on the screen instead of scrolling them off like the iPhone does. That alone is a huge improvement in convenience! The larger screen also means you can get more webpage in at a time (less scrolling required).

I've always been impressed with the way Apple works to refine the user experience. The iPhone felt like having The FutureTM in my hands, and the iPad just improves on it. It's the little things that make the difference. I find it amusing that one of the "little" changes is making the screen bigger.

Some people have complained that the iPad is just a big iPod Touch. While this is basically true, I think it really misses the mark. To draw an analogy, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle isn't just an oversized moped. The UI changes "under the hood" alone make the device more than what it appears at first glance.

Probably my favorite feature of the iPad (and my iPhone for that matter) is the "instant on": when you press the home button it's ready to go. No need to wait around for the OS to boot up like on my laptop. If I want some information, to play a quick game, or to check email, the device is ready immediately. And the battery supports this model of use.

If I owned one, I'd primarly keep it on the end tables next to the couch and next to the bed. I'd use it as a convenience device more than anything. But in the end, it unfortunately falls into the category of "luxury item". I want one in the same vein as wanting any other new toy.

My wife also played with the iPad and also liked it. She basically agreed that it is a neat device, but not something we need to rush out and buy.

I can easily see how the iPad could be a perfect fit for some people. For example, someone who just wants to get their email and do some light web surfing. Someone who doesn't need to do much content creation but is a content consumer. Because the interfaces are so good, I could see it being great for a parent or grandparent who isn't so hip to computers.

So in summary, the iPad is a wonderful device. I love it and totally want one, but I don't have a real need for one. Maybe someday I'll get one, but probably not in the near future (I'm focusing instead on getting a new iPhone to replace my 1st-gen one).