Monday, April 5, 2010

Things about the iPad you may not realize

Just yesterday I had the chance to play with the new iPad device. I must thank Peter (the big brain behind TUN3R and Milk Crater) who drove down to Buffalo to get one on Saturday.

So does the iPad live up to the hype? Well, there's no point in answering that question. Everyone who has an iPhone or iPod Touch probably has a preconceived notion of what it's like. Anyone who doesn't have an iPhone or iPod Touch either is unaware of how great it is, or is a contrarian. Plus, everyone who's curious already understands the major capabilities of the iPad and what it can generally do. So, instead of running down that boring stuff, I'll point out the little things that I wasn't expecting:

First off, the weight and dimensions of the iPad were pretty much in line with what I assumed it would look and feel like. It very much is a giant iPhone, but there are some minor departures. For example, the home button at the bottom has a crisper feel to it than on the iPhone. Very subtle, but definitely noticeable. It's a reminder that Apple really takes "meatspace" seriously.

The device also feels more natural oriented in landscape than in portrait, which is opposite to how I prefer to use my iPhone. What's neat is that you can switch between landscape and portrait while on the desktop. Compare this to the iPhone which forces the desktop to always be in portrait mode. Another neat feature is that you can lock your current orientation, which is something I wish I could do on the iPhone.

I'm impressed with the sound quality. It's not a big speaker, but for such a small device it's got surprisingly good fidelity even at high volume. Once I get my own iPad, I'll definitely be using it to listen to Internet Radio (through TUN3R of course) in the kitchen while cleaning up after dinner, or over breakfast in the morning.

The keyboard continues to be a weak spot for Apple. While it is fairly large (and a huge improvement over the iPhone keyboard), I felt I couldn't touch type with it and eventually found hunting-and-pecking to be more natural. Furthermore, because the device has a rounded backside, it doesn't sit flat on a table, making it somewhat awkward as a typewriter. It's perfectly fine for plugging search queries into Google, but until I can touch type, I can't see myself doing much writing on it. Although I could see it as being useful for working with spreadsheets (if Microsoft ever decides to release Excel. OpenOffice: This is your chance!).

The iBook application is one of the biggies. Everyone says that Kindle is the killer app, and that people will use that instead of iBook. Well, I just hope the Kindle App is as good as iBook, cause iBook is very very cool. I had no problems reading off the backlit screen, and enjoyed seeing the colour illustrations in Winnie the Pooh. My dad has a Kindle, and I'll say that the Kindle is a bit smaller and lighter, and might be better for novels. But as a general purpose reading device, it's hard to see how you could make something better than the iPad/iBook (except by making it lighter and thinner). I especially like how you can play with the pages themselves. Once again, it's a wink and a nod to the pleasures of meatspace. Sure it'll never be as good as real pulp, but for fidgety guy like me it's not bad.

As you may already know, the iPad can run pretty much every iPhone App. That said, in my experience, these types of emulators are usually inferior to running the app on their intended platform. Not so with the iPad. The Apps are zippier and look better than on the iPhone. Seriously. I was most impressed with the mode that blows the App up to the full size of the iPad. Yes, it doesn't look as good as a native iPad App, but it does look surprisingly crisp.

As a specific example, we loaded up Milk Crater, and lo and behold it actually runs much better than on the iPhone 3GS. Keep in mind that Milk Crater is pegged to the CPU, so on the iPad you can really fly through your music collection like nobody's business. I know I'm biased, but Milk Crater freakin' rocks on this thing!

As soon as I get the chance (and an extra $500) - I'm treating myself to one of these puppies.

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