Let’s talk about iPad

So I bought me one of these.

(the case above is the Marware SportGrip Pro and the stand is my trusty BookGem )

Much like the iPhone before it, I had a lot of doubts about the iPad. Would it just amount to a giant iPod Touch? Would the reading experience be decent enough? Would the battery life be sufficient? Would it be an even greater fingerprint magnet than the iPhone? A simple Google search would probably yield you a dozen more of the questions.

But before we address these doubts lets just pull back a minute. I’ve been using the iPad to read a book called Dealers of lightning : Xerox PARC and the dawn of the computer age which is about the history of PARC, the Palo Alto Center where, among other things, Ethernet, the GUI and the laser printer were invented. I think it’s just amazing to read about Alan Kay and the Dynabook (quoting directly from the book: “a notebook-shaped machine with a display screen and a keyboard you could use to create, edit and store a very personal sort of literature, music and art”) on a device that fulfils every element of his vision.

Let me just quickly sum up some things about the iPad from my personal experience using it these past few days.

The battery is good but not great. Expect it to last a couple of days with minor to moderate usage. Use it constantly thoughout the day and you’ll be scrambling to find a power outlet before the end of the evening. It also charges quite slowly and is particularly picky about which kind of USB ports it can charge and even sync over.

The display attracts fingerprints, dirt and grime like moths to a flame. I’ve resigned myself to get keeping a small microfiber cloth handy to regularly wipe the screen clear.

The built-in apps that were already on the iPhone are as good or improved. I’m kind of mystified why certain apps (like stocks, weather or even the calculator) were omitted. Not that there aren’t great replacements on the App Store. Check out Calcbot or the Bloomberg app.

Upscaling of iPhone apps is a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s decent enough, sometimes it looks horrible. Still, it is fun to play games like Final Fantasy, Space Invaders Infinity Gene or geoSpark on such a large display.

The e-reading experience (on the Kindle app) is great. If you’re coming at it from the angle of pure image quality, sure, e-ink still is superior. On the whole though, reading an e-book on the iPad is so much better than reading it on the Kindle.

iBooks is a disappointment. It’s buggy, it crashes, there’s no white-on-black mode, the selection (at least here in Belgium) is limited to public domain works. Its saving grace is its ability to read PDF’s.

Special shout-out for the Instapaper app, which is just a joy to use on this device

Typing on the iPad is very doable especially if you use the landscape keyboard. In fact, this entire post has been written with Pages for the iPad. You’re not going to be writing the next bestseller on this thing but for quick 500 word texts it’ll do nicely.

Browsing the internet, watching movies, flipping through images,… all of these go supremely well on the iPad.

The big question of course is “should I get one?” If you’ve got 500 to 900 € lying around then sure it’s a no-brainer. If you want a bit more bang for your buck, you should wait for the end of the year as it’s almost without a doubt that there will be an updated model coming down the pipe. Remember also that many of the goodies of IOS 4 will be coming to the iPad in the fall via firmware update. In fact one of them (the ability to use Bing as your default search engine) has already been enabled with the 3.2.1 update.

If you want to use this device purely to read e-books then stop right now and go buy a Kindle. It just had a price-cut and if you ever decide to buy an iPad all your books will be right there in the Kindle app.

As for whether or not to get the 3G model, once again it depends. If you’re an out and about person who wants to leave his notebook at home and have his data accessible at all time, then sure, go buy the 3G model. If you just want to use it around the house then stick to the cheaper Wi-Fi model. Thats what I did and if I really need to access my data on the go, I still have my trusty iPhone 3GS constantly with me.

You know, when the iPad was first announced I said to myself that I wanted one but didn’t really need one. The iPad however seems to be one of those devices that you don’t realise you need one until you actually own one.

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