Thoughts on the iPad - Three Weeks Later
I thought I would throw my 2 cents into the ring as to my impressions of the iPad now that I've had it for some time. Here are a few things to know about me before I proceed:
1. I have never owned an apple product before
2. My home computer is a HP with Windows 7 which I really love
3. I bought the 32GB, 3G model
4. I had a netbook that I had bought almost a year ago. I sold that to help cover a fraction of the costs of the iPad
5. I am rarely a first-mover for anything. I like to make smart purchases and that usually involves waiting for reviews of a potential purchase and watching its track record.
I'll just cut to the chase right off the bat and let you know that I have no regrets about my purchase. I like the iPad. It beats the crap out of my netbook (except for one aspect), and is superior to a laptop in my opinion as well. The only major issue I have with the device, particularly as it pertains to recommending it to others, is the price. I'm not sure that its value justifies the price. However I had the money to spend, and if money were not a concern, then I can't recommend this enough.
Let's touch on the bad points:
1. MS Office alternatives. I'll be blunt here, the apple products -- as well as the slightly inferior Office HD products -- feel like demos of the MS Office counterparts. I'll use Excel as an illustration of this. There was a file I wanted to import into the iPad from Excel 2007. The iPad did import the file, but cannot support the following: validation, pivot tables, filtering, named references, some formatting, some formulas, etc. I would describe myself as a power excel user, and the limitations of Numbers and Office HD is immediately notable. Taken on its own merits, Numbers is not that bad and does have a nice feel. But Excel it is not. And for only this reason do I think that netbooks and laptops have an advantage over the iPad. To put it another way, productivity software generally is best served on a desktop, and if you can live with the limitations of a mobile device, then the iPad is fine. But I would never replace my work notebook with an iPad.
2. Apps crash. Most apps do not crash. But many do. It's common enough that I'd say I get 3-4 crashes a week. To crash simply means the app stops working and you are returned to the home screen. There's no additional damage beyond that. And you can always just go back into the app that crashed. Still, it's annoying.
3. Multitasking. This will be fixed later this year, but for now it does limit the device. I don't use multitasking all that much, but there have been times when I would like two apps open at the same time (e.g. dictionary.com and Pages as I write).
Let's touch on the bad points others have mentioned that don't really matter at all:
1. Printing. Actually you can print. I have an app called Print Central. It allows me to print e-mails and images, and I believe files as well but I haven't used that functionality. My printer is connected to my router, and the iPad can send print jobs over wifi. Technically the printing is limited and you do have to close one app to get to the print app, but really, it's functional enough. By the way, if you hold onto the home button and then press the power button and release, it will take a screen print of whatever you are looking at. Print Central can then print that image. Nice.
2. USB port. I love USB ports, but you can move things to the iPad wirelessly, so who needs one? I use an app called Air Sharing HD. It allows you to see a drive on your desktop computer and you can move files back and forth that way (from that app only, not from other apps). As for as other apps, usually you can just e-mail documents to yourself to move your files. There really isn't that much file movement to do with an iPad, so this functionality is adequate.
3. A camera. Really? Really? Do you how many devices I have that have a camera? I'll pass on another one, thank you. I guess a camera would be cool for video conferencing, but I don't want to video conference. Isn't that the advantage of being on the phone, you don't have to worry about your looks!
I'm just going to touch on the good points, as covering them all will take too long.
1. Internet browser. Here's the deal, in order to get on the internet with my netbook, I needed to boot my computer, let it launch with anti-virus, and perhaps load any updates that came around since I booted up my netbook last. The result, it would take over 2 minutes to start browsing. Or to put it another way, I could just go upstairs to my desktop without the hastle. To launch from my iPad in stand-by mode? 4 seconds maybe, and that's assuming I have to reestablish the wifi connection. Browsing is great, and no, I don't miss flash. I don't generally watch video clips, so it isn't an issue for me.
2. Oh my, look at all those apps. I have 135 right now. Most are free. True, some apps I've only used once and may never go to again. But more than you would think are useful. And most apps have a "fun" element I just can't describe with words. In a way, that's the best part of the iPad, it's just plain fun.
3. iBooks. I got rid of my eReader. I loved my eReader, but iBooks is fine. My main concern had been the back lighting, but set to it's lowest levels in the dark it works great does not appear to be straining my eyes. My light for my sony reader would have a glare which was worse than the back lighting, or would leave patches too dark. Most classic works are free, and the built-in dictionary allows me to look up words without losing the flow of the story. I mocked iBooks when I first learned of it. No more.
4. Games. Let's be honest. The iPad does not compete with Desktop computers, PS3s, or XBOX 360s. It just does not have the graphical oomph or complexity to hang with the big boys. But this device does hold its own with the DS and the PSP. In fact, the difference between the PSP and the iPad for games is that I actually use the iPad. From what I know about the DS, that device is probably the best handheld gamer on the market, but the iPad holds its own.
In conclusion, if price and productivity are not that important to you, the iPad is a must buy. It doesn't feel like a first mover product, it feels like a mature device, albeit still waiting for enough "killer apps" of its own, but it can borrow from the iPhone and do just fine for now. Some will decry my critique about productivity on the device, that it's just fine for the work they do. I am sure this is true. For me, there is no replacement for the desktop computer, and the extent I will use the iPad for productivity (writing, spreadsheets) will be as starters for stuff I will finish on my desktop. But don't get sidetracked on this issue. I didn't use the net book for productivity either, and thus the iPad has replaced that device with no regrets.