Nearly a year ago I wrote up a quick post about my Apple iPad pre-launch thoughts/questions as they were at that time about this new tablet device, would it be a netbook and Kindle replacement and whether I should buy one — given the questions posed about how would you use an iPad, I certainly wasn’t going to be in a rush to get one…however, I did end up buying an Apple iPad on the day of release here in the UK – that being the 16GB WiFi version, ie. the cheapest option while not being tied into another monthly mobile data expense.
In my opinion, the Apple iPad is one of those devices that you don’t need as such, but it’s very cool to actually have one to use when you have a definite use for it. For instance, it’s good for simply checking email, browsing web pages, using Twitter while sat on the sofa in front of the TV – obviously you could do that with your phone/netbook/laptop, however the iPad lets you do it in such a compact device that is just enjoyable to hold/use/touch – plus it doesn’t generate huge amounts of heat that you’d encounter from resting a laptop on your lap.
General Tablet Usage
I think the iPad makes browsing web pages a very good experience, making it more like reading a magazine article and overall works pretty well I think, well obviously there’s the issue of no Flash support, but most sites still work well these days.
One thing I have found more useful on the iPad than on my desktop computer is using the StumbleUpon iPad app, so in a content consumption sense, it works very well for this purpose. Once you’ve gotaccount set up with your interests selected, it makes for a great way of finding content that you should like, whether it’s written articles or photos – in a way, this feels like browsing a never ending magazine created just for you!
I never bought a netbook (I didn’t like using the small keyboards with my big chunky sausage fingers and already have a small-ish 13” laptop anyway), so when I bought the iPad, I was thinking it’s the netbook I never bought.
The battery life is very impressive and easily lasts the 10hrs stated – I’d definitely rather use this to make notes on than my phone or laptop at a conference etc. In fact, I tested this out at the latest Think Visibility conference and by using the Marware Eco-Vue iPad Case which includes a stand/flap which provides a useful typing angle for use on your lap.
Also due to the weight and compactness of the device, it makes for a handy alternative to travel with instead of a laptop — assuming you can get by without having the functionality of a full computer system, if not, you might be better with a lightweight laptop such as the Apple MacBook Air which doesn’t take up much more space than an iPad.
Typing on it is surprisingly good; it’s pretty accurate even at a fairly decent typing speed – although annoyingly the numbers aren’t on the top row despite the increased screen real estate over the iPhone, so you need to access them by using the symbol toggle. Surely this could be offered as an option in iOS so we at least got to choose for ourselves?
I don’t generally read books/e-books these days, so can’t really comment on the eBook reader functionality of iBooks compared to others like the Amazon Kindle 3, but I have started buying a few Kindle eBooks and using them both on my Android-based HTC Desire and with the Kindle iPad App and it works well for me. The screen is very readable, obviously, it’s very reflective outdoors, but I’ve never wanted to use the iPad on a beach or anywhere else outdoors, to be honest, so for me, that’s not an issue at all.
Videos & Flash
As I mentioned earlier, the lack of Flash support isn’t really an issue for me as I don’t play flash games and you can usually watch videos in other ways, plus sites are getting around this restriction and moving to html5 options too. Although when you are browsing and encounter missing content/functionality due to lack of flash, it is frustrating each time it happens!
iPlayer works very well via the browser and downloaded video podcasts look good on it too, which make for great entertainment options for using the iPad to watch video while on the move travelling or away at a hotel. I’ve not personally watched anything as long as a movie (I’m a film fan and prefer my movies on a big screen while sitting on the sofa), presumably you wouldn’t want to hold the iPad that long, but if it’s in an iPad stand or case of some kind, that should be fine.
So far there are some decent apps, but I’d say the iPad could really do with some more “killer apps”, I’m expecting there to be many more giving your iPad more functionality/uses coming out as developers really get to grips with iOS as a tablet-sized platform — although I did kind of expect this to happen faster a bit faster than it has, but there are signs of this happening with the likes of Flipboard iPad App which turns browsing into more of a newspaper-like experience.
iPhone apps upscaled onto iPad usually look quite poor, equally an iPhone app that just fills a small box in the middle of the iPad screen looks just as unimpressive. Clearly, app developers are now providing iPad versions of their existing apps in many cases now and often include extra functionality or re-designed interfaces that make better use the full iPad screen potential.
Although there are a certain number of apps that are combining iPhone and iPad version into one, so you only have to buy them once, but unfortunately there seems to be lots of apps out there that are separating the two platforms and making you pay twice assuming you also have an iPhone, in fact, the iPad versions are typically many times more expensive too — a bit of a cheek given that in a lot of cases the only difference is a higher resolution rendering of the graphics and the factor of the price increase doesn’t often match the resolution increase.
Gaming is pretty good and I’ve definitely found myself playing more games than I did on the iPhone (which was very rare for me), some types of games really work well with a larger touchscreen, in many cases even the upscaled iPhone version look decent too, but the iPad versions look very good indeed, some of my personal favourites include Pinball HD, Worms HD, Flight Control HD and Monkey Island 2: Special Edition.
The recent Citadel app tech demo looks cool and shows off just how good the graphics can be on this device, personally I wouldn’t want to play a first-person shooter using that kind of control system, but the engine itself could make a great puzzle/exploration/adventure game, I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of it!
New Computing Users?
Also, a strange thing happened in the last few months, my mum (who has never been that interested in computers) has started playing board/puzzle/card games on the iPad and she was never interested in it until I just showed her a Ludo game app one day – interestingly she’s even started Googling for info using it and now even seems more comfortable using one of the laptops in the house! Clearly, the iPad makes the initial start of computing usage a much easier one for those who’ve not grown up using them.
Another interesting use for the iPad I’ve found is one in which I couldn’t easily have used a laptop. I found by using the integrated stand of the Marware Eco-Vue iPad Case I could essentially hang it onto the display panel of my exercise bike — once you’ve got an internet connected device like this that you can catch up on emails, Twitter, note-taking with Evernote and general web browsing to use while exercising, it helps to pass the time so much faster first thing on a morning!
It’s definitely helped me to get back into a regular exercise routine in the last few months, so for that alone, I feel that’s probably helped to pay for itself.
iOS Software Updates
Since the iPad iOS 4.2 software update arrived a few months ago in Autumn 2010, that has also improved my usage of the iPad as it means I can flip between different app screens much easier…almost in a multitasking fashion, a decent performance/battery compromise from Apple there I think.
The iPad iOS 4.2 software update was good, however, it wasn’t perfect, in (typical?) Apple fashion they changed the functionality of the Aspect/Orientation Lock button on the side of the device, it became a mute button(?!?!), with the aspect lock moving to the iOS multitasking toolbar — I used to use that physical button a lot to lock the aspect, but in 2-3 months I’ve still not used that same button to mute the device yet — it’s not needed, you can simply hold the volume button for a second or two and it achieves the same function.
I find that quite ironic given Apple’s dislike for apps changing the functionality of physical buttons on iOS devices and yet they‘re more than willing to do it themselves for such a poor reason too. This should have at least been a user-definable option; it wasn’t then, however hopefully that will change in a future update — the sooner the better in my opinion.
Overall, is an Apple iPad or any tablet device worth buying? – Well if you can justify the expense to yourself — which given I don’t have a netbook means that like Apple suggested when they announced it, I do see the iPad as a netbook replacement.
Do I use it every day? – No, but it is a “nice to have” when I do want to use it several times a week.
Is it the right time to buy one now though? – Probably not given rumours of a new updated version coming soon which should be an improved model, but if you want/need one now, then I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!
The Apple iPad as a platform is a great toy for browsing, reading, gaming, video and whatever else you can also find to use it for — as I see it, there’s no one definitive use for it, but I suppose you could also class that as a strength depending on how you look at it.
Be sure to take a look at John’s iPad iOS 4.2 Review here on Zath too and see what you think to his thoughts of his Apple tablet and the latest software changes that its had.
I’m sure the tablet market holds a lot more potential in the future, especially with a whole host of Android tablets on their way this year, but have you bought an iPad since its release last year? Have you got your money’s worth from it? Or are all tablets just a gimmick in your eyes? Let us know what your opinion of it is now in the comments below.
Simon Barker is the founder and editor of Zath and has over 25 years worth of experience of using computers and technology in general. He can normally be found researching or testing the latest in technology products.
He has provided IT consultancy services to both home and small business users for over 15 years, building PCs, fixing hardware/software problems and providing comprehensive training.
Simon always likes to get the best out of the technology he is using, by both making informed decisions of what products to purchase and also optimising how it is then used to get the most benefits possible.
If you’d like to follow and/or contact him on Twitter, please feel free to do so – @SimonBarker.