Apple iPad Review
While you may dismiss the previous opinion as psychological over analysis it really was apparent when book lovers handled the iPad. The e-book interface is much more graphically rich than other e-readers like the Kindle or Nook; you can actually turn pages, images display in full color and you even have a bookshelf to store your titles on. But there is a visceral element to books than just cannot be replicated on a computer screen. Books make a crackling sound when you open them and the pages have a unique feel and smell.
We’ve always been told about the potential of e-readers for textbooks, and students don’t likely care what their books feel and smell like. They do, however, care that the book can be marked up with highlighter and notes in the margin. Again the iPad fails to deliver a pretty basic need here, though we do feel that this obstacle could be pretty easily overcome with software. If there was a way to index and search these notes it would be a better offering than your traditional textbook due to the iPad’s portability. There is a definite market for textbook replacement here if done right, and given that your average textbook costs well north of $100 if publishers could offer them for even 70% of that price it could mean large profit margins for Apple and substantial savings for students, all with less bulk to carry around. Then again, this is all predicated on note-taking software being added and prices being dropped.
Apple used the siren song of tiered pricing to lure publishers onto the iPad, but of course this means that you, the average consumer, might end up paying more for e-books. And not just you, iPad owner, but you too, Kindle aficionado. And since Kindle owners don’t get the rich graphics, web links, etc. that iPad owners get…well you see where Apple’s plan was quite genius from a business standpoint here. (In fairness we should point out that the Kindle is way cheaper, much more portable and easier to handle with a battery life that will go for weeks, and that e-ink is way easier on the eyes than an LCD screen. If you’re just looking for an e-reader the Kindle is probably the better solution.) While pricing might be comparable or even better than what you’ll find for the real thing at Barns and Noble, keep in mind that there won’t be a Half Priced Books app; you’re going to be stuck paying full price forever. There are some free titles in iBooks right now, although not the most interesting ones (then again, this is according to the personality).
It's worth noting that Apple has redesigned some if its core apps so they can take full advantage of the iPad's capabilities. For example, the calendar app is very functional now. You have the ability to create different calendars, each with its own color, so you can easily distinguish them. The month view is now showing all your appointments inside each days, and the other views are also full of additional detail. The e-mail application has also gotten the redesign touch. When in landscape mode, the user is presented to a split-screen view, with the inbox on the left, and the content of the selected message on the rigth. Pretty neat.
Typing on the Apple iPad is easy, as long as you have it laid on your lap, or something else, but using it on the go may prove difficult.
The more we used it the more apparent it became that the iPad is a bridge device between your cell phone and a computer. Put simply the iPad cannot do what your computer can do (and the cell phone cannot do what the iPad does). The problem with multitasking is still at hand. We want to listen to Pandora while surfing the web or reading an e-book and it’s just not possible. While AIM offers push notifications, you still have to close out of the program you’re in to acknowledge the conversation, and so on and so forth. Rumors of multitasking in iPhone software 4.0 are rampant, but this can’t come soon enough and is really a huge drawback to the iPad at least for now.
So far we’ve been pretty focused on what the iPad fails at, but there are areas where it excels and nowhere is this more apparent than in personal entertainment. Full access to the App Store means all the mindless games you could ever want at generally reasonable prices. iPhone apps will run on the iPad, but since they are in iPhone resolution (HVGA) this will leave you with a lot of dead screen. Of course, you always have the option to view them in full screen, which will hamper the quality but will at least deliver a bigger image. There are already a number of iPad-optimized games though and the number is only going to exponentially grow if the past is any indication. Of course the iPad has an iPod and video player built into it for all of your side-loaded content.
What the iPad has that the iPhone doesn’t have is entertainment apps like Netflix, ABC Player and a myriad of other on-demand video services to keep you occupied. There is no Hulu, and since the browser doesn’t support Flash you can’t watch via the website, but rumors have an appcoming. The iPad has the potential to really bring on-demand videos into the forefront. As cable and satellite pricing rises higher and higher these on-demand services are just looking for the right product to burst onto the scene full-time and the iPad might just be that product.
When watching videos the iPad is at its most comfortable to use. It’s being held in its natural, landscape position and interaction with the device is minimal. With two hands it suddenly feels as light as the 1.5lbs would suggest. Lying in bed watching a video or surfing the web is much more natural than using a laptop. The screen is crisp and bright, though direct sunlight hampers viewing and with white backgrounds you can see the abundance of fingerprints that will inevitably accumulate quickly. Streaming video quality is quite good, but artifacts are present at times and it is definitely not HD. Apple has made a curious decision to go with a letterbox screen as well, meaning that for all those movies and TV shows you’ll be streaming you’re going to have a good amount of black to go with the already large bezel. It should be pointed out that a widescreen iPad would be very awkward when used in portrait mode.
Another area we think the iPad has huge potential is in magazine and newspaper content. Like textbooks, regular printed media rarely has the same emotional connection as books have (collectors aside) and the delivery of your daily newspaper to an interactive device is a much better method, in our opinion. While it’s not nearly as slick as the Sports Illustrated concept demo we saw a few months back, reading articles was very natural on the iPad. As the interactive content grows and becomes better integrated we really think that remaining newspapers and magazines will find new life with the iPad.
The larger screen really comes into play with applications like these, or even familiar applications that have gotten a rework. There is simply more room to work with, so Pandora for example can give you a better graphic interface, more artist information and still have room to spare. Put simply, information apps are better on the iPad because of all the extra room.
Web browsing is of course pretty great, but then again with Mobile Safari we have come to expect that. The lack of Flash has made headlines since the iPad’s announcement and does indeed leave gaping holes for popular sites like Hulu. Still, most video sharing sites will get HTML5 support and when that happens, the iPad will be ready to take advantage of it. The lack of Flash is a drawback now but not a backbreaker, in our opinion. The internet is even more accessible on the iPad’s large screen and the touch controls are as natural and accurate as ever.
Microsoft has confirmed that they have no intentions of bringing Office to the iPad, but with Keynote, Pages and Numbers you can get around this. You can open PowerPoint, Word and Excel attachments with the respective iWork counterparts, edit them and then transfer them to your computer via iTunes, send them as email attachments and so on.