After experiencing the Apple iPad for the last week, I thought I'd outline my thoughts on the device that seems to still have a lot of buzz and interest.In a nutshell, I am very happy with the iPad and I believe that it is a compelling device that fits in well between laptops/desktops and mobile phones.
I believe this device is going to help me be more effective with reading, podcast & audio book listening, and consuming professional content in eBook, PDF, and other standard formats. I expect it will also help me on the organizational front with more ubiquitous access to reference material, project support data, and communications services. Plus, it will be a fun device to decompress with casual games, videos, and music.
No device is perfect -- says the former Newton & still TabletPC laptop fan. As I outlined in a previous blog post, I had some concerns with the hardware and software as proposed by Apple for iPad v1.0 before picking up the device.
The good news is that as far as I can tell there isn't anything new that the iPad can't do that wasn't already publicly announced before it was released. So, I don't have any buyer's remorse. I know there are now confirmed Wi-Fi issues, but I haven't experienced those with the Wi-Fi networks I have available to me.
Things that are great:
- The screen is awesome.
- Battery life is equally impressive.
- Bluetooth keyboard support is solid.
- Surfing the web is fast and fluid on the screen with the pinch-to-zoom working as expected.
- Books via Amazon's Kindle application are readable and easy to consume over hours of reading.
- Physically the device is solid and feels good in your hands.
- Goodreader.net is a very nice $0.99 application for reading PDFs.
- The interface and applications run fast -- so the custom Apple A4 processor was a very good idea IMHO.
- The built-in Apple iPad applications are well designed. The Email application with support for viewing a large number attachment formats is especially functional.
- Native 3rd party iPad/HD applications look spectacular on the device. Some of the ones I've been using include: USA Today, Reuters, TweetDeck, The Weather Channel, Zino, Evernote, Toodledo, Kayak Flights, Dictionary, ABC Player, Yahoo! Entertainment, Sudoku Tablet, YouVersion Bible, and Box.net.
- On screen keyboard is significantly better than my previous iPod Touch experiences.
- Internal speaker is better than I expected and so is the microphone.
- Doing a one on one demo with someone is pretty powerful for sharing and viewing information. The built-in Photos application is especially noteworthy as a good example.
- Maps with Wi-Fi geolocation is remarkably accurate.
- I haven't really ran into situations where multi-tasking would be an issue, but I can think of one area I am going to run into problems -- browsing in Safari and then wanting to post via TweetDeck.
- Screen gets smudged very easily, but cleans up well.
- Can't subscribe to podcasts directly in iTunes on the iPad.
- The iPad could lose a half-a-pound in weight, and be more portable plus easier to hold over a longer period of time.
- Pricing on new iPad specific applications is way to high in my humble opinion. Kudos to many of the application developers I currently use for creating 'free' upgrade versions.
- The 2x upscale for standard iPhone apps leaves a lot of pixelation issues that distracts from the experience.
- Safari has crashed more than I expected when consuming media files directly from sites like podcast RSS feeds.
- I don't like having to sync to iTunes to get Contact updates. You can get Google Calendar updates directly via CalDAV.
- iBook prices appear to be on average more expensive than Amazon Kindle prices. For instance, David Allen's "Getting Things Done (GTD)" is $9.99 on Amazon and $12.99 on Apple's iBook store.
- No DOD PKI CAC support so you can't sign emails or read encrypted emails. You also can't use many DOD sites without DOD PKI CAC support in the browser. Plus at my organization, VPN access and authenticated WIFI is not currently possible without DOD PKI CAC support.
- Currently there is no way to encrypt the whole device and/or all the application specific storage areas. This will be a problem as Data At Rest (DAR) requirements become more prevalent and no longer optional. I've heard rumors about possible 3rd party solutions being released soon that solves this type of problem but nothing definitive as I post this review. If anyone knows anything about future iPhone/iPad DAR solutions, then please let me know.
- More Bluetooth device support (i.e. networking, GPS, DOD CAC PKI, etc),
- Integrate a native USB port,
- Add an SD Card slot, and
- Drop the price for all units by $100.
With recent news of the iPhone/iPad OS v4.0 coming out soon there is a good chance that many of the software issues will be either solved by this v4.0 release or an earlier v3.x release. Given that the current release date for iPad support for v4.0 is Fall 2010, I'd expect a hardware update for the iPad when this actually comes out. Regular Fall releases for new iPad hardware makes more sense for Holiday Sales, and future iPad release will probably be part of Apple's traditional new iPod releases usally in September or October.
The one thing I have not had a chance to try out but would like to is using the iPad to remotely connect to Windows or Mac systems. I think this could be a big business area for Apple when the 3G version comes out. With this feature, businesses could leverage the iPad for mobile computing solutions like access to intranet applications, sales presentations, eLearning, etc outside their internal physically controlled Wi-Fi networks. The only reason I haven't tried them out is the three that look good for evaluation had prices ranging from $15 to $35. Apple and their developers really need a 'demo' option for items in their AppStore, especially for applications with high price tags. Spending money to do multi-product evaluations is not that appealing to me.
Another thing worth noting is that there is definitely going to be more iPad-like products coming to the market in the near future. I think some of these will be pretty competitive, especially those with Google's Android and more than likely Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Series. The big change, when compared to the past, is that the iPad is based on an operating system geared for being mobile, and the full blown operating system software like those on previous TabletPCs is not the right answer for devices in this middle ground between laptops/desktops and mobile phones.
Want to learn more? One of the better Apple iPad consolidated tips, tricks, and pointers articles is posted at HowToGeek.com (link via Kreg Steppe @ FriendsInTech.com) Another tool that looks interesting is a Google Docs editing tool called Office2Pro that was recently reviewed on one of my favorite mobile technology blogs JK On The Run.
If you have any comments, then please post them below and I'll definitely respond. If you have any questions that you'd like to have answered, then you can send me email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a Twitter message (@sholden) or on direct message on Facebook (sholden).