Monday, 30 August 2010

iPad first impressions

When Apple announced the iPad, my reaction was one of "Looks nice, but it's just a big iPod Touch". I couldn't see where an iPad would fit into my workflow and thought I'd give it a miss.

Two days ago I was out shopping and wandered into Currys. There were some iPads on display and I spent a few minutes playing around with one. As with most things created by Apple, the user interface was beautifully designed and this really impressed me. I had been considering an upgrade to my EeePC to a device with a better display, but after using the iPad, the netbooks on display looked decidedly underwhelming. Although the iPad was more expensive, the difference in capabilities were significant.

The next day, T and I returned to Currys to have another look at the iPad. Despite my demoing the browsing and email capabilities, it was the version of Labyrinth for the iPad that won T over(!). We walked out of the shop with a 16GB Wi-Fi model.

I opted not to get the 3G version as a) it was £100 more expensive and b) the data plans were not cheap. The vast majority of places I'll be using it will have Wi-Fi, but if I really need 3G, I'll probably look to get a Mi-Fi which will enable me to create a local wireless gateway for up to 5 devices.

Here are the first impressions:

  • The iPad is a large screen iPod Touch. True, but it's amazing how much more you can do with a large screen. Apps look fantastic on the big screen.
  • The built in apps are beautifully designed. One of my complaints about the iPhone (coming from a Palm PDA background) is the calendar application is very lacking. The iPad version is much improved, finally adding a week view.
  • Evernote for the iPad is a killer app. It really is brilliant.
  • The on-screen keyboard is very usable and I can type pretty quickly on it.
  • Battery life so far is very good (although I've not done much audio/video playback yet).
  • It's quite heavy. Holding it in one hand for a long time will be uncomfortable.
  • The Apple foldback protective case is nice and you can create a decent angled stand for typing.

I have synced my Google mail, calendar and contacts to the iPad, installed the Evernote client, installed the Toodledo client, MobileRSS, Twitteriffic, and many more applications. Within a hour or so, I had access to all my cloud data.

I've also added Wikipanion (a really nice Wikipedia application), BBC News, YouVersion's Bible application, updated versions of RDP, telnet and VNC clients, Connect (for Google Docs reading and soon, editing), Whiteboard HD (for diagrams and doodles) and GoodReader (for PDF reading). Not all of these are free, but pay-for apps come in under £5.

So first impressions are extremely positive. I spend a lot of time at home sat in front of my computer, but with the iPad I can get the same experience for many of these tasks from anywhere with wi-fi. The iPad interface is typical Apple: extremely well designed and very consistent. As a device, the iPad is occupying that vague space between the smartphone and the laptop, but despite being a first generation product, it is polished and is a very welcome addition to my kitbag.