Recently, I was asked
for an in-depth review of the iPad. Let me state here right off the bat that I have no intention of doing so either now or ever. I'm simply recording my present thoughts on the device and how I have related to it so far. This is more for my personal records than it is for the general public, but it is understood that both can glean from the thoughts intended for impartation here.
I feel the need to preface these thoughts by providing the framework of my perspective for you, dear reader. I went from having one mobile device (m0bil30n3) to four (m0bil30n3, iTom, iCall and a Kindle) in less than two weeks and am brand new to the mobile space. I have been dreaming for years of getting into mobile, but I didn't have the personal finances nor could I see a reason in justifying using credit for the purchases. As it happened, I had just concluded a five-month plan to own a Kindle. I lost my flip phone which gave me four years of service and would have went on to give more had we not ultimately parted company due to complacency. This loss necessitated an immediate replacement device and I bought what I thought was the best device for me. iTom procurement was a result of a promise made to me by work, one that I thought would take much longer to come to fruition.)
I hadn't even had iCall a week before iTom was placed in my care. Despite the original DOA
, iTom and I have gotten along just fine. As I suspected
, iTom serves two distinct purposes: that of e-reader and of web appliance. I've not really used iTom as an e-reader as of yet. Oh, I've poked around on iBooks, the Kindle and NOOK Apps, but I've not used the device as a serious e-reader as of yet.As an e-reader
I have liked what I have seen of the iPad's e-reader capabilities; the device is large enough that pdf files I have wanted to consume are readable at the native size. I still want to enlarge just a bit which I can do with iBooks, but navigating to a different page automatically reduces the document to 100%, forcing me, the user, to manually resize the document after every navigation.
Because all iOS devices have instantly responsive, capacitive touch screens, moving around a page isn't too bad. My gripe with the way that Kindle supports pdfs (poorly if you're wondering) is that if you want to enlarge a pdf, you are given a bounding window to select the area of the page to be enlarged. Once zoomed in, you have to use the D-ring to scroll the page and then the forwards and backwards buttons to move between pages. This forces the user to think about how the Kindle hardware works (what does this
button do) instead of placing all attention on the content to be consumed. The additional frustration with the Kindle's .pdf support is that since the Kindle uses e-ink technology for its display, there is a delay between pressing the button and getting the next screen fully drawn, enough of a delay that if you are having to scroll across a page to read a line of text, concentration is broken. Perhaps the Kindle DX, because of its larger screen presents pdfs bigger natively, thus rendering the complaint nil, but the size of the DX creeps into netbook/tablet/notebook size which reduced mobility.
Simply reading text in either the NOOK or Kindle App on the iPad is an enjoyable experience, though in the spirit of full disclosure, you are reading off of a backlit screen; I cannot comment on whether a long read produces eye strain or not. I can say that simply as a reader, the Kindle wins me over hands down. When using native file formats, the text is large and crisp. There is plenty of contrast between the text and the surrounding "whitespace" which, in my opinion, allows the user to recognize text fast, which allows for more reading in less time.
I have used the Kindle for a full day before without taking a brake. The Kindle's lack of weight and weight distribution make for easy work of marathon reading without hand fatigue of holding a book. Though weight is perhaps the most immediate factor, not having sharp or cumbersome edges unlike its dead-tree counterpart also goes a long way in not fatiguing the hand.
In contrast, the iPad is much heavier than the Kindle. Though the weight of the iPad is evenly distributed, the weight can cause problems for extended periods of use. The iPad's design–nay, even Apple's own showcasing in their own stores!–lends itself to being propped up on a 30º slant. The weight of the iPad can be felt from holding it for only a short period of time; users will likely try to find a way of supporting the weight after minimal usage.
The Kindle's weakness, as I predicted
, is lack of a backlight. Other weaknesses include poor pdf support, at least on the Kindle itself per the above discussion and, due to its size and display technology, inability to display media rich content.
Kindle's shortcomings become apparent when considering periodicals and typical textbooks. Newspapers present their own problems which I will address in a later article. Local papers would have to sacrifice photos and ads if they want to publish on the Kindle. Magazines and most textbooks take advantage of both the two-page spread and full color printing. Sidebars, pictures and color-coded material are also no goes on the current iteration of the device.As an Internet Appliance
The iPad has turned out to be a great device for using at night while lying in bed. No ambient light is needed, the iPad provides its own light. Instead of being restricted to just serving up text, the iPad can do full-color, full-layout documents, play games, browse the internet and be a personal communication device. It is in this area that the iPad shines.
The iPad, and indeed tablets and netbooks have been referred to as 'tween devices. Netbooks suffer from what makes them attractive in the first place: smaller physical size; slower, lesser processing capabilities and limited storage. Smaller physical size on netbooks means less than full size keyboards to type on and no optical drives. Slower processing is required to drive down costs and keep within the thermal envelopes of the form factor. Less processing means fewer cores. Storage is limited in netbooks in part to keep the price down but also because even flash memory occupies area that can't be spared in a netbook.
So how does the iPad fare? At first glance, things are just as bad as a netbook: no optical drive. Depending on the netbook used for comparison, storage may be a bit shabby, though netbooks have moved more and more away from moving parts that can break down and on to solid state drives (SSDs).
The iPad's keyboard is virtual, which means no tactile feedback (a minus) and the screen is less than the width of a full size keyboard (another minus) but because the keyboard is virtual, you don't try to make your hands fit on small, tight keys. The predictive typing built into iOS helps make up for the lack of touch typing and with enough familiarity with iOS, one learns to use that to their advantage.
Processing doesn't come into play quite as much with the iPad. Yes, performance will always be an issue when dealing with any computation device, but as apps are optimized for the device and must pass quality assurance at Apple before the app is allowed in the App Store instead of a one-size-fits-all netbook approach, the specs of the A4 chip that powers the iPad is irrelevant.
The iPad is not a laptop replacer, nor do I foresee it becoming one in the near future. The expectation of performance ratio of so-called desktop replacements from just a few years ago compared to the power of desktops are now baseline requirements for laptops. In other words, laptops today have to be able to perform any task that a desktop can in a reasonable amount of time. Sure, desktops, due to their larger form factors and immobility can be engineered for performance than a mobile device. As such, desktops will always outperform laptops when comparing apples to apples, but there no task today that any computer user thinks, "Gee, I need a desktop to do this on."
That having been said, I have noticed myself leaving my laptop behind since going mobile. In part, this is largely due to the fact that most of the activities that I do on my laptop when I'm on the go are checking email, responding to blog comments and posts, reading news, etc. can now be done straight on my phone. iCall gives me an advantage that m0bil30n3 does not enjoy: 3G connectivity. iCall, therefore, allows me to go more places without disconnecting.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a globetrotter; I leave my State on average of once a year or less currently.
Keep in mind that iTom is not 3G capable. This is rather bothersome when attempting to answer the questions, "Would you give up your laptop now that you have an iPad? Will the iPad replace your laptop?"
As I have said, I have started leaving my laptop at home because quite frankly, I haven't really needed it. With iCall always on my person, I can consume news and fire off quit missives. Longer writing is usually pre-planned, so I'll know in advance if I need my laptop's keyboard. As of late I don't do anything too processor intensive and have found apps for iOS that allow me to drop the weight and bulk of a laptop in a briefcase.
As I argued when the iPad first came out, if there is a decent writing app and one buys the keyboard dock, there's no reason why the iPad won't suffice for "seen writing" that is, writing in public where one can be seen. The one disadvantage is that the user is locked into portrait orientation with Apple's iPad keyboard, though I have seen cases that come with bluetooth keyboards that allow you to rotate the iPad into landscape. The problem with Apple's keyboard dock is that it is inflexible and hence limits mobility. The problem with a foldable, mobile keyboard like those for PDAs of yore are flimsy and are not durable.
I live in an efficiency studio apartment so I'm not spread out like I would be in a multi-story house. Though I have complained bitterly about being stuck at my desk when writing and was thusly motivated to purchase a laptop to solve this problem, there are days when the 4.5 lbs of m0bil30n3 might as well be a pound of bricks. Plus, the heat it produces leave me wishing for something with a smaller footprint.
iTom has filled this gap, though I wouldn't have dropped coin for this petty gripe. iTom is great for checking email/blogs/social networks immediately upon waking without having to roll out of bed. True, m0bil30n3 served this purpose too, but again, iTom is a smaller, cooler device.
I've not taken iTom on the road yet and I'm not sure if I will. I can't imagine what I would do with an iPad in class that I can't do with my iPhone aside from taking notes, but that takes us back to the keyboard problem discussed a few paragraphs above. It's possible I might carry iTom with me to drain it's battery and benefit from the larger screen at school; I can't imagine taking it with me into town unless I'm just trying to get out of the house and want to do a lot of reading, either ebooks or online content knowing that I won't be doing a lot of creation. I think that a real litmus test for me will be taking iTom out to the lake house and seeing how well I fare without a physical keyboard.Wrapping it Up
The advantage then that the iPad possesses is its ability to handle media, be it video, audio or full-color documents. The iPad can run apps and isn't a purpose-specific device like the Kindle. The iPad gives a bigger working and viewing surface than the iPhone, but the iPhone is just as capable given that both devices run the same software. The iPad simply comes down to consumption on a larger screen with similar content creation abilities as netbooks without the disadvantage of having to carry around a full-sized laptop.
Since iOS supports all three major ebook vendors and their software, you can sync ebooks purchased from any of those stores across devices and platforms giving the iPad a slight edge on netbooks because there is no general computing device (desktop, laptop, netbook) that currently supports iBooks. The iPads strength is its coffee table internet appliance aura– a device that can be used on the go but really is best suited to be left laying around the house to be used on demand to quickly retrieve information or provide a source of entertainment to either individuals or groups.
At least, that's the way I see it.