Some of my iPad experiences

Three weeks have passed, and the Apple iPad news coverage hasn’t stopped. My last blog post was prior to the April 3 iPad product launch, and I was pretty excited.

I had no idea what to expect on the morning of April 3. I half expected to see nearly noone at the store, and I half expected to see a long line of people who had spent the night trying to be first in line. I was wrong on both counts. I arrived in Pasadena just a couple of minutes before the 9:00 am opening of the Apple Store. There were two lines: one line for people with pre-orders, one line for general public. The line was less than half the block, running from the Apple Store entrance to the corner of the block. Since I had a pre-order, I got in the pre-order line. By 9:32 am, I was leaving the store, new iPad in hand, purchase completed.

I picked up the low-end 16 gig iPad and the $40 Apple iPad cover. The salesman tried to up-sell me on MobileMe, and tried to get me to purchase a larger capacity iPad. I resisted all the techno-temptations, swiped my credit card, and got back to my apartment ASAP.

One thing my salesman did right was ask if I had an iTunes account, telling me that the iPad wouldn’t work until it had been synced with a computer. He offered to walk through the initial setup process in the store right then. So I didn’t understand a lot of the complaints I’d heard online about iPad requiring a computer to set up. My salesman had notified me of the requirement and had offered to do the deed right there before I left the store. Maybe all Apple Stores aren’t so thorough with training the sales staff?

Since I’d owned an iPhone, I knew what to expect. I launched iTunes and plugged in the iPad. The system synced with my old iPhone backup, restoring all my old apps and data. Pretty slick.

Once I got to actually using the iPad, I realized the iPhone apps were really unattractive in both the 1x and 2x scaling. Thankfully, most of the apps I liked and used have been updated in the last three weeks. (Canabalt and Mazefinger are two exceptions — they look and work just fine at 2x mode.)

The on-screen keyboard isn’t something I’d want to have to do a lot of writing on. I HATE the iPhone keyboard, and the only thing that makes the iPad keyboard more tolerable is the larger size, especially in the horizontal position.

I love the orientation locking switch, and keep it horizontal nearly all the time.

The only real negative experiences I have had with the iPad have to do with the application switching mechanic. The iPhone OS upgrade coming will make multitasking easier.

As I’ve discussed frequently in my Twitter and FaceBook feeds, I support Apple’s refusal to allow Flash on the iPhone OS. If they did, then developers would produce ugly apps for the lowest common denominator, and that would serve the interests of lazy developers only. More bad apps, anyone? I didn’t think so. So far, I’ve only visited one website that required Flash to do what I wanted to do, and it was Acrobat.com. There are other document sharing systems out there, so competition serves the consumer yet again.

I was happy to see Amazon had released a Kindle app for iPad. Unfortunately, the Kindle app is terrible. The best thing I can say about the Kindle app is that it exists. If you have a Kindle and/or an iPhone, you can now read your books everywhere — desktop, iPhone, iPad, Kindle — and that portability is fantastic. (Is there a Kindle app for Android? If not, there needs to be.) I really hope that Amazon doesn’t scrimp on supporting and enhancing the Kindle iPad app — I want it to be good, for competition spurs innovation and is good for customers.

The Apple iBooks app is a nice experience for a 1.0 version, but they need to offer better fonts in the settings options. I absolutely agree with some criticisms I’ve read about typography on the iPad.

In some cases, third party, single-book apps are better than ebooks from either Amazon or Apple. One notable example is the free ESV Bible HD — it is beautiful and a better reading experience.

I haven’t purchased any of the iWork apps: Numbers, Keynote, Pages. I’m a heavy Google user, and my expectation is/was to use Google Docs, since that is where my important documents already live. The experience of using Google Docs on the iPad’s browser isn’t the same as on the desktop, and it has been disappointing. After reading some of the problems with managing iWork documents on the iPad, I’m torn between just tolerating the Google Docs until they can iron out the glitches vs. using the Office2 HD app ($7.99) as an interface to the Google apps.

I’m still looking for a decent project management and /or task and todo list method. I’ve tried several of the free task and to do apps, and they have ugly interfaces. I may end up buying Toodledo ($2.99) which syncs with the toodledo.com website.

Quite a number of other apps I’ve been used to on the iPhone are no longer needed on the iPad. Facebook on the iPhone was great, but there just isn’t the need for a Facebook app on iPad. And there are just as many iPhone apps that I wish would get the HD treatment for the iPad screen. But we’re still in early days, and developers are working hard, not just in converting existing apps but also innovating new uses for the platform.

I occasionally wish I could run iPhone or iPad apps on my MacBook Pro.

Some of my favorite iPad apps not mentioned above:

ABC Player
I’ve been watching the remake of “V” on the iPad. “V” is much, much better than I had ever expected it to be. This app is slick.

The Early Edition
A newspaper-like method for reading your RSS feeds.

USA Today for iPad
Similar to the USA Today app for Android, this is a nice interface for news. Who knew that USA Today could be so cool?

TweetDeck for iPad
My favorite desktop Twitter client, YAY!

Netflix
Streaming video on demand. Very nice! I am very aware that this app exists for the only reason that Apple has refused to allow Flash on the iPhone OS. And I don’t mind that Netflix was required to either convert their web based service to HTML5 video or create a custom app for the iPad. They had the choice, and the results are good. If and when Netflix converts to HTML5, then iPad users will have a choice of web interface or iPad app, and that’s fine, too.

Evernote
One method for taking notes, syncs with evernote.com for viewing on the Web or smartphone.

NPR for iPad
Interesting interface, a must have for NPR addicts.

WordPress
If you blog on wordpress.com or your self-hosted WordPress blog, then this app is a nice interface when you’re using your iPad.

Honorable Mentions

Pandora
This is one app that will benefit from the upcoming OS upgrade.

What apps are you living with and loving? Let me know!

Gadget Lust

PC Magazine posted this great review of the Apple iPad.

And Sprint is getting the most kick-ass Android phone yet. I look forward to the day when every cellphone has the ability to be a wifi hotspot…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKiBzBAHuEw

Apple iPad: WANT!

When Apple released the iPhone, it was obvious that it was a great device. Great for everything, it seemed, but making phone calls.

AT&T has been the Achilles Heel in the iPhone becoming a true “God Phone”. I know people in San Francisco complain about AT&T reception, but here in Alhambra, working from home, with AT&T cell towers all around me, I could not get a reliable cellular connection. The iPhone was unusable for me. And since I was working from home, being unable to use the phone at home was the dealbreaker.

I have said for a while — at least two years — that if they grew the iPod Touch into a 5.5×8.5″ format, or half of an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper, it would be perfect. Well Apple did me one better, going for the 10″ display at 1024×768 resolution. This is slightly smaller than the screen of my old 12″ PowerBook. Intuitively, this feels right.

I have held out on buying an e-book reader. The Kindle and Nook are interesting devices, but aren’t the solution that feels right to me. The hardware is expensive and not nearly as versatile as I would hope. My instinct tells me that the iPad’s color screen alone will be enough to make the iPad a better book reader than any others. The backlit screen, and shorter battery life, will be the tradeoff for using the iPad as a book reader over a Kindle or Nook.

Pair an iPad with the Skype app, wifi, and a bluetooth headset, and you have a media device capable of making phone calls. I don’t know how many iPad users will do this, but that is a usage statistic I’ll be watching for as the polls start coming in.

For web browsing, the 1024×768 resolution is perfect, in my opinion. Most websites will be viewable at actual size without left-right scrolling when in horizontal orientation.

The screen format has gotten some criticism since many movies are 16:9. So you’ll see black bars across the top and bottom of your screen. Tough. You get black bars on the sides when viewing standard definition movies and television on your high def screens. It isn’t ideal, but we don’t live in an ideal world. Deal with it.

Flash? I don’t want Flash. I want Apple to continue to stonewall on implementing Flash on all their products to spur the development communities on to better solutions. I agree with the person who said that Flash was a stop-gap measure — it should never have been used as a platform. Let the people who can’t live without Flash choose a Linux or Windows-based product.

Writing and responding to short e-mail will be better on the iPad than on your smart phone, but you’re not going to be using the touch screen keyboard to write anything very long at all. I hope I’m wrong about that, as it would be nice to do some blogging and writing/editing on the go with the iPad without needing a laptop, but I really hate the iPhone touch keyboard.

Aside from e-books, I expect gaming to really pick up with the iPad. As developers take advantage of the form factor to develop new and innovative games, I expect the iPad to become a really compelling portable game device. I don’t see much difference in God of War on the PSP and Assassin’s Creed on the iPhone. And I would love to see true virtual worlds come to the iPad platform, especially Second Life.

So I have my iPad on reserve. April 3 at 9:00 am, look for me in line at the Pasadena Apple Store.

I. Can’t. Wait.