The hype over the iPad has finally died down. As far as I can tell, the print media has not gone the way of the dinosaur (at least not yet), and the media and communications industries have not been reborn. However, some pretty significant things have happened:
- In its initial rollout, the iPad outsold the iPhone, which is no mean feat.
- Apple is on target to sell 10 million iPads this year.
- On May 27, Apple eclipsed Microsoft to become the world’s most highly valued technology company.
- Every major player in the computer industry is scrambling to release a tablet computer as soon as possible.
By just about any measure, the iPad is a huge success and the computer industry is now adapting to the first major new computer paradigm in many years.
Back in April, I wrote The Five Minute iPad Review based on some limited tinkering with an iPad in an Apple Store. My assessment then was quite positive but, due to the price tag, I didn’t expect to buy one for some time. Later that month, I was delighted to receive an iPad for my 50th birthday:
Now, six months later, I’d like to share another assessment, one based on extensive hands-on experience.
First of all, I use my iPad every day. That alone is significant – many tech products are fun to use for a few weeks but ultimately end up in a drawer or a closet. The very fact that, six months after obtaining it, I continue to actively use this device day in and day out tells you something about its utility.
My primary use is reading books, browsing the web, listening to music and watching movies at night in bed. Because of the backlit display and earphones, I’m able to do all those things with the lights off and without disturbing my wife. Before I had an iPad, I spent my late evenings sitting in front of my computer. Now I can be horizontal, which is much more relaxing and conducive to drifting off to sleep. As a result, I tend to fall asleep earlier than I used to and I have developed a more regular sleep cycle. So, in an indirect sort of way, the iPad has actually helped improve my health, which is a surprising result for an electronic gadget.
Some people claim that, unlike e-book readers which are optimized for the book reading experience, the general purpose iPad is not up to the challenge of extended reading sessions. With one notable exception (see below), I have no trouble reading the iPad, in dark or light conditions, for hours on end. For me, it’s just as comfortable as reading a book, except that I don’t need one of those annoying clip-on book lights when reading in the dark.
The user interface is fantastic. Browsing the web is very pleasant on this device. The display is very crisp and clear. Touching the screen to visit a hyperlink is the most natural user interface imaginable. Movies look amazing on this device. The built-in speaker is larger and much better sounding than that of an iPhone (admittedly, a low bar).
The iPad is great for consuming information but not so good for creating information. In other words, if you want to read/watch/listen, you’ll be a happy camper but don’t expect to use it to create/write/produce anything – while the keyboard is worlds better than the iPhone keyboard, it’s nowhere near as comfortable as a laptop or desktop computer keyboard.
The display screen seems to get extremely smudgy, very quickly. This comes with the territory with any touch screen device but, for some reason, iPads seems to accumulate and show the smudges more than iPhones and other touch screen devices I’ve used. This is easily remedied by occasional screen wiping so it’s not a big deal, just that the frequency with which you need to clean the screen can be a minor annoyance.
The iPad screen can be difficult to read in direct sunlight. I’ve read this is an area where the Kindle excels (JeffB – I’d be all too happy to review a Kindle if you’d care to send one my way). This is only a minor problem for me because I rarely need to use my iPad outdoors but on those occasions when I do, this can be frustrating.
The battery life could be better. Based on my typical usage pattern, I find that I need to recharge every 2-3 days or so which is a little too frequent for my taste. Often I find the battery is very low just when I want to use it. It’s not fatal but it could be better. I hear this is another area where the Kindle does much better.
I’m continually annoyed by the lack of support for Flash. Steve Jobs may have lots of good technical reasons (I’ve read his article) but none of that really matters to end users – all I know is lots of websites that work fine on every other computer I own don’t work properly on my iPad.
I’ve noticed that using my iPad when I first wake up in the morning leads to a condition I call MIHS – Morning iPad Headache Syndrome. For some reason, this only happens to me in the morning – I can use the device in the afternoon or evening for hours on end with no ill effects but there’s something about my morning brain which doesn’t react well to the iPad display. This is not a big problem for me because I am principally a night time iPad user, however, on several occasions when I’ve tried using it in the morning I’ve consistently experienced this problem. It’s not a brain-smashing migraine, just a mild headache but not a great way to start your day.
I suspect there are going to be quite a few iPads under the Christmas trees and Hanukkah bushes this year, as there should be – it’s a great device. I can wholeheartedly recommend it for people who want to consume media in a more relaxed way (e.g. in bed, on the couch) than sitting in front of a desk or with a hot, heavy notebook computer on your lap. For anyone wanting to use this device extensively in the morning, I would suggest trying an iPad for a morning or two to make sure you don’t suffer from my Morning iPad Headache Syndrome.