The Five Minute iPad Review

I was headed to Jamba Juice last night to pick up a smoothie for my sick daughter (ok, I really wanted one too) and there happens to be an Apple Store about 100 feet away so I ducked in for a quick play with an iPad. Everyone seems to have an opinion about this device but it really helps to pick one up and try it out for yourself. Here are my findings based on five minutes of experimentation…

The Good

  • Beautiful, crisp display. Seems like a perfect personal video viewing device (e.g. watching a movie in flight or in bed).
  • Very nice web browsing experience – nothing beats clicking, scrolling and zooming by touching the screen.
  • The book reader seems quite nice. Very readable text and cute touch-driven page turning animation. With the backlit display, it looks great for one of my needs – reading in bed at night after the lights are out.
  • Email is much more usable compared with the iPhone. You get a list of message headers and a separate message preview window.
  • In landscape mode, the soft keyboard is pleasant to use (the cramped keyboard is easily my biggest problem with the iPhone) and you can type fast with two hands. It’s almost, but not quite, as good as a real physical keyboard.

The Bad

  • As noted in David Pogue’s excellent review, it’s a bit heavy. After holding it upright for a few minutes, you feel it. Although that may not be a problem when it’s on your lap (I was standing up, which is probably not the typical usage scenario).
  • I tried searching for something I actually wanted to know at the moment (“Jamba Juice hours”), but this failed because Jamba’s location finder page requires Flash, which Apple refuses to support. For a device that is marketed as the best web browsing experience ever, this is inexcusable. The good news is that if Apple ever changes this policy, it should be a software-only fix.
  • The iPad has the same uni-tasking user interface as the iPhone, which feels a bit constrained and simplistic to me. On the other hand, it’s also extremely simple, which makes life easier for non-power users. This video, which records the first meeting between a two-year-old and an iPad, makes a good case for its simple and intuitive user interface.

I understand some people are waiting for the more expensive 3G version (which will work with AT&T’s data network) coming later this month. Personally, I think that’s a waste of money – I don’t see this as much of a mobile device. Due to its size, it’s hard to imagine carrying it around with me, except when traveling long distances, in which case I can usually find a free or cheap wi-fi service.

In my opinion, the iPad doesn’t have any essential functionality that can’t be accomplished with other technologies. Rather, like the iPhone, it’s value is that it packages so many useful functions into one device with a unique and compelling user interface. In my book, that makes it a luxury product. The problem is that $499 is not a luxury price.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a good price for all that functionality but I think it needs to come down a bit to attract a wider audience. That’s exactly what happened with the iPhone. In June 2007, the original iPhone cost $499 at launch. One year later (June 2008) Apple offered a higher functioning model (the iPhone 3G) for $199. I bought the iPhone 3G in late 2008 so I had to wait over a year to get my hands on one but by doing so a) I got a much better performing product and b) I saved $300.

The Bottom Line

I love the product but I don’t love the price. I’ll probably wait a year or so and see if I can get a better iPad at a better price. In the meantime, I’ll have to deal with a serious case of iPad envy.

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