Up close and personal with the iPad
So in the end I lasted six and a half days before giving in to the inevitable and buying an iPad. It was inevitably going to happen sooner or later, and six and a half days was only a fraction shorter than I realistically thought I’d hold out for.
So after a week and a half of being the proud owner of an iPad, what are my thoughts?
The short answer is: I really like it. On a deep, emotional level – it truly is a thing of beauty and the definition of an object of desire.
And what am I using it for? Here again the answer is simple, but not particularly illuminating. I use it to check email, to look at Twitter, to go through my RSS feeds and browse a few specific news pages such as the BBC first thing in the morning and last thing at night. If I’m watching TV, then I’ll quite often want to know a bit of background information on the show or find out who a specific actor is. And during a Formula 1 event, I’ll want timing and live commentary information. I’ve also been known to transfer TV programmes that I’ve recorded on my Elgato tuner so that I can watch them on the gloriously large screen in comfort (on the sofa or in bed.)
All of which might sound a bit underwhelming – “couldn’t you do all of that already, using the iPhone?” And of course I could indeed do all of that. But the strange thing is that I didn’t; well, I’d check email and Twitter in bed first thing in the morning, but I’ve even stopped doing that recently – a combination of not wanting to run the iPhone’s notoriously fickle battery down ahead of a full day, and the mobile screen being just too cramped for it to be truly pleasurable when not on the move.
Safari and Apple Mail are two of my most used apps, of course. For Twitter, I still cling strangely to the Twitter iPhone app even though it shrinks the screen down to a fraction of the full iPad size (or becomes fuzzy if you use the 2x zoom function on it) – maybe Twitter just “feels” like it should be mobile app-sized and not in full screen iPad mode? That said, the Twitter mobile site is very good when viewed in Twitter, and HelTweetica and Twitterific and Tweetdeck all have their strengths; it’s just that none of them quite click with me. I hope Twitter develop their branded app (formerly Tweetie) for the iPad soon.
For Formula 1, there’s the extremely expensive (but apparently extremely good) F1 iPad application costing £20 for a full season, but I go for the much simpler free timing application from the Formula 1 site and it was amazingly useful during this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix when it came track as to who was doing what with pit stops.
For all those TV and film queries, there’s the IMDb app which is already iPad-enabled. It’s a little quirky in its layout and interface – it didn’t seem to be able to do a lot of things initially, but poking around (and even turning the iPad horizontally rather than holding it in portrait mode made a huge difference in functionality) revealed it had a lot more to it than first appeared, and it’s very stylishly implemented. It’s become one of my favourites as well as most useful apps in the interim.
About the biggest problem I had was finding a decent RSS reader that syncs with Google Reader. On the iPhone, I’ve been very happy with Byline, but there’s no iPad version of Byline yet and so it’s stuck in a very small window on the screen (it scales up 2x very poorly and totally loses the whole iPad experience.) The Google Reader site is also very underwhelming using iPad’s Safari, and certainly didn’t give me any warm, fuzzy sense of doing anything truly worthy of the iPad.
And then just in time, I found Reeder for iPad, which is just gorgeous. There’s been a version for iPhone for a while that looks (to me) rather like my old favourite Byline, but they’ve really done an excellent job expanding out to the iPad, using the flicks, sweeps and pinches to their full effect – and all the time in a beautiful interface. At last, reading through my RSS feeds becomes a true joy instead of a chore.
Oh, and I should put in a mention for iBooks. I always wondered why Apple rather downplayed the e-book functionality of the iPad when they launched the product earlier this year, and I can only think it was because they only had the licensing rights sown up in the US and so everyone else was going to miss out. Fortunately they managed to do a deal for the UK as well at the very last minute before the (delayed) UK iPad launch, and while only a few publishers are on board so far it’s surprising how many titles there are. Even better is the selection of out-of-copyright books available – I have several Sherlock Holmes books downloaded, as well as Dracula and a Father Brown from GK Chesterton, as well as the quite beautiful Winnie The Pooh book that Apple lined up as a flagship free download for everyone.
So those are my current uses (and resulting apps) for the iPad. There’s nothing really earth-shattering here, or anything new – I suspect I’ve barely scratched the surface and certainly haven’t been adventurous in possible uses of the iPad, and have really only kept in the safe shallow waters of familiarity to date. Nothing that I can point to and say “look, that’s truly ground breaking!” And yet when you start using these and other apps, it really does make more of a difference than it sounds in changing your online consumption experience.
There’s more to be said about all of this, and I’ll do another blog post soon (when I get the chance) to try and delve into why I think the iPad really is a massive game-changing device – even at the same time that it’s also incredibly hard to explain to anyone why it’s actually different.
But that’s for another day.
[UPDATE 16 June 2010] And no sooner do I post, than an update for one of my old iPhone Twitter clients gets posted that solves the problem of a decent iPad version. The first Twitter app I used was Echofon, which was really good but at some point we fell out for a reason now lost in the mists of time (possibly because I fell for Tweetie, the original name for Twitter for iPhone.) But Echofon’s new iPad-enabled version is quite lovely, and just what I was looking for, so it’s instantly become by top go-to Twitter client today and firmly rooted in the ‘permanent’ icons at the foot of the screen.
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