iPad: Five Things I Didn’t Expect

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Before the iPad went on sale, well before I had a chance even to touch one of the devices, I predicted the iPad would be a big success, an “Inside the Park Home Run.”

I was right.

I don’t say this to impress you. This was an easy call. It didn’t take much prognosticating to come to this conclusion.

I was similarly on target with my expectations as to how the iPad would fit within Apple’s line-up of computers and iOS devices. Consistent with what I wrote, and despite some reports that contend the iPad is “cannibalizing” netbook competitors, the iPad has not emerged as a viable alternative to a laptop computer. And that’s okay. It’s not intended to be. At least not yet.

iPad

However, not all of my pre-launch expectations have been met. In fact, I’ve been quite surprised by the way a few things have turned out. Here are five examples (in ascending order):

5. News. For me, one of the biggest joys of having an iPhone have been the news apps — such as from AP or the New York Times. They have been invaluable when I’m on the road and want to keep up with the latest headlines.

My expectation was that the iPad would not have much effect here. If anything, because the iPad was less portable, I assumed that I would still rely mainly on my iPhone for news checking. The larger display on the iPad would give it an edge in some situations. But it would not amount to much.

I was wrong.

As any iPad owner can tell you, the iPad’s larger display offers the opportunity for the iPad to be much more than simply a bigger iPhone. It allows for apps that would be impossible to duplicate on an iPhone. The best of these iPad apps — such as the USA Today and NPR apps — create an entirely new iOS experience. They come much closer to duplicating — and even improving upon — the printed versions of these news sources. For me, they are so much better than the iPhone alternatives, that I gravitate towards the iPad whenever possible.

An even bigger surprise has been the visual RSS-feed-like apps such as Pulse and FlipBoard. With FlipBoard, in particular, my Twitter stream is converted into a sort of online customized newspaper. The result is that I check out many more of the links in my feed, because the automatic display of the content makes it so convenient. I still use a traditional Twitter app, but I try to check in on FlipBoard at least once a day.

With just a bit more evolution of the iPad, I will be ready to abandon print news media altogether. About all that is needed is an economical subscription service with a consistent interface (something Apple is purportedly getting ready to announce).

4. Games. While I am not a big-time player, I do enjoy playing iOS games on a fairly regular basis. I especially prefer games that I can casually pick up, play for a bit, and then put aside. Games that have fit this bill for me on the iPhone include card games, pinball games, as well as several computer games such as Canabalt, Peggle, and Angry Birds.

I expected to play these games on my iPad. I didn’t expect to play them more often than I already did on my iPhone.

I was wrong.

Once again, the iPad’s larger screen made more of a difference than I anticipated. The iPad (HD) versions of games such as Pinball, Labyrinth 2, Real Racing and Air Attack play significantly differently — and much better — on the iPad than on the iPhone. One reason is that, with the larger real estate, you can more easily use your fingers without them getting in the way of what you are trying to see. The iPad versions also allow for options not viable in their iPhone alternatives. With Pinball HD, for example, you can always see the full table at a size big enough to make out the details.

Even games that have not been rewritten for the iPad, such as Angry Birds (I haven’t even bothered to upgrade to the HD version), look and play better at 2X size on the iPad than on the iPhone.

And, of course, there are the great games, such as Scrabble, that only exist on the iPad. [Update: As pointed out by a reader, there is a separate Scrabble app for the iPhone. The iPad version’s interface is so superior, I had forgotten about the iPhone app.]

The result is that I now do almost all of my game playing on an iPad. I only use the iPhone if I don’t have my iPad available. And I never play games on my Mac anymore. 

3. Movies. For watching movies at home, my mantra has long been “the bigger the better.” My goal has been for my home theater to be a superior system for viewing movies than my local multiplex. I currently have a 55” television with a high-end audio system — and have plans to upgrade it within the next year. Given this, I didn’t expect to be doing much movie watching on my iPad — certainly not at home when my home theater was readily available.

I was wrong.

As it turns out, I use the iPad quite often for viewing the streamed movies available for “free” to Netflix subscribers. In fact, for Netflix movies that I watch by myself, the iPad is now my platform of choice. I prefer the convenience of being able to grab the iPad, tap the Netflix app and start watching almost immediately. There’s no need to turn on multiple devices, deal with a remote control or navigate through a series of screens to get to my destination. As a bonus, I can easily move to another room to continue my viewing or (if sound is a problem for other people in the house) plug in my headphones.

As for the iPad’s smaller display, it’s big enough — given that I am only a few inches from the screen. Truly an unexpected surprise.

2. iBookstore. I had high hopes for the iBookstore. With its support for the ePub format and PDFs, I thought it might become my preferred location for storing personal document files on my iOS devices. More importantly, I thought it might be the app that at last convinced me to transition from printed books to ebooks — for reading novels and such.

I was wrong.

For storing personal documents, I use Dropbox. It’s faster and simpler for transferring files (PDFs and more) between my Mac and my iOS devices (as I detailed here).

As for reading ebooks, the iPad’s larger size certainly makes it more attractive than using an iPhone. However, and this may just be a personal quirk, I still prefer paperbacks to ebooks. In theory, the idea of having multiple books available on one small device — with options like searchable text — seems appealing. In practice, however, if I’m going out for the day, I’d much rather carry around a paperback than my iPad. At the very least, I’m less concerned about damaging or losing the paperback. The iPad can be a good choice when I’m home, such as for reading a book in bed, but I don’t do that often enough to get through an entire book that way.

I suspect that I will eventually make the eBook transition — as others have already done. But I’m not there yet.

1. Keyboards and such. Almost as soon as the iPhone was out, I was already longing for the option to use a wireless keyboard with an iPhone. My hope was that, with a real keyboard and sufficiently well-design apps, I would be able to use the combo to get some serious work done when on the road.

It never happened. Then the iPad arrived. Apple announced that the iPad would support Bluetooth keyboards — and that iPad versions of their iWork apps would be available. This was it, I thought. My wish had been granted — in spades.

I was wrong. I have detailed my reasons elsewhere. Mainly, it comes down to three things:

The iPad’s productivity apps (such as Pages) are not yet good enough to meet even my minimalist writing needs (I want to be able to create hyperlinks in an article for example). Actions that require the touchscreen, such as copy-and-paste, are too slow and awkward. File sharing between the Mac and the iPad still doesn’t work well (despite recent improvements to iWork apps).

Things should be a bit better when multitasking arrives on the iPad in November. But that will not be a panacea.

Still, I remain optimistic. I expect that, within the next year or so, most (maybe all) of my concerns will be addressed. Until then, I’m not entirely giving up. I will be on a vacation all next week. As I don’t plan to be writing any articles, I am going to take just my iPad, leaving my MacBook Pro at home (following in the footsteps of Walt Mossberg). I’m a bit hesitant, but hopeful. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Bottom line

True, the iPad doesn’t yet do everything I would like. But I have patience. It’s still a 1.0 device after all.

On the other hand, the iPad already does many things spectacularly well, better than any other device I have ever tried. That’s why, in less than a year, the iPad has emerged as the standard against which all other competing devices are measured. In regard to this turn of events, I am not at all surprised.

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Comments

MCooper

I took an iPad with me on a 6 week trip to Europe. It was to be used for email, Internet and backing up pictures. It was a disappointment. I had few games or books. I prefer paperbacks too. And I was in France, why did I need games to distract me?
Not having access to the Internet on a regular basis pointed out weaknesses. We had to create emails offline and it was a problem at first. There was no Save on the email screen. Only Send and Cancel. After you hit Cancel, Save and Don’t Save were the options. I learned fast.
Safari wants to redraw screens. Being offline, I could not see screens because you cannot Save them. I now know there are apps that can do this.
Photos was a disappointment as well. I could import pictures from my camera but not change the name Photos assigned them. I could not create slideshows on the go.
More to the point, if I needed to free up space, you cannot delete synced slideshows or music. Why I have no idea.
The iPad did not make a good netbook for my trip.

anovelli

Interesting article. Can’t wait to get one. Only quibble is Scrabble for iPhone has been around for a long time, integrates with my Facebook games, and usually runs fairly well (still beta overall, still a little buggy on the iPhone).

barryotoole

I must say that iPad has changed my life.

I no longer carry my MBP 15” to work (I’m a doctor); most of the things I used my laptop for, including creating/editing documents (I use DocsToGo), are easily handled by the iPad. The MBP feels too heavy now, and unnecessary.

I have also noticed that I use my iPhones less and less, mainly for making calls or texting. I was musing to myself if I really need an iPad and an iPhone; for my needs, a dumbphone would do, when I have the iPad with me constantly.

Consequently, I rarely look for iPhone apps anymore, unless they are the ones I absolutely need (like Motion X GPS app) and is only available on the iPhone. Also, it is an excellent point-and-shoot camera, especially with the HDR now.

I’m going to a week-long conference next month, and plan to leave my MBP home. The conference hall should have Wi-Fi, and if not, I’ll subscribe to 3G for a month. I also intend to carry my Apple BT keyboard to take long notes.

I have found that Waterfield sleeve for the iPad is great. The one I have fits the iPad with its Apple case on, and has a small, removable pouch for accessories. The keyboard will go in the back flap-pocket.

I am a bookworm, and have become a ebook addict. I now wait until a book becomes available in the e-format. The new Kindle app is great, and has a lot of choices. You should try it, Ted.

Dropbox is great. I plan to leave my MBP on when I’m away, and in case I need something I’ll access it through the logmein app.

wab95

Ted:

I have many of the same reactions to the iPad that you list, although I have not had much time lately for movies on any platform apart from those on longhaul international flights during meals.

The iPad has met or exceeded my expectations, with the following exceptions.

I had thought it would be my principal tool for patient care, but find myself still reaching for the iPhone on my hip for quick references, like drug prescriptions on Epocrates.

I had expected to use the iPad more for reviewing manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals, which come in pdf format, and which I consistently do every week. Opening them up in Doc Anywhere, which seems to render pdfs better than Docs to Go, at least in my experience, and then switching back and forth to write the review in either Docs to Go or Pages is awkward. It is simply faster on my MBP, as is uploading the review onto journal’s website.

Although I have downloaded Dropbox, I have not had time to even open it up, and have historically used iDisk for file sharing between platforms and with colleagues. I would interested to hear from you or others any comparisons of Dropbox and iDisk, and whether Dropbox is superior in any way to iDisk, and if so, how.

While I am happy with my iPad, and carry it everywhere, I too look forward to its next iteration.

Intruder

I travel. A lot. So I use the iPad eBook capability because I don’t like hauling around several paper books on long trips due to the additional weight. I used to have a Kindle, but one major advantage that the iPad has over the Kindle or any dedicated e-reader is that I have a choice of book sources. I can use the iBookstore, Amazon’s Kindle store or the Nook store. Whichever has the book I want at the best price. (hint: Apple charges sales tax. Amazon doesn’t)

Dead tree books are nice, but you get tired of carrying them around in your luggage when space and weight are at a premium. Downside of e-books is I can’t donate them to the troops when I’m done with them.

wab95

I?m going to a week-long conference next month, and plan to leave my MBP home

The iPad is great for conferences. I regularly bring mine to them. The only down side is if you are presenting at the conference. It is still easier to work on slide presentations on my MBP, and many Speakers’ Ready Rooms require you, on site, to bring your slide presentation on a flash drive.

Lakeshore Mac

While reading your article, I found myself literally saying Uh-Huh, Uh-Huh to just about everything you said that I found out myself by using my iPad. Something I though that I would casually use is now permanently glued to my hip. I even drove 60 miles to find a purse that would fit my iPad perfectly so I could take it everywhere! The biggest change it has made for me is how I subscribe to my many Tech Magazines. They are all digital courtesy of Coverleaf or Zinio. I love the new Multi-media digital magazines like Popular Mechanics and National Geographic Traveler. I could spend days just reading one magazine. I can hardly wait to find out what else my “Magic Tablet” can do.

Ricky Spero

I had expected to use the iPad more for reviewing manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals, which come in pdf format, and which I consistently do every week. Opening them up in Doc Anywhere, which seems to render pdfs better than Docs to Go, at least in my experience, and then switching back and forth to write the review in either Docs to Go or Pages is awkward. It is simply faster on my MBP, as is uploading the review onto journal?s website.

Wab—

I can heartily recommend Papers, which is like iTunes for research PDFs. Integrated PubMed search, services to assign metadata to PDFs you get from colleagues, etc. It’s saved me countless hours!

Cheers,
—Ricky
TMO

wab95

I can heartily recommend Papers, which is like iTunes for research PDFs

Excellent!

I have just recently got hold of iAnnotate, which enables pdf editing. Papers seems like a more complete tool for my needs.

Many thanks!

Martin

I replied earlier about my travel experiences but now I am home with my iPad and Macbook. I am using my MacBook.
While travelling with my iPad, I tried logging in to MobileMe, but always got the “Get an Account” screen. Finally I noticed the line at the bottom telling me to use my Mac or PC.
Now I know why I can’t upload my pictures to Gallery. Can’t do it from the iPad!
The iPad is a great picture frame but
? cannot create slideshows from a subset of your imported pictures.
? cannot rename events or imported pictures.
? cannot delete synced slideshows. (or synced music)
? cannot upload pictures in bulk to Gallery or Picassa.

Maybe because I am retired and not working that my needs for the iPad are different from others.
Be aware of the need to sync with a computer for those who want to give an iPad to another person without a computer. House calls will be necessary.

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