Two weeks with the iPad

As I mentioned previously, iCaved during the iPad launch weekend and drove down to Seattle and picked up a 32gb wifi iPad.

Apple iPad Case

My decision to drive across the line to get one was further justified (to me) by the fact that Apple then had to delay the international release of the iPad over a month longer than originally planned (pushing it out to almost 2 months from US launch to Canadian availability). This delay, combined with my demo of the device, prompted a number of friends and coworkers to make their own track to Seattle to get their own units.

I have to say, after having it for a number of weeks now, the device keeps surprising me. For starters, the battery life has been amazing. Apple suggests that it lasts for about 10 hours on a charge. I’ve heard of people getting better than 12 hours of life out of the battery. Personally, I’ve gone for 3-4 days of heavy usage before having to plug it in. I never do stupid battery tests (playing a video loop until the battery dies for example) with any of my gear as they aren’t reflective of my actual usage. I can honestly say that the battery performs better than expected and that is awesome for a device like this.

iPad Screenshots

Of course, since the iPad isn’t currently available in Canada, I get asked about it all the time. It’s been fun to have people come up to me at Starbucks for example and say “Is that THE iPad?”. Pretty much everyone has been impressed by seeing one in person, including many naysayers that start off their questioning with “so is it really just a big iPhone?”. It’s also been interesting seeing people that don’t have an iPhone or even a Mac play with it and intuitively figure out how it works without any prompting from me.

So here’s a few app highlights of why it’s outperformed my expectations:

The Photos app, as expected, is a fantastic way to view photos synced from my laptop. It can support thousands of photos and you can scroll through them REALLY fast.
iPad Screenshots

I particularly like the option at the lockscreen to enable the Photoframe mode which is a nice touch for when it’s just sitting there or while charging:
Apple iPad Case

Like Photos, the Movies app is equalling compelling to view movies…I’ve loaded up a bunch of my portfolio videos along with a number of feature films and combined with the crazy battery life, it’s truly a great media player.

I’ve collected a few books to read over the next little while and love that the iBooks app supports ePub formatted books. Combined with the opensource Calibre app (cross platform) conversion tool, you can pretty much put anything text based into the iBooks app. It’s also a nice touch that the entire Amazon Kindle library of books is available via the free Kindle app that has been updated with iPad support.

iPad Screenshots

While considering the purchase of a magazine in a grocery store, I realized that this could be better read on the iPad. A quick check of the Zinio app and for about the price of two issues of a magazine (in this case Shutterbug), I could get a 12 issue subscription. This was a no-brainer. The iPad version includes a number of benefits over the printed version including text transcripts, in-app url viewing (all the ads have clickable links to product pages) and fast navigation through the magazine. I also get an email when the next issue is available.

iPad Screenshots

GoodReader is another ‘reading’ app that allows you to view any PDF document along with a number of other supported file types. It also allows you to create a webserver on the iPad to allow you to wirelessly share files between your iPad, your computer and even other iPads without syncing. I currently have a pile of manuals and documents stored in GoodReader that is incredibly handy. Pretty slick for a $0.99 app.

The Google Maps app is blazingly fast and truly excels at showing the power of the iPad off. Despite not having built in GPS, I’ve found it worked incredibly well at locating me via wifi triangulation in a number of different locations around the province. It truly feels like something out of Minority Report when your are pinching and zooming such a large screen around. Streetview even works amazingly well.

iPad Screenshots

At this point, I’ve got over 4 screens of iPad specific apps. Every day, more apps come up on the App Store and impress me. I can’t get into all of them in this post but will do future posts on some of the more impressive ones.

Gaming on the iPad
I have a bunch of games on the iPhone and have been really impressed with the quality of the iPad games that have been released that really take advantage of the iPad’s big screen. In particular, Scrabble has blown me away with some innovative game play options:
iPad Screenshots

Basically, the party mode supports the notion that players have an iPhone/Touch. They download a free ‘Tile Rack’ app (currently only available on the US App Store) that lets players using their personal devices as view screens of their own tiles. You can arrange your tiles on your iPhone then when it’s your turn, you simply flick them onto the iPad’s game board and place them. You can even flip the iPad’s board orientation around to face you if desired.

Other games like 10 Pin Shuffle feel like games you’d see on a Nintendo Wii (or better) with fast gameplay and beautiful graphics.
iPad Screenshots

Too bad it seems unlikely that Nintendo would ever port any games to the iPad…Zelda or Mario Kart would be amazing on a platform like this.

You’ll want the Apple Case (for now at least)
When I picked up my iPad, the Apple Store in Seattle had a wall of case options. I had already heard mixed reviews about the Apple branded one:
Apple iPad Case

but opted to get it anyway since it was the only one that offered a cover over the screen along with a simple, yet innovative integrated stand that would work in either orientation as well as comfortable angle for typing on a lap or table surface:

Apple iPad Case

Simply tucking the cover into the little flap on the backside quickly transforms the case into a sturdy stand. The only thing I don’t like about this case is the fact that it seems to pick up dirt/lint like crazy. Unavoidable I guess but it’s a pain to clean it constantly. Apparently this case has been wildly popular with it being sold out in all the Apple Stores and it has been spotted on ebay for more than twice the list price of $39.

Some things I don’t like or annoyed me

  • Like most people with an iPhone, the iPad could really benefit from over the air syncing. It would be great to be able to add some new movies on the fly without having to sync. I already have Mobile Me which works great but doesn’t allow me to add any kind of media over wifi sync.
  • I wish the VGA adaptor supported true video out…right now only a handful of apps support video out – I would have loved to been able to make a video demo of all the apps via the video out but it’s locked down unnecessarily
  • I keep finding myself reaching for the home button on the wrong side of the device since it’s orientation is always different depending on use. Only way around this would be a gesture system for getting home or putting a home button on all four sides of the bezel (not likely)

Like teenage vampires, the iPad apparently doesn’t like direct sunlight:
Don't use an iPad in direct sunlight

Using the iPad normally results in it never getting warm (unlike my iPhone or laptop)…it’s always cool. But take it outside and it starts to get warm when in direct sunlight and eventually will shut down after about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. I’m not planning on taking it to the beach but it’s kind of a disappointment.

What I’m looking forward to
I soon hope to get my hands on the Camera Connector as it should open up some interesting options for a much more portable photo upload tool with its support for RAW images, selective uploads and video support. It also sounds like the usb dongle that is included supports things other than photo downloads from cameras so it will be interesting to see what apps take advantage of this option.

Considering the iPad has only been out for a few weeks with the development kit only being in the hands of developers for little more than a month, the potential for this device is still largely untapped. It truly is a game changer in my opinion and not just a ‘big iPhone’.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the 3G enabled iPad is released as well…I’m still not convinced the mobile carriers will offer a compelling package for data users that already pay for a data plan on their iPhones (or other smartphones) which was one of the reasons why I opted to get the wifi version and tether my iPhone to the iPad via an app…although this method does require a jailbroken iPhone, there are similar apps for Android devices as well.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments if you’re curious about the iPad and I’ll try to answer them.

UPDATE (May 10, 2010): Rogers has announced (or rather, Apple has announced it for them) their pricing for the 3G iPad data plans. $15 for 250mb (per month) or $35 for 5gb. If you already have an existing data plan, you can add the iPad to your plan for $20/month. That means that it would cost me $50/month for my 6gb data plan that I can use with my iPhone & iPad (Looks like Apple/Rogers has removed this option – due to negative response?). Um, no thanks, I’ll stick with my tethering option.

UPDATE #2: Keep an eye on Roger’s official blog for more details about iPad pricing…there still seems to be some confusion about how the plans will work and whether there is an addon option.

12 Comments

  1. Jeff Ciecko says:

    Great insight into the iPad… thanks!

  2. Nicole says:

    Thanks John, I really enjoyed that review! Food for thought =)

  3. Chrobo says:

    How did you get the iBooks app onto the iPad here in Canada since it is not officially available here yet? Have you been able to try out the iWork apps?

    • John says:

      Chrobo: I have a US iTunes account – you need this to use the iPad currently as the App Store on the iPad only works with US accounts. I have bought Keynote and think it’s pretty solid…full review coming once I actually use it in a presentation next month.

  4. Great review, John.

    My Dad went across the border after I told him about your acquisition and he loves it. At the moment, it’s the only electronic device he’s got with him on a 3 week cruise and so far, it’s working stupendously–especially the ebook/audiobooks availability. He’s even using the Skype app to call me from various Mediterranean internet cafes.

  5. John says:

    I know there are lots of advantages for photographers to use the ipad but I’m left reeling as I don’t quite think the ipad fits my needs. Specifically, I need something that will serve as a communications device, portfolio and long-term storage when I’m traveling from a week to a month. A laptop (or maybe my imac!) would be perfect but they are just too big.

    I know the ipad will work great as a portable portfolio but how about that storage device? With only a 16GB HDD, or whatever it is, it is far too little to rely on for anymore than a day or two on the go with serious shooting. You mentioned the camera connector and a USB dongle. Do you know if it Is possible to connect a portable USB drive?

    I’m guessing from what I’ve read that the ipad isn’t so much the photographer friend I’m looking for… yet. Maybe the next gen version will carry more HDD or connectivity. For now I’m leaning towards a netbook.

    Thanks for the post and any additional insight!
    John

    • John says:

      John: Yes, the limited storage (16/32/64gb flavours) limit it’s usefulness as a storage device…especially for photography. But it’ll work in a pinch to view/upload the odd photo as required. A netbook or a nice MacBook Pro would be a better tool for your use case. It hasn’t replaced my MBP…it’s merely a complement device and in many circumstances, it let’s me leave the laptop at home. I’m still taking it and my MBP to Hawaii next month for exactly those reasons.

  6. John,

    Are you not annoyed about not having a USB connection??

    Great review,

    Thanks

  7. Loxy says:

    You’re not selling me on it.

    I like being able to toss my books haphazardly into my purse.

    I like my iPod Touch being able to take up little to no space.

    I have a laptop for watching things bigger.

    I just think for most people it’s a “want” and not a “need”.

  8. John says:

    Thanks, John. That was my suspicion. I will holdout for the next version. Hopefully flash memory will become more inexpensive! Although, I still need a means of making a dual backup as some portable HDDs do, so if they don’t have a USB port than hopefully they can at least accomodate high speed wireless data transfer for this.

    Anyway… I hate to gripe but yanking my 17″ laptop around is too much especially when I like to travel as lightly as possible (which is impossible with twin girls.) :)

    Enjoy Hawai’i! I had a great time in Oahu last month.

    @Loxy. I don’t know about the want vs need thing. If I had the money, it would be an ideal portfolio tool. Since publishing is obviously moving from print to screen, I don’t think there can be a better way of showing one’s work… especially when you hear how nice the screen is relative to most laptops.

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