Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From one Extreme to the Other

After yesterday's little piece of ludditeism about 'Why I don't do Facebook', and in response to the comment there from Penni, I thought I'd answer her question: Do I want an iPad?

Well, that kinda depends.

Don't get me wrong - I love mine. I'm glad I got it, and the longer I have it, the more useful it's proving to be, but it definitely wouldn't be for everyone.

So, for what it's worth, here's my take on it:

1. Things I love
  • The Tactile Experience. Let's get the superficial one out of the way first, shall we? The iPad is, purely and simply, just lovely to touch. Running your finger across the screen feels nice. The back is comfortably curved and carved out of the same brushed aluminium as the Macbook Pro computers. It's pretty to look at; when you activate it, the resolution and picture quality is superb, photographs look stunning, hi-def apps are a pleasure to behold. From a purely aesthetic point of view, the iPad is a great piece of design.

  • Email. For me, this is a biggie. The email app is fast, efficient, and easy to use. In terms of having easily portable access to my email, and the capacity to quickly read and reply to long emails, without having to poke away at the tiny keys on my phone, the iPad is ideal for me.

  • Portable documents. Tomorrow I have to go to a meeting where I'll require something in the order of 45 different documents. Instead of lugging along a big lever arch file of printouts, I've simply dumped the PDF's into my iPad. This has some nice environmental aspects to it, too.

  • Mobile internet. While in my meeting, I'll be able to easily read webcomics under the table, without having to squint at the tiny screen on my phone. It'll also be very useful when we're in Perth in a couple of weeks, staying in a house with no internet access. (Yes, they do still exist...) It's also proven very handy already in a couple of meetings where things have needed to be looked up quickly - being able to just pull info off the web in seconds is a very handy thing indeed.

  • The calendar function. Is nice. And clear. And handy. Though I have had a few issues Synching it properly with my Macbook.

  • The e-readers. Now, I'm still more a fan of the 'real' book; I don't particularly like reading off a screen, even one like the iPad's which has been well designed for the purpose. BUT there are some real upsides to having e-reading capability in this digital age. Most notably, the ability to download free first chapters from Amazon (to the free Kindle app) and preview before buying the real thing. This I'm liking a lot.

  • Magazines and Newspapers. At this point, there's a dearth of decent Australian newspaper content for the iPad (The only app that I've been able to find is the one for 'The Australian' which is (a) a crappy newspaper and (b)mainly made up of content you can already get for free from their website. This, though, will no doubt change, and fast. A number of commentators have suggested that the iPad might well be the saviour of the newspaper, and I can see why. At the moment, I use the ABC website for my news fixes, and it's pretty good. I've also got the app which allows me to purchase 'The Monthly' direct to my iPad, for about $5.00, in full text and imagery detail. This is a really nice feature. I've also rediscovered my love of comics (sorry, graphic novels) though the Marvel and DC comic apps, which function in a similar way.
The Bookshelf of Tomorrow...?

2. Things I Don't Love Quite so Much...
  • The keyboard interface is a bigger version of the one on the iPhone, and works well enough, but careful proofreading is required. It is possible to buy a small wireless keyboard for the iPad, and this would be a worthwhile investment if planning to produce anything substantive on it. I tried a couple of blog posts, and ended up switching back to my computer, just because it was a lot easier to type.

  • Lack of a camera. A lot has been made of this missing feature, and rightly so. Given the web-based functionality of the device, in this day and age it's just plain silly not to include a camera for skyping purposes and so on. Still, I guess they have to save something for the next model.

  • The speakers. Are good, but not brilliant. They're also all located on the same side of the chassis, which effectively negates any proper stereo effect, unless you're wearing headphones. With headphones, however, the results are beautiful.

  • Calendar syncing - as mentioned earlier, I've had a few teething issues here, which I suspect are more the result of user error than any major glitches in the system. It's not the most intuitive aspect of the device, though, which is the problem, from my point of view.
All in all then, the iPad may be for you, or not. Or you might want to hold out a couple of years until the next generation of them comes out, by which point they will have addressed a lot of these sort of issues. There's no doubt, though, from my perspective, and especially if you combine it with something like 'mobile me' (which I haven't done), that this is a pretty revolutionary and useful bit of technology.

So, do you want an iPad? I'd say definitely. Who wouldn't? (that's rhetorical, by the way, 12 months ago I wouldn't have. See yesterday's post for details)

Do you need an iPad? That depends very much on you.


  1. Tony, when it comes to being connected, you have to draw the line somewhere. For you, it's facebook; for me, it's twitter and the iPhone (no, do not get started, I know you love it, or did, before the iPad captured your heart). None of us need anymore time-suck appliances or past-times, but dang, you do make that iPad sound good....
    (BTW, I'm liking the autumnal freshness of the new-look blog. :))

  2. Oh god, The Australian is a crappy newspaper? Haha, yeah right. Just like Masterchef, Big Brother and Australian Idol are good shows.

    It's actually kind of funny, since I'm a pretty big Mac/Apple nerd, but I just don't really see the point of the iPad yet. Sure, all the things you said are nice, but my iPhone can do those things. And has a camera. And the new iPhone even has a front camera for video chatting and stuff.

    What would really sell it for me was if all my text books and prescribed texts were available for it all in one place.

  3. Cheers Darcy ;) Don't forget, I'm an unabashed leftie. Give me the SMH over the Oz any day.

    I'll admit that while I could easily manage with just my iPhone, the bigger screen and keyboard makes it a lot easier, especially for emails and stuff. For example, I just sat in the cafe for an hour reading and annotating a PDF for a conference I'm at tomorrow; sure I could have done this on my macbook, but it was a darn sight easier on the iPad.

    Essential? No. But certainly making life easier and work more efficient for me.

    And Chris - I know just what you mean about drawing the line. It's that whole work / life balance thing, and my biggest reservation about tech like the iPad (in fact, I should probably have listed this in my 'cons' section) is that (a little like facebook) it creates a subtle sense of obligation which can encourage you to disengage from the rest of the world - it's easy to sit on the couch at 10.00 at night checking my emails, instead of interacting with my family, for example. It's something I'm really having to be careful about, of late.

    Glad you like the new look blog, too. Season of mists and all that....

  4. Ack, I hate The Australian.

    The best function of the iPad for me would be as a PDF reader. I find it nigh on impossible to read on the iPhone and I know if I do a PhD I'll be living with many many PDFs. Martin is using a little aluminium-y looking keyboard that's compatible with the iPad as his main computer keyboard with his Mac mini. It's lovely to use.

    But I think I'll wait till the next gen. I am not an early adopter.

    And to answer your other question, yes. I will write you a letter.

  5. There's a funky little app called iAnnotate PDF which not only allows you to read, but also fully annotate PDFs. It's a very handy little piece of software, and one which just wouldn't function on a smaller screen. IMHO.

  6. Concerned CitizenJuly 14, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    Probably time to write a novel that features iPads, Vampires and an immigration policy that's humane. Working title: The Vampire-Girl with iPad in the Cave on Christmas Island.

    It's a winner.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin