I bought an iPad. 32 gigs of storage. Wi-Fi access to the Internet. Rather than putting you through the three paragraphs of background and context that previously opened this article, let’s get right down to it. Let’s assume that you know that the iPad is Apple’s newest device (coming to Canada in late April) and, depending on who you talk to, either the next great thing in personal computers or an underpowered but expensive toy. The pundits have had months to say their piece; it’s time to let the iPad speak for itself. Here then are my observations after a few days of usage.
The screen is good, and certainly an improvement over watching things on the iPhone. The strongest part of the iPad’s screen is the viewing angle, allowing movies to be watched or text to be read easily from a number of different vantage points. Text itself is not quite as sharp on the iPad as it is on something like the Kindle’s E Ink screen, but the difference is hardly noticeable and reading a book on the iPad for a few hours presented no problem. I have yet to test the screen outside on a sunny day, but in almost any indoor lighting conditions the iPad works well.
The iPad’s onscreen keyboard is, well, it’s good for an onscreen keyboard. I had attempted to write this entire review on the iPad, using Apple’s word-processing application Pages, but after the first draft I realized that any serious writing needs to be done with a physical keyboard. Apple is releasing a keyboard dock for the iPad, and Bluetooth keyboards will also connect, but unless you’re trying to bang out 700 words at a go they are not necessary. Sending e-mails and updating Twitter or Facebook are all easy enough to do with the onscreen keyboard. In the right position and with a bit of practice, I can see it being possible to get seriously fast at typing on the thing.
The built-in apps are generally strong. Mobile Safari is amazing, the Internet feels great, fast, and responsive. Granted you’re not going to be using Web sites that rely on Adobe’s Flash, but those are decreasing by the day as Web developers look to at least offer an alternative. Mail, Apple’s e-mail app, is great and beautiful and surpasses the one on the company’s desktop computers in almost every regard.
Since the iPad app gold rush is just kicking off now, the ones that are in the store tend to be high-quality ones. NetNewsWire is a great RSS reader, and Instapaper is a must-have if you want to save Internet content to read later. Of the Twitter clients available Twittelator is probably the best, though I’m hoping Tweetie shows up soon. Previously purchased iPhone applications appear iPhone-sized in the centre of the iPad’s screen, though you can blow them up to fill the screen. Magnifying them makes them chunky and ugly, and some developers have already released versions that work on both devices.
As a Kindle owner, I was excited that Amazon released a Kindle app for the iPhone. I have a collection of books already bought for the Kindle, and now I can migrate them to the iPad and not have to worry about losing them. The Kindle application is actually better than Apple’s own iBooks app in a lot of ways. The Kindle app lacks the spit and polish of Apple’s, and does not allow you to shop for books right in the app, but offers access to a much larger collection of books. iBooks’ advantage is that it allows you to read any ePub file, thus giving readers the ability to add books from sources other than Apple’s own bookstore, such as the large collection of public domain books available from the on-line Gutenberg Project.
Reading comics on the iPad is a joy. Marvel’s own app, made by ComiXology, is a great reading experience. While there are some issues to be worked out with selection—all the comics are at least six months old and most older still—and the price per issue needs some tweaking, it’s a grand step in the right direction. Also of note is Comic Zeal 4, which allows users to load in their own comics that they might have digitized. Having loaded well over a hundred comics into Comic Zeal, and having picked up a few issues of the Avengers through Marvel’s application, I cannot wait until the iPad is my default way to buy and read comics.
The battery is amazing. Apple says it’s 10 hours. While it’s always good to take at least 25 percent off any manufacturer’s claims, it’s actually more than 10 hours. I am comfortably using my iPad throughout the day, without dipping below 40 percent life on the battery. Unless you’re really using it hard, it’s very possible that a single battery charge will get you through an entire day of usage.
The iPad feels like a first step on an exciting new journey. While there’s sure to be the nearly ever-present commenter pipping in that the iPad is just another gadget that will end up in a landfill, it’s also potentially much more than that. It’s a first step on a road to a potential new future for computing—one that’s more inclusive. It’s a step toward computers that aren’t designed to be easy for us to learn how to use them, but that are designed to be easy to use. Along the way, it’s a great communication tool, a great media tool, and a damn fine way to read a comic book.