Friday, October 8, 2010

After 4 Months with the iPad

Hello. Me again. Yes, it's been a while since I've posted. For all five of you that read my posts, I apologize for the excessive gap in my postings. I really have no excuse, and the reason I'm posting once again is that I looked in my bank account and realized that the auto-renew for my domain had come up again, so I rationalized, "I'm paying for it, I might as well do something with it."
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At any rate. Just to update you guys, I did end up buying an iPad 3G. The big-daddy 64GB. Yep, top-of-the-line. I figured the better I get now, the longer it will be until it's obsolete. At least that's the rationale I told myself when I shelled out the nearly $900 for it. Well, after having lived with it for almost five months, and traveling with it, I have a few observations.

At first, I thought the form factor was too small. Ironically enough, it seems most of the tablet computer competitors coming out are smaller than the current iPad, so perhaps I'm in the minority in my opinion. I guess it's because I come from the publishing industry, and it's a smaller form factor than the standard 8x10"-ish magazine. But with the pinch-and-zoom feature of the iPad, I think the size is just about right for magazine reading. I've subscribed to four periodicals through Zinio, and I think the iPad finally makes the concept of online magazines make sense. Frankly, reading a magazine on a laptop felt needlessly contrived and wonky to me. Reading magazines on the iPad seems much more intuitive and natural.

Some have complained that the iPad seems too heavy. I can't say I disagree with them. It definitely has a heft to it that surpassed my expectations from its modest form factor. But compared to a netbook or laptop, it's quite trim, in both form and weight. It probably didn't help that I also got one of the heavier, bulkier cases on the market for it, the Quirky Cloak. However, I bought the Cloak specifically for it's ability to stand upright in a portrait (vertical) orientation. I don't regret my purchase of it, but combined with the beefy heft of the iPad itself, it is a somewhat heavy combination.

I have downloaded some movies that I've watched on a plane, and it's a surprisingly immersive experience from the 9.7-inch screen. However, I would recommend some ear-covering or noise-canceling headphones for the best airplane movie experience. I've tried it with both foam-padded earphones and earbuds with silicone covers, and neither were particularly effective at blocking out the ambient plane noise.

I downloaded the now-ubiquitous game Angry Birds, and found it to live up to its addictive reputation. I have not played the game on an iPhone or iPod touch, but the iPad makes for a comfortable form factor for this game.

I used the Skype app on my trip to Europe, and it saved us quite a bit on long-distance fees. However, call quality is dependent on the strength of the available WiFi signal, and can sometimes cut out and give a robotic-sounding voice signal. Also, some hotels' in-room WiFi service require that you physically connect an ethernet cable to your computer to configure it, which is obviously not an option on the iPad. Particularly in France, where the device was not yet very common at the time of my trip, the hotel staff seemed somewhat puzzled on what to tell me to get service on it. In retrospect, I probably could have configured the WiFi without a physical connection, but I was too busy out doing the usual touristy things to bother with it.

In terms of some of real or perceived shortcomings of the device. Many have lamented the lack of any kind of camera on the first-generation iPads. I can't say this was a dealbreaker for me one way or the other. Would it be a nifty feature to have? Sure. It would definitely facilitate teleconferencing and video-chatting.

The other biggie is the lack of multi-tasking, at least with the 3.2 OS. The coming iOS 4.2 upgrade promises to allow multi-tasking, and should address that specific criticism. That said, you can listen to iTunes while reading books or magazines, since it's a native app. However, you cannot simultaneously run two third-party apps currently. I am eagerly awaiting this update, as it will allow further listening options beyond iTunes while reading.

So…to answer your inevitable question…Should you buy one? I would say at this point, if you've lived without one up to now, and haven't had a burning, insatiable desire to have one right away, I would hold out for the almost-inevitable second-generation model, likely due sometime in the first quarter of 2011. This model will likely have front and rear-facing cameras, as well as iOS 4.2 installed natively. More memory is probably a given as well. But if the idea of a multi-application device that can easily replace a laptop while traveling appeals to you, then it's probably worth it to get one. Finally, between the 3G and WiFi models…if you're frequently on the road in remote areas (away from WiFi hotspots) the added convenience of 3G is probably worth it. If not, save the money and get the WiFi.

Although I am an admitted fan of Apple products in general, I hope you found this review at least somewhat objective and helpful. Until next time...