Sunday, April 04, 2010

The iPad is Here, the iPad is Here!

So, UPS dropped off an iPad here yesterday. I had ordered the cheapest one: 16GB, Wifi only, on the 1st day you could. I thought they started at $400, oops, $500. Oh well. Two reasons for ordering:
  1. For a couple of years, I have been wanting a tablet computer that I hold in my hands and sit in a comfy chair and surf the web, read RSS feeds, read Web comics, maybe read eBooks. The iPad seemed to be just that.
  2. My wife loves her iPhone. She has hated every other computer, including a mac, that the has ever had. She reads books on it, and browses the web for hours on it. An iPad seemed like a great idea for her as well.
So, it came, I hooked it up to my PC. My idea is this is a shared resource that lives in the family room -- an electronic magazine on the coffee table. I put all my pictures on it, and 7 kids movies. BTW, two features that I hadn't heard about:
  1. a button that locks the screen orientation, I would presume for lying on your side and reading in bed.
  2. a soft button next to the "slide to unlock" that makes it a digital picture frame. Just as the iPhone replaced many devices (it's a flashlight! it's a metronome! it's a guitar tuner! ...), you wonder what devices the iPad will replace.
So the movies and pix took about 2/3 of the 16GB. No music, I decided, Pandora and web only. Then downloaded apps -- besides the top 50 paid and free in the app store this link had some good suggestions. So far, less than two screens of apps, with the personal ones (mail, notes, contacts and calendar) moved to a (hopefully unused) third screen.

The apps so far:

  • the free iBooks reader from Apple. I like this much better than the kindle. The contrast is so much better, and the larger size I also like much better. They give you one sample book, "Winnie the Pooh". The color illustrations are great. In portrait mode you read a single page, in landscape, two pages (the book is open). Tap the screen to get controls at the top for Table of Contents, and changing contrast, font size and font face, and a slider at the bottom for jumping to any page. But what I really liked was: you double tap a word, you get choices: dictionary gives you a dictionary entry; bookmark creates a bookmark there, which then shows up with the TOC; and Search will find all occurrences of the word in the book, or will search google or wikipedia! What a way to read non-fiction or scientific material, a true hyperbook.
  • ABC player (free) to go with YouTube. Recent series episodes with limited commercials. I think everyone's fingers are crossed for Hulu to show up.
  • Nat Geo World Atlas ($2) to go with Maps. Also free Weather Channel and WeatherBug. Maps look great.
  • USA Today, NPR, NY Times Editors choice, Bloomberg financial app -- all free. Readers are very clear and easy to read. The Bloomberg app is beautiful.
  • wikipanion, epicurious (recipes), pandora, free books (23,000 classics -- the reader is not near as nice as iBooks, no reason why it couldn't be), dragon dictation -- all free. Wolfram Alpha 1.99, Voice recorder 0.99.
  • The Elements, my most expensive purchase at $13.99. An interactive coffee table book on the periodic table, with two pages per element. Tons of pictures and video, really cool.
  • IMDb movie database; Adobe ideas and another free Draw program; all free.
  • A bunch of games, $9.99 to free: crosswords, scrabble, sudoku, mahjong, labyrinth, magic piano. They all look great.
  • A marvel comics reader (free) - guilty as charged.
I spent a total of $45 on apps.

Overall, viewing content on this thing is great. The downsides:

  • it is definitely a little heavy. My left hand cramped a few times holding it yesterday.
  • the typing is not great (I am a touch typist). In portrait mode, I can type OK with my thumbs like I do on the iPhone -- a person with smaller hands could not. In landscape, I was kind of touch typing the right hand keys and hunt and pecking the left hand keys with my right hand. After I went back to my iPhone, it was like "Wow, it's so light! And so easy to hold! And so much easier to type!". So, iPad is much better for reading, if you want to do serious input I would figure on getting the bluetooth keypad. I saw one review with the guy complaining how anti-web 2.0 -- the web of participation -- the iPad was, because input is hard.
All in all, tho, I think it will fill the roles that I bought it for. I think I probably won't use it much. (I might have used it to surf, read RSS, and do FB while a basketball game was on, but b-ball season is over :-<) My wife seems to definitely like it for web access from the family room. And, we actually had some kids in the house recently, I think it has stuff to keep kids occupied for a while. I've invited my older children (and spouse) to visit in the next month or so to see what apps (particularly games) they would add, because there are introductory low prices on stuff now that may go up later.

I will advise if it does wind up just being a paper weight.

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