iPad Impressions From An Apple Not-Fan Boy
I cannot tell you how many times it is assumed that I am a Mac user, since the word “mac” graces the name of my design business with its presence. To tell the truth, I think Apple products are amazing in almost every way – design, style, functionality, user experience, branding – pretty much everything but the price. I am a bargain shopper to the core, so when it came time way back when to purchase my first home computer, it was a no brainer to go with the much more affordable PC. Over the years the beautiful machines that Apple has produced have often tempted me to drop 2-4 times the dollar amount I would otherwise pay for a comparably equipped PC, only to watch me submit to my frugality and practicality over and over.
I did eventually purchase an older iMac to mess around with, and I even won an iPod Touch in a radio contest, but I have never made the full switch to becoming a Mac instead of a PC. Still, I am not an Apple hater by any stretch. The truth is, as I’ve explained, if I could have afforded these things throughout the years, I would have happily donned the Mac title years ago. Alas, this was not the case.
Then along came the iPad.
Apple did it again. Their slick marketing buildup sucked me in, and soon I was one among the drooling minions, anxiously awaiting the early April release of the shiny, new, supposedly revolutionary device. Best of all, this revolution was surprisingly affordable to participate in, and I finally saw my chance to dive into the Apple waters.
I didn’t go so far as to line up at my local Best Buy the morning of release. I am, after all, a practical, analytical thinker who does his research before making a significant purchase.
So I read the various reviews, weighed and compared the specs of the different models, asked early purchasers for their thoughts, and finally came to a point where I felt the final justification of using the iPad for my business (testing web designs on the new format, sketching ideas, productivity tools while on the run, etc.) was reason enough to seal the deal.
This past Saturday I headed over to Best Buy and played with a display model. They had four on hand and there was actually a line to try this amazing new device. Those in line were peering impatiently over the shoulders of those ahead of them, and it was obvious that Apple had succeeded in drawing the attention of the technology consumer once again. When I finally got my chance it took me only 2-3 minutes to know I must have one.
Still, I was determined to sleep on the decision – a practice I learned from my parents and have used throughout the years on anything close to a major decision. If I wake up in the morning still assured that I should move forward then it is deemed a wise move and not an impulse buy. This has saved me from the latter quite a few times.
I even went a step further and told my wife that I would put our recently purchased Kindle 2 up for sale as a test. If it sold then that would be a “sign” to replace its eBook functionality with the iPad’s. I went through the paces of placing the Buy-It-Now ad on eBay and it sold within hours for full price.
I had my confirmation.
The next morning I arose without a second thought in my mind, and headed over to Best Buy. Soon I was home with the new iPad in my hands, and the fun began.
Since I have little experience with a Mac or iPhone, I had no clue where to start, but it didn’t take long to figure out the App Store and the freebies I would want to try out. I was (and am still) in awe of the beauty of the iPad and its user interface. Every move, every gesture inspires joy and awe, followed by just plain admiration and respect for the Apple quality and experience throughout. For long-time Apple users this is probably old news and may even be overlooked, but for this relative newcomer it is a sheer pleasure to behold.
I would concede – as much as I don’t necessarily want to buy into the “revolution” hype – that the iPad is revolutionary in a few ways. One of the main ways is the experience of the internet. Interacting via touch screen with links and content and images is an immersive experience that significantly differs from my desktop and mouse, not to mention my Android touch screen phone. I was surprised to notice that I didn’t feel constricted at all by the screen size and in fact felt that it was more than large enough. Because of the lack of buttons or controls I tended to feel as though all I was holding was a screen. It’s an intriguing and futuristic feeling.
Most of the other “revolutionary” elements probably don’t seem as game-changing or new to previous iPhone users, but to this newbie the iPad is as innovative as anything I’ve seen in awhile. It would probably be beneficial for those who relate and compare it to an iPhone to let go of that thought process and open their minds to the possibilities that the larger format unlocks.
Some of my favorite early finds include:
» Adobe Ideas: Sketch in full color with varying line widths and custom color palettes. I can see this awakening some dormant artistic sides of me in new ways.
» Netflix: Using your Netflix account you can stream movies and other video instantly to the iPad. And I do mean instantly. Over my normal home wi-fi connection it took less than one minute from the time I clicked on a choice for it to start playing – and the picture is gorgeous and crisp!
» News: USA Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian and more, all instantly at your fingertips and complete with that more immersive experience I referenced earlier.
» Books: The iBooks feature is very slick, but the store seems relatively limited at the moment (I’m sure that will change soon enough). However, there is a Kindle app that gives access to the huge Amazon eBook library, syncs with your existing account, and actually makes reading books look and feel like the Kindle minus the eInk technology but making up for it with touchscreen functionality. (I can’t tell you how many times my wife and I both tried to touch our Kindle’s screen to navigate it.)
» Typing: I have somewhat fat fingers, and I am a hen-pecking typist (although I usually average around 45 WPM). I was wonderfully surprised to find that typing on the iPad, especially in landscape mode, is not much different than on a full-sized keyboard other than the lack of a key actually pressing inward. My only beef would be having to switch keyboards to get to punctuation and numbers, but that’s a relatively minor issue. The iPad’s keyboard makes it disappointing to go back to texting on my phone.
I know that there are countless other apps and features to still explore and discover, and there will be scores to come as developers catch up with the technology. So far I am extremely pleased with what I’ve found and I’m anxious to research and find much, much more.
The Bottom Line
As I was contemplating the iPad purchase I was told by several people to determine if it would serve my needs before deciding. I believe this is very wise advice, and I want to pass it on to you. However, I am surprised to find that the iPad has already proven itself to be more than I expected.
What were my hopes for the iPad? That it would provide some more-portable-than-a- laptop functionality for business related productivity as well as some different approaches to some of my daily tasks. I am also interested in testing website display and usability on the new platform, since I design websites as a primary function of my business. It seems the iPad will do all of these things with ease.
But the iPad has proven itself to do something I am pretty sure Apple has been counting on from the beginning. This device has not only answered my hopes and perceived needs - it is opening my eyes to entertain “needs” (probably better described as “wants”) that I didn’t even know I had.
This puppy will be incredibly handy for travel, and although I won’t leave my laptop behind, it is very likely it will stay in its case on the plane and in the airport. Different apps will encourage me artistically and creatively to begin tasks I have done or used to do with new and innovative approaches. Reading, watching video, listening to music or other audio – for entertainment or research or education or news – will become a variety of experiences that can happen virtually anywhere. Productivity apps on the iPad will – at least for awhile – make the mundane come alive and even be fun.
So, for me, the iPad is not what I would call a “must-have” device. My life would be okay without it. I am not sure I would necessarily even go so far as to call it “revolutionary”, although I think it would be presumptuous to not give it a little more time before eliminating that possibility.
I can make this statement confidently: my iPad is a blast. It challenges me somewhat. It broadens my possibilities. It does things no other device I own is capable of doing. And it’s the first Apple device I’ve felt was affordable while simultaneously worth every penny.
Ultimately you need to decide if the iPad needs to join your ever-growing arsenal of gadgets, or if it should be bypassed for its forthcoming competition or even a future generation. I hope my little insights could help you make up your mind if you are sitting on the fence. I encourage you to research and try it out for yourself. Do your best to steer clear of the naysayers and haters and those self-proclaimed experts who seize every opportunity to rip apart the next big thing. Don’t get caught up in the hype either, only to be left wondering how you ended up with an overpriced coffee table ornament.
Make your own, well-informed, biased-only-by-your-own-thoughts personal decision.
And feel free to ask any questions or share your thoughts in the comments below.