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Technology CompaniesAppleApple iPad Review: The first 48 hours

Apple iPad Review: The first 48 hours

Apple iPad reviews poured in from every possible blogger over the past weekend. And now that the Apple iPad is widely available in the US, TechMeme is jammed with links to reviews and opinions about the hardware and applications from people who actually invested in the Apple iPad.

Most reviewers are being overly generous to the Apple Tablet, however, not everything is perfect. In fact, I wanted to wait and spend a few days with the device in order to focus on things that can go wrong or items you will not like about the iPad. If you are looking for a “I love the iPad review” then this is not the article. For what it is worth, I love the iPad but this product is a companion device and not a computer. Do not confuse the two or you will be disappointed. Reviewers and readers need to keep this in mind as they consider purchasing the device.

Next, before I begin with other items in this article let’s begin with an excellent perspective provided by Om Malik.

Almost inadvertently, you will start out looking for the keyboard, the mouse and essentially a less interactive experience with this device. This isn’t going to change anytime soon — don’t let anyone tell you it will — because our brains have been programmed to type on a keyboard and use a mouse/trackpad to navigate through the computer.

I don’t want to be disrespectful but this is not correct. I didn’t look for a keyboard or mouse and the lack of these two added to the interactive experience. There is no reason for a keyboard or a mouse. You just don’t need either. Any iPhone user is going to immediately know how to handle this device. They will know the gestures and pick up how to navigate quickly. Non-iPhone users will quickly adapt to the ease of working with this touch tablet.

Let me expand on the above idea for a moment. There are many people who do not enjoy the Microsoft experience and have panned the Tablet PC. Windows 7 is not smooth, installing applications is a pain, updates can lead to problems, and machines are slow. Why the HELL did Microsoft allow OEMs to build Tablet PCs as slow machines? It’s like they were trying to get rid of inventory rather than build real computers. This will go down in the history books as a huge error and I believe one of the main reasons press constantly bemoans the Tablet PC as a bad product. The reality is that people accepting this perspective and yearn for a different interaction with the Internet will be happy with the Apple iPad simply because it is different from Microsoft. In the long term, though, Microsoft will react and attempt to improve the current Tablet PC models.

Pre-orders – No Need

The University of California Campus Bookstore
The University of California Campus Bookstore

My oldest brother and I purchased Apple iPads at separate Best Buy retail stores, while Lora and Loren had an iPad delivered by UPS. I stood in line at a local Best Buy with about 15 others while Larry drove down after his local Best Buy opened for the day. Larry and I had our units hours before Lora and Loren – something that nagged as a small glitch in pre-ordering. Lora and Loren should have received their units first. This is not a huge deal and anyone interested in buying an Apple iPad can go to Best Buy or order from Apple directly. College students in California can go to their campus bookstore.

And if the UCI campus bookstore is any indication of the success of the product, the display area was jammed with interested folks touching and holding the product.

Unboxing the iPad

I opened my Apple iPad in front of a camera in an attempt to UStream the event. Unfortunately, the video was lost. My parents were watching and they said, “you disappeared after you opened it.” The next attempt was to run upstairs and try to stream from my trusty HP TouchSmart. This too failed. The built in camera is set too high to see the desk, and thus the iPad. Oh well. At least Lora did a great job with her unboxing video.

Before I could use my Apple iPad, the Vista-based PC with iTunes had to be updated. I should have checked this before leaving for Best Buy (but oh well). The update took hours and crashed. In fact, I fell asleep in the chair waiting for the updates to finish. This is typical of Vista on this machine – and I hate updates because of the repairs necessary after the updates. Anyway, back to my story. Once the PC was functioning, the cable for the iPad was plugged into the PC USB and the setup of the Apple iPad was started. Easy. This should, though, imply that someone cannot purchase an Apple iPad and immediately use it without first hooking it up.

Instant On – Sort of

One of the biggest challenges to using a UMPC or Tablet PC is the slow bootup time. This is one of the reasons keeping the Tablet PC on stand-by during the day is important. The Apple iPad operates in a similar manner. Keeping it on all the time and letting it sleep when you are not using it allows an instant on feeling. The Apple iPad initial startup, though, is faster than a typical Tablet PC.

The Battery – Wow

Like many other people, when my iPad was connected to the Vista machine, there was a not charging statement in the top right corner. It turns out that the best way to charge the unit is through the power block provided by Apple. Of course, Mac owners can just hook up their iPad and charge from the USB device on the Macintosh computer. There is no need to panic because my iPad battery lasted through the end of the second day.

Compare this simple anecdote to the iPhone 3GS – which is constantly in need of charging. For example, taking a video and uploading it to YouTube took almost 25% of the battery for the iPhone. Worse, the battery on the cell phone is always low when someone important calls or you need to make a call.

If there is one thing that is undeniable, it is that the battery on the Apple iPad is done right.

How do I hold this thing?

No seriously. While it is light, holding it with one hand starts to hurt my wrist. I didn’t notice this at first until I started to type on the desktop keyboard. My left wrist started to hurt. Each time I picked up the device, I realized that my wrist was at a bad angle. At least it isn’t warm to the touch.

The Touch

Yes, Apple did this one right. I can gently slide my fingers across the screen and quickly move from frame to frame. The touch can be very light. I left the plastic on mine because the smudges and smears are going to be everywhere. In less than 24 hours, Pascal and Curie’s hair were all over this device. My finger prints were also everywhere.

The Applications, the Icons, the Crashes

My plan was to use the Apple iPad to keep in touch with people on Google buzz. Buzzie is on my iPhone and this application was transferred to my Apple iPad when I first connected the device to my Vista machine. In fact, all of my iPhone applications moved over to the device.

This is where some people are really going to feel suckered.

The icons available for iPhone applications look gross. Fonts are fuzzy, blurry, and simply unacceptable. Reviewers gushing about the screen resolution on this device are completely wrong. People transferring over iPhone applications are going to be upset when they see these icons.

Worse, iPhone applications launched are placed in the center of the iPad at regular size of the iPhone. The 2x option allows you to expand the application to a blurry piece of crap. Forget them, folks. They become useless on the iPad. You’ll just be annoyed. Instead, look for iPad applications. The number available is growing.

This does not excuse the constant crashing of applications. This is not the fault of the developer. Apple kept units away from developers and only provided a simulator. Two examples come to mind as to how hard developers are going to need to work to improve the iPad owners experience.

  1. Buzzie is perfect on the Apple iPad. There were some rough starts and the developer was providing updates because of crashes, but the experience on the iPad is fantastic.
  2. The ABC player is another Apple iPad that I can crash in a heartbeat. Simply start the application in landscape, choose the program and say good-bye to the application.
  3. Digg. This app was just released and they didn’t bother building support for the iPad. Fail.
  4. BlogPress. Oopsie. Yes, blogging is possible but the crash happens if you try to add a photo and don’t go in the right sequence.

OK. This list can get long. So, let’s cut it off this way and say, you may wonder about the other applications I’ve tried. Netflix appears sturdy. I’ve watched three movies in landscape mode by propping the device up against the TouchSmart. Sending gmail is a breeze with their retro-looking two column. Instapaper is nice to use, too.

Using the On-Screen Keyboard

Tapping on the on-screen keyboard is inconvenient and a challenge if you leave the device on a table. Instead, keep the device on your lap and pick away. Loren shows how in this video. I failed miserably trying to type with the device on the desk.

No Flash = No Net Surfing for Me!

This has been debated for weeks and months. Yes, Apple is right on this one. Flash sucks. Flash causes browser crashes. OK. I’ve said it.

Unfortunately, there are so many websites using flash that I hate using Safari and the iPad. I simply HATE it. No. It is not a good experience. For example, my own chemistry video website is built with PHPMotion. It is worthless on the iPad and Safari. Yes, YouTube made the switch but that is not enough. Without the free script developers coming on board – I’ll stick to another device to surf the web. I think Apple stuck their necks out on this one and expected the developers to just follow along. Correct me here but wasn’t Steve Jobs the one that said applications make the experience? If you want developers to get rid of flash then show them how to program without flash. Give the alternatives!

Photos

Crap. While all of my photos nicely moved over to the iPad – I only have one thing to say. What a freakin mess! Really? My photos are all over the place and how to heck do I group them? Don’t answer that – I don’t care. I’m not using this pile of crap application. This is where Apple looks like they wanted to wow us with cool gestures of opening and viewing photos. They forgot that we might want to group them. Ugh. Next.

OK. Maybe I’m just being overly emotional here. I wanted something nice to display my photos. The slideshow feature is nice and if the iPad was mounted on a wall then I’d enjoy having my family photos rotating on the screen. However, where is the music? I have that option on – but where is it? No don’t answer it. The fact I can’t figure this out is because I haven’t spent time thinking about it. I still hate this application.

Oh – and here is another pisser. Take a snapshot of an iPad page by pressing and holding down the on/off and pushing the home button then release. Yes, just like the iPhone. Now, email this photo (it’ll be in your photos application under Saved Photos. The problem is that the name of the photo is “photo” … hehehe. This wasn’t well thought out by Apple. Maybe I should be able to name it when it is emailed.

The Glare

Forget using this device outside. You are bound to the inside.

Application Updates

Apple Application Updates
There are four updates but only three show and there is no way to scroll to see the information.

While writing this overview, four new application updates became available for the device. Interestingly, only three of the descriptions were made available and the description of the last one was cut-off. And there was no way to scroll to the fourth one. Really? How am I supposed to know which four applications are in need of updating?

This needs repair.

Text Messages

No mobile device is complete without a way to send messages. Without 3G, sending messages is not possible. This is why tethering would have been a good thing. I imagine having one carrying case for both my iPhone and my iPad – together. As one unit then I have a complete mobile system. Where one fails, the other succeeds. Tie them together. Package them as one.

PS. I need a good carrying case that also supports the iPhone … did I mention this already? No? Sorry. Because a case is important. I’ve managed to drop my little Gemini and she handled the error with grace. No bumps, bruises, or scratches. Phew!

Anyway, back to some complaining.

The Sound – The Horror!

No no no. How the heck did this get past anyone? Are they deaf? Start the iPod application and go to your favorite music. It is tin foil vibrating. Pascal covered his ears and screamed. I had to keep trying adjustments over and over again.

Pandora has the same terrible sound quality. Ugh.

Movies in Netflix sound fine. Why doesn’t the iPod and Pandora applications sound match the quality? What happened? It is simply unusable, folks. I’m playing Rocky’s theme on the iPad right now – and my ears are hurting. There is no base. There is just rattle. Ouch. I have to shut this off.

Did I try the iPod with ear buds? No. I can never find a pair. I buy them and they disappear. Maybe when I take this to school, it can be hooked up to a speaker system and the quality can be double checked. Until then – boo, hiss.

Conclusion

Am I happy with the purchase? Apple could have done better. They tried to keep this a secret and surprise people. No. The only surprise was the low price. And for the price, you get what you pay for these days. For $499, you get a nice movie player, a nice way to read articles that you’ve saved (InstaPaper), you can show family photos taken digitally through the slideshow. But you can’t play music and you can’t take photos.

Would I buy one again?

I am hesitant. I prefer my Tablet PC for work. I prefer the Apple iPad for play. I prefer the iPhone for taking photos and videos (and an occasional phone call). I also send text messages to family and friends through the iPhone. Both my daughters, though, have perked up and want to try it out. Elizabeth’s birthday is in a few weeks and maybe she’ll get this one and I’ll buy the 3G model. Sarah is more picky and will probably wait for the second generation.

Annual LicenseLifetime LicenseDeveloper License
Regular Price$29.99$49.99$69.99
May Sale Price$26.99$39.99$60.00
Annual RenewalYesNoYes, at the discretion of Tux Reports Network
BrandingYesYesNo
Branding Removal AvailableYesYesAlready removable
Unlimited SitesNoYesYes
Early AccessNoNoYes
LPH
Layne Heinyhttp://www.layneheiny.com
LPH is a high school physics teacher interested in the Apple iPad and iPhone, Microsoft Surface, Tablet PCs, and other mobile devices. He resides with one large dog who begs for pizza, hamburgers, French fries, and anything else on the dinner table.

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