One of the biggest tech stories in Portland—or anywhere for that matter—this week has been the launch of the Apple iPad, a new “magical” device that—when announced—was purported to change the way we compute, work, and play.
But now that the iPad is actually in owners’ hands, how are people feeling about it? I asked some folks from the Portland startup community—who also happen to be proud new iPad owners—to give me their first impressions on this magical new way of computing.
Yes, I have a lot of Apple devices, and yes, I occasionally sip on their kool-aid. However, I have been wanting a larger iPhone for content consumption ever since I started using my iPhone to consume content. I regularly watch movies on planes when traveling, and I regularly check email and my RSS reader in bed, bathroom, and couch at all hours of the day. I also pull up recipes in the kitchen and look up Yelp reviews while waiting for the wife to come down the stairs. I don’t need a full laptop for any of these things, and I hate my current laptops battery life (older MBP). I also have grown tired of squinting at my phone whenever I do something that takes more than 3 minutes. All this to say, I’ve been waiting for the iPad–and it’s place in my life–for some time now.
So, now that I have one, how is it? Pretty good. Not great, not perfect, not even close. But it’s absolutely worth the money, and at the moment, it’s the only thing on the market that comes close to solving my needs in the way I want them solved. I find typing on it abysmal, and the location of some core interface buttons are awkward while holding it with two hands. It’s got a good feel in the hand, but it’s not transparently light. But it’s blazing fast, gorgeous to look at (the screen is shocking), and so simple to use that anyone who touches it immediately dives right in and starts using it like a pro.
The most exciting thing to me is that user experience, and the way in which people interact with content, has forever changed with this device. Like the iPhone before it, new paradigms are being set and there will be carryover to all areas of digital content. I’m also thrilled that companies have a single interface to design to, versus a Web site in which a browser comes in many flavors and sizes and screen resolutions. When you design for an iPad, you know exactly how it will be used, so you can make some really beautiful and elegant solutions while finally taking some things for granted. That alone has created some apps that are a delight to use. Throw in Netflix and Hulu (coming…), email and calendars, photos and games, and you have a really powerful tool, and one that is light enough to carry with you wherever. I’m very glad I bought one, and I’m excited for the way it’ll be used in my life.
BUT, I also hope Google comes out with an Android slate that is more open, more adaptable, and fundamentally different in the ways that Google is different than Apple. If their solution turns out to be a better fit, I’d have no problem selling my iPad and moving on. But until there’s a better solution, the iPad is mine all mine and I love it.
I haven’t found anyone yet that will deny the iPad is a sleek, sexy device. It looks great and the touch interface on a large display is intuitive and easy. For me, there are a couple things that moved the device from “sleek and sexy” to “need to have one” and caused me to preorder one so that I’d have it on day one.
As a photographer, the iPad will be a great mobile portfolio device. Want to see examples of my event photos, my railroad photos, or my nature/landscape work? Let me show you on a sizable screen. I can display examples of my work, talk with clients about which styles and options they prefer, and capture model releases using a mobile app on the iPad.
The other thing the iPad will bring is “convenience” for areas where I’d like more of a computer than my phone but I don’t want the weight/bulk of my laptop. Surfing the web while on the couch, giving a presentation at a user group, or taking notes at one of Portland’s CampityCamps will be a lot easier with the iPad. Already I’m finding that I’m spending less time in front of my desk in my home office and more time in other rooms, using the iPad to check in and respond as needed.
The iPad isn’t perfect, but I have yet to run into a major problem. The iPad will drive innovation in the tablet space, and undoubtedly the next devices from other vendors (and Apple) will include improvements. I’m not waiting for the next device; I’m going to benefit from the great features *now*.
Many people are asking if the iPad is a laptop killer, and I would say that is largely based on the kind of user you are. I am now more than 24 hours into a business trip, and am doing the unthinkable and going laptopless. Once I got over the fear of leaving my MacBookPro in another system I was pretty excited about the possibilities.
Because Apple has gone to extremes to abstract the familiar concept of a desktop metaphor with file folders, using the iPad as your primary computer requires a fair bit of planning and forethought. In order to edit existing documents, Apple requires that you either drag and drop the files you want into iTunes, by associating them with an application and syncing the device to a computer. Alternatively, you can email yourself a document which allow you to open in in the iWork application suite. While neither of these is particularly difficult, it requires a bit of forethought about what you may want on the go, depending on how you handle this.
Additionally, if you are a Basecamp user, The iWork apps allow you to email a doc as a .PDF, so it is possible to post docs in a different format, if you know the post-via-email address of you various projects.
The iWork suite is not without a learning curve. The apps are largely intuitive, but for most users the interfaces developed to be compatible with touch interactions will be just strange enough that you average user will want to set aside some time to play and experiment. Things as basic as duplicating a doc or renaming a doc were a bit discoverable.
For a more lightweight experience, there are a few great options for consuming documents on the go. While not the cheapest option, the application that feels the most elegant is one called ReaddleDocs. It allows you to connect to DropBox, MobileMe, Google Docs and others, and download and browse documents locally which is handy for spots when you’re going to be caught without wifi. If connected, it also allows you to email a document, which provides a great hack for getting documents on device (with the exception of Omnigraffle docs).
Typing on the soft keyboard is hard on the wrists after a few hours in a meeting, but surprisingly easy for short durations. I recommend the Bluetooth keyboard (the one without the dock) for composition, being it blog writing, doc writing or note taking. And in many ways it is an ideal note taking device – mostly because single tasking requires a focus on the meeting itself, minimizing the distraction of email, IM and whatnot.
And of course, it is a lovely entertainment device. Video, games, reading, browsing. All heaven. Perfect for airplanes, sofas, and coffee shops. It is a weekend, conference, meeting and overnight trip device for me. It would make me nervous on a longer work trip, and will not replace my MacBookPro for the basics of my job such as wireframing.
In short, I’m in love. But it it not without faults, most of them UI or software related. The hardware itself is pretty darn incredible, which is great because the software can evolve. In fact, on Thursday, some of that may change without the announcement of 4.0. Apple seems to be on a roll…
iPad initial reactions:
It wasn’t until a few days before iPad availability that I started to appreciate the apps being produced for the iPad. For me, the iPad fits the “couch-surfing / around-the-house” role– streaming live TV to rooms that don’t have a television, watching movies at the gym, and –yesterday– buying airplane tickets while relaxing in the living room.
Is the iPad necessary? Probably not. But is it a useful household appliance that fits the bill between your mobile smartphone and a laptop? Absolutely. I see those benefiting most from this device as those that are less tech-savvy, but still want to consume media, videos, music and engage with new apps custom-tailored to the iPad.
Things I’m pleased with:
- Battery life- in a word, amazing. Charged it on Saturday, didn’t need a charge again until Monday. My iPhone barely goes a day.
- The iBooks app- I was concerned this was “not a Kindle” and would suffer in the electronic books arena… I’m delighted the screen is tolerable for book reading and the color photos on the pages (no reason these couldn’t be videos/other multimedia) are vivid and add to the reading experience.
- Brilliant screen. Movie watching and other videos are simply amazing. They knocked it out of the park with the display.
- Speed. It makes my iPhone 3GS seem like a dinosaur!
Things I’m looking forward to seeing improve:
- Some iPad apps are buggy. Clearly devs didn’t have enough time to test on an actual device. I expect these (minor) issues to improve quickly.
- Weight. It’s not exactly featherweight. It feels sturdy and not “cheap” (The Kindle, for example, feels plastic-y). It’s a tad heavier than I’d anticipated.
- Connectivity options. I’m confident the lack of USB ports will be mitigated (esp. after I get my hands on the camera connection kit), but it remains a concern.
- Closed development environment. (This can also be considered a benefit, as only solid apps get added to the store vs. a mess of crap/viruses/etc.)
- Multitasking between apps. ‘Nuff said (and likely coming).
BMW’s bottom line: If you’re looking for a giant iPod touch, or are a consumer user looking for a brilliant display on a media consumption device– the iPad may fit that bill. It’s not right for everyone, with more tech-savvy users finding limited processing and multi-tasking ability a deal-breaker. The platform’s future is certainly promising, and may lend itself to see what the “next” iPad offers.
Interested in more Portland iPad criticism?
Here are some Portland folks who have posted their thoughts on the iPad. If you’ve done the same, comment below with a link to your iPad post.