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why you should buy aniPad

May 26th, 2010

With the iPad making its international launch this week, and with sales reports figuring somewhere around a million, Apple’s iPad is still very much everywhere.

But do you want one?

Now that I’ve had mine for nearly two months, I thought it was worth a second… or third… look.

When the iPad was officially introduced, I wrote a bit about being slightly disappointed, without knowing exactly why. Although the iPad had just so much, it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. It was clear that it would not be a replacement for a computer. No file system, little connectivity, and simplified OS would be roadblocks to ever doing significant code or pattern production.

We talked a lot around the office that week. What was the iPad exactly, and what was it for? How would I use it?

And then I thought about it a little more. It became a bit of a challenge for me to take a fresh look at my life, and the way I interacted with information, to identify how my life might change with this new device.

This might sound silly to you. After all, why buy a device if you have to search for its purpose? But then again, the iPad is a new type of thing. It’s not an mp3 player. It’s not a DVD player. It’s not a phone. It’s not a laptop. It’s not an eBook reader. It’s not a nintendo. It’s not a netbook.

It’s kind of all of these and none of these at the same time.

It’s a tablet. And it’s new. And I didn’t have any concrete model for how it would make my life better. When I got my first Rio mp3 player, it was to carry more of my musical library with me on trips and for my daily commute. My Nintendo DS? For pure entertainment. Even the Apple TV was purchased for a concrete reason; to abolish my DVD collection and switch to all digital HD.

But with the iPad? What would it do for me?

That question, though, is exactly why I bought one.

On April 4, after a day of light use, I wrote about my first impressions of the iPad. I liked it. I just didn’t quite know why.

Now, I love the iPad. And I have a pretty good idea why.

  • It’s light, thin and quiet.

    I have yet to be uncomfy using the iPad. With one hand or two, on my lap, on the table, propped on my knees, even reading in bed. Being able to turn the screen for a different layout allows flexibility. The best part? Unlike a laptop, it doesn’t heat up or require a fan. It stays cool and completely quiet.

  • It’s intimate.

    Wait. That sounds weird.

    What I mean is that the touch screen is large enough, and can be held close to enough, to provide an incredible browsing experience. There’s something amazing about feeling your way through one of your favorite sites, of using your fingertips to explore nearly full-sized content.

    The iPhone / iPod Touch provides an incredible mobile experience, but the limited screen real estate has always made me feel slightly awkward when trying to read large amounts of content, such as on a news site or blog. The iPad fixes it. When I use the BBC app to catch up on news, it feels larger – and more brilliant – than my laptop’s screen because of how I hold and interact with it.

  • It’s always changing

    Many of the apps built specifically for the iPad are dynamic in nature. Updates and content can be pushed into the applications, enabling near real-time updates on WeatherChannel, or weekly magazine-like tabloid stories in Entertainment Weekly.

    Even games have in-app upgrades and bonuses. The Glee sing-along app features new songs in advance of each week’s episode. And I’ve gotten sucked into playing WeRule, a free Farmville-like social game.

    My favorite part? Checking out the App Store for new and fun applications to download or purchase. Because new apps are available all the time, I check in every few days to see what’s new or featured in some of my favorite categories. If I’m bored, I can download something new to play with in just a few clicks.

  • It’s fun

    Steve Jobs keeps calling the iPad “magical”, but I would simplify that to just three letters; FUN.

    The entire experience of working with one is entertaining; sliding your fingers across the screen, using five or ten fingertips for gestures. It’s like finger-painting, but for grown ups. And there’s something different about it than the smaller scale of the iPhone.

    It’s so fun that it’s now with me around the house for the entire day. It’s next to me on the couch when I knit or watch TV. It’s become my default way of checking my email and the Ravelry forums. It’s the first thing I pick up in the morning to check the news and weather. It’s in the kitchen to load recipes from foodandwine.com and epicurious. And the experience of making playlists on it is so much better than on my iPad, I use it for at-work listening.

Yup, I’m in love.

But the iPad isn’t everything.

In most cases, it’s not going to replace your computer.

  • Typing is awkward.

    While you can get an external keyboard, and even a keyboard dock to make writing as easy as on your laptop, you’ll still need a desk or some type of table set up for comfy typing. The on-screen keyboard is good enough for casual emails, but I wouldn’t write a 1,000 word blog post on it if I had another option.

  • Suited for the web, not for offline computing.

    The iPad is at it’s absolute best when connected to the net. Without a WiFi signal or 3G data plan, many applications are worthless. Even some of the news apps rely on that connection to load any content, even last week’s.

    That said, I don’t expect websites to work without a web connection, so I can’t really expect similar apps to work offline. I can listen to music and watch videos, play Plants vs. Zombies to my heart’s content, and keep notes on my latest pattern using Pages. I’ll just have to connect to my laptop – or the net – to access those files.

  • It won’t hold your entire media library.

    It’s a great device to watch movies on, but even with the 64GB version, you’ll only be able to hold a few dozen. And, similar to an iPod, you’ll need to sync to your main iTunes library to move over movies and music.

Has the iPad changed my life?

In a word:

Yes.

For me, it’s become my go-to device 90% of the time. I rarely use my iPod now, except when running.

The battery stays charged seemingly infinitely; at least 10 hours without any performance adjustments. It’s small enough to fit into my favorite (and only) Coach purse. It’s light enough for me to not question bringing it everywhere. Bringing it out to read a few pages of a novel is no big deal; nothing to boot up, nothing to wait for. In three clicks from the thought, I’m already reading. And despite all the talk about lack of flash support, I’ve only run into one site where I couldn’t get the content I wanted.

For knitting patterns, it’s exceptional. There’s this app called “Goodreader” that allows you to sync with any PDF on the web. Ravelry has provided a way to integrate with your pattern library. All my patterns with me at one time! Perfect!

It’s proven to be a better way for me to write patterns, and keep notes, as I design. The keyboard can be a bit awkward, but not needing to dig up a pen and notebook, and more importantly, never misplacing the pattern in progress, is well worth the slight slow-down.

So, that was a bit of a rambly review.

I think the iPad does really well what it should; provide an incredible user experience for media consumption; the web, videos, photos, movies, apps, and games. And if you’re in a one-computer household and mainly need to use it as I do, it’s a superior alternative to a second computer.

Should you buy an iPad? I don’t know.

My answer, as always, is “it depends”.

For me, it’s awesome. I use it more than I ever thought I would.

——
Edited to add…

I’m a massive Apple fan and have been from pretty much the beginning of my life. I will always be an Apple fan. They’re not perfect. No company is. They have issues with censorship and closed systems like others have with licensing, security, unstable OS, and privacy. But I’ve worked on a lot of OS in my life, and OS X is still my favorite, UNIX-base and all.

About the app store model… Apple was the first to take on that model and that’s always going to be tougher than coming second. There’s a fine line between curation and censorship. I think this is a area of ethics and standards that will continue to improve with competition. Google’s app store is a start, as are the ones being developed for mobile devices. Keep watching it, and keep on it.

I equate it to what’s happening in moderation policies for online news and political sites. When blogging first began, there was this massive rush to open up comments to everyone. And then there was this shock that people would write profanities, threats, and hate. And then there was the question of how to deal with this. Blogging is relatively “old” online…. nearly 20 years that word has been around. But mainstream sites are still dealing with the best way to use comments from users without censoring, without infringing on free speech. It’s complicated; how to protect users while letting them have their say, publish their app, pursue their rights.

That’s a whole other soapbox.

And I’m not debating Apple as a “good” or “bad” company.

I love this particular product now that I’ve used it for a month. And I love my MacBook Pro. And I love my iPod. And I love blogging. And I love writing about it.

Please keep leaving challenging comments. I love to read them, and you make me think, and question, and debate, which is always a good thing. But don’t email me privately and tell me I suck.

Thank you.

(PS – if you don’t like geeky stuff, there’ll be knitting again soon! I promise! And also a delicious apple muffin recipe!)

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14 Responses to “why you should buy an iPad”

  1. Teresa Says:

    Your comments about the iPad are the best I have read. I am still not convinced that it is as worth the cost of the purchase price and monthly charge. I have a netbook which is so easy to use and I have a Kindle for my reading which is great. I am able to use the netbook with wifi the majority of the time I am out and about (especially traveling!). I love the dedicated reader in the Kindle. I have it with me 24/7 and read so much more. It is easy to get more books both online and on the Kindle itself.

    I am just not convinced that these two devices should be replaced by an iPad.

    My biggest problem is the cost of ebooks. It appears that ebooks from iTunes are $3 to $5 more than Amazon. I am not willing to pay that.

    Thanks!

  2. Casey Says:

    @Teresa:

    As a Kindle owner/lover and a temporary iPad owner* I’d say this – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the iPad over a netbook to anyone who is shopping for an ultraportable computer.

    As for reading, the iPad is just too heavy, too fragile, too much glass and just not ergonomic at all compared to the Kindle. It works if it is all you have, but the only scenario where I’d grab for it over the Kindle would be for reading illustration or graphic-intensive books.

    * I gave up on my iPad and ended up returning it. For me, it didn’t fit any needs that I have. Most of my computing is typing and screen real-estate intensive, and my iPhone and Kindle are here the rest of the time. It probably would have made a great “play” device but I need less computer in my life and not more 🙂

  3. Casey Says:

    eh oh – I have an adjustment for my comment above. By “play” I didn’t mean to sound jerky – I wasn’t referring to frivolous use, games, etc. Play for me would be computing that isn’t related to my job.

  4. Beth Says:

    This bugs me enough about Apple that I might have a problem buying any of their products. I do not like censorship.

    http://prismcomics.org/display.php?id=1858

    I should be the one making decisions about the apps I choose, not Apple. I am buying a device not their opinions about what is appropriate content. Not that Apple has ever been known for their flexibility.

  5. Cade Says:

    How can you recommend a closed, predatory, proprietary system with a clean conscience? Apple has taken a lot of steps to ensure your \”brainless computing\” is as restrictive as possible- up to and including down right telling developers which languages they are allowed to think in. Apple bans apps arbitrarily, focusing on GLBT and politically motivated content. The iPad is a pretty device made by a company with ulterior motives and stock holders to please. I wish major bloggers would think about closed systems and the harm they do for three seconds before typing up a “yay Apple whoo!” post.

  6. Merna Says:

    Good comments, Amy!

    As a new iPad owner, I don’t have a case yet. What have you found useful, the notebook type, a shell on the back (what I have on my iPhone), nothing??? I’d love to hear what 2 months of experience says.

  7. amy Says:

    Casey – Totally! I agree. I don’t know if an iPad fits in with an existing netbook or kindle or both. For me, I only had a laptop and iPod, and share both. So, it really fills in a nice gap for our family. I also get what you mean by you need more PLAY and less computer. 😉 Maybe that’s part of why the iPad is good for me too. Since I can’t really easily write or respond to lengthy emails on it, I know I’m not using it for pattern support, Year of Lace business, or full time work. By definition then, it is more fun.

    Cade – I’m a “major blogger”? Yay! Thanks! 😉

    Teresa – I think there’s a kindle app for the iPad too, if the iBooks platform is more expensive for a title, that’s always an option. I haven’t looked into it though.

    Beth – Thank you – I updated the post a bit on my thoughts on this. I think challenging the system is a positive thing, and it can only evolve. Personally, I like the model of being able to buy software directly from the computer. I think it’s an imperfect model still, that needs work.

    Merna – I don’t have a case yet! I’m using a slipcover I made out of some fabric from a set of jersey sheets. I’d like to get one of the easel-type hard cases for it. I would like to be able to prop it up on the counter or desk.

  8. adriene Says:

    While I do have an interest in technology and how things work, I doubt very much I will ever make the investment to purchase an iPad. I have observed, however, that many people who have bought one keep finding ways to make it into a laptop, mostly by creating a stand to make it sit up so that they can type. If you do a search on unplggd.com for iPad, the majority are about how to make your own stand.

    It is intriguing, however, to see how people love the tactile features of it. Heck, cats seem to love to play on them. Personally, the thought of having to touch my screen all the time gives me the heebeegeebees, but maybe I’m just a bit neurotic about greasy fingers on my stuff. It does make me think of all the “futuristic” films of the late 90s, where everyone is calling up info with their fingers. (I’m thinking Minority Report, or even CSI).

    As for Apple being “predatory” or “proprietary”, well, that was Microsoft a few years ago. They have since been regulated, but their actions, for the most part, worked for them. Is it right? My gut says no. But heck, the hype and the news stories work, one way or another.

  9. Eileen Says:

    thanks for the review and I want one but think I’ll wait for the 2nd generation. I have an iPod and an iTouch.

  10. Kathy Trunzo Says:

    My husband has one and absolutely loves it. I have to say that it is very cool. I just recently got a Macbook and I love it! And for some shameless promotion-I have two Ipad cosies in my Etsy shop for sale!

  11. Seanna Lea Says:

    I love my MacBook Air (a lovely Christmas present) and have been a Mac Girl since the late 90s when I bought my first computer. Because I use my laptop about 90% of the time on the couch, I have become hyper sensitive to the heat it produces. If I decide to have a second device, I might pick up an iPad (probably at generation 2 time) just to get some of the joys of working on my laptop without feeling the burning sensation on my legs.

  12. Jamie Says:

    I can’t pry our iPad out of my husband’s hands. He uses it instead of his MacBook Air in our bedroom (no rude remarks — he just likes to play on a computer platform in the evening). We have watched TV shows on it (Jamie Oliver’s Food in America) and found it to be like watching HD. We have wifi in our house (okay, so we’re geeks), and he has no trouble surfing his favorite websites.

    Maybe I’ll get my hands on it some day and be able to try the Ravelry app.

  13. Anita Says:

    I’m a Mac person from way back – we bought a 128K Macintosh in 1985, and have evolved with the Mac ever since. My current tech configuration: a 1st gen MacBook Pro (a gift from my daughter after we upgraded her to the latest & greatest MacBook Pro), an iPhone (which I love, love, love) and an elderly iPod which serves as our boat’s stereo system.

    My stepson has an iPad and I played with it and LOVE it, but also recognize that my needs are met, as I have a powerful lappy of my very own. I do need a full-fledged computer to do my husband’s books and our taxes. If we were into a shared computer mode in my household, the iPad would be a perfect addition to the family.

    I do think that the tactile interface is very powerful, and where computers may be heading.

  14. Cora Shaw Says:

    I got to play with it the first day it came out as I went and picked it up for hubby. I have not had my hands on it since. In fact he takes it to work everyday with him. I may ask him about getting one for me, though. I have a netbook, which I love although it is slow and gets hot very quick. I can’t have it on my knees at all. It is a great little item although it is not for everyone.

    Cora

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