So I bought an iPad

Okay, so I bought an iPad. I know I wrote previously on taking a "wait and see" approach, but in my defence I was kinda assuming an Australian release would be fairly close after the US release. Instead, after two months of reading reviews, thoughts, listening to pundits, etc, it became obvious that it was going to work for me, so I pre-ordered as soon as I could, and on Friday had a delicious 64GB iPad (WiFi + 3G) delivered to my office.

TL;DR version: I like it a lot, it's not perfect and there are a few apps that need updating before I consider my iPad experience "complete".

Just so we're clear: It doesn't multi-task (yet), it doesn't have Flash support (neither does my Safari + Flashblock or my Firefox + NoScript) and it doesn't have a USB port. It's amazing how much that hasn't affected my life. I've already mentioned the difference between "Doesn't do what I want" and "is useless" a few times, so we'll just move right along.

First thing I did was fire up the App Store and start hunting around. I had a few things that were already iPad compatible, so over they came. The first application I bought was Flight Control HD ... well worth it, and has had a fair bit of play over the weekend. Stuff like Dropbox, 1Password Pro, Instapaper Pro and the IMDb app all came across straight away and instantly impressed with their iPad interfaces. I still miss the CMD+\ shortcut for 1Password, but at least it's fairly quick to switch to the app, unlock, grab the password and flick back to Safari.

Two apps missing from the iPhone that are sorely missed: Calculator and, more importantly, Clock. What the fuck Apple? I can honestly think of no reason why these apps wouldn't be included on the iPad. Perhaps the Calculator interface didn't scale up well and they didn't put any time into redesigning it? At least that void is filled very well by PCalc. I really cannot fathom why nobody at Apple thought that the Clock app would be useful. A world clock app is definitely now on my shopping list for my iPad.

But moving along... The screen is amazing. I threw my last 12 months of iPhoto events over to the iPad and it is very, very impressive to look at. The speed of app launches and the like is impressive, although doesn't really seem to be noticeably different from the iPhone 3GS. The disappointing side of the speed equation though is Safari. Web pages still take a noticeable time to render, especially more complex sites on the "real internet" such as Sydney Morning Herald. The caching of tabs is also not really improved from the iPhone, meaning that my standard desktop model of going to a blog/news site and then opening articles in new tabs is largely useless, since more often than not I have to reload the original tab when I switch back to it anyway. This is particularly annoying when trying to use the iPad for mobile access to my work helpdesk, since individual jobs open in new tabs, but returning to the queue usually results in a reload, and thus having to log in again. Combined with the much-slower-than-desktop rendering speed, it means Safari-based consumption of lots of news/blogs or even my primary work is occasionally frustrating. Apps such as NYT Editors' Choice and the BBC News app are much more pleasant experiences for going through lots of articles.

Another web-related issue with the iPad is the crapshoot of site versions. Some sites will offer up the "full" version over their iPhone version (SMH), but others will give you the mobile version (Youtube, Google). In some cases it's a custom iPad specific version (Gmail is beautiful), but in others it's a bit jarring (Google Reader, Docs).

Back to apps, in this case iPhone apps, running on the iPad. The short version: Don't. Some apps there is just no viable alternative for, so I've installed the iPhone versions, but really, they are not a good option at all. They either sit in the middle of the screen, with so much wasted space, or are blown up to pixellated garbage. Perhaps the most annoying though is that any text-entry in these applications brings up the iPhone-style keyboard. Understandable, but painful to use.

Which leads into typing on the iPad on screen keyboard. I'm assuming that, like the iPhone keyboard, experience will make me faster. Just like the iPhone I have issues with hitting the shift key instead of 'a', and also hitting v/b/n instead of space, but I think that over time I'll lose that. On the whole I like the landscape keyboard, and have not had any lag issues or anything with it, but it's definitely no substitute for a physical keyboard. Now if only my bluetooth keyboard would work (alas, not iPad related).

Lastly, for now, video. Have I said the screen is awesome yet? The screen is AWESOME. But the screen is also 1024x768 ... a ratio that is kinda on the way out, at least as far as video is concerned. As long as you like letterboxing, you're fine! One of the things I was dreading was making my library of, ahem, backed up DivX files iPad compatible. I don't know why I never looked into this before, but wow, Air Video. Install a small server on my desktop, and stream to my heart's content. So between that, a few H.264 encoded / purchased videos and my home-made stand (two pieces of cardboard from a case of beer), video on the iPad is a letterboxed winner!

Okay ... I think I'm done rambling around the iPad for a while. At some point I will go through apps and my choices. For now, here's a few apps that are definitely worth installing:

Overall, I'm very happy with it. At the moment I am largely treating it as a big iPhone without phone calls, and that suits me just fine. I'm sure that my usage will adapt over time, and I know it will replace my laptop on a lot of the overnighters and small trips I take. It's a beautiful piece of hardware, the OS is obviously very familiar and easy to jump in to, and the niggles are, so far, not show stoppers, and are mostly just either waiting for the right app to be released, or a small learning curve or tweak in my own processes to shift from an iPhone.


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