Everything they said it would and wouldn’t be: iPad review

The title says it all, but if you want to keep reading, I’ll happily babble about the iPad a bit more.

They said it would be magical and revolutionary, and in a lot of ways it is. I’d been somewhat worried about the size — I hate clunky heavy devices. It’s shockingly thin. And fits nicely in the hands. The touchscreen is responsive as all get-out, and the color, brightness, clarity is lovely. My photos look quite nice. Video is clear. Everything we were lead to expect.

In one area, the iPad is surpassing expectations. Steve Jobs talked about 10 hours of battery life, which everyone (myself included) heard as “10 means 6 or 7, maybe”). But apparently, for once, Jobs was giving a low estimate — users are reporting almost 12 hours of battery life with heavy use. That’s impressive. Heck, I was tickled that it came out of the box with a full charge (how do they do that?).

George is apparently impressed, but Fred just wants to lick his brother's ear. An unsurprising response.

Speaking of the out-of-box experience, it’s minimal. iPad, USB dock connector, power adaptor, booklet with very little instructional information. Typical. I would have appreciated a little wipe cloth, because the iPad picks up fingerprints like a CSI unit on speed, but I had some lying around already. As for accessories, they’re still coming off the production line; the keyboard isn’t available for a few months, but to be frank I won’t be buying it. Typing with the on-screen keyboard in landscape mode is easy and fast. I’ve never had much use for docks. I will absolutely buy a protective cover/case, but the pickings were too slim right now (I thought Apple’s case was, to be blunt, an overpriced piece of flimsy junk). Most importantly, though, I find that I want a second cable. I don’t know if the iPhone/iPod cables are supposed to be interchangeable; it works, but it’s not a smooth fit. And as some users are discovering, the iPad doesn’t seem to charge when it’s connected to your computer; you have to use the wall charger for that, and then sync on your computer. That’s fine, but I don’t feel like moving the cable around every time. Otherwise, setup is a snap. You plug it in, it starts, you give it a name and sync. Connecting to WiFi is easy, as usual, as well.

I spent most of  yesterday looking for interesting iPad apps and setting up iBooks. Apple was very proud of the fact that iPhone apps will work on the iPad, just scaled down or magnified. Yeah, not so much. Oh, they work, but they look terrible, and aren’t able to take advantage of the iPad on-screen keyboard. It’s not a fun experience. Luckily, there are some terrific new iPad apps (the Netflix app for your Watch Instantly queue is fantastic, as is the ABC app, with full episodes of all your favorite shows, both for free). And a few front-runners have updated their apps, including Amazon’s Kindle reader and IMDB. But a few others need to get with the program.

iBooks is a beautiful application; the iBookstore just needs more content. I’ll post more about e-reading on the iPad in a few days, once I’ve had more time to explore.

A lot of noise is being made by the lack of support for Flash on the iPad, just as with the iPhone. I think the amount of complaining is disproportionate to how important it really is, to be frank. Sure, you find flash on a lot of sites. Most of the time, though, isn’t it stuff you don’t really need to see? You’re all set for YouTube with an app, and ditto for Netflix, and we all know Hulu is working on an app as well. Let’s cut to the chase: no, you can’t play Farmville on your iPad. It’s a travesty, I know.

The bigger omission, in my opinion, is the lack of a camera. I didn’t think I’d care — I’ve got several cameras, and the one on my iPhone, who needs another? Except, argh, it’s already aggravated me twice in 24 hours that I have to take a picture with another device, sync that to my computer and then the iPad, or upload it online, or email it to myself, or something, and *then* use it for whatever I wanted it for. If they’d just included the most basic little camera into the iPad, it would have been so much more convenient.

Otherwise… I have no complaints. The iPad does exactly what I thought it would do, and does it nicely. I really think this is a device where your satisfaction with it will depend on whether you want to use it for what it does, or whether you’re disappointed it doesn’t do something else entirely. I’m in the first category. I like having portable video. I love surfing from anywhere, in the house, out. I read a lot of sites, and this makes it easy. I look forward to e-reading. iTunes works just the same as it does anywhere else; I didn’t load most of my music onto the iPad, though, because that’s not something I’d use it for. I have an iPod set up as a stereo in my house, and a dock at work for my iPhone, and I don’t need it on the iPad as well. I did, however, load all 8 GB of my photographs, and I love being able to look through them, and presented so nicely. Multi-tasking? I really only do one thing at a time, anyhow; I never understand why that’s much of an issue. And Flash, pfft, I don’t much care. The camera part is a pain, but I’ll survive, believe me. (serious hint for iPad 2.0, though, Apple. Come on.)

Mostly, for me, it’s the touchscreen that makes it all work, because while you can do pretty much everything I’m talking about on a laptop, I’ve hated laptop navigation for years. The touchpad is awkward and annoying, and hooking up a mouse defeats the purpose of portability, or is at least as awkward. I probably should have gotten a tablet computer ages ago, but they’ve had a tendency to be a tad pricey, and no one’s done it as prettily as Apple has with the iPad.

Free Wi-Fi at Barnes & Noble; e-book thoughts

Barnes and Noble makes wifi free

The article correctly states that this is part & parcel of B&N’s plan to challenge the Kindle with their e-book reader. But it’s still a great development. As an iPhone user, I already had 3G or wifi through AT&T while in the store. But this will benefit everyone. Suggestion? More chairs. My B&N is Standing Room Only, all the time, it’s so crowded.

NPR’s Laura Sydell brought up an interesting point yesterday about e-books and us readers. Many of us still want the print version, too, along with our electronic copy. But we’re not jazzed about the idea of paying full price for both copies. What about the model you see with some DVDs these days? I just bought Watchmen on DVD. It came with a digital download. That’s fantastic. I’ve got the DVD for my home library, and the movie in digital form on my PC (and on my iPhone, even better). That digital version was a freebie, essentially, but I would have paid slightly more for it. If the DVD was $15, and a version with the digital copy was $18, I’d pay $18. Maybe even $20. But what I won’t do is pay $15 in the store, and $10 on iTunes, just so I can buy the same movie in different formats.

I think publishers of both movies and books should think about this kind of model. If while strolling around B&N I saw a book I wanted for $14, but saw that for a few dollars more I could buy the print version and the e-book version? I’d probably do it. And in doing so, I’d be getting on board with e-books for the first time, really, and that’s what they’re after.

Do You Really Own What’s on Your Kindle?

I thought this was fascinating — I had NO idea that there was any wiggle-room of doubt in this area. If you read the article below, though, it seems you can buy a Kindle e-book, and later have it deleted remotely from your device. Your money’s refunded, of course, but that’s not really the point. I’ve been lusting after a Kindle (but resisting), not to replace printed books (heavens no!) but just because, well, shiny! This makes me wonder a little, though. That instant connection Amazon’s always bragging about, with the Kindle — I guess it goes both ways…

Do You Really Own What’s On Your Kindle?
By Omar L. Gallaga

Introduce a new media product embraced by many, be prepared to jog through a minefield of rights management issues.

That’s what Amazon is learning now that a publisher has decided to pull e-books from the Kindle e-reader by George Orwell. Customers who’d bought some versions of Animal Farm and 1984 discovered their money refunded and the books zapped from their devices, something Amazon can do remotely via the device’s Internet connection.

As David Pogue and others have noted, there’s something a bit Orwellian about a company being able to delete something from afar that you might be in the middle of reading.

It brings up the issue of whether you really own the content you buy for your Kindle given that Amazon has the ability to take it from you at any time.

What do you think? Did the publisher and Amazon have the right to take back the e-books after they’d already been purchased?