You can read tens of thousands of online articles about the iPad. One person wrote, “This truly is a magical revolution. I can’t imagine why anyone will want to go back to using a mouse and keyboard once they’ve experienced Apple’s visionary user interface!” Someone else wrote, “This device is laughably absurd. How can they expect anyone to get serious computer work done without a mouse?”
Those are some pretty confident critiques of the iPad — considering that their authors had never even touched an iPad when they wrote those comments. I've now used my new iPad for a several hours and therefore think I am qualified to offer an opinion or two.
I ordered an iPad with 64 gigabytes of storage on the first day that Apple accepted orders; therefore, I received one of the earliest deliveries. I ripped the package open this morning before the UPS truck left the driveway. The packaging was rather typical for an Apple product: simple and elegant. When I saw the iPad, my first impression was, "Wow! This thing is big!"
(Click on any image to see a bigger picture.)The included "user's manual" was one small piece of paper, printed on both sides. One side has a picture of the iPad with arrows pointing to the HOME button on the front of the device and other arrows pointing to the three controls on the top and side: On/Off/Sleep/Wake, Screen rotation lock, and Volume Up/Down.
The reverse side of the "manual" contained three instructions:
- Download and install the latest version of iTunes on your Windows or Macintosh computer (which I already had installed).
- Connect the iPad to your computer using the included USB cable.
- Follow the instructions that will appear in iTunes.
I connected the iPad to my desktop computer using the new USB cable and, about two minutes later, my iPad was registered with Apple. It then started synching, which required some time. I am already an Apple iPhone user and have a couple thousand music files, several dozen applications, and a couple of movies previously downloaded and installed on the iPhone. The iPad downloaded and installed all of the applications and music again to the iPad, except for one application that is for iPhone only, not compatible with the iPad. If you do not have a previous iPhone account, I suspect the synching process will only require a few seconds to establish your new account.
I did notice one new application installed that had not been on the iPhone: Picture Frame.
The iPad battery was fully charged and I was immediately able to use the iPad. Shipping the iPad with a fully charged battery is a nice touch. All of my previous iPhone applications (except for one) were already installed by the synch process and were ready for use. I experimented with several, and every one of them worked exactly as before. I did not have to purchase duplicate copies for the new device. The same was true for my songs, movies, and pictures. The only thing I noticed is that the applications were not arranged in the same order as they had been on the iPhone. Instead, the iPad arranged them alphabetically. That's not much of an issue as the iPad also allows me to re-arrange them as I wish simply by "clicking" and dragging with a finger.
Everything on the iPad is "finger touch." There is no stylus and no mouse. The human finger suffices for all functions. If you have ever used an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you already know how to use the iPad.
The operating system appears to be almost identical to that of the iPhone/iPod Touch. If you haven't yet used an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can learn everything you need to know for basic functionality in about thirty seconds. A few functions, such as connecting to an encrypted wi-fi network, will take a bit longer.
I connected to my in-home wireless wi-fi network and started surfing the web. The first site I went to, http://www.eogn.com, displayed normally in the 1024-by-768 pixel screen. It looked like the display on any normal desktop or laptop computer, except that the color was perhaps a bit better. I later experimented with all sorts of other applications as well.
The Apple iPad has been described as a gigantic iPod Touch. However, if you think that's all there is to the iPad, you are sadly mistaken. It is both an iPod Touch and much more. The "more" is mostly in the software and the ergonomics of this one-and-a-half-pound slab.
It’s a half-inch-thick slab, all glass on top and aluminum on the back. There's no plastic case here; it looks rugged. However, I suspect the glossy screen could be easily scratched. I also purchased a leather carrying case for mine that will cover and protect the screen when the device is not in use. However, Apple doesn't expect to ship that case for another week or so. In the meantime, I will be very careful where I store this device.
At 9.5-inches tall and 7.5 inches wide, the iPad is slightly smaller than a standard sheet of printer paper. If you like to push lots of buttons, you'll be disappointed in the iPad: it has hardly any buttons at all — just a big Home button below the screen, a power on/off switch on the top edge, and two more tiny controls on the right side. Pressing the Home button takes you to the Home screen full of applications, just as on an iPhone and similar to the program icons on the desktop of a standard computer. There is no keyboard included. You can either use the virtual keyboard that can be displayed on the screen, or you may purchase an extra-cost, plug-in combination keyboard and mounting dock. That keyboard also acts as a stand for the iPad and also charges the device. I have a keyboard/mounting dock on order, but it, too, will not ship for a while.
Every iPad includes built-in wi-fi wireless networking as well as Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Both are useful at short ranges: Bluetooth is good for 30 feet or more while wi-fi typically works for 100 to perhaps 300 feet from the base station. For an extra $130, Apple will add 3G wireless, a long-range wireless service available from cellular companies. 3G networking works as long as you are within range of an AT&T cell tower. The 3G-equipped models are not yet shipping as they first need FCC approval. Apple expects to obtain the approval and start shipping 3G-equipped iPads in about a month. The 3G-equipped iPads will include GPS capabilities as well.
If you decide to purchase a 3G-equipped iPad, you will also want to sign up for the wireless service from AT&T. You can choose from either of two options: 250 megabytes of data for $14.99 a month, or unlimited data for $30 a month. The interesting thing is that these plans require no contract. By tapping a button in Settings, you can order a month of unlimited cellular Internet service for $30. Or pay $15 for 250 megabytes of Internet data initially; then, when it runs out, you can either buy another 250 megs, or just upgrade to the unlimited plan for the month. Either way, you can cancel and rejoin as often as you want — just March, July and November, for example — without penalty.
I elected to purchase the non-3G model for two reasons: (1.) the 3G version isn't available yet, and (2.) I already own a Mi-Fi device that connects to Verizon's 3G network and then shares the connection with multiple computers/laptops/tablets/PDAs via wi-fi. I can carry this credit card-sized device, turn it on, and connect to it from the iPad's Wi-Fi. I am then able to use Verizon's 3G network which reportedly is faster than the AT&T 3G network. Since I already pay a monthly fee for unlimited use of the Verizon service, there is no need for me to pay for a second 3G service. However, if you do not already have a 3G provider, you may prefer to purchase the iPad's 3G option.
Unlike most laptop and netbook computers, the iPad does not have a connector for plugging in a hardwired "ethernet" network cable. The only network access is via some form of wireless connection.
The iPad doesn't contain a normal "hard drive." Instead, it is equipped with a flash drive which is both faster and more rugged than the typical hard drive with spinning platters and other mechanical components. Flash drives are all solid state: there are no moving parts. You can purchase iPads with 16-gigabyte, 32-gigabyte, or 64-gigabyte flash drives. Make sure you know what size you want before you order as retrofitting a larger flash drive at a later date to replace a smaller drive is not practical.
There is no lack of software for the new iPad: it will run almost all of the 150,000 applications that were made for the iPhone as well as 3,400 new applications designed solely for the iPad.
The older programs designed for the iPhone's tiny screen can display in one of two modes, neither of which is perfect. The first mode is the default: it displays as a small image in the center of the iPad's larger screen. In other words, it will look exactly the same as it did on the iPhone. You can touch a "2X" icon in the lower right corner to double the display size: twice the width and twice the height. Mathematicians will argue that is actually four times the screen size, not two. But I digress. The double screen size almost fills the iPad screen but may look a little "grainy." If you have seen a digital photograph blown up to much larger than normal size, you will know what I mean.
Most of the developers of iPhone applications are scrambling to modify their programs to display in a more elegant manner on the iPad screen. I suspect we will all see hundreds of updates become available over the next few weeks. Until then, I'll suffer with the grainy look.
The battery life of the iPad is expected to be about ten hours on a single charge. I have to say "expected" as I received mine less than ten hours ago. I'll fully charge it overnight and then perhaps test battery life tomorrow.
The iPad also serves as an (oversized) music and movie player. Soon after I opened my iPad, I copied more than a thousand MP3 music files and a couple of movies to the iPad. The built-in speakers have limited fidelity. The sound is plenty loud in an indoor room but probably not loud enough for use in an automobile or outdoors. You'll want to plug in earphones or those tiny "earbuds," the same as most any other MP3 music player.
While the iPad supposedly is not a multi-tasking device, I did note that it will play music and continue to play while running other applications. I am listening to Stevie Nicks as I write this article and am using various applications. I like the manner in which the iPad displays cover albums of the song you are listening to at the moment. The cover albums are displayed in full size, not a "grainy" blow-up of a smaller image.
I downloaded the new Sherlock Holmes movie. The download time was 22 minutes via a wi-fi wireless router connected to Verizon's FIOS fiber optic Internet connection. I can rent the movie for a few days for $3.99. I watched the first few minutes of the movie, then stopped. I expect to be riding airplanes in a few days and will watch the full movie then.
I will say that watching movies on the iPad's big screen is a much better experience than watching the same thing on my iPhone cell phone or an iPod. I have downloaded movies to the iPhone in the past for playback on long, cross-country trips. Technically, that worked well. However watching a movie on the iPhone's small screen isn't the greatest experience. Even worse, holding the iPhone in your hands at a good viewing angle for nearly two hours is also tiring. The new iPad solves all that with its large, brightly backlit screen and also by its (optional) carrying case that has a flip-out leg. You supposedly can set the iPad in its carrying case on the tray table in front of you and watch the entire movie without touching the iPad at all. Since I haven't yet received the carrying case, I can't test that right now.
I was impressed by the iPad's speed. It is instant-on: press the power on and it is immediately ready for use. There is no waiting for a system boot. As you start to use it, you discover the iPad is a very fast machine, faster than either the iPod or iPhone devices that preceded it. Things open fast, scroll fast, and load fast.
Next, the big 1024-by-768 pixel screen is a pleasure to use. Surfing the Web is a heck of a lot better than doing the same on the tiny iPhone screen — first, because it’s so fast, and second, because you don’t have to do nearly as much zooming and panning.
The iPad reportedly should be a great a game platform. I can't vouch for that as I don't play computer games. However, I did take a quick look at Scrabble and must say that it looked good. The Scrabble "board" on the iPad looked as good as a real game board.
The virtual keyboard takes some getting used to. You can lay the iPad flat on the table or your lap and type in almost a normal typing manner, using all ten fingers. However, there is no tactile feel to the keyboard. I'm not used to it yet. When I tried the the virtual keyboard, I made lots of typo errors that I would not have made with a normal computer keyboard. You can purchase a slightly undersized actual keyboard (for $70) but I don't think I want to drag that around with me.
Apple sells several office productivity applications for the iPad: Pages (a word processor), Numbers (a spreadsheet program similar to Excel) and Keynote (a presentation program similar to PowerPoint). They cost $9.99 each. I often give presentations at genealogy conferences and expect that future presentations will be made with Keynote on the iPad, using the (optional) docking station that allows for plugging in an external monitor or LCD projector. Presenting my slides with the one-and-a-half pound iPad with a nine- to ten-hour battery life should be much easier than carrying around a heavier laptop and charger. Of course, I can use the same iPad to read and write email and to surf the web while traveling. If I purchase the optional Pages program, I probably can even write new newsletter articles on this one-and-a-half-pound computer.
I was a bit surprised to find there is no printing capability. You cannot print directly from the iPad to any printer. Of course, you can always send a file to your own email address and then print the file later. You can also transfer files "across the wire" by connecting the included charging cable to a Windows or Macintosh computer. I expect that some enterprising third-party software company will create an iPad print utility before long.
At 1.5 pounds, the iPad gets heavy in your hand after a while (the Kindle is 10 ounces). And you can’t read books from the Apple bookstore on any other machine — not even a Mac or iPhone.
The iPad can’t play Flash video, which means some popular features on websites - such as the video players on Hulu and many other websites - won't run on the iPad Web browser. However, YouTube videos run easily through a separate YouTube for iPad application.
The iPad doesn't have a camera. It also doesn't make phone calls except for using Skype or similar VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) applications as they become available.
Apple provides a free downloadable ebook application called iBooks which will allow readers to turn virtual pages by swiping right-to-left on the screen, the same way you would flip through physical pages. Want a single page on screen at a time? Hold the iPad vertically. Turn it horizontally to get two pages on screen. Users are able to browse and buy books in Apple's iBookstore as well as in Amazon's new Kindle software for the iPad. Barnes & Noble will also have an e-reader application soon.
The iPad is an excellent ebook reader, one of the nicest I have seen. When you turn a page, the animated page edge actually follows your finger’s position and speed as it curls, just like a paper page. Font, size, and brightness controls appear when you tap. Tap a word to get a dictionary definition, bookmark your spot, or look it up on Google or Wikipedia. There’s even a rotation-lock switch on the edge of the iPad so that you can read in bed on your side without fear that the image will rotate. It can do everything the Google Kindle, the Sony Bookreader, or the newer Barnes & Noble Nook can do and a lot more besides.
The iPad's display is in gorgeous color, unlike the previously-mentioned ebook readers. However, you can’t read the iPad easily in direct sunlight. I consider that to be a major drawback. Then again, the ability to display high-resolution color is a major advantage of the iPad. If you wish to read magazines or books that have many color illustrations, you will appreciate the difference in color. If you tend to read mostly novels and other publications that have few illustrations, you may prefer the monochrome book readers that are better in direct sunlight - at least, for the moment.
The iPad isn't just for books; it is also a great e-newspaper reader. The New York Times, BBC, Wall Street Journal, and Associated Press are all available in iPad-specific versions although they are viewed through the web browser, not in the ebook reader software. I find it easier to read a newspaper with an iPad than with a real paper, especially on a crowded subway, bus, or commuter train. Folding pages is not an issue with any ebook or e-newspaper reader.
I have loaded several applications, and, so far, my favorite is LogMeIn Ignition. It is a remote control application. When traveling, I can connect to any Macintosh or Windows computer at home or anyplace else, assuming that LogMeIn is installed on the other computer and I have a user name and password with authorization to connect to that computer. I can then operate the remote computer in essentially the same manner as if I was seated in front of it. I can run programs, copy files, send and receive email, and perform most any other functions that I normally would use while back home.
LogMeIn is a great service for several purposes, such as accessing your email or various files on your home machine while traveling, or for troubleshooting a distant friend's or relative's computer. I use the program often for "technical support." Once the proper software is installed on both computers, I can connect to a computer on the other side of town or on the other side of the world and do almost anything I could do if I was seated in front of the remote system. I often use LogMeIn to fix software problems in friends' computers. The other user can also see everything I do, so it is also a great method of instructing someone in usage of a program. We talk together by telephone or by Skype and I can lead the other user step-by-step through any process.
I previously had LogMeIn Ignition installed on my iPhone, but using the cell phone's tiny screen to control a 1024-by-768 pixel or larger display on the distrant computer was frustrating at times. I managed to use it a few times to perform productive work, but I tried to avoid it and use a regular desktop or laptop computer whenever possible. Now the program has been updated to display on the iPad's 1024-by-768 screen and I find LogMeIn Ignition is easy to use on the iPad. In fact, I use it to control my iMac with its 2560 by 1440 pixel display, sometimes while lying on the living room couch. When the weather gets warmer, I also hope to use it from the picnic table in the back yard.
There’s no multitasking with the Apple iPad, either. It’s one application at a time, just like on the iPhone and the iPod Touch, although with a few exceptions. As I mentioned earlier, the music playback will operate simultaneously when using other applications. I haven't yet experimented with all the other possible combinations to determine all the applications that will multitask. The iPad has no USB jacks and no camera. There will be no Skype video chats. As I stated earlier, the Apple iPad is basically a gigantic iPod Touch.
When compared to the iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad's increased size is a mixed blessing. To be sure, the new 1024-by-768 pixel screen is a delight to use. I can now surf the web easily without scrolling and zooming. However, any device that is 9.5-inches tall and 7.5 inches wide is not convenient to carry all the time. My normal routine is to get up in the morning, get dressed, and immediately strap my cell phone to my belt, using a third-party leather "holster" I purchased. One of the last things I do at night when getting undressed is to take the cell phone out of its holster and place it in a charger. I will not be doing the same with the iPad. I don't want a one-and-a-half pound, 9.5-inches tall and 7.5 inches wide device strapped to my belt all day long.
The iPad also doesn't make telephone calls, except by VoIP applications such as Skype.
I do hope to purchase a mounting bracket of some sort that will mount to the dashboard of an automobile. I haven't yet found such a mounting bracket, but I am sure that someone will produce one soon. I'd love to use this large screen as a GPS device. GPS software for the iPhone already is available from several vendors, and I'd love to run one of them or something similar on the iPad with its large screen. My non-3G iPad does not have internal GPS, but I already own a DeLorme GPS receiver that connects via Bluetooth. I am not aware of any application today that will support that combination, but again, I suspect that such an application will appear before long.
Describing all the iPad hardware and software features or lack of features ignores the one thing that makes the iPad such a great device: it is extremely simple to use. The device, the operating system, and the hardware never get in your way. Everything is simple to use and intuitive. You won't need a user's manual for the iPad. You can give this to a computer-illiterate person, and they can become productive with it within minutes. All computers should have user interfaces this good.
As much as I like the new iPad, I don't think it will ever replace my iPhone, a combination cell phone and handheld computer. The iPhone is much too convenient. It is easily carried all day long. Even with its smaller screen, having it available at any time makes it a much more useful tool.
I wrote earlier that some people are predicting the iPad will be a revolutionary new computer device while others claim it will be a flop. I disagree with both opinions.
First, I don't believe the iPad will be a flop. It is much too nice a device with far too many practical uses that appeal to the general public. Book readers from Amazon, Sony, and Barnes & Noble have already sold by the thousands. The new iPad meets the same need except it is better than any of the present devices. I expect Apple will sell thousands of iPads as ebook readers alone. Then you add in the ability to read and write email and to surf the web on a full-sized screen wherever you are, play games, do productive work (with Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and third-party applications), watch movies on a gorgeous screen, listen to music, and more, and you have a winner. When not being used for other purposes, the iPad even functions as an electronic picture frame, displaying pictures you saved earlier.
I expect Apple will sell tons of iPads.
However, I don't think the iPad is truly "revolutionary." I'd call it evolutionary. It is the next step in bringing computers to the (non-technical) masses. Techies will whine that it doesn't do Flash, that it isn't multi-tasking, or that it lacks some thing or other. However, those same people are ignoring the greatest strength of the iPad: it does 99.9% of the functions that most people want and it does those things simply. This is the best computer that you can give to your grandmother. You won't be answering "technical support" calls from her every other day. The iPad just works.
Techies will hate the iPad because it is not designed for techies. Regular people will love it.
I just wonder where Apple got the icky name of "iPad." Here is a company that is world-famous for its creativity, marketing expertise, and fresh approach to nearly everything. Couldn't someone at Apple come up with a better name than "iPad?"I will write a separate article about using genealogy programs on the iPad, just as soon as I download and install a few.
The Apple iPad is available only in the United States at this time and only in Apple stores (which reportedly are selling out as fast as they can get the devices) and online from www.apple.com. Some BestBuy stores also are selling the iPad but not all of them. BestBuy only is able to stock 15 iPads in each participating store so they will probably sell out quickly. iPads are available in three flash drive sizes - 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes.
Wi-Fi models cost $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32 GB, and $699 for 64GB and are available now.
iPad models with both Wi-Fi and 3G wide-area wireless networking and GPS capabilities cost an extra $130, bringing the prices to $629 for 16GB, $729 for 32GB, and $829 for 64GB. The 3G-equipped models are expected to ship around the end of April.
So, is this an exciting, revolutionary new computer? Not really. But I must say that I like it and have enjoyed it so far. I'm keeping my iPad and expect to use it daily. But it will never replace my iPhone.
P.S. Here's a bit of a teaser: I didn't receive one iPad this morning. I received two. I am keeping one and will give the other one away to a genealogist, probably to someone who reads this newsletter. Stay tuned for details in a later article.