Two weeks with the iPad

On April 17, 2010, in Recommendations, by Rob Levandowski

After two weeks, I still really like my iPad, and it has replaced my Mac for a lot of things. It’s with me almost constantly. In many ways, it is the revolution of computing that it’s made out to be. There are still some rough edges, though.

I’ve gotten more used to the onscreen keyboard. It was great to discover that you can type an apostrophe by touching the comma key and sliding your finger upward. That was one of the most glaring problems I’d had—having to go into the numeric mode to type punctuation. There are other shortcuts like that hidden throughout the keyboard.

Even so, the lack of number keys still bothers me. Even more is the semi-smart behavior of the numeric mode. It’s hard to predict exactly when it will decide to switch itself back to the alphabetic keyboard. Typing an apostrophe seems to trigger an immediate switch when you’re in the middle of typing a word. Typing a space does it reliably, which is really annoying when you’re filling out a form with a phone number.

I just picked up an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard, and I’m using that to write this blog entry. So far, it seems like an improvement as far as typing goes… but it does bring up the fact that the iPad desperately needs some sort of stand to use with the keyboard. The reason it needs a stand so desperately is the high-glare screen.

Apple’s worst design decision with the iPad was the high-gloss glass screen. Yes, it feels slick to the touch, and it’s probably easier to keep clean than a matte finish. However, it’s also utterly impossible to use comfortably under office lighting. Any sort of overhead light, or lighting behind you, or for that matter sunlight, will make it difficult to impossible to see the iPad’s screen. If someone comes out with a good antiglare overlay, I’ll buy it in short order.

Mobile Safari works well. It’s particularly good at pointing out web pages whose authors have made unwarranted assumptions about screen size and CSS layout code. There are a lot of web pages that are illegible upon first loading. Thankfully, the double-tap-to-zoom function works brilliantly.

The AIM app is a big disappointment, although some of that has to be laid upon how AOL has implemented multiple sign ins. When you leave the AIM app to do something else, after a while your buddies may not see you online, which makes the push notification feature a bit useless. When you get a push notification, you’re offered a choice of “view” or “close.” If you choose “close,” the IM may disappear from the iPad without a trace. OK, I thought, I’ll leave iChat logged in on my Mac to catch those messages. Well, no matter what AOL claims on their website, it seems essentially random as to which AIM session, if any, will receive messages when you do this. Apple and AOL need to collaborate on making multiple logins more useful in the context of portable devices.

Too many apps “drop state” when you leave them to check something in another app, especially if you’re in an “add item” or similar composing sort of mode. This becomes annoying quickly, and is probably the biggest reason why the iPad’s lack of multitasking is an issue.

If you walk around with an iPad, you’ll attract attention. The one thing you won’t hear, however, is “What is that?” It’s a testament to Steve Job’s marketing prowess that everyone you meet will instead say “Isn’t that the iPad?” It seems like everyone knows about the thing and can recognize it even if they’ve never seen it. The next question is almost invariably “Do you like it?” Yes, I do, for all that I see the rough edges.

I do wish I’d waited for the 3G model. There aren’t as many wireless hotspots in my area as I’d thought, and where there are hotspots… the iPad’s internal antenna is… quirky. Sometimes it works quite well. Often, it fails to pick up signals that laptops pick up fine. Occasionally it will ping-pong back and forth between strong signal and no signal while you hold it stationary in one spot. When it switches base stations, it interrupts your work with a “Connecting…” message for a second or two. This annoys me, because I have two base stations in the house for coverage. They’re on the same network and have the same SSID. Every other WiFi device I have switches seamlessly between them, but the iPad struggles with it. I hope Apple will release a firmware update that addresses this.

But, although I complain—products can’t improve if people don’t complain—I still love the thing, it’s my constant companion from the time I wake up to the time I sleep, and it’s definitely the future of computing. It won’t replace my desktop computer, but for most of the day it does supplant it.


One Response to Two weeks with the iPad

  1. subcorpus says:

    got the ipad … have had it for a month …
    still cant decide on a case … 🙂
    too much choice online …

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