Saturday, August 28, 2010
Sure, I was excited by the iPad launch, but I didn't run to the Apple store right away. I read up on the drawbacks and considered waiting for the second generation product - you know, the one that would appear within a year and sport all the much-vaunted "basics" everyone derided this one for not delivering.
Besides, with an iPhone, an iPod Touch, a laptop and a Blackberry, why would I want another device?
Well, I'm glad I swiped my debit card for an iPad - imperfect as it is.
We all know one of the major complaints about the iPad is that it's really a glorified iPod Touch. But that's what kicks this machine into a different product category and makes it so useful. So, hold on to your "I'm going to wait for the second version" logic for a minute and consider some reasons you might just want to spring for this very practical tablet - just the way it is.
1) Reading is an absolute joy on the iPad
Since you see more on the iPad screen you get better context to whatever you are reading. You no longer see a couple of lines or paragraphs in isolation - as you would on the iPhone or iPod Touch. Even PDFs are much more bearable and easy to read. Instead of the scrolling that normally takes place to see even a single page on a laptop or desktop screen, with the iPad you can hold an entire PDF page in your hand and see it with one glance.
Web pages look and read great because of the vertical orientation; I can't say enough about that. Even reading Maps is a pleasure. Maps takes great advantage of the iPad's increased real estate, becoming much more practical than the peering-through-a-keyhole-version you carry around with you on the iPhone.
And say what you want about iBooks, but it's just plain cool. Colour pages are colour pages. Turning the iPad sideways automatically puts you in two-page mode. The orientation lock is a welcome addition. And there's a Sepia wash you can toggle on to make the experience more like reading a book than a computer monitor.
If you're into reading wisdom literature like me, and depending on the app you get, the scriptures are gorgeous and a joy to read. Meditating on them is a soothing break from the hyper-connected world of blogs, Twitter and well, everything else.
2) App Store offerings take on new value
Old familiars have recast themselves and are benefitting from the larger screen. Dragon Dictation, for instance, becomes a big slate upon which you can experiment and compose before bringing that text into another application. The size of the slate makes it infinitely more useful than the same application on the iPhone or the iPod Touch. Dragon Dictation also becomes a wonderful journaling tool, lending a conversational tone to your notes and making the process of recording thoughts more fluid and natural.
The Google suite of apps is superb on the iPad. Take advantage of the iPad's microphone for some of your Google text and image searches. It really does feel like magic.
The mobile version of Google Docs is read only, so don't bother trying to compose a blog post on it. But I have found a great little app called Synote that will sync between your iPad and iPhone or whatever other device you happen to have. The price is nominal and it functions so well that it became my default writing tool before I bought Pages.
Evernote is a killer app on a Touch or iPhone, but wait till you see it on the iPad's larger screen. It's a dream for carrying with you to meetings and appointments for note taking. And, if you're so inclined, you can photograph with your iPhone all those business cards and scraps of paper you write your phone numbers and notes on. Your notes are available across the three platforms - web, iPad and iPhone. And with so many new integrations, Evernote is a real powerhouse. If you have a copy and haven't been doing much with it, get to know it. You'll be grateful you did.
Tweetdeck for the iPad loses some of its functionality on the iPad - you can't schedule tweets, for instance. But you can add columns to track searches like #edchat and #caned, the interface is beautiful, and there's enough there to keep you very happily tweeting. Echofon is good on the iPhone or Touch, but a clean visual knockout on the iPad. I find myself switching between Tweedeck and Echofon a lot, simply because there are features on each that I love. Twitter hasn't released a native iPad app yet, but if it's anywhere near the premium quality of the iPhone/Touch version, you're going to want it.
3) More portability than your laptop
If you think a laptop is liberating, the iPad is much more so. You won't be able to do everything you can on your laptop, and it's a little heavier than you might expect, but it feels rugged and in so many situations it sure beats a laptop.
Wouldn't you like your laptop to fire up instantly after sleeping? Well, the iPad does, and that alone is such a relief when you need to get some banking done or fire off some emails in a hurry.
Getting a good case is essential. It gives you a solid grip on the pad and the confidence to cart it around without fear of it slipping out of your hands. It will quell your paranoia about screen protection and really boost your enjoyment of the machine.
There are rich possibilities for presentations with the iPad. Whether you're speaking from a podium, pacing back and forth or walking into your audience, the iPad is the ultimate tool for prepared text. I've spoken with it from a podium and during workshop sessions and it's a dream. You can even leave it sitting on a table and pump the point size up enough in Pages to act as a handy cheat sheet.
Of course, it's perfect for walking around your classroom. And with an Apple composite A/V cable you can patch your iPad right into your LCD projector.
One-on-one presentations become much less cumbersome and more intimate using the iPad rather than a clunky laptop. Even processing email becomes a more comfortable task by just picking up the tablet and working it.
4) Better keyboarding than your phone
I've always believed a little time spent practicing text entry on any new device pays off down the road. You and the iPad's virtual keyboard will make friends fast with a bit of practice.
Writing in landscape mode can be hard at first because of the same hair-trigger sensation you get in your first few days with the iPhone or iPod Touch. But let me tell you, once you get comfortable, you'll find your speed goes up rather than down. This will definitely come as a surprise. And your finger tips will pad along the glass surface with a lot less noise than when taking notes with your laptop.
5) YouTubing with your friends and family
Many times, I've wanted to share a video or blog post on the spot with a few other friends or colleagues and I can do this for one person easily enough an iPhone/Touch. But with the iPad, I can share with three or four people at once.
This ability to share video with others is one the coolest features of the iPad. It really is something to be able to curl up with a video or TV episode by yourself or with someone else. Of course, the App store has plenty to choose from and Netflix is rumored to be available in Canada soon. So the value of what you're able to consume is likely to increase exponentially then.
You can always prop the iPad up on a table or desk (many cases allow you to do this) while you're working or eating to enjoy whatever you've downloaded or feel like streaming. Remember there are mountains of video podcasts available to you - on everything from learning Spanish to checking out the latest tech toys - through iTunes.
Ok, enough gushing. If all of the above and serious laptop-kicking battery life don't sway you, here's a sixth great reason.
6) Your kids are going to love it
Tablets make so much sense and they are so easy to use that children take to this device almost intuitively. Having a communal iPad around the house is a wonderful way for parents and kids to share video, play together and make little forays into educational applications that are really well served by this platform.
For a super list of educational iPad apps check out the Teach With Your iPad wiki.