Thoughts on the iPad From an Apple Newbie

I’m not one of those Apple people, who only ever buys Apple products, and sheepishly follows the company, buy everything they ever make, travel the globe for Mac World, or camp in front of Apple stores the day before the release of a new product.

I recently bought a new laptop this past January. It’s good, it’s okay, but I really did want a Macbook. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend 1200 bones after taxes to get one. Truth be told, I was weary of the new Windows 7. Knowing what their past OS were like–ME, XP, and Vista–I really just did not want another piece of garbage. I knew these were pieces of garbage just based on people I knew who had Macbooks, some casual users and others Steve Jobs worshippers. They never complained about their OS, their browsers never crash, they don’t get viruses.

When the iPad was announced it was kind of like I was re-living the fallout after Nintendo revealed the “Revolution,” calling it a “Wii” and waving a remote around. People went, what the crap is this? Are they serious? An iPad? Really? Yeah okay, so it’s a touch tablet with no real hard drive, no flash support and I’m supposed to buy it to do…what, exactly?

People criticized it from the get go, that it wouldn’t sell, that it would fail, that there was no purpose for it. Funny how the haters come out in full force when a weird or unusual product by a high profile company comes out….be it Nintendo Wii, or Apple iPad, or Toyota Prius. I had a different reaction when I learned of the iPad: indifference. Like every other Apple product, the Apple TV thing or the Macbook Air, the iPhone, I’m not batshit crazy for Apple products, mostly because I just simply can’t afford them all.

So what got me interested in the iPad?

I read an article on the NY Times. I can’t find it for you, sorry. It was about the publishing industry, how basically it is failing and Amazon is undercutting everyone, offering digital books for a buck or two bucks or ten bucks. How the people who use a Kindle read dozens of books a year, how if you get a reading device, the reading material you consume increases a lot. How Apple offered publishers a bit more, how they cleverly forced Amazon to raise their prices.

This got me interested. I didn’t want to get one, just wanted to go see one, try one out, see what it was all about. Digital books are the future after all, dead-tree books are just too expensive to purchase, a hundred bucks here in Canada might buy me 4 or 5 books. The iPad hadn’t launched here in Canada until a little over a week ago. When I went to the store to try one…it was like pure magic. There was no mouse, no keyboard, it was tiny, lightweight, the backlit screen so sharp. I immediately tried surfing the web, which was easy, I hit up the iBooks, and found that I just “got it.” As soon as I layed eyes on those digital pages, I understood what the hoopla was about reading books with an electronic device.

I was ecstatic. This was the future, this was how technology was going to advance, and it was in my hands. Say goodbye to your keyboard and mouse. Oh technology, how did I ever fall out of love with you? The radical redesign of products and the advancement of technology at least in terms of personal computers, has been stagnant for decades. The craziest thing that’s happened in the last 10 years was, everyone threw out their mouseball-driven mouse and bought a laser mouse. That isn’t all that crazy.

So I got one, a few days later, at a different store. I put down my 600 Canadian Loonies and zipped on home. The whole time I kept wondering, and to an extent I still am, is how much WILL I use my laptop in the near future? Maybe a year from now?

I’ve put together a fairly extensive list of pro-observations and con-observations, and even some stuff for you people who think the iPad is a useless piece of crap worth less than dirt. Here they are. We’ll get the shitty stuff out of the way.

Read past the jump to read the pros and cons.


1. No Google Wave Support.

If there was google wave support, I would have typed this up on my iPad. Hopefully Google and Apple get this sorted out ASAP. I’m thinking they will. Google Wave is awesome. For anyone who uses Google Docs, you’re out of luck for the time being as well. Google Docs is read-only.

2. Terrible Speakers

But really, who cares. Using this thing to play audible music is like those people you see using their phones to play music, it just sounds so awful you wonder why anyone would bother. Of course, headphones solve this problem, if you’re accustomed to listening to things on terrible speakers smaller than a dime.


1. Battery Life

Its insane. I used mine for 3 days before it dipped under 20%. Of course I turned down the backlight to preserve some power, but I wish my iPod had a fraction of this battery longevity. Then again, my iPod is 4 or 5 years old, batteries have come a long way.

2. Ease of Reading

Everything is so sharp and the contrast is so perfect for websites, books, email, whatever. It is so beautiful, it makes you want to read more stuff. I’ve so far downloaded about two dozen free books from the iBooks store and I will enjoy reading all of them. Shakespeare and Thomas Hobbes, here I come!

3. Ease of Reading +1, Comic Books and Graphic Novels on the iPad FTW

I’m not a comic guy. I don’t read them, I never have. I’ve tried, but for a bunch of reasons, I just never took to them. Until I downloaded this comic app. I downloaded a free sample of an adaptation of the Philip Dick Novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” I opened it up. And you know what? Instant win. If you’re a comic/graphic novel fan, you owe it to yourself to check this out. You read it panel by panel, tapping the side of the screen to advance to the next panel. All in gorgeous HD, super high-resolution, sharp colours and perfect contrast. I’m going to have to download me some Neil Gaimon and Alan Moore, whenever they get the comic store up to snuff.

4. iBooks, App Store, and the General User Interface

Super easy to use, they look gorgeous and we’re all familiar with them. Don’t fix what ain’t broke right? The notepad is handy too. There’s a button built in on the main page for Youtube. The settings are just like your iPod, and “the button” that iPhone users will be familiar with allows you to switch apps seamlessly and, multitask. More on that later.

5. Length-wise or Width-wise?

Built in motion sensor allows you to view iPad two different ways, which is actually a subtly ingenious thing. You can hold it width-wise, as I do for the most part, so it is like an open book when you’re reading books. Conversely, it is handy for viewing websites like Kotaku or IGN, or the BBC, or any news site really, the other way around, so that there is more space for a long list of links and stories. By the way…those empty bars on the sides of the screen on your widescreen monitors? I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stand that since the first time I saw it. It doesn’t exist ont he iPad, it sizes each page to the full screen.

6. You Already Know How to Use This

The sixth and final “Pro” point worth mentioning, is the fact that you already know how to use this. Instinctively. It takes all the functions of your laptop, and puts it in your hand, in a truly portable device. Though no mouse or “keyboard,” this is what makes it so, so perfectly portable. To the point where you will just carry it around your house, everywhere. Touch whatever icon to start using it, press the button to go back and instantly fire up another browser or a different app. Learning curve? Maybe 5 seconds. Maybe, Apple has figured out how to make a learning curve obsolete.

For the Naysayers

1. There Is No Mouse

You don’t need one. Your iPod Touch doesn’t come with a mouse and nobody complains about that. This, and the rest of these, are perfect examples of how clinging on to an idea of how things “should” work, just stagnates progress. Look, I’ve only had this thing for 4 days now. I hate using this stupid touchpad on my laptop to move a cursor around. Jeebus it’s SLOW! Even things like scrolling around, going back to my laptop makes me feel like I’m going back in time and firing up a Commodore 64.

2. There is No Keyboard

Yeah and? See #1, the mouse. The touch keyboard is not as bad as you can imagine it would be, in fact, it’s very easy to use. For web addresses you only need 2 or 3 letters anyway before your browser drops a list of matches. Most of people’s time on computers is spent browsing. For big documents? Maybe you want to go back to your laptop, or you can just buy a keyboard attachment. Getting used to not leaving your fingers resting on the keyboard takes all of one minute to get the hang of. When you go back to your real keyboard, say to maybe use Google Wave, coughcough, well, I for one wish I was using my iPad.

3. No Multitasking?

You’re browsing one second, and the next you’re browsing your apps, going through all the major news channels. There are wordprocessing software, the iWork packages, it’s just great. You can, indeed, multitask, although not like you are used to in Firefox on your PC. Apps like Tweetdeck even revolutionize their respective programs they are used for. And it really, truly is faster than your laptop, all that moving a cursor around? You don’t even realize how cumbersome a cursor is until you go back to your laptop. I’ll add here, the only people who are ever going to attest to this? The only people who will truly believe the mouse and keyboard are antiques? Are people who own iPads.

4. Lack of Flash

I was worried about this affecting my web browsing. Guess what? Almost no sites USE flash! Not even IGN, which is a pretty heavy site. None of your news sites use it. The world wide web has moved on

I will interject that some videos on the BBC are flash, but Youtube conveniently takes care of that. And Youtube is better anyhow, the way Youtube generates related videos you might want to watch.

5. Stop Bitching About Fingerprints. Seriously.

Since when did keeping a sexy device completely devoid of any dirt or grime come into play? I’m not sure. But for some reason people complain about smudges on your screen. Anyone who claims they can see the prints while they are using it and it bothers them, is downright lying,

Through the backlight you can’t see them at all and mine is plenty grimey already. Functionality trumps this so very, very minor detail so very, very badly. It’s easy to keep clean anyhow, all I do is when I charge it, take a lens tissue and gently wet it with some of my eyeglass cleaner and magically, in seconds, fingerprints disappear. Have you ever watched an episode of Star Trek TNG where Ensign Crusher turns around and says to Picard, “Sir? My station is full of fingerprints! I can’t see anything! I HATE this touch screen!” So sci fi is taken as the pinnacle of aspiration as far as technology development goes, and so much sci fi uses touch based things and people think they are cool…except not so cool in real life because it gets a little dirty?

Closing Remarks

The question that needs to be asked is, will this thing ever replace a laptop? I say it just might. I already use it exclusively for web browsing, my daily consumption of news, reading, comic books, twitter and facebook. I carry it around, not something I do with my laptop. I take it to the coffee shop without fear of staying so long that my battery might crap out. It does everything (except word processing, for now) that a laptop does, in a much tinier and more convenient package.

It makes me wonder how long things like the mouse, or laptops without touch screens have to live. They’re already antiquated as far as I’m concerned, and have been for some time. We’ve all been waiting for a product like this to come, but now that it’s here, and it’s different, and it doesn’t look like a laptop, reaction is generally reserved in nature. It might take a year for this to catch on, it might take five. But it will happen. The day will come when everyone’s “laptop” is a small device, that you can carry around almost anywhere, pull out on a moments notice and be surfing the web instantly.

Do yourself a favour…go out and try an iPad for yourself, with an open mind. Do the things you would normally do on your laptop, don’t cast judgement right away. It won’t take long for the realization to sink in: you want one, and you just might use it a lot more than your laptop.