iPad Second Thoughts (For Computer Age Denialists)

Following on from my iPad first thoughts blog post last May I’ve now learnt enough to post a worthwhile update on life with an iPad.

The short version of this blog post is I don’t use my iPad much at all BUT there’s more to it than that and I even have a useful iPad tip so it’s worth reading on…

Last time around I wrote “I’m convinced [the iPad] will carve a niche for itself” and it turns out that niche doesn’t include me BUT it does include my sister, and now my mum, Lorna (see picture left).

After playing with my iPad on launch day my sister had that conversation with her husband I talked about before she headed off to PC World and bagged a 16Gb Wifi iPad, despite reports and online stores reporting they were out of stock everywhere, so she was a very lucky early iPad adopter. Almost a year later I can report she still loves her iPad and uses it every day feeding it with new Apps keeps them both Apple happy.

Following the unexpected iPad love from my sister it occurred to me my mum “needed” an iPad for Christmas – which was a helluva gamble because she takes every opportunity to express her hatred of all things electronic, especially computers.
Undeterred I placed the order anyway and in the end everyone chipped in (thanks guys) for one last ditch effort to drag our mother into the computer age (there are several earlier aborted missions I won’t bore you with here – well I might, but not today).

Anyway, we were all sat around on Christmas day pretending to be opening our own presents while we secretly all had one eye on Lorna to watch her reaction as she unwrapped her present and, disappointingly, she did a great job at hiding her dismay – or was that excitement – I couldn’t tell, don’t ever take her on at poker.

I took the time to set the iPad up with a mobile me email address, a £5 iTunes voucher (so I could set up the Apple Store ID), PingChat so she could talk to us all, a Facebook account so she can see what her family and friends are up too and a few other apps I thought she might click on when no one was looking.

Since Christmas we have all chipped in to ease Lorna through the techofear barrier and now more than two months later I’m pleased she’s still using her iPad so mission accomplished and I look forward to seeing how the story unfolds as she becomes more proficient.

Meanwhile MY iPad has been lying around largely unused but I did look forward to upgrading it to IOS 4.2 hoping that might kick start my enthusiasm. After upgrading I had another quick play and the task switching a big step forward but it’s not intuitive. I also downloaded my first free eBook and enjoyed reading it in bed in the dark – which didn’t disturb the missus and for a day or two I was almost a proper iPad user but since then I’ve lapsed again.

It gets worse. My PC hardened brother was around to gloat when my “it just works” faith in Apple technology took a serious dent. I’d bought the updated Apple TV so we could watch podcasts and rent HD movies without putting any more dosh into Mr Murdoch’s pocket.

Well, it just didn’t work that day and it still doesn’t now! The darn thing refuses to rent movies – it connects to the Apple store fine, logs in to my account fine, takes my order, then sits there doing nothing. We tried switching Apple IDs, networks, the lot.

I tried to point out to my brother that what I have actually always said about Apple stuff is “It will either just work OR it will be serious” but it was too late. He enjoyed NOT watching the film more than I did I suspect.

Some lateral thinking clever clogs (shout out to Natasha) suggested we could rent the movie on the iPad and stream it from the iPad through the Apple TV to the actual TV and that did work but the 5Gb movie took hours to download so we had to watch it the next day, which is still a bit of a FAIL.

OK, here’s that iPad tip I promised you. I haven’t read this iPad tip anywhere else – not even on the manufacturers website – and we only discovered it by accident because we have two iPads…

An iPad with a Gelaskin is MUCH easier to hold than a naked iPad. That’s it! Sorry if you were expecting something more geeky.

It really is a major improvement. Naked iPads tend to slip through the fingers so you have to grip the iPad quite hard whereas holding a Gelaskinned iPad in one hand is effortless. It surprised us all how much difference the Gelaskin makes.

I usually put Gelaskins on my Apple gear anyway, partly to give them a little extra protection from scratches, partly so I can easily spot mine in a houseful of Apple gadgets and partly because I love the awesome Gelaskins artwork that’s available.

Gelaskins are removable too which means you can change or remove them anytime without damaging the Gelaskin (keep the original backing paper) or your Apple gadgets so I’m pleased to recommended them.

[UPDATE] Lorna is still using her iPad, she composed and almost sent her first email a few days ago but unfortunately her friend phoned her up just as her finger was poised over the send button (OK, I’ve used a bit of dramatic license here) and they chatted instead!

The intention was there though and using the keyboard takes her back to the good old days before she had kids and she was at the cutting edge of technology using a typewriter.

Uh-oh, I’ve just realised there is an outside possibility she could read this – mum, if you ever read this, you can add a comment below…

[UPDATE2] Sadly Lorna passed away in April 2013 and her iPad passed to Natasha, her granddaughter who used it at University.





Ipad – My First Thoughts

I was delighted when the FedEx guy knocked on the door a day early and I couldn’t resist a chuckle to myself at the thought of people queuing up early at Apple stores today to get their hands on an iPad this morning. Hats off to Apple for fulfilling their pre-orders on time – even if we are months behind our US cousins already.

Apple have, in my opinion, produced another game changing device which I’m convinced will carve a niche for itself and go from strength to strength as ever more imaginative and creative Apps are developed and the OS4 update evolves to support multitasking.

I bought 2 iPads, one 32Gb and one 64Gb WiFi model – we don’t have 3G where I live and I don’t get out much. My thinking was the 64Gb iPad for the the family and the 32Gb iPad for me.

iPad Out Of The Box…

The iPad is smaller and more awkward to hold than I imagined but nevertheless a joy to use and great fun to mess around with.

I’d read reports of them working straight out of the box in the US and I hadn’t realised they have to be set up and synced with iTunes on a computer, just like an iPhone. I believe this is an unnecessary step which will get in the way of opening these devices up to an entirely new audience.

My daughter has taken possession of the “family iPad” and she absolutely loves it. She says it’s “the right size” comparing it with her iPhone which is packed with games, and we’re both really impressed with the battery life – we’ve played with both devices on and off yesterday and both iPads still have over 50% battery life left so they look good for 2 days casual use.

My mum and sister visited yesterday evening and we let them both get their hands on the iPads. My sister is now desperate to get one, which surprised me “It has everything I have ever wanted in a computer in one place” she said – she loved the games, the email, Facebook and her only negative comment was “But it’s an Apple isn’t it?” knowing she’s going to have a hard time getting her dyed-in-the-wool PC loving husband to spring for one – but even then she’s prepared to take on that battle!.

My mum was always going to be the toughest sell but she sat dutifully through a photo slideshow and a movie clip or two and I think pretty much everyone would be impressed with those. Next up I handed her the Labyrinth Maze Game and sat back as she played happily until I took it away from her 20 minutes later.

Setting Up An iPad

As I mentioned earlier you have to set up an iPad using iTunes on a computer and I think that’s crazy. Apple seem to have iTunes tunnel vision at the moment.

How did we get to the point where the ONLY way to setup and use an iPhone, iPod and iPad is via an overblown music application on a computer?

iPads and iPhones should be stand-alone devices that can be setup over any internet connection including WiFi, cable or mobile broadband and Apple really needs to do this if they want to take sales to the next level.

The “Family iPad” is now synced to my daughter’s computer so that’s now effectively hers and the rest of the family are locked into her vision of how the iPad should be setup – which is not what I intended.

If you connect an iPad to a computer which you already use to sync an iPhone with iTunes says “This iPad has previously been synced with this computer” (which is plainly nonsense) but on selecting the alternative option to “Set up a new iPad” you end up with all your iPhone Apps and choice of music, photos, podcasts and movies being synced to the device anyway which is a bit odd.

This means if you own a 64Gb iPhone you’re not going to get all that content on a 16Gb iPad. I had enough space on my iPad so I didn’t have to solve that particular potential hiccup.

Is The iPad A Laptop Alternative?

The short answer is not yet – at least not for most users. The iPad clearly isn’t designed to replace a laptop but for many people, like my sister, it could easily become their preferred way to access the internet at home – in fact she doesn’t use the internet at home at all simply because she can’t cope with using a laptop. There’s a huge opportunity for Apple as the iPad could become the perfect gateway device for people like her to leave lying around on the sofa or kitchen table.

As an online marketeer the iPad can do some of the everyday things I need to do but not enough to make my laptop redundant. The single biggest limitation is the browser. The Safari browser doesn’t offer tabbed browsing – switching between windows in a multi-step operation at best. The single-tasking nature of the current iPad OS is a serious limitation to anyone used to working with multiple applications and windows so I’m hoping the planned OS4 release over-delivers otherwise iPads are effectively running a 30 year old OS model on a device of the future – I’m sure Apple will get there, I just don’t want to wait 30 years!

To end on a high, I love the iPad and I am fascinated to see how my family, friends and Apple respond to the way people eventually end up using iPads to enhance their lives – it’s going to be a fun ride, buy one – or one each.

[UPDATE] I’ve written a follow up iPad second thoughts post here…



iPad Thoughts – Will I Be Buying One?

I’ve just watched the Apple iPad announcement and Steve Jobs does seem particularly proud of the iPad. He made a good case that there is a gap in the market for another mobile device that’s bigger than a smartphone and more user-friendly and portable than a traditional laptop.

Steve went on to explain that a netbook is just a small cheap laptop which doesn’t fill the gap and I believe he’s spot on – I’ve never bought a netbook for that reason.

The iPad is essentially a big iPhone, it can be totally touch controlled or, via a dock, using a real-keyboard for anyone who needs some serious text input. The big advantage virtual keyboards have is the ability to present context-sensitive input options, for example, a number pad would appear when entering numeric spreadsheet data and so on.

Although I find my iPhone intuitive and easy to use I don’t use it to its full potential mainly because it’s small so it seems likely I would make better use of an iPad and, as Steve Jobs pointed out, along with 75 million other people, I already know how to use the iPad out of the box.

I can envisage leaving iPads lying around the house, perhaps on the kitchen worktop where I’ll use it to follow recipes, or perhaps on living room coffee tables to settle arguments and look stuff up on Wikipedia. The iPad could breathe new life into traditional board games and I’m excited by all those possibilities.

A docked iPad with a real keyboard is going to be all most people ever need and traditional laptops and desktop computers may well become the preserve of geeks in darkened rooms once again. Consider how quickly the iPod and iPhone changed the way we listen to music and how we use mobile phones and it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see the way we use the world wide web is about to change – in three years, just as Apple announce the iPad V3 we’re all using tablets, you read it here first!

I can’t be certain until I’ve had some hands on experience whether I will take my iPad around the house or have several lying around but it seems likely we’ll have one each because future iPads are bound to interact with each other and our iPhones like virtual pets forming a House-Wide-Web and will change the way we interact with each other, our friends and the wider online world and my daughter won’t need to ring the house phone to get her dippy egg in bed!

There’s a pretty good chance technophobes, like my wife and my mum, will get carried along with the iPad wave. My wife already has an iPhone, admittedly turning it on/off is still a challenge but we’re getting there and my mum loves sitting beside me while I drive my computer for her touring Picasa and Facebook photo albums and buying her shopping online – she certainly knows how to point her finger and she’s good at gestures so she’s halfway there so I should be careful what I wish for or we’ll all be reaching for the blue pill!

Meanwhile, back in the real world, a friend of mine (Hi Antonious!) said “NOT ME MATEY” along with this list of reasons he won’t be buying one – but of course he WILL cave. Quite a few of the items on the list relate to lack of ports on the iPad which can all be made available via Apple or third party iPad docks and another accessory industry is born. I’ve appended my specific comments after each list item:

• Unspecified widescreen aspect ratio for video playback (so what?)
• 1024 x 768 aspect ratio not widescreen video friendly
(so like most TVs they’ll be a black bit top and bottom)

• No integrated USB ports (via dock)
• No card reader (via dock)
• Non-removable battery (would be better if it was)
• Non-expandable memory
(would be better if it was, but will buy the biggest anyway)

• No GPS in the WiFi only model (durr)
• Unlocked iPad not great when network’s don’t use the micro SIM
(any network which gets the contract surely will?)
• Mono audio speakers (via dock)
• Prolonged typing on glass? (use a keyboard via a dock)
• No integrated camera (Gotta love Apple keeping something back for iPad 2)
• No HDMI/Displayport (via dock)
• No Ethernet Port (via dock)
• Still no Adobe Flash support
(It’s bound to be Adobe dragging its heels, would prefer an alternative to emerge)
• Limited codec support i.e. AAC, MP3 and H.264 (can be supported via software update)
• Proprietary iBook eBook format
(Steve Jobs said it WAS an open format and I think all publishers will jump on this bandwagon or risk being left out in the cold)

• No breakdown of ‘up to’ 10 hours battery life
(Steve said he could watch video on a flight from LA to Tokyo and that lying around not being used and iPad would still have power after a month)
• No mains power cable included (via dock)

So yes, I will definitely be buying a WiFi iPad and, if I like what I see, probably more than one. Am I alone or will you be buying one? If so why? If not why?