April 24, 2010

My first month (well, almost) with the iPad

Well, I'll say this much—I ain't sending it back for a refund. About three weeks into my experience with the iPad, I've started to figure out where it fits in my digital life, and like many flashy new products that have come out of Cupertino over the years (like, you know, the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone), the iPad is filling a need a didn't even know i had.

Now, I have the Web (well, almost all of it—the lack of Flash support is still annoying at times) at my beck and call, sitting right on my coffee table ... or in bed, or wherever the iPad happens to be sitting. Portable video is much bigger and sharper than ever before, and if I need to tap out a quick e-mail or even a blog post, yes, it's possible (albeit clunkier than on a full-sized laptop). Gaming on the go is no longer merely a postage stamp-sized experience, with some iPad games (Mirror's Edge, Zen Bound, The Pinball HD) rivaling the graphics and gameplay you'd find on a console. And the real game changer, as it turns out, is the iPad's stellar battery life—a solid 10 hours or so, meaning you can use the thing all day without bothering to plug it in.

A few days after I got the iPad, I broke down and bought Apple's iPad case as well; it's thin and a little ugly, but it's light and comes with a flap that props the tablet up at a good typing angle. Combined with my small vinyl sling bag and my Novatel MiFi from Sprint, the iPad is making for an awesome on-the-go companion; basically, I get all-day Web access, gaming, movies, communication, and even a little light productivity on something bigger than a 3.5-inch iPhone screen.

And yes ... some light productivity is indeed possible. An iPad app called Office2 offers both Word and Excel editing, along with Google Docs acces (viewing and editing), and I've also latched onto Evernote (the free version) for writing and desktop syncing. (Evernote also does a nice job of saving its state when it quits, perfect for jumping in and out of Safari for referencing a Web page.) There's also IM+ for instant messaging, and while there's still no Tweetie for iPad (or whatever Twitter ends up calling it), Twitterific works in a pinch. Finally, typing on the iPad's on-screen keyboard isn't nearly as awful as I initially feared; in fact, I'm typing on it right now, at a pretty reasonable clip. (I should point out, however, that I had to finish the formatting on my MacBook Pro; the composing window on Blogger.com doesn't work that well on the iPad, or at least not yet.)

The iPad was also great during my recent two-day stint in bed with the flu; it was my constant companion, serving up streaming movies via Netflix, plenty of Web browsing, a TV show or two, and e-mail—and again, the key was that I could use it all day without coming even close to needing a charge.

What's still missing? Some key apps, such as a better Twitter client, Docs to Go (Office2 is a little wonky), a real Facebook client, a decent blogging client (there's one out for WordPress, but not Blogger) and a faster RSS reader (NewsRack is reasonably slick, but updating the feeds can be a lengthy process; I'm holding out for Reeder). Multitasking will also be a huge plus once it arrives in the fall. A front-facing camera would, of course, be aces for video chat. And I'm still waiting for the big publishing houses to get their acts together and really wow us with a magazine formatted expressly for the iPad (with a reasonable subscription plan to match).

All that said, I'm far happier with the iPad than I ever imagined I'd be; like I said, there's no chance that I'd give it up now. And just wait until app developers really start taking advantage of the iPad's bigger screen and horsepower.

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