Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why I love and hate my iPad

I have owned an iPad for a little over two weeks now. I both love and hate (but mostly love) my iPad.

Before I tell you why, let's start with a little bit of background. I was a faithful IBM ThinkPad user for years, before switching to a MacBook about three years ago. I mostly stuck with familiar software at first (Firefox, Mozilla, MS Office), but I have been slowly migrating to some Mac apps (Mail, iWork, iCal). I don't own a mobile phone. Yes, you read that right. I don't own a mobile phone. I've been looking for a smart phone without the phone capabilities for a while. I wanted the apps, but I don't actually talk to people on the phone. My biggest stumbling block was the connectivity fees. I just couldn't justify paying $60-100 per month for something that I considered a non-essential toy.

For me, the iPad hits the sweet spot between mobility and functionality. I love not being tied to my computer all the time. I can quickly scan my twitter feeds or email easily. The best way to think about it is as a media consumption device. I can use the iPad for everything except writing papers. (If I got an external keyboard, I could even do that.) I'm looking forward to getting Keynote and giving presentations using the iPad.

I love the portability. At 1.5 lbs, it weighs a lot less than my laptop. I can check my news feeds, while I eat my oatmeal at the kitchen table.

I love having access to data out in the world. I've been out shopping and was able to check prices and look up an author while in a bookstore.

I love Enjoy Sudoku. It's the best sudoku game on any platform, bar none. In text of the tutorials are not as good as Sudoku Wiki, but there are example and practice games to help make up for it.

Now, for the things I hate.

I hate the eye strain. I used the iPad extensively for the first three days and had terrible headaches until I put two and two together. The iPad is completely unsuitable for extended reading. I tried reading PDFs, but my eyes got very tired. It was a combination of brightness and font size. In order to get the contrast high, I had to turn up the brightness a lot. I have since dialed back the brightness and this seems to help. On my desktop computer, I use large fonts. Many of the apps that I use don't let me increase the font size, e.g. Mobile Safari and G-Whiz. Although it is possible to zoom in, this feature is not available in every app. In Mobile Safari, I can enlarge the page, but then I have to scroll a lot to see everything. It would be nice if it could flow the text.

I hate the ergonomics. Look down and typing on the screen just doesn't work. My neck hurts and I make a lot of typing mistakes. The touch screen keyboard shows slightly different things depending on the context. For example, in Safari the keyboard has a ".com" button. In the Twitter apps, there should be a "#" and "@" buttons on the same screen as the qwerty keyboard. Normally, these symbols are buried in the the numbers and symbols screens, but # and @ are used some much in tweets that they really should be promoted.

I hate the social intrusion. When I had only the laptop, I enforced a social discipline of being "present." When I'm with the kids, I'm with the kids. When I'm in my home office, I'm working. With the iPad, I'm with the kids, but I'm not all there. It's much harder for them to get my attention, because I'm entranced by something that I'm reading. I have become one of those Crackberry users.

In summary, I love my iPad. I wish there was a camera. A 7" iPad sounds neat. I am now interested in getting a Kindle or other eReader for more extensive reading.

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