As mentioned previously on this blog, I bought an iPad. More exactly, I bought a 64 GB Wi-Fi iPad, feeling that this particular configuration was the logical choice for me. But, how did I come to that conclusion? I mean, it’s not much of a secret that the iPad isn’t a well-defined product. What I (and many others) mean by that is that many potential customers of this tablet device can’t figure out how the iPad’s functionality would be a benefit to them, especially if they also (like me) own an iPhone. Is owning both gadgets a redundancy? Is the iPad merely “a big iPhone without the phone”? And is it worth the purchase price?
Before I get to those questions, I should state that my personal uses for the iPad might not apply to you. I’m a tech guy and my needs sometimes go into that specific realm. Keep that in mind. Also, I didn’t buy the iPad because it’s “cool” or because Apple made it or to acquire it specifically for my burgeoning Apple hardware collection. I sat back and actually thought out the reasons for buying one — how specifically it could add to my life. It took months, believe me. And when I came up with enough of them, I went down to Small Dog, handed them my money, and walked out the door with a shiny new thing.
So I have an iPad… and an iPhone. Okay, so what differentiates the former from the latter? Is one just a large version of the other? Well, not “just” but, yes, it’s bigger — and its bigger size IS relevant. Being able to run iOS apps on the iPad’s larger screen makes for a better experience, especially for games and text-centric apps. (Try playing Scrabble on an iPhone and my point becomes painfully clear.) And, at the same time, the iPad’s interface, form factor, weight, and power management (battery life on the iPad is impressive!) make it far more convenient than a laptop in this regard. As some of you research the iPad on the Internet, you’ll find a whole lot of reviewers and the like describing the iPad as the device that falls somewhere between an iPod Touch and a laptop, which in many cases is a fair summation. But, it’s also its own device.
Because of the availability of the iPad and its larger screen, many apps have been reworked and re-released as iPad versions, and these versions are often better in many ways from their iPhone equivalents. In addition to being able to see graphics and text more easily, games often have more playing field and many apps now have room — more screen “real estate” — for more interactive functions. And that functionality is sometimes able to be added to the iPad version because there IS more space for it. If you spend enough time with an iPad, you soon enough realize how inviting all of this “breathing room” is.
So, the iPhone still matters as a phone and as a more portable device for your iOS apps. But, when you want to don the mantle of “iOS power user” and get more out of your experience, the iPad will be there.
But, what about MGP? How does HE use his iPad? Well, I’m glad I asked…
As a student, I’ve been using the iPad’s Safari browser and iBooks reader on a near-daily basis. With the quick power-up of the iPad (read: instantaneous), I not only have the full Internet at the ready, I also have my college textbooks in ePub format (the overwhelming winner of the eBook format war). Having textbooks in my iPad (as well as computer manuals, how-to, etc.) means I get to save money, have more books than I could possibly carry in their physical versions, and can easily highlight, annotate, and search any work in ways that would be impossible with hardcopy books. With both Safari Mobile and iBooks, study and research are a lot less painful, especially in class when I need quick info. And I get a lot of free classic novels via the iBookstore in the bargain.
As a podcaster, I’ve found that the iPad is extremely convenient during the recording of a show episode. Jason and I use a Macbook running Garageband to record the program. And while it might seem feasible to access the Internet though that laptop, I also know that Garageband is a memory hog and I don’t want to take any chances that the recording will cease mid-show due to a software crash. So, enter another device, pulling down the Net via Jason’s home Wi-Fi network (which I set up for him and he should thank me for), and we’re good to go for on-the-fly facts and assorted horror trivia. It’s really added to the show. Not that I’m fishing for compliments from our fanbase or anything.
As a consumer of digital media, I’ve discovered that the iPad really excels in this department. Over the years, I’ve been pulling away from acquiring physical media. I haven’t bought a CD in over 7 years, my DVD purchases are dwindling, I’m looking into digital magazine subscriptions as I write this, and I already mentioned ePub books. This is all to say that iTunes gets a lot of my money these days, and integration between that service/software and my iPad makes purchasing, managing, and perusal a seamless experience. Since I also have an iPod, an iPhone, many Macs, and an Apple TV (version 1), that media can go anywhere I go and be consumed in any convenient way desired. There are non-Apple devices out there that can handle one or two of these media to a somewhat competent degree, but the iPad is truly the device that rules them all.
But how do I get all of this content on-the-go? As I mentioned, I got the Wi-Fi version. A number of folks asked why I just didn’t pony up for the 3G one, and I have answers to that. As an iPhone user, I really don’t see the sense in shelling out more money to AT&T on top of what I pay for iPhone 3G service. I won’t bore you with a full-blown rant on how AT&T should allow tethering or putting all 3G devices in the same coverage plan (or, perhaps, improving their server infrastructure to handle the bandwidth they voluntarily welcomed), but I will say that $84 a month is all this service provider gets from me. It’ll be interesting to watch the purportedly upcoming Verizon iPhone and how it plays into all of this, though.
Even still, I don’t really feel the need for a 3G iPad. My iPhone handles that just fine, and the content I peruse on my iPad is often synched from iTunes on my desktop, so it’s already with me. Also, free Wi-Fi is becoming more pervasive around a lot of cities and towns, including my college campus, so I can do quick grabs from those points if absolutely necessary, which, most of the time, isn’t. Maybe the kids need all of their devices to always have Internet access at all times. Me? I think I can wait a few hours.
But, back to apps…
Gaming on the iPad is a whole lot of fun, particularly games that take advantage of the accelerometer. Ones I’m currently enjoying include Flight Control HD, Real Racing HD, Plants vs. Zombies HD, Pinball HD, Scrabble for iPad, and Reversi HD (the last, an Othello knock-off). And that bigger screen really matters in this area, as well as the graphics boost (in quality and speed) and software improvements from their iPhone versions.
Apps I don’t use for one reason or another (including my weird preference for them on, oddly enough, my iPhone) include Mail, Photos, Calendar and Contacts. That might change in the future but, for now, I don’t have anything to say about them since I don’t use the iPad versions.
Like all iOS devices, apps really make the iPad what it is. Staring blankly at an iPad in the store will not help you to understand it. You have to really get hands-on with it, try out the apps, load ones you like and will use on it, and figure out whether it’s really worth the $500+ price tag for you. It’s certainly not for everyone, but I’ve definitely grown fond of my own, not only enjoying the pre-planned uses for it but, like many, also discovering ones I never thought of before and now are welcomed additions. Sure, there are some gripes out there — the screen is a fingerprint magnet, there need to be more iPad-specific apps, the iPad’s OS version needs to catch up with the other iOS devices in some areas, file transfer isn’t apparent, and printing is an issue. Some of this and more will be taken care of come November when iOS 4.2 is ready, and the rest is personal preference that isn’t a concern of mine. But, that’s me. Again, look into all of this to make an informed decision.
And make sure you get a snazzy looking case for it, like I did.