My original article “15 Reasons iPad is better than a netbook” caused quite a stir. It was reposted on blogs and several forums the world over and to this date is still the most read article ever at coregeek.
Knowing that the tablet wars are really going to heat up and with some competitors already claiming a win (without actually shipping a device) I’m hoping this Redux will be helpful for those considering the iPad in 2011. My intention with the original article was to point out the iPad’s unique positives over a netbook. Why netbooks? Because the iPad really had no other competitors. 2011 is going to be completely different. There are many tablet style devices waiting for release to take on the iPad. Keep in mind also that the iPad 2 should be showing up within a few months with added features, like a camera for video chat, etc.
For easier reading I’ve titled 4 sections:
The Revisit: A review of each original reason after 9 months of use.
Additional Uses: Uses I’ve discovered I enjoy on the iPad that have surprised me.
Future Improvements: Things I wish Apple would seriously consider changing or adding to make it an even better device.
The Wrap-up: Conclusion
1. Hardware quality – As always build quality and materials are top notch, this is an Apple product through and through.
2. Functionality without hassle – iOS is a very stable platform and ease of use could not be better. The iPad has never “frozen” or “crashed”. I’ve had a few pesky Apps that have done so but not the base OS. My only complaint functionality wise is the fact that the iPad has a need to be tethered to iTunes (see first comment under Future Improvements below).
3. It’s always ready to go – The only time I ever turn my iPad off is when it needs a reboot after a software install or pesky “crashed” App.
4. Excellent battery life – I can get 2-4 days of constant use without a recharge. Life varies depending on Apps used, some games really suck the juice… Maybe it’s just me but the battery seems to drain a little quicker since the 4.2 update introduced multi-tasking. I just make sure to kill Apps if I’m not going to use it for an extended period which helps.
5. User experience – iOS touch interface is very intuitive and quick. I’m so trained with touch navigation, going back to a mouse or trackpad feels clunky and slow. The fluidity and response of iOS is really something to behold (Apple likes to call this magic, which I detest but understand the use of from a marketing standpoint).
6. E-Reader – I really enjoy the iPad as a book reader. I’ve read more books since my purchase of the iPad than compared to the past 3 or 4 years. I have slowed down however, not because I don’t enjoy it but mostly because I don’t want to pay for the books. I don’t re-read books so the cost to enjoyment ratio doesn’t quite match up for me. I much prefer the free local library. I wish Amazon or iBooks offered a rental program kind of like Netflix for books.
7. Comics – Digital comics are very cool. The artwork on iPad is stunning. Alas, I haven’t read may comics. Why? For the same reason as #6 above.
8. Excellent Screen – Yes, it’s not the quality of the iPhone 4’s retina display but the iPad’s screen is very, very nice. Photos especially look great as well as HD video content. The only negative screen wise is the glossy glass. I use an anti-glare screen protector to reduce the reflectiveness otherwise it’s too much for me.
9. Lots of applications (Apps) at affordable prices – Apple had the right idea with the iPhone formatted Apps ability to run on the iPad. In theory this meant that almost any iPhone App was ready for iPad which was a great plan to leverage existing content from the App store (especially at launch). Unfortunately, most of my favorite Apps and games looked downright silly blown up on the iPad’s much larger screen and using them in their native size on the larger device was cumbersome. So I ended up repurchasing my favorite Apps once iPad versions were available.
Which brings up my second complaint: the cost of iPad Apps. Most cost at least 50% more than their iPhone counterparts. Not too big of a deal if they offered more functionality, many didn’t and I felt a bit burned by repurchasing iPad optimized versions. Some developers took advantage of the Universal App option which only requires one purchase to get an App that is optimized for both the iPad and iPhone. To those developers I say thank you.
Let me be clear here. There are 1000’s of excellent Apps available and if you have a need you’ll probably find an App to fill it. I’m just not too crazy about the premiums charged for iPad versions.
10. Speed – The iPad’s processor is fast, I’ve never experienced slowdowns. The addition of multi-tasking in iOS 4.2 made speedy operations even easier.
11. Gaming – iOS gaming has become huge. It’s really an area where iOS devices shine. I throughly enjoy gaming on the iPad. It’s the perfect platform for almost all gamers. There’s every kind of game you can think of in a wide range of pricing. I don’t see how all but the most hardcore gamers would not be satisfied. Click here for a list of my favorites games from the year.
12. Photo Frame – Still a nice simple feature. The iPad looks great as a photo frame, it shines even more as a photo book. Most people who have seen photo slideshows on my iPad want to pick it up and “flip” through the photos. It doesn’t get much use as a static frame. iPad begs for people to hold it and touch it. I never get tired of hearing, “Wow look at that.”
13. Portability – So you can’t pack it in your pocket but other than that the size and weight is very portable. I find it especially handy while lying down, for the bed or sofa it’s a great lounging companion. Sure less weight would be great but it’s a worthy trade off for that long battery life.
14. It’s not just a bigger iPhone / iTouch – Yes. I get it, this statement makes no sense when compared to a netbook. It’s still true however. iPad really makes the iOS experience perfect. In fact the iPad feels like the real deal and the iPhone/iTouch feel like the more restrictive device. This is especially noticeable when using the touch keyboards and while web surfing.
15. The Indescribable – What can I say? Sometimes you just can’t put to words a certain feeling or function that moves you. Sure, it’s still just a device at the same time however there’s a connection too. It’s something that can’t be explained and brings a bit of astonishment and wonder. Apple haters like to call it drinking the kool-aid. Steve Jobs has pushed it as magic. I think it’s really just thoughtful design (hardware and software) that connects with the user; something more manufacturers and developers need to understand.
I like this comment from The Daily Dish’s – Apple And Our Culture, Ctd. – “Yeah, it’s just some metal, plastic and silicon. And, yes, Apple makes a lot of money. But those two observations miss completely the point of Apple. It’s about inspiration, hope and an embrace of the future and humanity’s place within it.”
• Remote Control/ TrackPad – I frequently use my iPad as a keyboard and trackpad for my Mac Mini based media center. Mobile Mouse is my App of choice but there are others available too. Apple’s free Remote App is also a very convenient way of controlling iTunes on the Mac Mini. Between the two I don’t even need to turn my TV (monitor) on if I want to get some music playing via iTunes.
• Recipe Book – I enjoy baking/cooking. I did a fair amount of baking over the holidays. I learned that the iPad as a cookbook is fantastic. It’s the perfect size to sit on the kitchen counter, on a stand it takes up very little space. I especially enjoy recipes from the likes of The Pioneer Woman who provides step by photos which are easy to see and scroll with one hand.
• TV Viewing – This function has surprised me considering I have 40” and 110” HD viewing devices as options in my house. Yet, I find myself visiting the Netflix and Hulu Plus Apps on the comparatively tiny 10” screen more and more. (Warning Hulu App is overly buggy.) The video quality is very good (some shows play in HD) and it’s easy to sit and watch an episode of my favorite shows on the sofa, in bed or wherever I feel like being comfortable at the time.
• Newspaper - Every morning I fire up my favorite RSS reader Early Edition and get my fill of tech news for the day. Along with my cup of coffee it’s become a daily ritual. I’ll also visit more mainstream newspapers the from time to time. My guilty news pleasure is USA Today.
• Web, web and more web – I really enjoy web surfing on the iPad. Wether it’s reading, researching or just looking for something amusing; iPad delivers.
Less dependence on iTunes – I have a love/hate relationship with iTunes. It’s a pretty good media collection application but I find the interaction with iOS devices kind of daunting. I understand the need for it as a backup and App repository I just wish the iPad had less dependence on it.
I’ve been asked many times about my opinion of whether or not the iPad can be a laptop replacement. I usually get a blank stare when I explain the relationship the iPad has to share with iTunes on another computer. I wish I could fully recommend the iPad as a stand alone but for now, it is truly a secondary device considering the following: it relies on another machine for setup, document moving/sharing (between the ipad another computer) and backup.
There are work arounds for the file sharing with some great 3rd party Apps like Dropbox and GoodReader, but on a whole it’s too much work for the average user. There’s always the “email documents to yourself” trick which is a management pain. I’m still dismayed Apple really expects you to plug your iPad into your base machine to share documents minus the help of 3rd party wireless support. While I’m on that subject…
An actual central storage – Once you get documents onto the iPad they have to be saved into the specific App that you want to utilize them with. For the most part you cannot share documents, photos, etc. between Apps. There really needs to be a central storage location that allows all Apps access as well as an efficient mechanism for organization. As is, juggling documents within Apps in multiple locations without organization capabilities is quite un-user friendly.
True universal printing – Sure, with AirPrint Apple added a very limited printing feature which I previously commented about here. Yes, there are 3rd party Apps which allow printing. It’s just too convoluted at this point. Most of the Apps require a wireless printer or bridged support through another computer. Printing (without the purchase of an AirPrint enabled printer) is anything but magic at this point.
Apple created a completely new segment of device with the iPad. iPad was not the first tablet to the market, but the first to deliver a fun, futuristic user experience. Like most of Apple’s products it does what it does very well. I’ve found it a useful device for all the reason I’ve mentioned above. I’ve had several people ask me, “Well what does it do?” My answer is usually, “What do you want it to do?” In many ways the iPad is a blank slate (pun not originally intended) and you decided what it will become.