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iPad Update – the Return

Apple-iPad-001So as the three people who follow my personal Twitter stream found out (why the heck aren’t the rest of you following me? Love me, dammit!), I have decided to return my iPad. I officially reset it on April 15th, at 12:32pm. And it is sorely missed. Why did I do this? Because I’ve decided that the iPad will be my preferred tool for accessing the web and my media. I am returning my iPad so that I can buy the 3G-enabled one at the end of the month. Here’s why I’ve come to love yet another Apple device.

When I first got my iPad, I honestly was not that enthusiastic about it. Sure I’d blown close to a G on this thing, but all in all I wasn’t giddy with techno joy. (By the way, do NOT buy the docking stand. It’s less than useless and I’m hoping that Apple will take it back for a refund even though I don’t have a box for it.) I purchased some apps, downloaded some free ones, loaded up a few gigs of music and videos, and set about using it. I carried to and from work every day. I used it on the couch and in the dining room and in the kitchen as my wife was making dinner. I used it with the kids. I took it with me when we went out. And yes, I’ve used it in the bathroom (don’t tell me you guys didn’t think of that use case when you saw the iPad!). And gradually it took over my life.

First off, the screen is freaking gorgeous. Pictures can’t really do it justice. Somehow, the fingerprints and smudges disappear when that thing is fired up and you just see this giant expanse of real estate. Switching between my iPhone and my iPad was painful because I just couldn’t bear looking at the tiny iPhone screen.  Videos are just incredible to watch on the iPad.  Everyone I showed it to thought the screen was amazing.  Pictures were popping off the surface it was so brilliant.  Of course it was absolutely worthless in sunlight or while wearing sunglasses, but still.

Second, the virtual keyboard proved surprisingly useful, especially for someone with my ladylike hands. I was able to almost touch type on that puppy, so long as I wasn’t trying to tab or use too many special characters. (Apple, you guys aren’t nearly as smart as you think you are – WTF is up with not including a Tab key on the virtual keyboard?). In landscape mode, I was probably at half my regular typing speed (and I’m not a slow typer by any stretch). In portrait mode, I was typically two- or four-fingering it, but still getting along pretty darn well. I can access my corporate email via Outlook Webmail using the iPad just fine, which just relegated my Blackberry to the “never have to look at you again” pile. In fact, I’m probably going to give it back to the company because I just never use it.

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Third, I realized that I could use this as my primary music player, with the sole exception of the time I spend in the weight room. They sell dock extender cables that will allow me to plug the iPad into my Sony stereo at work. I can download maps before I leave for a trip (and download on the fly when I get the 3G version). I can watch videos. I can even use it in the gym to practice my group exercise class training videos. And it’s a lot easier to follow along using the iPad versus trying to squint at a tiny iPhone screen.

Fourth, a lot of the stuff I’d kept around but never got around to doing anything with are finding new life on my iPad. PDFs are a pleasure to read. Comics too. (Comics are good, but the iPad isn’t going to be the salvation of comics.  The page size of comics are just a little “off”.  Manga, on the other hand, may have met their secret weapon.) Even reading is more pleasurable because I can pull out a book anywhere and I can carry dozens at a time.  I’d been considering a Kindle but now I don’t have to.  I’m still split between the iBook and the Kindle apps, but just being able to read anywhere is great.

Finally, compared to my iPhone 3G, the iPad is FAST. Blazingly, gloriously, wonderfully fast. Apps load like lightning. I can switch between apps with minimal fuss. Screens scroll easily and quickly. Granted, my iPhone is old and jailbroken, but I am not running tons of apps on that puppy. The iPad puts it to shame. I’m sure the new iPhone will be as fast as the iPad, but until I have that replacement in my hot little hands, I’m loving the greater speed.

ipadqmarkThat’s not to say that the iPad is perfect. From a productivity perspective, the iPad is sorely hampered by the virtual keyboard. I can pound out emails and write simple blog posts just fine, but I’m planning to buy a Bluetooth keyboard for the thing. And I don’t recommend Apple’s Pages or Numbers apps. Both produce files that are basically unusable outside the iPad and both are incredibly frustrating to use on the iPad itself, so don’t have dreams of creating massive spreadsheets or novels using them. If a developer ever figures out how to provide Office compatibility however, this thing would rock. Heck, even Google Apps integration would be good.

Also, the inability to save and transfer files outside of the iTunes environment is a pain in the butt. And the lack of multi-tasking is also incredibly annoying. I’m really looking forward to iOS 4.0 because the addition of multitasking means it will make the iPad a lot more manageable from a productivity perspective.  Once task switching is available, I could easily write entire blog posts on the iPad.

As another annoyance, Apple needs to stop treating music and video as two separate apps on the iPad (and the iTouch). There should be a single app to manage my media, and I should be able to mix and match media in my playlists, regardless of whether they’re audio or video. I’m hoping they will address this in iOS4 as a reveal feature when they announce iPhone HD.

The Calendar app needs a to-do feature integrated into it.  I shouldn’t need a separate app to create to-do lists.

Customizable themes should be made available (adding this would remove a lot of the need to jailbreak).

Given my new love of this toy, I’m now stuck on the iPad upgrade cycle (and no that was not a sly joke!), which is exactly where Apple wants me to be. With my iPhone, the contract made annual upgrades too expensive. But with the iPad, I can let my iPhone get two or three years old without worrying about lack of features or speed, as long as I upgrade my iPad each year. Apple is going to make a ton of money off of me. The brilliant jerks.

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