My first impressions of the iPad

I got an iPad this morning. These are my first impressions of it. After about a week, I’ll write up another review, given that those impressions will probably be different from the first initial set.

If you don’t have time to read through the whole thing, here’s my single sentence summary:

The iPad will be to computers what the iPhone was to smartphones. 

It’s that good. Here’s the thing, though: like the original iPhone, you really want to go to your nearest Apple Store or certified Best Buy and check it out in person. Second-hand reviews like mine really don’t do it justice.

Also, even though many folks will deride the iPad, the proof of how good the first generation is lies in how many copycat products are already in the pipeline, just like we saw with the iPhone.

Which iPad did I get?

I got the 32GB model, without 3G. Before purchasing the iPad, I had an older MacBook from when I worked at Apple serving as a desktop hub, and used a unibody MacBook for mobile computing. I sold the older MacBook for a tidy sum, and the money from that sale went towards the iPad, with the newer unibody taking its place as a hub.

Why did I pass on the 3G model (which also has GPS)? Simply put, I don’t need that functionality. I have a Palm Pre+ on Verizon. That phone has A-GPS and has the ability to act as a wireless mobile hub – at no additional charge.

Because of that, I didn’t see the logic of waiting, or more importantly, spending additional money for features I wouldn’t use. If you think you’ll use them, by all means wait. Be aware, though, that since we’re dealing with AT&T here, don’t expect to be able to stream video unless you’re on a WiFi connection; I’d be really surprised if AT&T allowed you to stream movies off your Netflix queue using its 3G network.

What apps do I have loaded?

Off the bat, since I’ll be using it as a laptop replacement, I got the iWork Suite (Pages/Keynote/Numbers). I also got TweetDeck and Twitterific for my Twitter usage. 

Here’s the rest of my apps:

  • Evernote (for notetaking)
  • Feedler (for keeping up with my Google Reader RSS feeds)
  • Fluent (same thing)
  • Marvel and Iverse (for reading comics – absolutely phenomenal and FREE)
  • Dragon (for dictation)
  • CameraBag (for editing pictures)
  • Kindle (for reading books I got on my free Kindle). This should answer, by the way, the concern that many people had that Apple wouldn’t allow competing bookstores on the iPad. They have (at least, they let Amazon – no sign yet of either Kobo or the Barnes & Noble app, yet). Kindle books, by the way, look amazing.
  • Netflix (for streaming movies – the KILLER app, at least for now). The movies look like they’re being streamed in HD, by the way, if you have sufficient bandwith.
  • Joost/ABC Player/Dailymotion/YouTube (for videos and TV shows)
  • Reuters/AP/BBC (for news consumption)
  • Epicurious (for cooking and food shopping)
  • Weather HD (for checking the weather)

There’s already over 1,000 apps on the iPad App Store, with more to come. Based on what I’ve seen so far, that’s probably going to be the best part about the iPad.

How does it handle?

Surprisingly well for a first-generation product. It’s an Apple product, so there’s a benchmark expectation as far as quality goes, but even accounting for that, it’s a fine piece of machinery. 

The screen is brightly lit and sharp, rendering text and pictures with vivid clarity. The iPad weighs about 1.5 pounds – light enough to carry everywhere, weighty enough that you don’t want to hold it with one hand standing up on an hour-long bus/train commute. The speakers are plenty loud – I’m currently playing tracks off my iTunes library and I can hear them just fine, though if you really want to tear the paint off the walls, I’m sure you could attach speakers through the headphone jack. 

What about the onscreen keyboard? In my opinion, you’re better off using it in landscape mode. From my perspective, it’s the first keyboard that hunt-and-peck typists will like; if you’re a touch-typist like me, you’ll be slowed down. If you get the Apple-designed neoprene case (which I highly suggest, unless you want to take your chances with a cracked screen), you can fold it so that the iPad is slightly inclined, thus making typing a bit easier. 

Either way, if you’re going to be typing a lot on this thing, you’re best off getting the Bluetooth wireless keyboard – which I did.

My conclusions

People have already mentioned to me the inability to multitask and the closed environment (not just the inability to sideload any application you want, but the nickel-and-diming that results in a lack of USB ports) – so what about that?

If you’re the kind of person that has those needs, then you’ll want to stay away. That said, I’m not. Bear in mind that I say this as someone who’s very familiar with every single one of the mobile operating systems out there. If you’re 98% of the population, the iPad is going to suit you just fine.

The iPad’s biggest competitor? Quite likely, any tablet running either Android or ChromeOS. That said, given my exasperating experience with various Android smartphones, I’m skeptical of how well they will compete on a one-on-one basis, because of how polished the iPad is. I’d love to say that open-source is awesome and that it’s the way to go, but I can’t – yet. Too many times, open-source software sacrifices stability and polish in favor of choice and customization.

That said, I think that there’s space for both approaches. The best way I’ve found to think about this is in term of cars. Just as you’ve got both stick-shifts and automatics, you’ll have both open and closed systems. Neither is better than the other; it’s simply a matter of which you prefer.

In the end, just as in the beginning: I can’t recommend the iPad highly enough.Your mileage may vary, but I can see that this is where the future is going, whether we like it or not.

Let me know if you have any more questions – use the comments link above to email me.

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