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iPad, first impressions

Since the rumours about an Apple tablet started, I had all my hopes set for a great tablet, doing all we techies need. I read about all kind of cool things, like multi-user with face recognition and on and on. It would be everything you could wish for. Of course everyone knows it couldn’t possible have it all if it really was released, but still, lots to dream about.

Then the announcement came. iPad really exists. Great! I gotta get me one! Then the bad things came. No flash. No USB/SD. No 16:9 screen. No multi-user. No camera. And the list got on and on. In fact, it was a bit disappointing. So I thought I didn’t need it. It got released in the US, and all the fanboys jumped on it. Since they do justice to its name, all reviews were hallelujah. It was great. Yeah. Right. I’m not buying your review, and I’m not buying an iPad.
Later on there were more decent reviews. Also of people who I think are smart enough to see through all the fanboy talk, and hey, the conclusion was they liked it! What happened?
It turned out to be quite simple. You just don’t look at it as a replacement for a laptop. It just isn’t. So that got me thinking again. What do I do with my iPhone during the evening at home? Surf, mail, twitter, check news. When the circle is complete, I put it back in my pocket until the first opportunity. Be it a commercial, be it a smoke, whatever. If there’s an opportunity it comes out again and the circle starts again. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do that in the same style on a bigger screen, with the same experience?

So the iPad comes to Europe. For me an opportunity to either get it in the UK, or in Germany. I have postal addresses in both countries, a friend who was willing to pick one up for me on a postal address in the UK, and Germany’s border is at 10 minutes away for me. Thus enough opportunity to get me one. I decided to give it a shot at Gravis Düsseldorf. 27th of May I got an email in which they told me they couldn’t tell me how much they would have on stock at 28th of May, release date. You believe it? I certainly don’t. But, said the email, we will open at 08.00! At that point I told myself that I wouldn’t get in my car and get in line, I would wait a week. Uhuh. On release day I got up at 05.40, took a shower, drank some coffee, and left for Düsseldorf at 06.40. I was at the shop at 07.15, and 9th in row. At 07.30 the row had grown to about 50 people, and at 07.45 the row was at least a 100 people. So I got lucky, and went home with a 32GB WiFi model. 3G isn’t needed for me. Plan is to only use it at home or at work, and if not, I can tether with MyWi on my 3GS (works flawlessly, already tested).

About the iPad then.
First thing I noticed is that it was in fact smaller than I had thought. I had never seen one out in the wild before, so now that I was looking at it, it seemed small. My imagination has misled me all the time thinking it would be an A4 size, but it’s smaller.
Second thing I immediately noticed, was its weight. 680 gram is not that much on paper. But holding it on it’s lower left corner for more than a few minutes will tell you otherwise. Is it heavy? No. It’s a relative thing. You just can’t expect a tablet with a screen size of 9.7″ and a battery life of 10 hours to be any lighter in my opinion. If Apple can’t do it, I’m curious who can make it any lighter. I guess most of its weight comes from the glass and battery. The rest is aluminium and some prints and chips. Is it too heavy then? No, but don’t expect to hold it in free air with one hand for long. You’re going to seek for a place where the iPad can rest, and spare youre arms and wrists.
After booting it and getting it activated I felt a bit disappointed. Hey, it’s an iPhone. It’s just larger. In fact, that’s the reaction almost everyone who sees it for the first time. Now what am I going to do with this? After configuring most options, it was lying on my desk. Shiny new gadget. Every 10 minutes pick it up then put it away after a few minutes of fiddling with it. I have to admit, I had a few times during the first hours that I was thinking about selling it. It’s a lot of money for just a gadget after all.
Then the evening fell, and I was lying on the couch. Falling into my daily “surf/mail/twitter/check news” routine. Then it hit me. Wow. What a device. Everything is just so much easier on the iPad compared to the iPhone. And don’t forget how easy an iPhone is to use! The screen is just so much bigger, there’s a completely different surfing experience! No more zooming to click on that tiny little link in the bottom of a page to browse to the next page of a review or a forum. Just point at it and presto! Flash? I haven’t had any problem yet. I just don’t have a lot of flash sites in my daily routines.
First app I downloaded was Twittelator Pro for iPad. It’s completely different from the iPhone app. Whole new layout. Second app downloaded was IMDB. As a moviefreak I need this app. It’s way better on iPad then on iPhone. It’s actually fun to browse around on IMDB now, instead of just looking up a movie you need info on. Other apps I tried was Marvel Comics, and BBC news. All are great.
Disappointed though in iBooks. One of the reasons I bought the iPad was for it being an eBook reader. Since the iBookstore is only available in the US right now, and I’m not going to buy books in the US store, there isn’t much reading to do. Easily solved by downloading epubs though, and there are a few books residing at my iPad now. Reading is cool, not straining on the eyes, but you have to find a comfortable position, since I already told you about the weight. Also gave Amazon’s Kindle app a try, tried a demo book, but it just doesn’t look as flashy as Apple’s iBook reader. And hey, it’s a gadget, remember? So it needs to have some eye-candy in my opinion.

After two days using the iPad it starts to come together. I initially bought it with the idea to give it a try, and if it didn’t suit me I would resell it. No worries at all about throwing away money, because they’re still not released in the Netherlands and they’re still worth their weight in gold here. However… It’s not going to leave this house with someone else carrying it but me. :)
Yeah, it’s great. Yes it has huge disadvantages, which will probably be partially solved in further releases. But at this point I just have to give it to Apple. Great job once again. It’s a keeper. It just has to fit into your personal routine and it’s an add-on to your computer usage. In my opinion there is a gap between smartphone and netbook/laptop. Smartphone is great for some quick surfing, in fact the iPhone is so good at it I use it all the time and find myself hardly touching the laptop in the house for daily routines. But it’s small. So small you find yourself always browsing mobile news sites. And that problem is solved with the iPad. My routines shifted to the iPad right now. Still using the iPhone a lot too though. When I wake up in the morning, first thing I do is grab my iPhone. Why not the iPad? It’s downstairs :). If the iPad is 10 meters further while I’m sitting on the couch, I’m to lazy to get it when I want to check Twitter and I just grab the iPhone. But most of the time I’m doing my things on the iPad now.

My conclusion after two days; if you can miss the money and find yourself surfing all evening on your iPhone currently, it’s a go. It’s just that, a bigger iPhone, way more relaxed with cooler apps which use the space better. Sure there will be Windows tablets at the horizon in a few months, but I’m quite sure they absolutely aren’t going to give you this experience. The OS simply isn’t designed for this touch thingy, and it will take them a long time to come alongside, if they ever do.

Way to go Apple, just dropped my bank account with 600 euros, and more to come (accessories and apps).

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