How does it work in practice
So now that we know about the iPad and the apps you get free with it, let's take a look at how it works in practice.
When I first started playing with the iPad I found that many applications were different enough that I had to spend some time with them (not much) getting used to the new look and feel. There were things that I was used to with my iPhone that were not the same on the iPad. I have covered many of those just before, but I will also touch upon some of the major items (both good and bad) here.
- The Keyboard
The new virtual keyboard is nice. It is very easy to use after a few minutes of acclimation. I do feel that it is a tad too big in landscape mode, but for the most part it is a well done effort.
The portrait mode keyboard is awkward. It would also be nice if there was a way to disable or ignore taps in the document area while typing. Due to my large and clumsy fingers and hands, I kept moving the "cursor" around the doc and would find myself typing a new sentence in the middle of an old one very often.
- The Web
Safari is a clean browser; it is also fast compared to many other mobile browsers. It has a nice render engine which is able to display most pages very well.
I went over this before; the lack of Flash, Silverlight and access to the file system make using the web like you would on a real computer impossible. You are forced to use multiple apps to get the same work done that you could from a single browser on a PC or Mac.
- The Apps
Apple is not far off the mark when they claim "there is an app for that". A quick run through the App Store shows this to be true. There are Apps to do almost everything. With the iPad you can even get a trio of real productivity applications in the form of iWork for the iPad.
Apps cost money. We added up what we have spent on the iPad after we bought it and it is over $46 just to test this thing for you. It was $29.97 to get the iWork Suite (each is $9.99), $6.99 for a single iBook and $9.99 for the movie we used for testing. During our review we resisted the urge to buy more apps just to keep the cost down, but you can quickly end up spending into the $100's of dollars on an iPad if you are not careful.
The other bad point here is that not all apps can handle the iPad's resolution; you end up running them either in a small (very small) window or you get them full screen using Pixel Double and they look simply terrible. This even happens in more than a few games; of course to get the iPad version you have to shell out more money as most companies are not going to allow a direct upgrade to that version if you have the iPhone version of the app.
The iPad can be synced to iTunes 9.1. This is good and allows you to move files around; you can even share files on the iPad through the USB connection with your PC or Mac. This is a great add-on if you are using the iWorks suite for the iPad. Of course, you will need to spend some more money to view these files locally, but that is the name of the Apple game anyway.
Due to the increased power demands you cannot sync and charge your iPad at the same time. There is just not enough power from a single USB socket to do this. It is a shame really, but until someone comes out with a dock (or Apple release theirs), you are left without this function.
Ahh, this app is not one that comes pre-installed (and I have no idea why not). Thankfully it is a free app, though, so you are not shelling out more money to get this installed. Once you do have it installed then you have access to some pretty cool books.
Apple has decided to give you one for free. It is the classic, Winnie-the-Pooh, and I quite enjoyed looking through it and remembering being read those stories when I was a kid (I told you Apple's marketing team is brilliant). It had me smiling and quickly looking for other books I might like to read. The initial "book shelf" look was something that I was not fond of, but you can change that to a list view as well, so no worries there.
With iBooks you can read in either landscape or portrait mode. In landscape it looks like a regular book with pages open on either side. In portrait mode it is a single page view. I found that reading in landscape mode was the best view for me.
Inside the book you can see the table of contents and quickly move forward to a chapter of your choosing. You can also setup your own bookmarks for favorite passages (this is great on books like the Bible and some text books). You can also drag your finger along the bottom to move to a particular page very quickly. iBooks also remembers your place when you put a book back on the shelf, making it easy to pick up where you left off.
In the upper right hand corner you can adjust for brightness, font size (and even type) as well as search through the book for a word or a phrase.
You can also search Google or Wikipedia from this interface. We wanted to see if all of the books were like this, so we bought the book "Patriot Games" by Tom Clancy from the iBook Store.
Speaking of the iBook Store; Apple did a rather good job here. It included a New York Times best seller list, a top of the charts list (top free and paid books) as well as a featured and purchase list.
If the listings are not to your liking you can always view the books by category.
Overall I found the iBooks app to be just about the best new App on the iPad.
- Real World Usage Conclusion
I typed up the entire review of the iPad, on the iPad. But I was not able to finish it up and get it sent off. This meant that I still had to move this file back over to my PC to get things warped up and out to you. I was not overly surprised that I had to do this as I have become used to the controlling nature of Apple, but I was a little annoyed that they are getting away with the claims that it is in any way a productivity device.
The constant need to fix accidental touches in the article was extremely annoying, as was the inability to easily move back and forth between images and applications while I was detailing them. iWork was also something of a problem; when using Pages it is recommended to use the landscape mode when typing large amounts of text. However, when you do that your tool bar goes away and cannot be restored unless you put it back in portrait mode. This was also very annoying and made me not want to use it to finish this article.
That having been said, I loved the iBooks app and was quite pleased with Mail and the way movies and few other items worked. I do not know if I would spend a ton of cash on these things, but I did like the way they worked. I also enjoyed being able to watch Netflix on the iPad using the Free App, although I would like to be able to use the browser based version as well.
The battery life was not bad at all; I found that over the course of the review I could generally use it for about 7-8 hours without the need to plug in for a recharge. This included leaving the WiFi on all the time and also listening to music and audio books, watching a few free TV programs and also movies, as well as having two e-mail accounts set up. One was an exchange account with push notifications and the other was a POP3 account that was set to fetch mail every 15 minutes. This was in addition to push notifications from the Facebook app and a few others like IM+ lite. That number is a couple of hours short of the 10 hours that Steve Jobs claimed, but then again, we are talking real use vs. lab testing.
Gaming was ok; I did not dive too deep into it, but did play my favorite, Zombieville and also Audi A4. Both were responsive but needed the pixel double to reach full screen. This killed the enjoyment of them as the controls on Zombieville were flakey in this mode. I felt like a complete dork tilting the iPad to play the driving game, though, which would make me want to shy away from using it as a gaming platform.