After my colleague, James Kendrick, recently wrote about his decision to finally pull the trigger on an iPad 2, I decided to write a post of my own. Since I bought mine just under 2 months ago, that means it's new enough to still have that "new car scent," but old enough to have to given me enough time to have a bona fide opinion of it.
Alright, so, I know I'm a little bit late to this party and the iPad 2 is old news to many of you, but I'm only just now discovering the sheer awesomeness of this device and exactly what it is that every other tablet manufacturer out there is up against. My iPad has shown me that I've been making uninformed statements for far too long now where anything coming close to competing against it is concerned.
Allow me to explain.
As some of you may recall, I wrote a fairly definitive piece a while back in regards to why I'm not a tablet guy. I came to that conclusion after deciding to get into the tablet market on-the-cheap by purchasing a Nook Color, installing CM7 on it, and seeing how I fared from there. If I felt compelled to step up from there cost- and hardware-wise, then I would have. Well, after about a week-and-a-half or so, I found myself not using it at all. As such, I sold it and said, "That's it, I'm not a tablet guy!"
Then, I bought an iPad 2.
It was in mid-September at Microsoft's BUILD conference where I was around a number of my techie friends who sported Apple devices of all types. Seeing the ease and convenience of my friend's iPad while we were hanging out in the hotel lobby one night compelled me (see: tablet envy). Coupled with the fact that everyone was getting a tablet device at the conference except for press (which included yours truly), I headed off to Best Buy and whimsically made my purchase (including a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and a leather version of one of those spiffy folding covers).
That's been just under two months ago now and I've been glued to the thing all the while. I hate to say it since I've been so against Apple's price points, but between my new iPad, my new MacBook Air, and previously having owned an iPod Touch, I'm officially in love with the form factor of Apple's devices. Am I fan of the price? No. Am I a fan of OS X? No. Apple products aren't without their bugs, as I've learned with my MacBook Air, but I just love iOS, the form factor of their hardware, and the iPad itself, which has truly enriched my life. No, seriously.
My iPad has totally destroyed the perception of myself as an individual who wouldn't make use of a tablet device. It has also totally destroyed my opinions of any other tablet out there standing a chance of competing against not just the device, but the app ecosystem and iOS on a tablet device. Not indefinitely, since even the strongest of tides have a way of turning, but I don't see any real 1:1 competition for the iPad for a very long time.
As I noted earlier, this thing has been practically glued to my hands since I bought it. It's just so convenient and full of realized potential, which is something I feel the other tablets I've tried lack: realized potential. Plenty of tablets have potential, but not realized potential. To demonstrate that point, I'll start with myself and my interests. Personally, I'm in love with search and data. I'm a musician, gamer, researcher, and writer -- amongst other things -- and guess what? Every single one of these facets that comprise the make of my being all have outlets for which to express themselves on the iPad, thanks to the insane amount and types of apps on it.
And before you Android fans chime in, I'm an Android fan, too. I've been using Android since it first hit a device, so when I mention that whole potential vs. realized potential thing, the quality and types of apps between the two platforms/markets is encompassed therein. I think Android will catch up, but it's got a ways to go. In other words, the iPad either has better, more functional/polished apps than most (I didn't say all; I said most) Android equivalents I've used, or it has apps that Android doesn't (yet).
[See: iPhone 5 and iPad 3 concepts]
All that to say, I absolutely, unequivocally love my iPad 2. I am amazed by how much I've managed to find to use this thing for, and almost 2 months later, I'm still finding new uses and implementations. It took a good month or so to adjust to using the iPad for more than I think it was intended for, but therein lies more of that realized potential I keep mentioning. For instance:
I can create drum beats, synth lines, and bass lines -- all in individual apps -- then import those samples/tracks into a separate multi-track app which allows me to record my guitar that I've plugged into my iPad, then mix the whole thing down and export it all to one track. I'm not talking about some cutesy, novelty guitar app that lets you strum virtual strings, no; I'm talking about the iPad as a full-fledged, ultra-portable DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Who would've thunk it? No one, when the iPad first hit the shelves! But it had the potential, obviously. And that potential has been realized.
So, here I use Android for my mobile phone needs, Windows for my PC needs, and iOS for my tablet needs. And, hey... I even get to combine some combination of them sometimes. With that said, I'll continue to give varying devices the fair shakes they deserve, since I'm just in love with technology in general, but where tablets are concerned, the bar has been set pretty darn high. And I realize that bar was set within the industry long before it was set for me, personally, but now I get it. It's not about cost or sub-standard components; it's about the final product and everything it does, thanks to the incredibly strong app market.
You didn't think I was just going to slobber all over this thing without detailing some critiques, did you?
While I think the iPad is ultimately peerless for the time being, it's not flawless. Since its app store is so locked down, unless you jailbreak the iPad and install Cydia, there are some things you just can't do that you can with Android, like install game emulators and play your favorite roms. Yes, I use my iPad for more than gaming, but I'm a retro gamer, and despite the fact that I hate software-based controls (like the d-pad, buttons, etc.), I'd love to be able to fire up my iPad and play NES or SNES. I understand that's a matter of legalities, though, and not a fault of the device or app market, but still.
Additionally, there are some things the app store could benefit from, such as giving you the option to add an app to a favorites/wish list. I can't even believe they don't have such functionality built into the market. Like, it seriously boggles my mind that such an obvious need isn't there. And if it is, they sure don't make it easy to find when you're on the home page of an app. I'm as quick to buy a 99-cent app as anyone, but when I start browsing the app store and I see 10 new apps I want, I may not be ready to pull the trigger on the 5 or 6 that cost anywhere from $5.00-20.00!
Lastly, I'd like to clarify that I really do love Android as well, but as a mobile phone OS. Android definitely gives you more freedom without having to hack anything, but I still stand by my opinions as per my comparison of the two in the context of the tablet arena.
Ultimately, if you're not using an iPad simply because you're brand-loyal and/or anti-Apple, then there's a good chance that you're selling yourself short. I totally get it if you're not using one because the perceived value of the device isn't worth the cost (this was my main point of contention ever since the iPad 1 hit the market, until I decided to say "screw it" and jump in with both feet), or if you've used an iPad to some extent and just didn't find it befitting, but if brand loyalty is the only thing keeping you away and you've never even so much as seen an iPad in person, then I recommend you at least check one out. I mean, you won't even have to tell anyone! It can be your naughty little secret. ;)