iPad: I love it but do I need it?

After playing with the iPad for a few days, it's still not clear what role it will play in my life.
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor

My colleague, Matt Miller, has been blogging in a series that he calls iPad Experience Series. His first installment features his initial thoughts on the Apple iPad, so I figured I'd follow some of his format.


I woke up on Saturday, April 3, anxiously waiting for my iPad to arrive. In my case I had pre-ordered the moment the option became available. Not wanting to chance delivery not occurring, I had it shipped to my local UPS Store where I have an account. So, Saturday morning at 8am I called the UPS Store, only to find out that it doesn't open until 9am. I waited impatiently for 9am to arrive and then talked with a friend who works there, who assured me that there were no attempts to deliver before the store opened. Long story short, my iPad didn't arrive until 12:30p, while a friend who pre-ordered his and had it waiting for him at the Apple Store, walked in at 9am, and walked out at 9:10am with an iPad. In the future I might go that route, too, although it did give me a nice Saturday morning outside, whereas if the iPad had arrived, I would have spent the morning toiling away at it.

Startup and Sync

When you first start up the iPad it immediately wants you to connect it to iTunes. I found this to be a buzz kill since when I had opened my iPad, I had friends and family around me who were hoping to experience it first hand. So, I connected it up and to speed things along, unchecked everything so that it would just authorize and not waste time syncing.

The first thing I noticed after it was all set was the unlock screen. It's a nice picture but the streaks actually made me think that my iPad was cracked.


It took me a few minutes until I could change the wallpaper and verify that it was the wallpaper and not the screen, but I can imagine that Apple probably received some support calls on Saturday with people complaining about their iPads arriving with a cracked screen.

After getting over the initial wallpaper issue, I then synced all apps, music, photos and videos. I had purchased a 16GB iPad thinking that it had more than enough room, but a little while into the syncing, I was notified that I had run out of room. As a result, I manually deselected every app, selected just the ones I wanted to see working on the iPad, and then carefully selected the music, photos and videos to bring over.


The first thing I noticed was that the iPad was heavier than I had expected. Others I have spoken to thought it was lighter, but I think since it's Wi-Fi only I expected it to be lighter. Regardless, it's still plenty light and comfortable to hold.

The iPad is definitely a work of art. I, too, thought it would be like an oversized iPhone, but it's rounded in just the right areas to fit comfortably in your hand in both portrait and landscape. I had also wondered why Apple went with such a thick black border around the face of the device, but after holding it for a few hours, it became apparent that it's so that the user can hold the iPad in any direction, without triggering an action on the screen by accident.

The built-in speaker on the iPad is more than sufficient, too, actually forcing me to turn down the volume on a number of occasions--especially when gaming.

Of course, I have to mention the speed of the iPad. I thought that my iPhone 3GS was fast, but it doesn't hold a candle to the iPad. If future iPhones are running Apple's A4 processor, I can't even imagine how fast the phone will be.

One last thing of note is the addition of a rotation lock switch. I have spent far too much time fighting with the auto-rotation on my iPhone, so this was a welcome addition for me.

Built-in Software

The first thing I did when I started playing with the iPad was swipe around. This worked as expected, but one thing that surprised me was the inclusion of a photo slideshow button on the lock screen. Many people were saying that the iPad would replace the e-reader, but having it also work instantly as a photo viewer is a nice touch. Granted, you can just click on the Photos app icon once you unlock the device, but just tapping and having it play out photos is really nice, too. You can also click on the photo button again while the photos are cycling, if you want to pause on a particular one--all from the lock screen.

Safari works the way you would expect, except that thanks to the larger real estate, you can now see a quick thumbnail of all open Tabs.

Calendar is what you always wanted an electronic calendar to look like. In fact, it's better than I had imagined and it's probably the closest I've come to a paper-based calendar. You can easily see your day, week, month, or list of upcoming appointments, and it's almost the size of a piece of paper, so there's a lot of information that can be displayed at once.

Maps now features some new enhancements, including a Terrain view. On the iPad screen this looks like the ultimate mapping application.

Pretty much each core app received some iPad reformatting love, but the ones above immediately come to mind.

The Apps

Instead of going into each App, I'll write up a separate post about "what's on my iPad" and why. Like most people, I downloaded as many free ones as I could, so that I could try out the iPad first-hand. For the most part I came away impressed.

Streaming videos and some WiFi trouble

I used the iPad in a bunch of different locations throughout my house. Thanks to the LinkSys WRT400N, I have a dedicated N band to play on, so I couldn't wait to really enjoy some streaming. Unfortunately, this is where I discovered the first issue with the iPad. It seems that it has trouble hanging on to a WiFi signal. If you're right on top of the router there's no issue, but try to move away into another room and even if you have it selected to not look at other networks, it enjoys jumping to another, or completely losing the one that you are on.

As for watching videos and movies, I had heard from friends how they had watched Lost or other shows on it, and how they were reading in bed with it. In my experience, when the WiFi was solid, the ABC player and YouTube played great, and the large iPad screen makes it a great TV replacement.

Good purchase?

For me, the iPhone plays many of the same roles that the iPad does. In fact, the iPad itself is actually a bit too large for reading books while lying down. I know I'm not the target market for the iPad, but so far I can definitely say that I like having it, but that I'm just not sure what role it will play. Then again, I am just a few days into using it, so we'll see if that impression changes.

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