Had a pleasant surprise on Saturday morning when I received a SMS text from my brother who was on business trip in the US – “Bought u 64GB iPad” – I had to rub my eyes just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. But a day later, the iPad is real and in my hands.
So how is it so far?
The first thing I started doing was to unpack it from the box and plug the iPad into my MacBook Pro to start syncing some of the apps I use frequently on my iPhone. Besides the iPad, Apple included a Dock Connector to USB cable and a USB Power Adapter.
h4. The hard stuff.
The hardware is as gorgeous as you have seen on blogs and videos. The iPad has a solid feel in your hands but at 0.68kg, it does weigh down your arms after holding for a while. Compared to the iPhone that weighs in at 0.135kg, one can have a good bicep workout holding it. The screen is beautifully lit and the colours saturated, at least not until the screen is covered by your finger prints. The highly reflective screen makes those colors pop out but at the same time catches reflection under strong lights but as you’d just need to adjust the holding angle, it isn’t that bad a problem.
h4. Playing with the keys
With my big hands, holding it with one hand is no issue so that I can navigate and type with the other. The almost life-size virtual keyboard is quite delightful to use. I can type with my free hand, using two to three fingers while it is on portrait mode. As you hold it sideways, you’d probably need to hold it with both hands or have it propped up on your lap or lying on the table top to use it comfortably, without the fear of it dropping. When it is on landscape mode, the virtual keys are spaced slightly apart, making it easier to type with both hands like a real physical keyboard. Trying to hold it and doing two-thumbs-typing can be challenging, even with my rather big hands.
h4. How long can it last?
Battery life as tested by everyone-else is great. I’ve been using it to surf, watch some videos with Wi-Fi switched on most of the time since charging it once on Sunday night and it is only at 56% after two days. According to Apple, you’d get up to 10 hours of usage for the Wi-Fi model and for the 3G model, it will have an hour less. As the battery is non-replaceable, Apple even has a page giving some “guidance on maintaining”:http://www.apple.com/batteries/ipad.html your iPad battery for an extended lifespan. But if the battery does go kaput, Apple has a “paid replacement”:http://www.apple.com/support/ipad/service/battery/ service to replace the iPad for you. Yes, they will replace the iPad, not the battery, so you’d need to backup and remove your personal data from your iPad before sending it in.
h4. The i is the internet
In terms of connectivity, the iPad is using the 802.11n protocol and I have yet to encounter any “Wi-Fi connectivity”:http://support.apple.com/kb/TS3304 issues that some had encounter. For those who rely on the free wireless@sg network, the “apps”:http://ax.search.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZSearch.woa/wa/search?entity=software&media=software&page=1&restrict=false&startIndex=0&term=wireless%40sg that let you connect without having to re-key your username/password everytime work as well on the iPad. If you have the 3G model, you can get a spare SIM card, “snip it to size”:/2010/05/ipad-3g-wifi-works-with-starhub-sim-requires-snipping/ and get connected via 3G network, even before local telcos offer the Micro SIM chips.
The speakers are located near the bottom of the iPad and although you can’t compare with laptops like the MacBook Pro that includes a “sub-woofer”:http://support.apple.com/kb/TS3336, the sound quality is pretty decent. When placed on a desktop, it resonates against the table top to give it more oomph.
h4. The softer side of things
Compared with the iPhone, the iPad’s screen is huge. That gives more real estate for developers to exploit and recreate a different user interface experience that we are already familiar with on the iPhone. One good example is Apple’s “Mail app”:http://www.apple.com/ipad/features/mail.html on the iPad. When held upright, the main screen shows your latest email with the menu bar at the top of the screen. Click on the Account name and a new floating drop-down menu appears allowing you to see a list of emails, mailboxes in your account or selecting another account. Flip to landscape, the additional horizontal space allows a new column to appear showing you the list of emails, folders or accounts while keeping ample space for your email. Another good example of this is in the game “We Rule”:http://werule.ngmoco.com/ by Ngmoco where the use of these floating menus help to keep the “main kingdom screen”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUVoQ_Ar-fs stays visible as you navigate between the various options.
Partly due to the fact that developers need to rethink the UI of the apps, the number of apps that are universal (one file that can be used on both iPhone and iPad) or iPad-only is currently a portion of the iPhone apps. Some of my daily-used apps on the iPhone have not cross-over. Given that developers had only “4 months”:/2010/01/ipad-wonderful-product-horrible-name/ to redevelop their apps, and only a month since launch to do real world testing, it should not be long before more of the apps are updated for the iPad.
That is why, instead of having more than 120 apps (that’s what I have on my iPhone) on the iPad, I’ve only about 40 installed as I couldn’t stand looking at the small window or the pixelated look when you go full-screen. I really hope developers quickly release updates to convert the apps into universal apps, and not just recreate an iPad-only version as it is highly likely I’d want to be able to run the apps on both platform.
At this point of time, to find iPad apps on the Singapore iTunes App store, you need to find them via the search box as they are not displayed on the store front. But that will change when the iPad is officially released in July.
h4. After all that, what do I think?
After a few days of use, I think for a version 1.0 piece of hardware, Apple has exceeded expectation with the iPad. It feels good in your hands and with a unibody built, the iPad feels like it will take a fall and comes out shiny and new (please don’t ask me to test that). The screen looks bright and sharp with radiant colours. The virtual keyboard takes some getting used to but once you’ve gotten used to it, typing speed will definitely be faster than using on the iPhone. The iPhone OS is spiffy on the iPad. Most of the apps reacts instantaneously as you interact with it. I can’t wait for the OS 4 upgrade in the near future – the jump in performance will definitely be drastic.
h4. Sounds like iPad is THE gadget. Is there anything bad?
Having it in the household for a few days, I realised there is a major feature lacking in the iPad – “separate user accounts”:http://www.tuaw.com/2010/05/07/ipad-wishlist-separate-user-accounts/ on the device. Once the wife logged in to her We Rule account, I realised I won’t have a chance to play on that device, at least until Ngmoco adds a log out button on that game. Same with emails and your social media accounts. It will be seen by anyone who uses it. But hey, no worries if you have nothing to hide, right? ;)
There are other inadequacies in the iPad that might or might be fix in the near future. But at this point of time, I know that I am holding a device that might be what computing is in the future. We have two Macbooks in the family, a Mac mini as our home media centre. Now, with the iPad, we might look at having just one iMac to replace those two MacBooks and just have iPads for our mobile needs.
h4. So should I buy an iPad?
The iPad unlike the iPhone is like a blank canvas. The iPhone’s primary use is after-all, a phone. But for an iPad, it can be anything you want it to be, or to be more precise, what apps you install in there. It can be your next gaming device, a productivity tool or one to create your next masterpiece. Or it can be that book that you have always wanted to read, or a tool to keep in touch with your friends. I think it is a blessing that we are officially “getting the iPad only in July”:/2010/05/ipad-scheduled-for-july-launch/ as by then, the iTunes Store would have more apps that will fully utilise the strength of the iPad.
So if you question the need to buy an iPad, then look at the apps that are available to see if there are any that can fill the gaps in your life, and you will know whether you need the iPad.
h4. So now that you’ve gone passed the “should I buy” stage…
So which should you buy? 16GB, 32GB or 64GB? Wi-Fi or 3G?
If budget is no issue, go for the best you can afford to be future-proof. The processor in the current iPad is more than sufficient to handle any apps that are out there. But if you are more prudent, then ask yourself a few questions – beyond the basic of do I need an iPad (yes you do). Where and how do you see yourself using your iPad most? What do you want to use the iPad for? That will really help narrow down your choices for those two questions.
If you see it as something you’d use in your living room, bedroom or kitchen – stay with the Wi-Fi version and at most the 32GB model. Storage won’t be an issue as you can easily sync new contents in and out once you have consumed them. If you take your iPad out of the house, you can at least make use of the wireless@sg networks that are plentiful around the island.
If you don’t mind people looking over your shoulder as you travel around town, viewing the latest video or catching up on your latest friends’ update while you type on your iPad – then getting the 3G model will be the best bet. Although there are still gaps around the country where 3G network basically is awful, being able to be connected everywhere is definitely a bonus. I’d also get the 32GB model as the 16GB might be a tad on the thin side. Also if you are planning to get the camera kit, the added storage of the 32 or the 64GB will come in useful.
All you need to do now, is to wait for the pre-order to start. We will try our hardest to get that information as early as we can. In the mean time, start loading up on the apps!
So if you have any queries about the iPad or any comments, do let us know and we will try to answer them as best as we can.
Here’s the new ad from Apple for the iPad