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A few iPad notes

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People keep asking me if I've gotten my iPad yet.

But in fact, I don't really have much interest in getting one.

I have slightly more interest now than I did a week ago, because I've gotten to play a little with Kam's. I think the main thing I like about it is that it's fast, which means interaction feels really fluid. I could happily spend a couple of minutes just swiping back and forth between pages of apps; it looks and feels really satisfying.

(If you're interested, there's some discussion of why and how it feels so fast in the first ("Big Picture") section of John Gruber's long review.)

And, yeah, there are some nice apps and other cool features. The sound quality is pretty good. The screen is pretty, though not quite as high resolution as I'd prefer. I love that you can connect a Bluetooth keyboard to it (looking forward to that feature being available on iPhone later this year). And I especially like iBooks, Apple's ebook reader app, particularly in two-page-spread mode.

But as I noted a couple months ago, what I want in an ebook reader is something smaller and lighter and with higher screen resolution. The iPad is more than just an ebook reader, but I think ebook reading is the killer app for me for a device between phone size and laptop size.

And there are some ergonomic issues with tablets, which I'll post more about at some point.

But mostly I just don't feel like I need an iPad. I have my iPhone with me at almost all times, and that does most of what I would want in an iPad; for anything that needs a bigger screen and/or typing, I have my MacBook Pro with me most of the time. Steve Jobs said, when the iPad was announced, that it's a better experience for various things (including web browsing) than the iPhone or a laptop, but from what I've seen so far, it's not enough better at those things to quite make me want one.

The iPhone fits in my pocket. The iPad would require me to carry a bag—and if I'm going to do that, I might as well carry the laptop.

(I saw an article a while back that suggested that women are more likely to find the iPad conveniently portable than men are, because women are more likely to carry purses and handbags that the iPad will fit into. I was pretty annoyed by most of the article, but I thought that specific point was an interesting idea.)

Not to say I'll never want an iPad. The 3G cellular data option forthcoming soon will make it much more interesting to me (especially the fact that you can buy a one-month 3G subscription any time, if I understand right) (Kam has already run into several situations where she wanted to use the WiFi-only iPad out in the world but couldn't get a Net connection), and future developments may make the iPad even more interesting to me. For example, everyone was complaining for a while about the lack of a built-in camera, but it seems very likely to me that they'll add one in a later generation.

Size variations may also make a difference to me:

A few days ago, I came up with a joke to the effect that Apple was planning a new product, an iPad Mini (the joke being that it would be an iPod Touch), but it turns out that a bunch of people beat me to it; there are several cute iPad Mini fake ads on the web, dating back to the day of the iPad announcement.

But now it turns out that there are serious rumors to the effect that there'll be a future iPad-like product from Apple with a 5" to 7" screen. The iPad screen is 9.7"; the iPhone screen is 3.5". The hypothetical ideal ebook reader I described in my abovelinked entry, at 4"x6", would have roughly a 7" screen (if it had only a small bezel around the screen).

(It occurred to me after seeing the two-page view in iBooks that even better than the ideal ebook reader I had described would be two of them slapped together with a hinge, so that I could open it out to about 6"x8" and view two facing pages at once, just like a mass-market paperback.)

And there's also a rumor that the next generation of iPhone (presumably coming out this summer) will have a 960 × 640-pixel display, which is double the current iPhone resolution in both dimensions. In other words, the iPhone would go from about 165ppi to about 330ppi, stunningly high resolution.

So if they come out with a 7" iPad with 330ppi resolution, I will likely be among the first in line for it.

(I should note that the phrasing of that rumor makes it unclear to me whether it was even intended as a rumor, or whether it was just meant as a joke. But everyone in the Apple rumor world seems to be taking it as gospel.)

One more current iPad issue: it turns out that sharing files between an iPad and a Mac is difficult and awkward. I'm guessing Apple will improve this over time, but it's unfortunate for now.

Anyway. The iPad is certainly a nifty device; I'm just saying that with its current size, weight, and capabilities, it doesn't really give me much that I don't already have, so I'm going to hold off on it.

I liked the approach David Pogue took in his iPad review: he split it into a review for techies and a review for everyone else. Both reviews start out with the same sentence: "The Apple iPad is basically a gigantic iPod Touch." But the review for non-techies goes on to note that the bigger screen "changes the whole experience." I think he's right; for example, Google Earth on an iPad is astonishing, both because of the screen size and because of the speed and smoothness of the motion. But despite all that, I still come down, for the moment, on the side of feeling that the iPad doesn't give me enough new/different to make me buy one.


One more thought about the iPad, though only tangentially related to the above: I saw a bunch of people saying, shortly after the iPad was announced, that Apple is making lots of money on software (music, apps, books) and that's why the hardware costs less than expected.

But I don't buy it. As I posted a while back to the Ars Technica forums when this topic came up in an article there:

Apple has maintained from the start that the iTunes Store doesn't bring in significant profit.

Four days ago, Apple stated [as quoted in an AppleInsider article] that the same is true for the app store:

"Regarding the App Store and iTunes stores, we are running those a bit over break even, and that hasn't changed," [CFO Peter] Oppenheimer said during a conference call following Monday's quarterly earnings report.

I suspect the same will be true for books.

Apple has always been a hardware company that makes software [and sells content] in order to get people to buy the hardware. I see no evidence to suggest that that's changing with the iPad.

2 Comments

Did you have a chance to use its keyboard? The one thing that could convince me that I actually need an iPad would be if it could do the one thing that I can't do on my iPhone -- write something longer than a short e-mail.

I'm fine with smaller-than-normal keyboards -- I wrote most of my most recent novel attempt on an Acer Netbook (which, according to its specs, has a keyboard 89% the size of normal), and I did it without giving myself carpal tunnel. If the iPad has that, it could very easily turn into an on-the-go word processor for me.

(I like the "hook into normal keyboard" option, but at that point, I have to be somewhere WITH a real keyboard, and I'm as limited as I am with the current netbook, which I like but don't take with my everywhere.)


I've tried the on-screen keyboard a little, but not a lot yet. I'm hoping to talk more about that in a future post about tablet ergonomics. The gist of it is that (as far as I can tell so far) it's awkward to use the on-screen keyboard unless the iPad is flat on your lap or a table—otherwise you'd have to hold it in the air with one hand and type with the other. (I gather that some people have been reasonably successful with thumb-typing in the vertical orientation, but I haven't tried that yet.) And looking down into a horizontal surface is, I think, even worse ergonomics than a laptop.

Also, although I'm fine with a virtual keyboard on the iPhone, I think if I were typing a lot of text I would want the tactile feedback of a physical keyboard. But I could be wrong.

Anyway, given the ergonomics, unfortunately, I suspect that typing anything longer than a couple sentences on it would be (literally) a pain without an external keyboard. But there are Bluetooth keyboards that are pretty compact/portable; that might be a viable option.

I wonder if the company that used to make those nifty fold-up "Stowaway" keyboards for the Palm will do something similar for the iPad....