I’ve been thinking a lot about Apple’s iPad since it was announced a few days ago.
I watched the event via live blogging, and followed up by viewing the product video on the website.
I’ve also estimated the size as approximating 4 iPod touches placed in a ‘square’.
I love my iPod touch
I have a first generation iPod touch, and I love it. While I carry my iPhone with me all the time, the iPod resides mainly in my bedroom. It’s a perfect size for reading in bed.
I read emails on the iPod, and tweets. I frequently use several apps:
- WordPress, for checking comments on my blogs;
- TVNZ for a quick look at the latest news reports;
- TidBITS News, RWW* and TUAW for tech news;
- NASA, Daily Puppy, ZooBorns for cute and inspirational images;
- WeatherNZ for a weather report and to check the tides for walking the dogs on the beach;
- Safari for random queries on the Internet.
Those are things I do every day.
If I were allowed to, I would also spend a lot of time reading books on the iPod. I have Stanza and the Kindle software, but every time I try to buy a novel to read I find I’m not allowed to because I’m not in the USA. **
Of course, there are plenty of titles I could buy, but am just not interested in. Those I actually want all seem to be forbidden.
The one thing I miss with my 1st generation iPod is sound out. There are videos and things I’d watch, or podcasts I may listen to if I didn’t have to rummage round for headphones. Here the iPhone has a clear advantage, with its built-in speaker.
The iPhone is not the iPod touch
The iPod touch is very similar in size and shape to the iPhone, but I prefer using my iPod for the above activities because
- it somehow just feels a little better in my hand;
- it has very long battery life;
- it saves the shorter-lived iPhone battery for phone-related activities.
As for my (2nd generation) iPhone: I carry it with me at all times. It holds my shopping list. I send and receive SMS messages, and snap a surprising number of photos. Google Maps have been extremely useful. I look up random things in Safari, and use mobile applications to find movies, check what’s in the night sky, check the bus timetable, or record a voice note.
Some of those apps won’t run on an iPod touch.
The iPod is not a book
One thing I love about iPod and iPhone is that I can use them for reading in bed. I don’t need my glasses to see the screen because it’s close to my face, and the size and shape make it possible to use while lying down.
What’s more, an iPod doesn’t have all the annoyances a dead-tree book offers:
- always seeming to be ‘against’ the bedside or overhead light
- heavy and hard to hold, especially if you don’t want to crease the spine
- fixed font size that may be too small for really comfortable reading, especially when tired.
A passive device
Most of the above uses are fairly ‘passive’. I may send a tweet or SMS, consign a blog comment to spam, or type in a search query, but I’m not actively typing in extended texts or creating graphics.
The small size and cramped keyboard and text entry fields don’t encourage long bursts of writing.
A giant iPod touch
My first impression of the iPad was that it seemed to be a giant iPod touch. I thought maybe iPad would replace iPod touch. Then I realised iPad is too big to use comfortably while lying down. It’s an awkward size and shape similar to a large paperback.
You might use an iPad while lying on your back, but you still have to hold it up. And for those like me who suffer from myopia, it’s unlikely all parts of the screen would be in focus — like the frustrating exercise of trying to read the newspaper without glasses.
On the other hand, my iPod touch is a little less satisfactory if I’m sitting up. It’s a bit too small really, and I have to hold it fairly close. If I’m standing though, it’s fine — easy to hold in one hand and operate with the other.
All the images I’ve seen of the iPad have shown it being used by someone who’s seated. The size and shape look perfect.
Probably extended bouts of typing still aren’t highly recommended on the software keyboard, but they’d be easier. And you could always sit at a table and use an external keyboard.
The laptop has its limits
I always use my laptop on my lap. This seems to surprise many people who see a laptop as a small desktop computer and use it at a table.
I find my MacBook Pro works beautifully on my lap. Typing’s easy, the screen’s at a nice height. I use a graphics tablet, rather than the built-in trackpad. The tablet rests on the chair arm, so using it is like writing.
But for plain old reading or viewing, the laptop’s not quite right. If all I want to do is page through texts, view photos or movies why do I need a keyboard? And the upright screen forms a barrier between me and those around me.
I definitely can’t use my laptop in bed — I’ve tried and find I have to either completely sit up or balance the computer awkwardly on my chest, and angle my neck in an uncomfortable way.
iPad is a viewing device
This is clearly where the iPad sits in the picture.
It’s primarily a reading or viewing device, perfect for when you’re sitting relaxed — in the lounge at home, on the deck, on the bus, waiting for an appointment, on the beach.
At a guess I’d say it won’t be specially easy to use if you’re standing: because of its size you’d have to use both hands to hold it.
It’d be too big to use comfortably in bed for reading, but watching a movie could work well.
No, this is a leisure device, primarily for ‘passive’ activities, while allowing for more or less limited amounts of text entry and perhaps photo manipulation.
iPad is an ‘easy’ computer
I can see how iPad would fit well into the lives of some of my less techy friends.
One friend can barely operate a computer. She reads and sometimes sends emails, looks at a few web pages and has some favourite games. She has recently acquired a hand-me-down digital camera — her first. Her ancient hand-me-down Lombard PowerBook (1999 vintage) is about to die. iPad would fit her needs very nicely.
I want a Padd
As I watched the live blogging from the announcement I felt ambivalent about the iPad. On reflection though I suspect it will find its niche and become as popular as iPods and iPhones.
It’ll work for geeks who have a primary computer and want a small, portable, but useful device mainly for occasional note-taking and online reading.
It’ll work for people who don’t need a whole lot of computer power, but who need a ‘full-size’ device for typing emails, and the ability to attach photos from their camera.
I think the iPad will bring us a quiet revolution.
iPad would definitely fit well into my life. Funds permitting, I’ll be buying one at my first opportunity.
And I know Apple would never be able to do this because of all the copyright and licensing messes, but we geeks can just privately call it the Padd. I’m on the lookout for Starfleet stickers already…
* Oops, at the time of writing the freshly-released RWW app doesn’t work on an iPod touch (1st generation), but a fix is promised. I anticipate using it frequently.
** Marcia Muller, Elizabeth Moon, and other women who write intelligent detective fiction or sci-fi, I mean you!