I’m not the earliest of iPad adopters, but I turned out to be a pretty early one (basically what happened is that as soon as I touched one, I decided I wanted one, and as soon as I read the 3G reviews, I was sure). At this point I’ve had the thing about 2 weeks, maybe a bit more — not long enough that I’ve stopped worrying about denting or scratching it, but long enough that I’ll take it out on the subway platform without a second thought. It’s not fully integrated into my life, but I’m well on the road to that point, so i figure it’s time to take a minute or two and share some impressions of the thing.
1. Gosh, it’s pretty. A visual and tactile pleasure to hold and use. About every other time I take it out in public, someone wants to talk about it. Etc.
2. Touch-typing on it, as I’m doing now, has a grace, like playing a musical instrument. It has the same issues with accuracy as typing on the iPhone — but the spell-correct is pretty good (once you learn the quirks), and anyway, you’re typing at near-desktop speed, so it’s very different than typing on a phone. Drawbacks: some of the non-alphanumeric keys are oddly located; spell-correct seems to miss some obvious corrections; copy-editing and cut/paste are a pain in the ass; the case is so smooth that it’s hard to get purchase on your lap, especially if you’re wearing shiny businessman pants as I am today. For typing, you want the thing tilted up about 30 degrees, which the folding Apple case (which is weeks backordered) apparently achieves. You may be able to achieve something similar with a wedge of Styrofoam, or with Velcro, keying off this video. No joke, I’m going to attach some heavy-duty Velcro to the back of mine. It supports Bluetooth keyboards, which I do own, but I haven’t bothered, which is as good an indicator as any that the built-in data entry mechanism is pretty good.
3. It’s both smaller and larger than I expected (although by now I’m getting used to it). Smaller in square inches — it feels like the “right” size after having used it for a while, but before I touched one I anticipated something closer to 8 1/2 x 11. And larger in weight — it felt heavy at first, but I’m now accustomed to it and compensating.
4. It has very quickly become my favorite personal Internet consumption device in the home. It’s pleasant to hold, intuitive to use, very quick to respond, and much more comfortable than the iPhone to read long stretches of web copy on. When i want to look something up, if it’s handy, it’s what I reach for. Streaming video looks good. The web looks good. E-books look good.
5. I understand why the e-ink technology in the Kindle is an advance, understand why people say the shiny iPad screen gives them eyestrain… and I don’t care. Unlike the Kindle, which is the e-reading equivalent of the dot-matrix printer, the experience of long-form reading on the iPad is — well, it’s easy. It’s easy to get mentally lost in an e-book on this thing, just like in a real book. E-books look good, and PDF documents and other highly “composed” and visual reports (think-tank stuff, annual reports, etc.) are GORGEOUS. As a result, those mid-length documents — shorter than a book, but too long to toss onto the printer, which as a result you never bother with — have returned to my reading queue, and I’ve gotten in the habit of transferring PDFs onto the thing for leisure reading. (I use GoodReader, from the App Store.) It’s also very easy to jump from a book on post-colonial America to, say, the Wikipedia article on the Louisiana Purchase for deeper background, and i do so frequently.
6. The built-in utility apps are quite good. Safari on iPad is a pleasure. Your index finger feels like it owns the world. The Mail app feels like it was designed by someone who knew he/she would have to use it every day — it’s optimized for iPad in ingenious ways. The third-party apps are lagging, but the best of them are good already, and the rest are on their way, I’m sure. (I’m writing this on the WordPress iPad app, which I give a grade of “good,” although it has the same “oops, I lost your recent work” problem that it does on the iPhone.). Haven’t tested the Apple office apps (Pages, etc.) but I’ll get around to it. Oh, and there’s a genius ssh client available.
7. As a business tool, it fills a narrow niche, which happens to be one that helps me: in cramped or uncomfortable spaces (like this train seat I’m in now), or at home after dinner, when you just want to answer some email or review a spreadsheet or draw up a quick planning document, and the thought of dragging the MacBook out of your bag and powering it up makes you tired, and you aren’t in the mood for iPhone eyestrain, well, the iPad is there. It wakes up in half a second, the battery lasts forever, and it probably does most of what you need.
8. It just works — Wi-Fi, 3G, syncing — just like your iPhone. (Syncing via iTunes is clunky, but if you have an iPhone you’re already used to that.)
9. I thought the lack of multitasking would bother me more than it does. Turns out there are times when I only want to do one thing at a time, and if someone tweets about Rand Paul while I’m watching “Monarch of the Glen,” well, i guess I’ll just find out about it later.
So, all in all — if you’re thinking about it, do it. If you are the sort of person who can imagine a legitimate, non-gimmicky use for this thing, you can probably make it real… I did. More news as it develops.