My Thoughts on the iPad

When I first bought my iPad about two weeks ago, I took quite a bit of ribbing. It was my first Apple purchase since my original Classic iPod. I'm a PC guy through and through. Its what we had in our house back in 1987 and I used PCs through my finance career as well. I didn't get an iPhone mostly because I didn't want to switch my Sprint coverage, which I've found to be excellent in NYC. I'm loving my Samsung Galaxy S on Android. On the desktop, Now that 90% of my work is in the browser, having a different operating system seems unnecessary to me at this point but that's a debate for another day.

I bought an iPad for two reasons. One, I thought I wanted to be able to take notes in meetings. I've learned, or finally confirmed rather, that I'm just a Godawful notetaker and can't seem to both listen and write at the same time, no matter how slick the technology. Secondly, I'm a huge believer in the tablet as a technology and it's importance to the ecosystem going forward, so I wanted to experience it firsthand. This isn't my first time with a tablet. I had a flip screen Toshiba at USV back in 2005, where I found myself to be as equally poor at note taking as I am now. At least now I don't have to worry about losing a stylus.

I picked up the Wifi only model because I rarely find myself in places that don't have web. If I really need to respond to an email or look something up, i can always use my phone. The first think you notice on the iPad is how fast it is. The iPad is incredibly responsive, and it seems even faster when you're considering turning it on and off. The bain of any Windows user is how long it takes for their computers to load. Removing that only makes the iPad seem that much quicker.

The battery life is tremendous. That came through as I discovered that the iPad is, if nothing else, the best device you could ever take with you on a plane, especially if you have wifi. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say if that was the only time you ever used it, it would be entirely worth it. I flew out to SF with it, and got a tremendous amount of reading, writing, and emailing done all while listening to the Presets station on Pandora. Six hours later and I only got through a little more than half my battery. That's a feat.

Getting used to the OS took me a little bit of time, but I'm getting used to it, and dare I say coming to appreciate the lack of multiple windows in the same screen. There's something about only being able to have one thing open at a time that makes you a lot more focused. I don't get distracted by Tweetdeck or IMs when I'm on the iPad because its so clunky to switch back and forth.

Typing is for the most part quite good. I can type almost as fast as I can on a regular keyboard, the loan drag being the annoying toggle to type in numbers and apostrophes. For some things, like the percentage sign, you have to toggle twice. I like the Android approach of holding the key longer to change the output a lot better.

The other thing that I learned on my flight out is that cutting and pasting is absolutely horrific with the iPad. I was trying to put together my NYC tech events newsletter, and that was a complete disaster. Not only is the little magnifying glass and little draggable two sticks a tremendous pain in the ass to use, but the text on some websites, like Meetup, can't be highlighted. Even in the Squarespace app, which is gorgeous, adding links with a copy and paste is difficult.

Another events newsletter problem that I encountered is MailChimp. Their site completely fails in the iPad browser because their editors do not work. Only through a random combo of hacky point solutions was I even able just to get a barebones text newsletter out. Total fail.

The only way I was able to do the newsletter at all was with a fantastic browser called iCab. It has some downloadable plugins that really improve the functionality around browsing, including Readability, which enabled me to grab text. iCab has multiple browser tabs, too. Its based on webkit, so you'll get the same Safari experience with a lot more features. There's also a plugin for using Readitlater, which has quickly become my favorite app.

The Readitlater app is fantastic, and is absolutely a must download. I'd venture to say that it's the single best app available for the iPad. Not only is it thoughtfully designed, but it has some neat little additional features that I really appreciated. My favorite is the ability to select links for downloading later while offline. If I'm ever on the subway reading a blog post, the most frustrating thing is when someone links to something interesting and I have no way to get that page. Problem solved. The explosion in tablets that we're going to see in 2011 is going to make device and time shifted content very important, and I'm looking for Readitlater to be a huge breakout hit.

The lack of Flash on the iPad is really annoying, especially when it comes to video. Seems to me that not every youtube video is available in the app either. I understand the argument that all the speed and battery life I'm getting comes at the expense of flash, but I'd at least like to be able to turn it on and off sometimes. I suppose that Apple is making a bet that the proliferation of the iPad will force the hand of web app developers to use HTML5. That might not be a bad bet, because I switched back over to using the Pandora app after being a consistent paid Grooveshark user, since GS is in Flash.

Email is a bit disappointing for Gmail users. I lost functionality, like canned responses. Search on the server never seems to work either. The gmail website only works in HTML only mode, otherwise you're stuck in the native mail client, which is pretty poor. I'm surprised Google hasn't come out with a better mail client.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with my purchase and look forward to more apps being developed and better HTML5 compatability from the web apps I use.