iPad’s Great, but Won’t Replace Your Computer

I am writing this blog in the living room, in front of the TV, comfortably on the sofa. Apple’s new iPad makes this possible.

After testing the device for two weeks, I find myself spending more time on the sofa and getting out of bed later because I can check my e-mail, read the morning headlines and surf the daily webpages from the comforts of wherever I am by simply picking up the iPad.

In many ways, device actually handles the internet better than a computer. The pinching and the scrolling on the touchpad provides a customizable internet experience that I can’t get on a computer with a mouse, a keyboard and a physical screen. I’ve been reading the newspaper on the iPad even when I had easy access to my computer because I could zoom in and out of websites for easier viewing with the device.

The 9.7 inch screen is the perfect size.  It’s big enough to view websites and e-mails without straining your eyes, but it’s small enough to make the device portable.  The weight is another story.  While I’ve been holding the iPad in one hand during most of my use, it is too heavy to hold it like that for hours.  If you intend to use the iPad as an e-book reader à la Kindle, I think you’ll find that it’s too cumbersome for prolong use.

The iPad, though, is so much more than just a Kindle, which only has one function.  What really opens up the world of iPad–and makes it a pleasure to use–are the apps. I don’t have either an iPhone or an iPod touch, but my first foray into the world of apps have been a revelation.  There is an app for common sites like YouTube, imdb, Netflix, eBay and amazon. There are iPad specific apps for weather, movies, dining and blog writing. I’ve tried the most popular ones and I was impressed with how rich the experience of using them were. The apps for YouTube and imdb provided a much more intuitive access to information and functions than their corresponding websites.

When the iPad was first introduced, I was one of the skeptics who called the iPad an oversized iPhone, but I realized how much of a misnomer that was once I started using the apps that were only designed for the iPhone, like Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball and Japanese social networking site Mixi.  They were so frustrating in their limited utility that I immediately deleted them. I kept the facebook app, but I can see how the iPad’s larger screen will open it up to a whole new range of possibilities, the most obvious of which is that, much like with the imdb app, access to everything can be provided in a left column while the iPad is in horizontal mode, doing away with the need to have a “home” screen.

The iPad isn’t without flaws. There are three particularly vexing annoyances. The first is the sensitivity of the touchscreen, which can be frustrating at times while surfing webpages. I often accidentally hit links when what I wanted to do was zoom in or out of a webpage. Because of this, I’ve learned to use the double pinch function rather than the double tapping to zoom in and out of webpages if there are hyperlinks in the vicinity of where I want to zoom.

The other issue I faced occurs while I organize the apps. Those who own an iPhone already know how this works–holding down in an app icon allows you to move it around. This worked very well in moving apps within one panel but moving the app to another panel simply didn’t work; the app kept on bouncing off the side of the panel rather than moving to the next one.  There may be a “trick” to make this work, but this is not a Microsoft product.  There shouldn’t be gimmicks to move an icon; the darn thing should simply work and leave my sanity intact.

But the most important feature the iPad really needs is multitasking, which will hopefully arrive in short time since it was just introduced to the iPhone. I didn’t appreciate how important this feature was until I had multiple websites open and each required to be reloaded whenever I made the screen in the background active.

These, though, are glitches that can be resolved with the next software update. The iPad does have other, more inherent limitations. Before I started using the device, I expected that limitation to be the touchscreen keyboard, but I was most surprised by the ease and accuracy of typing on the iPad, at least when it was held horizontally. What I did miss were arrow keys. While moving the cursor with my fingers worked well enough,I often found myself wishing that there was an arrow key because clicking left was faster and more accurate than moving the cursor one space to the left by using my fingers.  The same holds true with the command key. While copy and paste on the touchscreen is usable, it’s much faster when I have a mouse and a command-c function. And yes, “undo” is an option available in the “back” keyboard, but it would be nice if I can easily access it while I type.

These innate limits mean that the iPad really is a consumption device rather than a production one. For example, I won’t be writing future blogs on the iPad if I can help it. But the fact that iPad isn’t the best for creating things isn’t as problematic as it sounds. For the most part, I use my notebook to surf the net, handle e-mails and check out audio and video content. The iPad handles these tasks as well, if not better than, my notebook, which means that I will likely travel with the iPad rather than my notebook on my future trips to New Jersey, Boston and Japan.

The iPad can’t replace a computer, but it does have a place in your daily life. And for me, that’s been enough to change my life, if only in subtle ways.


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