In-Depth iPad Review #1

Background 1

Whilst being a self professed Apple gadget-head, early adopter and all round admirer of Apple products 2, I thought that I should would could wait a couple of months until all of the hype died down. At this point, I would then be able to waltz into my local apple store and pick one up without the queueing/standing in line.

The original thought was to fly over to the mothership of Apple – i.e. the New York Apple store, and pick up this ‘magical3‘. As misfortune would have it, my passport is about to expire and I don’t have a non-travel window long enough in which to renew it. Consequently, the New York trip is off until very late this year (think snow and jolly fat men with white beards4)

Oh well…

I digress, back to the story…

So having told everybody that I would be pushing out the very idea of owning an iPad for at least a couple of months, the fateful morning of 28 May arrived. That day at work, whilst I was checking around the news sites for any stories that may be of interest to me, an advertisement was displayed in the side bar on one of the sites for PCWorld5. As chance would have it, I work literally 50 metres away from one of these stores.

So, deciding to have a morning stroll (which just happened to coincide with the opening time of the store6) I happened to pass the said same shop. Having nowhere to go, I slipped inside to have a look at this device in person.

Knowing how well the iPad was selling, I thought that there would be no chance of being able to buy one. Besides, I was under the distinct impression that in a couple of short months, one would be within reach of my grubby paws.

Skip 5 minutes later

I had in my possession one 16Gb WiFi only iPad. I chose this model as it fit my requirements exactly:

16Gb
I have 3 iPhones, all the largest capacity possible. The last purchase was a 32Gb model. Do you know how much storage I use on the iPhone? 1.5Gb. That is all. I don’t need to carry around multiple movies, my complete collection of music or gigabytes of crap. So this time I thought I would go for the best model for my needs, rather than the best model.
WiFi
Whilst the WiFi ‘hot’-spots in London are not as prevalent as they are across the pond 7 they are still as available as I need them, at work, at home and in the garden8.
only
No more data plans, I have an unlimited plan on my current O2 contract. Do you know how much I use on a data intensive month? hmmm? Still thinking? That’s right, all I use is a tiny 200Mb maximum. If I want to surf the web, look something up, the iPhone’s screen is more than enough for the task.

Of course, I do have different requirements than you or others have, so rather than grabbing the full bells and whistles setup, I opted to sate my current needs, rather than those which may occur in the future.

The two main reasons that I bought the iPad are:

  1. Reading books
  2. Typing out blog posts

I am fortunate enough to have about an hour of travel to and from work each day which gives me ample time to get over the traumatic experience of being woken by my alarm at 6:30am every morning and to slide into alertness. To do this, I either read a book, and with the iPad, hopefully tap away some more blog posts. The first is a fantastic experience and one which this post is focussed on, the second which is not such a great experience and one that will be the subject matter of another post.

The eBooks

Steve Jobs famously said

“People don’t read any more”

Which is why I found his (paraphrased) comment that:

“Apple TV will remain a hobby”, and that “smarter people than us will figure it out.”

But once again I am digressing. (This is a topic for another post).

eBook-shelf on the iPad

When you load up the eBook application, the first screen that greets you is the vaguely familiar bookshelf which lists all of your books that you have downloaded. Nicely, you can also download the classics free of charge.

eBooks bookshelf

eBooks bookshelf

The above shows the book shelf with the start of the opening animation when you select a book. When the book is selected, it expands to full screen and opens at the same time – as you can see below. Very nice animation and what gives you the feeling of actually picking up a physical book and opening the book as you would do in real life 9.

eBook opening animation

eBook opening animation

As you read the book the page turning also is very life-like, with the page being folded from the corner, once again mimicking the real experience.

Although you can tap on the right-hand side to go forward (left-hand side to go backwards) I still haven’t got over the delight of turning the pages one at a time.

eBook page turning animation

eBook page turning animation

The attention to detail is extraordinary, with the text on the page curling with the turn, and you will notice how you can see ‘through’ the page on the reverse side.

Here ends the real life metaphor.

You will notice on the side that the ‘stack’ of pages as you would see with a real book. However the number of pages you can partially see always remains the same. There are other visual clues to indicate how far along in the book you are – with the dotted navigation at the footer of the book showing the position in the book, the page number out of total number of pages and how many pages left in the book.

It would have been nice to have the side stack of pages diminish as well – until finally you get to the back cover which is just the gorgeous binding of the book. As an aside, if the eBook was gifted to you, it would be nice to be able to include a message on the inside front cover – this has been a family tradition in my home to write the date and a message in any books given as presents.

The down side

If you go from the bookshelf and press the ‘Store’ button in the top left corner, a nice animation of the book store rotating to reveal the book store. However the animation just isn’t up to what I have come to expect from Apple.

Looking at the below screenshots

almost full rotation of the eBook store

almost full rotation of the eBook store

three quarters rotation of the bookshelf

three quarters rotation of the bookshelf

You will notice how ‘flat’ the bookshelf looks, I was expecting at least a hint of three dimension, but it seems that the bookshelf is a one dimensional image pasted onto a flat surface.

Then you get to the actual Book Store

The eBook Store

The eBook Store

Which is not too bad, however this is all rendered in HTML – which I am all for, it allows deployment and access across multiple environments and devices. However, and maybe this was just early teething problems for the store, I have received pages that did not fully download the CSS files – which just made it look plain ugly.

Furthermore actually finding books in the store is a rather lacklustre experience. Trying to find the book you want is a rather trying experience. The search didn’t work – I searched for “Wilbur Smith” which promptly dropped down in the autocomplete before I was half-way through, so I clicked on it and it returned…

0 results

huh?

Thankfully this seems to be fixed.

And what is it with the prices?

And why is it that I can only use one search criteria?

What happens if I want to sort by price?

And yes, I know that you can do it on the iTunes store through your Mac, however as the iPad is a Laptop replacement device, it should be easier to install books on it when it is all that is available.

Thankfully you can convert PDFs to the iPad ePub format easily and quickly with Calibre. I used this with my Sony eBook reader and, whilst the interface isn’t the most polished, it is absolutely fantastic. I am sure that it is getting masses of downloads now.

Taking Screenshots on the iPad/iPhone

As a side note, to take a screenshot on the iPhone/iPad you hold the home button while pressing the power button on the top. To get the above screenshots required quite some dexterity, clicking the ‘Store’ button, juggling the iPad into the correct position and pressing the correct buttons. I thought that I had missed the screenshot as it wasn’t until the store view had fully rotated that the screen would flash white to provide a visual clue that a shot had been taken. Yet another example of something which is not quite as polished as I would have expected.

What the hell Apple - developer's shouldn't be writing this

What the hell Apple - developer's shouldn't be writing this

So you connect the iPad 10 to iPhoto and you want to Eject the iPad – like you would for any other USB attached device in the entire Macintosh OS X world! Not Unmount – this is a UNIX mega nerd way of saying REMOVING/EJECTING the device.

OK, I am being a little unfair on apple on this one – it isn’t the iPad’s fault. That lies squarely at the feet of the iPhoto developers.

Which reminds me of the Monopoly World edition which I have for My iPhone…

Best to keep the developers away from writing the user interface text

Best to keep the developers away from writing the text

Yes, I would like to commit this change in an ACID 11 compliant way – which is an SQL mega-nerd way of SAVING a change, and something that most people would not associate.

The Polish Needs Some Shine

In a nutshell, the iPad is a truly excellent product that just doesn’t have the finish that I am used to from Apple products.

Up next time » Typing on the iPad

This was tapped away on WriteRoom using TextExpander I just cannot tell you how good these products are.

Footnotes:

  1. This became too in-depth for my liking, so I have split the post into multiples.
  2. Not a FanBoy mind-you
  3. their (being Apple’s) words not mine
  4. Not the homeless people, but the one and only St. Nick!
  5. Looks like I am more susceptible to advertising than I thought I would
  6. I must be extraordinarily lucky
  7. Stateside/The U.S./The U.S. of A./USA
  8. Which is where I am currently tapping away furiously – you should go to Devolo
  9. SS-GB by Len Deighton is not too bad a book, but not fantastic
  10. This also appears for the iPhone
  11. Atomic, consistent, isolated and durable

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