With my iPhone’s glass cracked, I ventured on a trip to the Apple store. I had been avoiding this for a while to keep my adoration for iPhone from pushing me into purchasing a MacBook or something worse. Lately, the major cause for stay had been because of the “magical” iPad.
I’ll say this first: I read every article and blog regarding iPad right up to and immediately following its announcement. I was enamoured with the possibilities that could be concocted in the, as yet, unnamed Apple tablet-type device and I was expecting to be among the throngs who would purchase the device within its first month. I mention this now to reassure anyone that I am not simply Apple-bashing; I am speaking from the heart.
I’ll say this as well just to reiterate the point: I’ve owned some kind of “iProduct” since 2003. From my 20GB iPod, to my 160GB iPod Classic, to my 32GB iPhone, I feel like iProducts are a part of my iLife and I’ve loved every single one of them. Again, when I read every article that held an inkling of what was to come from Apple, I knew I was going to love it. When I held it in my hand, however, I found nothing akin to love.
My trip to the Apple store brought me face-to-face with the iPad, upon which I have shown nothing, but disdain from the day it was announced. I was unimpressed by the interface, the lack of anything truly new for the world and then, there was the name. From looking at the specs, looking at images and reading article upon article about the iPad, I, one who had been so enamoured with iProducts, could not see its purpose and viewed it as anything, but magical.
Time has allowed some changes to come to light for the iPad, but again, I am still unimpressed. The iPhone OS4 will bring multi-tasking to both iPhone and iPad (which is a major step forward for the device), but that which made the iPhone a work of beauty does not work on the iPad.
With the iPhone, for the first time, everyday people had access to a PDA-like instrument that looked cool, did not attempt to replicate a full computer, was easy to use and fit right in the pocket or purse. To coin their own phrase, “It just works.” The iPad does not bring anything new to the game. “We” have already grown accustomed to the iPhone and “our” expectations are much higher when it comes to “magical” products. For the price of an average, full laptop or even a low-grade desktop, users are given an iPhone-like product, without the benefits of iPhone’s size, iPhone’s 3G, iPhone’s camera and iPhone’s phone, without the readability of the Kindle it attempts to replace and without the usability of a simple laptop. To be honest, if Apple had just come out with a MacBook with a touch interface, I would have been camped out in front of the Apple store the night before release. The iPad is just not what it should be.
The iPad attempts to fill the proposed void between smartphone and laptop, but that’s why there are netbooks which play movies, play music, create documents and, if the right developers took the initiative to bring it to another level, can be used as e-book readers, all for the same cost of the iPad which is bigger, in some cases heavier, and does not employ all the features of the current state of the Internet (the Apple vs. Flash “thing” has been done a million times already). In truth, the iPad is something that fills the “gap” between smartphone and netbook, but who can really justify that for $500?
All of what I’ve said so far, I said (or screamed, whatever) before holding the iPad and seeing what it could do. Tonight, I’ve had the opportunity to hold the iPad in my little brown hands and I still stand by everything I said prior to ever seeing it face to face.
The first thing I noticed was that the iPad is very pretty, but lots of things are pretty and pretty does not equal useful. My first thought was that it was no different from what I already had on my iPhone. Games are little prettier on a bigger, shinier screen, but not having something that fit in the palm of my hand dampened the experience and I found myself trying to figure out a way to hold the darn thing comfortably before finally giving up and just resting it on the table. And, if you don’t think close to two pounds is heavy, go to a bookstore and hold a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The US version weighs about two pounds…now, it’s like you’re holding an iPad.
Speaking of books, after viewing a few sites on the iPad, I meandered to iBooks and was, again, unimpressed. I had been told that iBooks was the ultimate Kindle-killer for months, but there was a definite difference in the experience from when I first held a Kindle and when I first held the iPad. The Kindle disappears into your hands and, because there is no backlight shining directly into your eyes to the point that it could be used as a separate lamp, your eyes do not tire after a few minutes of staring at the screen. The iBooks app will not “disappear” in front of you and I can’t see any serious reader (and by serious reader, I’m talking about people who read, at the very least, a book a month, but really closer to a book every week) choosing an iPad over a Kindle or Nook or anything else with e-ink as a e-book reader. I’m, literally, just not buying it. The page turning “effect,” while cute at first, actually takes second place behind the Stanza app which was already free on the iPhone and I found myself marveling more at the image of a book in front of me than the words on the “page.” A Kindle shows a reader words and with a click, new words appear on a new “page,” and this comes without any bells and whistles to distract from the reading experience. As I had been saying since January, the iPad is a crappy e-book reader.
So, here I sit, smiling triumphantly that I was not blown away by being in the presence of the iPad, but also deeply disheartened by my lack of love for the device. I had honestly hoped that by holding it and playing with it for a bit, that I could catch the Apple fever and re-live what it felt like to see an 4th generation iPod for the first time, or an iPod with colour or the iPod touch or that very first iPhone commercial that literally (and I do mean literally) made me drool. Alas, I was as unimpressed as I was the day I first learned of the name. At least this way, I suppose, I can sleep a little better knowing that my skepticisms were not unfounded.