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24 June 2010 / Chris Neal

Test driving the iPad

We’re a doing a couple of iPhone/iPad applications for clients, which means we have a “test” iPad knocking about. The iPad really appeals to me as a home laptop alternative, so I took it home for the weekend to see what the family thought.

My wife’s initial thought was, “Oh dear, here we go again, Chris wants a new toy”! Am I really that transparent? Well, yes,Β  I am but…

Anyway, back to the review. As Charlie Brooker so succinctly put it:

“At first glance it resembles an iPhone in unhandy, non-pocket-sized form. But look a little longer, and . . Nope. You were right first time.”

It is a bit like that when you first use it. First impression isΒ  “oh, is that it?”.If you have an iPhone it is all instantly familiar and even if you don’t it is very easy to use. My son had his email and instant messaging set up in 5 minutes and he is only 8! But impressions improve once you delve a bit deeper. The screen is lovely as is the fit and finish. It is a bit heavier than I was expecting – you really need to lean it on something when you use it. It is a perfect device for browsing the web from the sofa, answering the odd email and of course playing games. Mail, Maps and Safari give a really rich and satisfying user experience. Games are great, as are photos and movies. You can plug a keyboard in, you can get a usb adaptor, but like when buying a car all these are “optional extras”, and being an Apple device not exacly cheap!

Is it a “game changer” in the way the iPhone was? It is early days and Apple must be really happy with the initial sales and I guess we’ll have a better idea when other similar devices start appearing with a Google or Windows operating system. One thing is clear and that is the larger screen really gives developers a huge amount of freedom. I’m sure we will see apps appear on the device that change the way people think about how you can interact with a computer, I think the potential is huge. Our developers are certainly excited about the possibilities. Whether that will be restricted to consumer applications, or we start to see enterprises taking up the device will be very interesting. It is the sort of device where you can imagine a remote sales force using for financial planning meetings with customers at the home. Flicking through snazzy pension forecast graphs etc. Mind you I’d hate to be the guy trying to persuade the FD to purchase 400 iPads for the Sales team!

Which brings me to the price, it is expensive, and as usual in the UK it is considerable more expensive than anywhere else. People need to carefully consider if they need a 3G connection (probably not not if they are only likely to use the wifi at home), or can plug in an external hard drive and do with less storage.

Personally, I really liked it, but I’d still keep a laptop. My wife also, grudgingly, liked it but is tied to a real keyboard so I’ve got a bit more persuading to do before we can get one!

The kids loved it at first, but then found it very frustrating when trying to play games on their favourite websites. Lack of Flash support is a major annoyance. If Flash can run on a Mac why can’t it run on an iPad or iPhone? I think we all know the answer but in the short term it is the users that suffer. I know things will improve as HTML5 gets wider adoption and we see more websites move away from Flash. In the meantime it is irritating although I’m sure Apple will make plenty of money from the games that will appear in the App store! All my 3 children liked it though, and it was amazing to see how quickly they picked up how to use it.

Last word, I will leave to Fake Steve in his open letter to the people of the world. Genius!

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10 Comments

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  1. Tom / Jun 24 2010 5:01 pm

    Great commentary Chris, nice and balanced. For myself I am going to swerve the iPad due to a couple of the points you raise, 1 I have a decent laptop which I wouldn’t be able to get rid of if I got the iPad, and 2, its too heavy to carry in addition.

    I guess if someone was considering a netbook then this could be a suitable alternative?

    • Chris Neal / Jun 24 2010 9:32 pm

      Cheers Tom. It definately beats a netbook if you can afford it.

      • Robin Rawson-Tetley / Aug 6 2010 10:02 pm

        You’ve been able to get Android tablets for a while, and I even picked up an Eken to play with a bit ago myself (it’s a fantastic eBook reader).

        http://www.slashgear.com/eken-m001-100-android-mid-gets-reviewed-2683177/

        So yes, you can get a Google tablet already – quite a few in fact, Archos and a some other manufacturers are selling them too. I’m sure Microsoft will announce their first tablet some time next year πŸ™‚

  2. Tom / Aug 7 2010 2:10 pm

    Talking of Android tablets, I eventually opted for one of these: http://www.openpandora.org/

    Its not Android mind, but a Linux tablet actually. Although I must admit you need to be a bit of an enthusiast as there is a bit of a long queue to get one.

  3. Robin Rawson-Tetley / Aug 7 2010 3:14 pm

    I didn’t realise the pandora had finally been released – that thing looks amazing! Shame about the wait to buy one and the high price tag.

    • Tom Jenkinson / Aug 9 2010 7:55 am

      They are released now but I should have made it clear I don’t actually have it in my hands yet (as you probably know they are being built by enthusiasts in Newcastle) although I did pay a while back. My current position in the build queue is 550-650, hopefully I should get it by Christmas πŸ˜‰

    • Chris Neal / Aug 9 2010 8:31 am

      By “amazing” do you mean “like a Nintendo DS with a keyboard”?!

      • Tom / Aug 9 2010 8:37 am

        Not exactly, it’s a portable workstation πŸ˜‰

        However, is it not true that casual observers may consider the iPad to be a 3g iPod Touch but “zoomed in” for the hard of reading?! πŸ˜€

      • Chris Neal / Aug 9 2010 11:26 am

        It’s a different beast from the iPad . Rupert Murdoch now considers a the iPad a “game-changer”, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/aug/05/ipad-rupert-murdoch-apple-newscorp. I guess we’ll see what happens when the Android tablets start getting more widely available.

  4. Tom / Aug 9 2010 11:47 am

    Re: Murdochs assertion, lets not forget he was the the guy who bought MySpace right “before it crashed into irrelevancy” in the wake of Facebook…

    However, its fair to say that tablet PCs are growing in popularity and the iPad is the shining light in this area today. As you say, when Android tablets bring the market down to a more consumer friendly price point, then it will become very interesting indeed.

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