I know loads of people have written about the iPad, and I’m not attempting to compete with them (or anyone, actually). What I will try to do is give my impression of the iPad because I found out certain things, after owning one, that I didn’t know. And you might not, either.
Why buy an iPad?
Well this is a good question. Lots of people asked me this when I expressed wanting one on Twitter and Facebook. And oh gosh yes, in real life. “It’s just a big iPhone” they said. Well, der, it’s not actually since it’s not a phone, for one.
I’m writing this on my iPad, a feat I could not have managed, easily, or whilst still retaining my sanity, on my iPhone. I wanted an iPad because we don’t have a computer in the house. This isn’t some grand statement. I think computers are great and like all things, if used wisely can augment rather than diminish, real life. I also think they have a real place in educating children and that we shouldn’t be so afraid of them. If you’ve ever watched a young child – as I have – use technology – you realise not to be so afraid of this union. When I interviewed Dr Joan Freeman recently, who has conducted the longest ever study of gifted children, she said there was a direct connection between being gifted so young and access to IT.
But we don’t have a computer in the house because the laptop we did have is now about four years, which in computer years is equivalent to being a hundred (one human year = 25 computer ones, source: Barbieri, 2010) and it’s so slow as to now be unworkable with. Plus, PLUS, the battery went just as it was out of guarantee, so it can’t recharge (and a new battery costs £100), thus it has to be plugged in the whole time, so it has neither the portability of a laptop, nor the capability of a desk top model.
So I was faced with a dilemma – to have on computer in the house for me is unthinkable, but get a new laptop? Not at £1000 a pop (I only do Macs, I’ve only ever only done Macs so don’t go telling me about your PC wonder, I’m not listening). The iPad was a really viable alternative. Not because I expected to write a novel on it – I sit on the sofa and write with a fountain pen on my Basildon Bond for that – but because I need something to be able to answer emails on in more than the three misspelt words the iPhone allows. I wanted to be able to look something up on the internet easily and I wanted to be able to update my blogs.
All the essentials of life. I have a big fuck off Mac in my office for work, writing articles and writing letters in giant font. What I wanted for my home computer was a bit of fun, but also, ease. The iPad looked ideal except for one important detail – no keyboard. I can’t be fucking doing with a virtual keyboard. I need a proper functioning keyboard for my super fast digits (120wpm typing speed, oh yes). Whilst the keypad that the iPad offers is bigger than the one the iPhone does, it was still one of those touch-screen things. No use to me and my bendy digits.
Then I realised that you could get a keyboard. A proper keyboard, that the iPad slots into. It costs £55 and it renders the iPad into a little mini computer, quite a beautiful thing actually. I was sold.
A note here: do not buy the cover that Apple makes for the iPad if you intend to get the keyboard. The cover (£30) fits on to snuggly and to get it off (and you need to get it off to fit it onto the keyboard slot) is hair-pullingly frustrating. If you plan to carry your iPad around with you, then get a zip up cover.
I got the most basic model (WiFi, 16GB) because my thinking went like this:
I didn’t want my iPad to be a travelling device as such: I have an iPhone for that.
I didn’t need to store loads of stuff. I have a desk top computer and if I want to put films and photos on and I run out of space, I just delete stuff. So the 16GB is fine for me.
I didn’t need 3GS, not only does this need a separate SIM (with contract), but I had an iPhone for that. So I use my iPad at home on wireless.
By the time I’ve grown out of my iPad the chances are it will have broken, died, be superceded by a model so much fancier and more able. Sad but true. When I bought my laptop just four/a hundred years ago, it was the latest Mac laptop, now it looks as modern as a rag and bone man.
Much is made of the iPad’s incredible battery life, but IN WHAT WORLD?? If you use it for anything that involves grabbing information from the outside world, the battery lasts from sunrise to sunset and not a moment longer. And it takes FOR EVER to recharge. Not like the iPhone which can take a 100% charge in an hour or so. My iPad has to charge all night (it, I’m sure, takes less time than that but I recharge it at night) to be at 100% in the morning.
You also need OS10.6 to use it. No-one told me this. Or at least, I didn’t register it. My desktop computer is three and a half years old and was running 10.3, so when I got the iPad I had to wait to update the OS (you can just buy the latest Snow Leopard at about £25 and it works fine, you don’t need to buy the Snow Leopard before that one, or at least that’s what my Mac expert tells me and it worked fine for me) and install it before I could use my iPad. If you already have an iPhone you can transfer all your apps over – all but the camera/phone reliant apps go over (since the iPad has no camera or phone) easily. But, they come out on the bigger iPad screen the same size as the iPhone. You can blow them up (there is a x2 button that appears on the bottom right hand side of your screen) so that they fill the screen but the resolution goes somewhat.
When you go to the iTunes store you can see which apps are made specifically for the iPad, and these will make proper use of the bigger screen. Otherwise, with some exceptions, you’re looking at a small-screen in a big screen unless you blow it up.
The Mail and iCal functions are much better on the iPad. There still isn’t full search capability on Mail – you can only search by mailbox. So for example, on my full size computer if I want to search for an email from Miuccia Prada (name drop, name drop) I can simultaneously search for one from her across all my mail boxes and it will find it. On the iPad it can only do one folder at a time, so you’d have to search you ‘inbox’ first, then ‘sent’ then ‘trash’ then any other folders/mail boxes you had. This is minor, but important if it’s a function you use a lot. Safari is used in exactly the same way as on a desk top model, just you get a smaller screen. But you still have your book marks and everything. I can also do banking on my iPad whereas I couldn’t on the iPhone (this varies according to which bank you’re with though). Note that, as per the iPhone, you can’t access Flash sites on the iPad.
You can only get photos onto your iPad by importing them through iTunes (or I guess whatever you use on PC, I only know about iTunes) or – what I do and find infinitely easier as most of my photos these days are taken on my iPhone – email them to myself.
I wouldn’t want to read on it for ages – it’s backlit and so it hurts my eyes. And I don’t find it super light to hold for ages either, not one-handed like a book. I don’t read many books (other than for work, so I tend to do that at my desk) and if book reading is your thing, I’d look at a Kindle which is a totally different thing from the iPad anyway..
Some apps I like:
MiTypewriter, £1.19 – this is my eldest’s favourite app – it’s an old fashioned type writer. Gorgeous fun. You can email what you write to yourself and then print it out from your desk top machine. Makes a lovely tip tapping noise and you get to push the whatchamacall it to make the page go up (what is that thing called).
Notebooks for iPad, £5.49 – I first had this on my iPhone and I use it to store recipes and shopping lists on (so they’re always to hand, when I’m shopping). I can’t pretend it didn’t nearly blow my head off setting it up on my iPhone. It’s much easier on the iPad, I can’t work out if that’s cos I already knew a bit about it or it’s changed or what. So if you scare easily this might not be for you, but there’s lots of help and the developer is very good at replying to emails.
iQuarium HD, £1.19 – this is a virtual aquarium. You ‘earn’ points by keeping the fish alive and feeding it. You trade the points in for rocks, gravel, water plants. I can’t pretend it’s the best aquarium out there – I’m sure there are others. But it’s fun for five mins a day and children will like it. Note: if you don’t feed the fish it will eventually ‘die’, so be careful out there if you cry easily.
Little Things, £1.79 – a beautifully designed game. You search for various items in a picture made up of hundreds of objects. I love this app. It looks great and it’s a bit of gentle fun (although it does make me go a bit cross eyed after a while, it’s the staring so intently and the backlit screen).
Corkulus, £2.99 – this is a virtual cork board. You can add virtual post it notes, to do lists and photos. It’s a great idea, but I have to say that to really work it needs an even bigger screen than the iPad. So it’s a little indulgent, but I like to think I have a virtual corkboard on my iPad, I mean, just in case I have to story board something, like you do..
Real Solitaire HD for iPad, £1.19 (free version also available but you get ads and I kept clicking on them by mistake and it got annoying) – again there are many card apps out there, this just happens to be the one I have. This is the app I use the most – I am currently obsessed with playing Patience/Solitaire.
My first Italian words, £1.19 – I really liked the graphics on this. It helps you spell very basic Italian words. Good accent and really lovely design (hey, it’s important!)
I’ve got about twelve million other apps – ones that tell me which stars are in the sky, various games that you’ll all already heard of – what I’ve tried to do is highlight apps you may not have heard of and that I find particularly fun/useful.
Do I regret buying it? Not in the slightest, it’s fun, useful and portable although ironically I tend to keep it docked to the keyboard in the kitchen for recipe looking up more than anything.