I bought a $700 64GB WiFi iPad, and it arrived a bit more than a week ago. Yet, I still feel like I’m waiting for my iPad to arrive.
I was promised an iPad that would revolutionize how I read magazines and books. It would bring the amazing Apple App Store experience to a bigger screen. It would serve my Web browsing needs at home and be my portable media player/game system on the road.
The iPad doesn’t do any of these things well, at least right now. Some examples:
- I needed directions to the Bronx Zoo from my house. I Googled Bronx Zoo, found the address, and pressed Google Maps to open it in Google Maps. With another press, the iPad routed from my current location to the zoo. Perfect. Now, I needed to print the directions. My $700 iPad can’t print. So, I had to repeat the process from a real computer.
- I know everyone complains about it, but the iPad doesn’t support Flash. Two of my websites use Flash extensively (northrupphotography.com and northrup.org). Flash is everywhere, and while I can get by without it when I need to look up something quick, you definitely need Flash if you want to casually browse and enjoy the Web.
- At least there are the apps, right? I immediately opened the App Store to download the dozens of Apps I have on my iPhone. They’re just not there. Very few designed-for-iPad apps are available now, and they cost far too much. Plants vs. Zombies for the iPhone is fun and costs $3. It’s exactly the same on the iPad (but bigger) and it costs $10. Turns out, I’m willing to blow $3 on a dumb game, but $10 seems like way too much. Plus, when I’m stuck waiting in line, I can grab my iPhone and keep myself occupied, or toss it to the kid to keep her busy. The iPad is too big to carry everywhere, and why would I play a game on it at home when I have a real computer and an XBox, attached to much better screens?
- eBooks and magazines just aren’t ready yet. The formatting is terrible (in one book, literally unreadable because spaces and linebreaks were lost). Where are the gorgeous interactive magazines I saw in the previews? Zinio seems to be the only real option now, and all they do is show you scans of magazines, which means no searching, formatting not designed for the iPad (you have to pinch and drag individual pages around to see them full-size), and very little interactivity. USA Today and the Wall Street Journal have apps designed for the iPad, but they’re less functional and dynamic than their websites.
- The tablet format is clumsy. If I try and hold it like a book to read, my arms get tired after a few minutes because it’s too heavy. I can’t rest it on my lap like a laptop because the screen lays flat. If I want to use it as a media player on an airplane, I’d have to bring a stand to hold it up, which brings me to my next point…
- Media is a pain to copy over, because the iPad supports a very limited number of formats. So, I can’t simply copy them over. I tried converting some videos to a supported format, and it took a long time–and then iTunes refused to copy them to the iPad, because I guess I got the format wrong. iTunes could help out here by doing the conversion for me, but I suspect they want me to buy from their limited number of content suppliers.
- I use Google Reader to keep up with about a dozen different websites. Open the page on the iPad, though, and I get the mobile version of the page which doesn’t show any pictures until you click the individual items. Many of the sites I read are photography related, so this ruins them.
I really didn’t approach the iPad as a cynic–I bought into their vision of the future of publishing. The future just isn’t here, yet. I’ll check back with you in six months, but right now, I urge you not to buy an iPad. Instead, grab a Windows-based netbook, or hold out for one of the upcoming Windows-based touchscreen tablets. At least you’ll be able to use Flash.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve published many books for Microsoft Press, and I’m quite sure that Microsoft wants to compete with the iPad. I’m not being compensated in any way for slamming the iPad, though. I laid out $700 because I believed in it.
BTW, a few positive points:
- The battery life on the iPad really is great.
- The screen is awesome. I don’t buy into the idea that only eInk is suitable for reading. After all, so many of us stare at LCD screens all day, anyway. I have a Kindle, too, and I’d rather read something on the color iPad.
- My kid loves the iPad, even though she can’t play her games at the PBS Kids or Nickelodeon websites because they need Flash. I did download a couple of games for her, and they kept her occupied during a road trip. BTW, she’s six, and the first thing she said when she saw it was, “It’s a big iPod!” She’s right, too–it’s a big, heavy, non-portable iPod.