An Initial Miscellany of the iPad

Early this morning I drove to Kansas City’s Apple retail store with two of my friends. One of whom is quite nerdy and the other who is quite not nerdy. We stood in line to buy an iPad. Well, technically I stood in line to buy an iPad — my friends came along because I convinced them it’d be fun.

When we arrived at 7:30am there were about 75 people in line already. The first few folks had arrived the night before around 8:00pm, the next group came at 2:00am, and all the others began trickling in around 6:00am.

While waiting in line we were awkwardly interviewed by a young college student, given the opportunity to order breakfast from the California Pizza Kitchen, and had awkwardly-geeky conversations with those in line around us.

The store opened at 9:00am and our line (which had grown to about 200 people by then) was directed to split in two: those who had pre-ordered their iPads and those who had not. Those of us who did not pre-order outnumbered those who had five to one. However, those in the pre-order line were served by the Apple sales team about four to one versus those of us in the non-pre-order line.

Once the line began moving rumors kept murmuring amongst our line that the store was already approaching sold out status, and that all of us who had come so early to buy our iPads would have to come back at 3:00pm to pick up the leftovers, if there were any.

After three hours waiting in line I finally made it into the store. A nice old lady named Linda helped me gather my order and she checked me out on her iPhone. I bought the 16GB iPad, Apple’s black fitted case, and a bluetooth keyboard. Linda had me sign for the purchase using my index finger, and the receipt was emailed to my Mobile Me account. Amazing.

I had a lot of people ask me why I didn’t pre-order mine. Well, three weeks ago I wasn’t entirely convinced that I wanted one on day one. Secondly, I knew that if I did want one I would have no trouble standing in line at an Apple Stores in Kansas City. And lastly, I did not want to hope in UPS to deliver an iPad to my home first thing in the morning.

After a day of using the iPad not only is the battery still not dead, but this thing is what I have always wanted my iPhone to be. The iPad is an easy, fun-to-use device for the day-to-day at my job (which on many days is comprised mostly of emails, instant messaging with my team, attending or leading meetings, and writing).

I am very much looking forward to how the iPad will affect my day-to-day life at work. Or perhaps, how my day-to-day will be affected by the iPad. This little tablet is so different than what I was expecting that really I haven’t found the words for it yet. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t have at least a few words to write about my experience with the iPad so far…

Setting it up (iTunes)

Unexpectedly, after unboxing my iPad, I found it was already powered on. Clicking the home button showed you the “connect to iTunes” image.

You can’t do anything until you connect it to iTunes on your Mac or PC. Once you do, you can then begin registering it in iTunes and simultaneously fiddling with the iPad itself.

I didn’t realize how persnickety I am, but I was more distracted with getting the right apps, songs, and photos installed first than I was to start fiddling with the actual device. Since I already knew what I wanted on there (practically down to what apps in what places), to fiddle with it before I had it set up felt like trying to ride a bike without the handlebars put on yet.

Thoughts on the Hardware

It’s what’s inside that counts, and the haters are wrong: this thing does have flash. It’s called Apple’s A4 processor. Oh. my. word. This thing is so smooth and so fast. Combine that with the longest battery ever for an Apple device and you’ve got a machine that was built to be used. Thank you.

But it’s not just the guts that make the iPad so fantastic. I mean, the shell is just as clever as the pieces it holds together. Although the form factor is smaller and heavier than I thought it would be, it feels just right. And yes the bezel looks large and awkward on all the pictures, but it is the perfect size when holding in your hands (if anything, there could be more bezel).

The aluminum back is beautiful, but it’s also that same slip-friendly metal that was on the first-generation iPhone. And since it’s a bit heavy, I am somewhat nervous about dropping the sucker. Though Jony Ive says the iPad was designed to be tossed around:

If it works beautifully, it should also work robustly,” he says. “It’s made for people to chuck onto the car seat and thrust into luggage without thinking. It’s not to be delicate with.

And so it’s true: the iPad is tough. And honestly, my concerns with dropping it have more to do with how it would interrupt my workflow than if it would break the darn thing.

My only quibble with the hardware is that I wish you could set the double click home button to more options. On my MacBook Pro i have multiple keyboard shortcuts to get to apps and settings that I frequently use. To be able to have a super-fast way to launch Mail or Notes or something would be lovely. (Perhaps this is a software quibble and not a hardware one. But regardless it’s a quibble.)

Accessories

I picked up Apple’s iPad case and a Bluetooth keyboard. The keyboard can be usable for much more than just pairing to the iPad, and the Apple case is useful for much more than propping the device up slightly for better typing.

The case is fantastic. I have never had an iPhone case or screen cover, but the iPad case is great. It allows for a better grip to the iPad, and makes it much easier to use when on a table or on your lap. And like I tweeted this morning, about 9 out of 10 folks coming out the Apple store had this Apple case in hand along with their iPad.

Thoughts on the OS and Apps

There is so much good on this device when it comes to software. I am looking forward to see what sorts of UI and UX settings from the iPad also end up in the next major OS release for iPhone and iPod Touches. For instance, home- and lock-screen rotation based on device orientation would likely be excruciatingly annoying on an iPhone.

What irks me the most is the springboard spatiality which Lukas Mathis wrote about a few days ago. Unless you have your home screen completely full with icons there will always a randomly-displaced app icon, and the only one ever in the same location is the top left one.

And the only bug I came across in the OS was that two times today I found myself “stuck” in an app. For instance in the photo album when trying to adjust the size and placement of a picture of my old Jeep, Champ, I got stuck in a spot where all i could do was pinch and zoom the image — no other controls were available and i had to quit out to get back in.

Similarly, when I clicked on a music video that came with a John Mayer album i got stuck on music videos section with no way in the UI to get back to the iPod main controls without quitting and then going back in.

Mobile Safari

My first thought was that the iPad actually is the best way to experience the Web. Safari is so fast, and navigating around with your fingertips is so natural.

As far as the UI of Safari, the thing I’m most thrown off by is the design of the navigation and address bar at the top.

It’s a logical choice to move the navigation, bookmarks and etcetera buttons to the top address bar area on iPad’s mobile safari, rather than having it sit on the bottom. In iPhone’s Mobile Safari the address bar disappears when you scroll down a web page. On the iPad it doesn’t.

I frequently found myself wanting to go to the navigation buttons based on where they would be on the iPhone. While many apps (such as the App Store app) maintain a similar navigation structure as on the iPhone some apps redo it altogether. Just enough to make sense in context, yet still be a bit confusing to a dude who’s been using his iPhone for nearly three years.

Safari on iPad includes a built-in bookmarks bar, just like the on you see in Safari on your Mac. But many of my synced bookmarks in the bookmarks are not usable on my iPad. Six out of the nine aren’t website bookmarks but are javascript bookmarklets, and two of them don’t work with my iPad (MarsEdit and Yojimbo).

Things (to-do app) for iPad

Things for iPad is, by far, the most attractive iteration of Things yet. It looks very much like an iPad app with the papery-texture added to the UI. And it acts very much like an iPad app: you can pinch open a project to peek at its tasks just like you would to pinch open a photo album to peek at its images.

And the latest update of Things on the Mac (1.3.3.) adds smart syncing if you have multiple devices (like an iPhone and iPad) all with a copy of Things on them. I tested it out by adding or checking off different to-do items on my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro and then launched the apps all to sync. And it worked like a charm.

1Password

The genius of 1Password never sank in for me until I began using its iPad version today. It is like a pre-meditated version of Yojimbo for your iPad. You can safely slot all your vital info into it and have it available whenever you need it. There have been more than one occasions when I’ve need access to my license plate number, bank routing number, etc., but wasn’t at my computer and didn’t have the info committed to memory.

Many of those items are encrypted in my Yojimbo library but if I’m not at my laptop I’m out of luck. 1Password does way, way more than keep website login information. It keeps helpful and necessary information, and it keeps it safe. (Thanks, Dave!)

iCal

Once a meeting or event is added to iCal on the iPad then, just like in iPhone, you cannot change the calendar it’s in. This is always frustrating for me because in have a couple calendars that are synced to my assistant’s iCal and a few that are personal. If i make a meeting in the wrong calendar my assistant won’t see it unless I delete and start over, or remember to change it on my MacBook Pro.

NetNewsWire

Arguably the best feed reader on the iPad. Not that there are many, but NNW on the iPad is very much in its element. I adore NNW on my Mac and using its iPad counterpart feels like home.

Pages

Currently Pages is the top paid app in the iPad App Store. No doubt it’s due to promotion by Apple and simply from people wanting to know how a word processor works on a touch device. “If this tablet is going to replace my laptop I’d better have a word processor on it.”

I downloaded it. And yeah, Pages is a very clever and usable App. But the touch interface is not nearly as robust as having one hand on the mouse and one hand on the keyboard. Moreover, I’m a keyboard Junkie — I use keyboard shortcuts like they’re going out of style(!).

Something else in Pages which throws me off is that there is not a save function. By no means is this a bad thing; I’m just so used to saving regularly (and manually). While typing with my Bluetooth keyboard I kept hitting command+s regularly (Partly because I kept thinking I would get interrupted by a phone call (on the iPad).).

Universal Apps, HD Apps, and Standard iPhone Apps

You can identify a universal app by the little plus symbol (+) parked in the top-left corner of the price of an iPhone or iPad app. A universal app is one that has a working version of itself for both iPhone and iPad.

For example: Instapaper Pro is universal, so all you have to do is buy it once and install it on both devices. Things however has an iPhone version and an iPad version — if you want it on both devices you have to buy both apps (which I did).

It is these iPhone apps which have also been built for the iPad that are now the best version of themselves. Twitterrific for iPad is the best version of Twitterrific on any device.

If the next iPhone is going to be called the iPhone HD and ship with a 640×960 screen, what will the App Store be like with all these current iPad apps coming out with names like “Cool App HD” and combined with all the newly-designed-for-iPhone-HD apps which will also be called “Cool App HD”?

Yikes! I think “Cool App for iPad” is a better name — it tells you precisely what it is (an iPad app) and precisely what you’re getting (an app for your iPad). Say what you mean and mean what you say.

And finally, when using iPhone apps on the iPad there is a nice bezel around the edge of the app, and a bar in place where the status bar normally is. But that is just about as far as the joy goes.

Most of my iPhone apps (even many of my favorite ones in all the world) suck on the iPad. Especially when pixel doubled.

I get that the graphics would have to be pixel doubled, but text too? Is that really necessary? It’s the text-based apps that are totally unusable on an iPad. Some of my favorite iPhone apps, like Birdhouse and Simplenote, are virtually useless on the iPad.

There are some other apps though that survive pixel doubling just fine, like FlightControl. It looks a little pixelated but is totally usable and still quite addicting. And Canabalt looks great as a matter of fact. Its finely-drawn pixel art blows up quite nicely.

If an iPhone app doesn’t support landscape mode then it won’t rotate its orientation with the iPad. Even at 1x size they won’t flip to be right-side-up if you’re holding the iPad upside-down.

Additional Miscellany

  • Wallpapers: I love that you can set different wallpapers for the lock screen and the home screen.

  • The delete key is in a different place on the iPad keyboard than it is on the iPhone’s. It’s in the place it should be, but it throws me off.

  • My wife is going to steal this thing.

  • Reading an iBook: It is ingenious how you can see the ink through the back of a page as you’re turning it in an iBooks book.

  • Mute: Hold the volume rocker button down for two seconds to mute the iPad (Via Twitterrific.)

  • Setting the viewport for your website: In my site’s header I used to have the following code to get it to render properly on an iPhone:

    <meta name="viewport" content="width=780, initial-scale=0.4, minimum-scale=0.4" />

    But it wasn’t filling up enough of the iPad’s screen when browsing. So I updated it to this:

    <meta name="viewport" content="width=800” />

  • “Multitasking”: I have never been frustrated by iPhone’s lack of “multitasking” and on the iPad I actually prefer to be restrained to one thing at a time. (It helps me focus and stuff.) Just so long as apps have state persistence.

  • Apps currently in my iPad Dock: Safari, Notes, Mail, Calendar, Things

The apps that were on the iPhone which have now been re-built and designed for the iPad feel as if they belonged on the iPad all along. Even the apps that originated on the iPhone (such as Instapaper) now feel much more native, and all around more fantastic, on the iPad.

The iPad is not a giant iPod Touch. If anything, my iPhone is now an iPad Mini.

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