Diary of an iPad (3) Owner

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

11:51 am CST: With a thermos full of coffee on my desk, half a dozen Safari tabs open, and Twitter in the corner, I am ready to watch the liveblogs.

12:21 pm: Tim Cook announces the new iPad!

12:23 pm: Phil Schiller is now talking about it. Overview of features: Retina display; better camera; 4G LTE; voice dictation; and 10 hours of battery life. Wow.

12:38 pm: Phil Schiller: “This new iPad has the most wireless bands of any device that’s ever shipped.” Wi-Fi, GSM, UMTS, GPS, CDMA, LTE, and Bluetooth to be exact.

iPad wireless bands

1:13 pm: Phil Schiller: “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t create on an iPad.”

1:45 pm: Schiller says that the non-Retina-optimized apps will still look great on the new iPad’s screen. I disagree. They will look blurry and poor, especially when contrasted against the apps which are Retina optimized.

1:21 pm: Apple is calling the new iPad the same thing everyone else is going to call it: “The new iPad.”

Later this year? “The new iPhone.”

1:30 pm: “Resolutionary” is a brilliant tagline. Reminds me of “Thinnovation” and “The Funnest iPod Ever”.

1:49 pm: Now attempting to order a 16GB, Black, AT&T new iPad.

2:49 pm: Make that trying to order a 16GB, Black, AT&T new iPad.

3:09 pm: Got through. But it looks like the LTE models are not available for in-store pickup when pre-ordering. I’d prefer to wait in line, but I’m not going to wait inline without a pre-order guarantee to get the right model.

Thursday, March 8

1:14 pm: Well, apparently AT&T’s map of 4G coverage (which is linked to from Apple.com’s website talking about LTE coverage) doesn’t actually mean LTE coverage.

I went with AT&T because I thought they had LTE in both Kansas City and Denver, but turns out they do not in Denver. Now canceling my AT&T order and going with Verizon instead.

2:44 pm: Just received the order confirmation email, and fortunately the new iPad is in fact expected to arrive on Friday the 16th. I’m a bit bummed that I won’t be standing in line this time. Me and two other friends were all planning to pre-order for pickup but the Apple online store didn’t have pickup available at the time and so we had to choose to get it delivered to our house.

And, I see that my time spent refreshing store.apple.com yesterday was pretty much in vain.

Wednesday, March 14

7:12 pm: Watching a few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation with Anna while we wait for the reviews of the iPad to hit the wire.

7:14 pm: Okay, fine. While I wait for the reviews to hit the wire.

8:31 pm: Looks like the embargo has lifted. Reading the Reviews.

Using my “old” iPad 2 to read reviews about the new iPad seems like some sort of cruel joke.

11:57 pm: I dig the long-form, personal, in-depth stuff. Folks have been griping about bullet point posts for years but I read this type of writing as entertainment. I especially enjoyed Jason Snell’s review.

Friday, March 16

8:00 am: Brewing coffee and getting ready to wait out the day.

8:32 am: Just got a text from my friend who is at the local Apple store and he says there is no line. He just walked right in and snagged a 64GB Black Verizon model.

Well, in that case, why should I sit around and wait for FedEx? Moreover, I’ve been thinking about how 16GB may not be enough any more. Already my iPad 2 is maxed out and I’ve had to delete all my music off of it. I think I’m going to cruise over to the Apple store and pick up a Verizon 32GB model instead. I can simply return my 16GB later.

I guess 32 is the new 16.

9:52 am: After waiting for Noah to go down for his nap, I am now leaving for the Apple store. Anna jokes with me that she’ll sign for my FedEx iPad while I’m out.

10:04 am: I arrive at the Apple store. It’s weird to be here on launch morning but with no huge lines out front. There are the customary police officers, carts of Smart Water, big signs on easels for the pre-order line, and dozens of blue-shirted Apple employees… but only a handful of customers.

I ask the employees manning the front door how the morning has been. They say that yesterday at around 11:00 am the first person arrived and that this morning when the store opened at 8:00 there were about 80 people in line. I hope that guy who waited 21 hours didn’t stick around to see the line totally dissipate after just an hour.

10:11 am: New iPad purchased. This is the 3rd iPad (3) that I’ve bought. (!) First was the AT&T one, then was the 16GB Verizon model, and now this 32 GB Verizon. Oy.

10:43 am: Now back home and beginning setup. The first thing I notice, right away, is the weight. The new iPad is obviously heavier. I think it feels thicker, but if I didn’t know that it was thicker, I’d probably chalk it up to the fact it weighs more.

And since this is a 4G-equipped iPad it’s even a bit heavier than a Wi-Fi-only iPad 3. To get nitty gritty: according to my kitchen coffee scale, my iPad 2 weighs 613 grams and my new iPad weighs 663 grams.

10:44 am: The second thing I notice: the screen. It looks familiar and yet not at the same time. I’m not as shocked to see the iPad’s Retina display because I’ve seen one before (on my iPhone). And yet, I am so thankful that a device which is pretty much just a screen, now has such an incredible screen.

10:53 am: Doing a quick iCloud backup of my iPad 2 so I can restore from that backup to the iPad 3. Since I don’t charge my iPad 2 in on a daily basis, I don’t have a recent iCloud backup of it.

10:58 am: Initiating iCloud restore onto the new iPad.

10:59 am: 21 minutes remaining. Time to brew another cup of coffee? I think yes.

11:40 am: While waiting for all my apps to finish downloading, I set up my Verizon service. I imagine that I could use 1GB without trying too hard, so I’m going with Verizon’s 2GB for $30/month plan. but I guess we’ll see in practice. How often will I take just my iPad when out and about? And how often will I need the cellular data?

It seems Verizon wants me to set up my own account and enter in my credit card info. I was hoping they would charge me through my Apple account and so I could just enable it via my iTunes password, but I had to enter in complete billing info. If I cancel my data plan next month but want to enable it the month after that, will I have to re-enter all this billing information again?

The 4G cellular connection works different than what I thought. For some reason I thought the cellular connection would be off most of the time and if I wanted to turn that on then I would have to manually switch it on each time. But no, it works on the iPad just like it does on my iPhone — it is always connected. If it has a Wi-Fi signal nearby then it grabs that, but if not then it uses the cellular signal. Thus there’s no interruption of connectivity.

I could manually turn off the data connection but I’ve read that leaving it active has a negligible drain on battery life, so I see no point in keeping it disabled when I don’t need it.

11:52 am: The apps download in order of priority. Apps in the Dock download and install first, then left-to-right and top-to-bottom starting on the first Home screen.

Sadly, the apps did not download their latest versions. They downloaded the version I had on my iPad 2. Now go into the App Store and update them all. So more downloads

3:04 pm: FedEx finally arrives with my Apple.com-ordered 16GB iPad 3 and my Apple TV they tried to deliver yesterday. The FedEx guy looks tired.

7:25 pm: The battery was at 94-percent this morning when I first turned it on. I’ve been using surfing, reading, tweeting, and emailing pretty much nonstop since 11:00 am and it is now at 40-percent.

8:30 pm: Hey! The Retina update to Instapaper is now available. It looks fantastic. Loving Proxima Nova.

Saturday, March 17

7:42 am: Rearranging my iPad’s Home screens and apps. What else would I be doing on a Saturday morning?

8:32 am: Setting up the last of the apps that need new passwords entered and to sync their data: Rdio and 1Password.

Apps that are not updated for Retina yet don’t strike me as being as blurry as non-Retina iPhone apps were. Perhaps it’s because I am further away from the iPad screen than the iPhone’s? Or perhaps because the iPhone’s Retina display has a higher pixel density than the iPad’s?

9:10 am: Battery is currently at 22-percent. Letting it charge for a bit while I make my morning cup of coffee.

9:37 am: People on Twitter are talking about difference in color temperature between the screens of the iPad 2 and the 3. I see a color variant but it’s not a temperature difference — rather my iPad 3 is more vibrant and rich.

2:15 pm: The battery is now fully charged, but I’m not sure how long it’s been there. Based on the past few timeline notes, it seems like the iPad charges at about 15-percent per hour.

11:02 pm: Doing my first LTE speed test. It’s averaging 10Mbps down and 3Mbps up. That’s here in the south end of KC, where I live. So it’s not quite as fast as my home broadband connection, nor is it as fast as some of the jealousy-inducing speeds that some folks are tweeting about, but it still pretty impressive and nothing to complain about.

11:14 pm: Streamed an HD video trailer (Unraveled) over LTE with only one minor hiccup at the front end. The HD looks stellar on the new iPad.

Sunday, March 18

9:53 am: Decided to move the Mail app out of the iPad’s Dock. I have every intention of using the iPad more and more as a serious work device. And a serious work device needs its email application in a place where it is least likely to wiggle its way into the center of attention.

Monday, March 19

1:25 pm: After recording Shawn Today and listening to the Apple financial conference call this morning, I’ve been spending the rest of the day working solely from the iPad. Writing, reading, emailing, and linking — all from the iPad while I watch Noah in the living room so Anna can get some down time.

What I like about working with the iPad is that I feel like it’s just me and my work. Even if there are other distractions available (like Twitter) they are not present. They are in the background and in another app, not peeking out from behind the frontmost window.

I remember two years ago, when the first iPad came out, I very much wanted it to be a laptop replacement but it couldn’t be. For me, at least. When the iPad and its 3rd-party apps were still in their infancy I couldn’t properly manage my email workflow, my to-do list, nor could I write to the site or even have synced documents.

Since 2010 so much of that has changed. In part, my own workflow has simplified and can now acclimate mostly to what the iPad is capable of. But also the apps for the iPad have come such a long way, that in some regards (to-do list management, for example) the iPad is a better tool than my laptop.

4:01 pm: While visiting my sister and her husband, I thought I’d bring the iPad so I could do a speed test at Mark’s house and wow, Verizon’s LTE is much faster here than at my place. Seeing speeds around 30Mbps up and 20Mbps down.

9:07 pm: I haven’t touched the older iPad 2 in a few days. But I just now picked it up to do some comparisons of websites rendering on the different displays and it’s amazing how much lighter and thinner this thing feels.

I’ve gotten used to the thickness and the weight of the new iPad and in day-to-day it doesn’t affect its usefulness, but it still is interesting that the difference is so noticeable when picking up the iPad 2. Or, put another way, the difference in weight and thinness is much more noticeable when going from heavy to light than the other way around.

The second thing I noticed with the iPad 2 in hand was how horrid the Internet looks. Everything is fuzzy. Text isn’t clear; Retina display-optimized header graphics look just as blurry as non-optimized graphics on the new iPad. There is no going back.

9:51 pm: It strikes me that the Retina display is the other side of the coin to iOS. Meaning, iOS is the software and the screen is the hardware and that’s it. Those are the two sides to this coin. On a laptop or desktop computer you have three user interface components: the keyboard, the mouse, and the screen where you watch the user interface. On the iPad you have one user interface: the screen. And you touch and manipulate what is on the screen.

I love the way Ryan Block explained why the new iPad’s Retina display is such a big deal:

The core experience of the iPad, and every tablet for that matter, is the screen. It’s so fundamental that it’s almost completely forgettable. Post-PC devices have absolutely nothing to hide behind. Specs, form-factors, all that stuff melts away in favor of something else that’s much more intangible. When the software provides the metaphor for the device, every tablet lives and dies by the display and what’s on that display.

Ever since 2007, one of the hallmark engineering feats of iOS has been its responsiveness to touch input. When you’re using an iOS app it feels as if you are actually moving the pixels underneath your finger. If that responsiveness matters at all, then so does the quality and realism of the screen itself.

Highly-responsive software combined with a dazzling and life-like screen make for the most “realistic” software experience available.

I don’t know how this relates exactly, but it makes me think of how I would flail my hands and the controller of my Nintendo Entertainment System when I was trying to get Mario to jump over a large pit. As if, by moving the controller around I could give Mario that extra boost of speed for his jump. Have we always had that natural tendency to relate our physical actions to the manipulation of pixels on a screen?

10:12 pm: My only disappointment with the new iPad’s display is that it’s not laminated to the glass the way the display of the iPhone 4/4S is. The iPad’s screen is significantly larger than the iPhone’s, and so there is an epic element in that regard, but there is a unique beauty to the iPhone’s Retina display that the iPad does not have.

Tuesday, March 20

1:30 pm: Putting Noah in the car seat to take him to his one-month doctor checkup.

1:38 pm: I need a sleeve for this iPad because, already, taking it out on its own is becoming more common.

This X Pocket iPad case from Hard Graft looks absolutely stellar, but do I really want only a sleeve? If I’m going to be leaving my Air at home it’d be nice to have an iPad bag. My beloved Timbuk2 is already the smallest size they make and though it’s perfect for holding my Air, iPad, keyboard, and other little peripherals, the iPad alone seems to swim in it.

Another option could be this sweet bag from Hard Graft, but it may be just a little bit too small because I’d want to be able to fit my bluetooth keyboard in there as well. My pals Ben Brooks and Brett Kelly both use Tom Bihn’s Ristretto, but I prefer cases that are horizontal rather than vertical.

2:09 pm: Did a quick speed test here in Overland Park before going in to the pediatrician’s office. The LTE service here is faster than by my place, but nowhere near the speeds it was seeing at my sister’s home.

You know, all these speed tests keep me thinking about what I’ll do if and when an LTE iPhone comes out. Will I cancel my AT&T contract and switch to Verizon, will I stick with my 4S for an extra year and move to Verizon when my contract expires, or will I stick with AT&T and get one of their LTE phones?

2:13 pm: Anna’s looking at me like can we go in now?

Wednesday, March 21

12:13 pm: I remember when the iPad was a luxury item and I was embarrassed to use it in church or the local coffee shop. But now? Now it seems everyone has one. I walk into the coffee shop and half of the people here are reading or working on their iPads.

Two years ago, we didn’t know where the iPad fit in. It was a $500 luxury item that went somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop. But now, people are using iPads as their main computers. As a $500 computer replacement the iPad seems sensible, not extravagant.

10:48 pm: Whoa. Turn a page in iBooks.

Thursday, March 22

9:58 am: I have figured out how to properly classify the three generations of iPads: * Vintage * Old and Busted * New Hotness

Friday, March 23

12:45 pm: Ugh. Hit with the stomachs flu; I’m taking it easy today. But while I’m upstairs in bed, trying to relax, I’d like to do some work on my development site. Surely I can do this from the iPad, no?

I search the App Store for “FTP” and come across two apps which allow me to access and edit FTP files: FTP on the Go PRO, and Markup. However, asking for recommendations on Twitter yields a single answer: Textastic.

1:28 pm: Coding on the iPad is a much more delicate process than coding on my Mac. When on my Mac I have at least a few Safari tabs open with the site launched, and Coda going with 3 or 4 or more tabs worth of documents I’m working in. On the iPad it’s a bit more uni-tasky, and you can’t see as many lines of code all at once on the smaller screen.

While I don’t see myself ever doing large-scale coding projects solely on my iPad, it’s nice to know that if I need to jump in and make edits or changes to my site I could do so. Also, it’s nice to be able to make small tweaks to current back-burner projects.

Saturday, March 24

8:37 am: Downloading songs for Anna on the iPad 2, and again I’m reminded of how thin and light this device is compared to the new one.

It is an interesting juxtaposition of the senses to hold the iPad 2 after getting used to the new iPad. The older hardware feels superior according to the physical senses — eyes closed (or screen off) and you would assume you’re holding the latest and greatest iPad. However, one look at the screen and your mind wonders how it was that your hands could have deceived you. How can this lighter and thinner device have such a vastly inferior screen?

John Gruber describes it well:

Apple doesn’t make new devices which get worse battery life than the version they’re replacing, but they also don’t make new devices that are thicker and heavier. LTE networking — and, I strongly suspect, the retina display — consume more power than do the 3G networking and non-retina display of the iPad 2. A three-way tug-of-war: 4G/LTE networking, battery life, thinness/weight. Something had to give. Thinness and weight lost: the iPad 3 gets 4G/LTE, battery life remains unchanged, and to achieve both of these Apple included a physically bigger battery, which in turn results in a new iPad that is slightly thicker (0.6 mm) and heavier (roughly 0.1 pound/50 grams, depending on the model).

The trade off is worth it. After a short while of using the new iPad I quickly acclimate to its size and weight. And who among us would vote for a new iPad that didn’t have 4G LTE, or that didn’t have the Retina screen, or that didn’t have 10 hours of battery life and was instead as thin and light as the iPad 2? Not me. And, well, if you did vote for that, then you can just buy an iPad 2 and even save $100.

11:12 am: Anna’s friends are over for brunch to celebrate her birthday. One of them is currently in nursing school and we all get onto the subject of studying, textbooks, laptops, and iPads.

Her school is excited about the soon-coming transition to when textbook money will be a part of the tuition cost and it will be used to buy the student a new iPad and cover the cost to load up that iPad with the course-necessary electronic textbooks.

But these girls are not excited about that. They don’t want textbooks on iPads because they can’t write in them, can’t highlight them, can’t spread them all out and reference multiple pages simultaneously. And they don’t like the idea of needing a laptop and an internet connection either because it means you have to study at home or at a coffee shop or library, and you can’t go somewhere outside and away from it all.

Sunday, March 25

7:29 am: Checking my iPad to see when the latest iCloud backup was, and yes: the iPad automatically backed up to iCloud last night. This has got to be one of the most underappreciated features of owning an iDevice. Automatic iCloud backups are like Time Machine but better. All my apps, all my settings, all my pictures, backed up to the cloud while I sleep and while my iPad charges.

Remember when we had to plug into iTunes and manually sync? Ew.

Monday, March 26

11:27 am: Finally able to pair my Apple Bluetooth keyboard to the new iPad. In short, this keyboard seems to only want to be paired with a single device at a time. I had to tell my MacBook Air to forget the keyboard (plugging in my Apple USB keyboard instead). Though I like this keyboard more for typing, I had been using the Amazon iPad keyboard with the iPad 2 and, though it is a great and inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard, it isn’t quite on the same par as Apple’s.

Coincidentally, this Apple Bluetooth keyboard is the same one I bought two years ago when I bought an original iPad. I always intended to use it with the iPad but it ended up becoming my desktop keyboard instead.

12:05 pm: Was planning on heading out for the afternoon to field test the iPad some more, and to wrap up this piece, but Noah is having a rough and fussy afternoon. I’ve opted to stay home and give Anna some time off. So hey! I’m “field testing” in the backyard.

I’m in my camping chair out on the back patio, a baby monitor by my side, my lunch shake resting in the cup holder, and the new iPad resting on my lap in its InCase Origami Workstation.

It’s unfortunate that the iPad’s glassy screen doesn’t do well outdoors. If the screen is light and the text is dark, it works pretty well, but only so long as you are away from sunlight. And I notice that there’s virtually no difference of increased visibility between 50- and 100-percent brightness.

12:15 pm: The thing that bothers me the most about promoting the iPad to a more regular work device is that it still doesn’t fit my email workflow. On my Mac I have many rules in Mail that process and file away those “bacon” emails that I want but never want to see. Also, I get a lot of receipts via email, and most of these are for tax-deductible items that I need to keep and process. I can’t do that on the iPad because I use AppleScripts and Yojimbo…

Hmmm. What if there a way to send an email to a Dropbox folder?…

Doing some research reveals there are a few options. Send To Dropbox looks to be the best. It’s a service that connects to your Dropbox account and then gives you a unique email address. It will store any attachments as well as store plain text or HTML version of your emails. Sounds ideal.

12:35 pm: The sun is creeping over to my shaded spot. I may be forced to move inside.

1:02 pm: For the past 30 minutes I have carried on a couple of iChat conversations (thanks to Verbs App app), researched some ways to send an email to Dropbox, worked on this article, and changed a certain baby’s dirty diaper.

However, my backyard is now completely bathed in sun and I have no choice but to move back inside. Noting that the battery level is currently at 68-percent; about an hour ago it was at 82.

1:21 pm: Since I am “field testing,” I’ve been using LTE instead of my home Wi-Fi. This morning I checked my Verizon data plan and it reports 307MB used since the 16th. Today is the 26th, and so that averages out to 31MB per day so far. My plan allows me 2,048MB per month, and that averages out to 66MB per day — twice what I’ve been averaging so far. I think the 2GB plan will prove to be just right.

3:11 pm: Now taking that field trip and driving to the Roasterie.

3:23 pm: The weather is so nice today that everyone else thought they’d head over here as well. I could sit inside, but that’d be a disservice to the weather.

So here I am on a sidewalk bench down by Le Creuest, some kitchen accessories store. This is where the oddity of using an iPad in public comes in to play once again. Sitting on a bench in front of a kitchen store drinking an Italian Soda and tapping away on my new iPad. I’m too timid to bust out the Origami Workstation in this environment.

3:29 pm: Alas, I cannot connect to the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi from way over here on this bench, and Verizon service seems to be poor on this side of town. Ah well, I am mostly only writing and therefore Internet speeds are inconsequential to me at the moment.

You know, it’s funny. I bought a 4G iPad and signed up for a data plan so that I could take the iPad anywhere and still be able to use it with an Internet connection. In some ways the data plan is a safety net — if I find myself in a place with poor or no Wi-Fi, then no problem because I can use my data connection. But in some ways the data plan is a permission slip — if I’d rather go work at the park instead of a coffee shop I can.

In my mind I imagine the permission slip mindset as being the more exciting and freeing option. I mean, that is one of the great advantages to cellular data and it’s certainly the main reason for why I bought the 4G model. Yet, I find myself too timid to take advantage of it in fear that I’ll use up my data plan too fast and then not have it when I need it, or pay unnecessary overage rates.

Tuesday, March 27

11:13 am: Checking the Verizon data usage and today it reports a total of 350MB used. So yesterday, while on the field and using my data connection what seemed like a lot, I only used 43MB. That is still under my daily allotment of 66MB.

3:49 pm: Finished setting up my Send To Dropbox workflow, and I now have a Folder Action and an AppleScript working on my MacBook Air so that any receipts I get via email I can simply forward on from my iPad or iPhone and they’ll safely land in Yojimbo.

And, relatedly, thanks to Printopia I can also now print from my iPad (since I don’t have an Air Print-enabled printer).

All these tricks and workarounds and 3rd-party services that make my iPad work better with my Mac strike me as an odd necessity for a “Post-PC Device”. In some ways it makes the iPad seem more like a thin client rather than its own, stand-alone computing device. Perhaps it’s not a fault of the iPad so much as it is my own desire to fit the iPad into my particular and age-old workflows that I’ve long since gotten used to on my Macs over the years.

Yet, even with my workflows aside, I suppose the iPad is still, in a way, a thin client — a thin client to the World Wide Web. How many of the apps on my iPad have need of an Internet connection? How many of the tasks I do on the iPad require an Internet connection? How often do I front load Instapaper and Reeder before getting on an airplane?

The answer is: a lot.

Because the iPad works best when it is connected to the Web. It is intended to be connected.

Having an iPad with a cellular data connection instantly raises the overall utility of the device. Because it takes it from a device that works best in the comfort of a home or coffee shop Wi-Fi connection and turns it into a device that works virtually anywhere your feet will take you.

This tablet is extremely portable. And its software makes it usable as a work and entertainment device. These are the things that excite me most about the iPad. And I don’t mean this specific new iPad that I am using to write these very very words. I mean the iPad as a product category — as the next generation of devices where things are versatile, robust, and yet simpler.

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