iPad - the first two weeks

I decided to snap up one of the refurbished iPads which Apple were selling at reduced price. As I now sit typing out my first impressions I can’t help but feel something has changed with technology.

Anyone who has seen the app that makes them smile, makes them giddy with excitement, but more importantly makes them want an iPad, will understand the appeal. When I saw the demo of GarageBand for iPad, that pretty much decided the matter. Who cares if it has no built in keyboard, if you can use it as an 8-track? Why worry about the lack of expandable storage in this day of wireless connectivity? It’s not like we are still using memory sticks to share files. I can’t even remember the last time I burned a CD.

It’s the cloud based apps that have allowed me to use the iPad in synergy with my desktop computers. I have been using Google’s Reader for many years now, and Reeder on my iPod and now iPad gives me a much nicer, quicker way to read through things. I hope to actually get my unread count down to 0 at some point, now that I have Instapaper integration set up. It’s not completely faultless (I am sick of multiple-page articles now) but allows me to always have something to read, even when I’m away from a Wifi signal. To a lesser extent I can use Flipboard to give me something to read offline, but I haven’t quite explored that option yet. Twitter for iPad is also very elegant, and I don’t miss the equivalent Mac app at all. iTunes home sharing means I can sit here and listen to some of the many hours of music stored on a PC in a different room. This kind of technology is not especially new or unique to the iPad, but it’s certainly the first time I’ve managed to do something like that without being frustrated.

People who haven’t tried an iPad, or who’ve only tried one in a shop, really need to find someone with one and have a play. When I have shown people my photos on this thing, it gets people excited, even though that app is a bit long in the tooth (I’ve heard rumours of iPhoto being ported). Then you find a game that allows multiple people to crowd round and get involved, while the iPad’s owner watches with a certain amount of bemusement.

I bought Procreate last night. I was on the point of buying Brushes, but decided to find out what else is on offer before pressing the little green button and saying goodbye to another £4.99. Luckily I found a painting app that really does impress, with its crafty use of speed to make brush stroke adjustments, the very slick layering and indeed the ability to zoom in and work on finer detail. I know that other apps have these same features, but there’s little point buying all of them. This is the first app that has got my mother excited, and which makes her want an iPad. It represents something that is actually novel; you can now walk around using a device the size of a book to create art, and then email it instantly. No mouse involved, no keyboard involved, just simple direct manipulation.

To most of those reading this (probably the 2 who have subscribed to the RSS) there is nothing really new about what have written. I’m sorry. I can’t help but get excited. I can’t wait for iPad 5 or whichever iteration allows people to get by without a desktop PC at home.

So where do the other tablets fit in? We’ve heard how RIM’s device will emulate Android, but only the phone apps will work and not particularly well at that. Google’s tablet OS is still a bit behind, and I really can’t see why you would want to install it on an iPad, as one CS student intended to. The problem is developers want to earn a living, and they will go where the money is. Some developers care so much about free/open source that they can’t develop for the iPad (they refuse to buy a Mac). Well, they can at least build web apps which should be cross platform, but who is buying these other tablets? I don’t think I’ve seen one outside a shop. Besides, how long will it take someone to build a credible alternative to GarageBand or Procreate, or any of the other apps I enjoy, for another device? I don’t want to wait. I can understand if you don’t want an iPad; you probably haven’t seen an app that makes you want one yet. I can forgive the technical limitations that people often like to point out, because most people I talk to take one of 3 views: it’s too expensive, it doesn’t do x, y or z which Android can do; or it doesn’t have a keyboard so it can’t be any good. That’s fair enough, just show me an Android with the same ecosystem (apps etc.) and the same battery life and screen quality. Not an easy task.

I don’t want these matters to get in the way of my own enjoyment of the iPad. It’s the fist genuinely exciting device I’ve owned for a long time. Now I just need to think of a missing app and make it.