Information and Technology

First Look at the iPad: Using the iPad in Daily Life

Story posted April 15, 2010

It has been described by Apple as "A magical and revolutionary product". Many were skeptical and possibly underwhelmed when the announcement was made in January that Apple had designed and would release a tablet device that runs same operating system and software as their highly regarded iPhone and iPod Touch devices. I have to admit that I too felt a little let down after watching the keynote address. To me it did appear to act a lot like "a large iPod Touch" and there didn't seem to be that much magic in the device at all. Some of those feelings subsided soon after getting my hands on one.

Weighing in at 1.5 pounds, the iPad is another great example of Apple Engineering's attention to detail. A solid aluminum back and glass touch screen help to make the iPad a solid piece of craftsmanship. There is nothing on the device that feels cheap. It measures 9.5" tall and 7.5" wide and only .5" thick and feels more substantial in your hands than you might expect. It is perfectly balanced and rotates from portrait to landscape and back without the odd sense of being off-center. The oleophobic coating on the glass, which is supposed to be resistant to finger prints and is the same coating on the iPhone 3GS, lets your fingers easily glide over the surface without sticking making movements feel even more fluid.

Apple built a custom processor chip for the iPad that they have dubbed the A4. This processor, using a Cortex8 ARM processor, a Power VR graphics processor and 256 MB of RAM all in one single chip, allows for the iPad to be twice as fast as the iPhone 3GS and conserve even more power. All of this is evident when you start to use the device. Basic tests of opening web pages and running applications show that the iPad can out perform an iPhone running the same tests at least by a factor of two and in some cases even more. As you move from web page to web page you get a sense that the iPad is working at a pace that only you dictate. There is little to no hesitation and if you want to surf quickly then you are only limited by the speed at which you can acquire the data over wireless. Applications are just as responsive as is the operating system. Little things such as accessing your photo library are almost instantaneous and email is simply there with the tap of your finger.

Basic usage of the iPad, for those familiar with the iPhone or iPod Touch, is the same. You connect the device to iTunes to activate it once and then you can use iTunes to sync your music, movies, apps and now books to the device and back to your computer for safe keeping. If you opt to purchase any of the iWork applications (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) for the iPad then you will also have the opportunity to copy documents to and from the iPad using the iTunes interface (more on that in another review). Charging doesn't happen through a computer but rather requires that you use the included 10W power adapter but you will find that charges will be few and far between because the iPad really does go at least 10 hours before needing to be charged. This includes doing more processor intensive tasks such as watching video or actually using many different applications rather than just surfing the web and checking email

Once you get past the design and the engineering you have to start to wonder what makes the iPad "magical and revolutionary" and in my opinion it is not the device alone that allows Apple to make that claim but rather the way you use it and how and where it can fit into your life. Those of us who are used to sitting on the couch with a laptop nearby to check our email or look something up quickly on the Internet will find that the iPad will quickly replace the need to even open the laptop's lid. For anyone who wants to sit down and look at real estate listings or read newspapers from around the world, the iPad provides such a fast and immersive experience you may find it hard to go back to paper and ink. What really makes it revolutionary is not that its the first real mainstream tablet that isn't a laptop with a foldable display but rather its the applications from thousands of developers around the world. The thought and ingenuity of some of these developers are taking interactive applications to an entirely new level which allows for the iPad to be used, much like the iPhone, in countless situations. These applications allow the iPad to infiltrate your life in such a way that it could become the device that you use everywhere for everything.

I found myself doing exactly that. With just a few applications I can perform almost any function that I might want to on a daily basis. I can wake up in the morning and easily check my email and respond to what I want or need to. I can then open Epicurious and find a recipe for dinner, make a shopping list and off I go. I can then read a few newspapers either on the web or in dedicated apps, depending on my mood to check up in the news of the day and when done with that I can make sure that I am prepared for whatever weather the day may bring. At some point in the day I can take the time to read a couple of chapters in the latest book I downloaded from the iBooks store and when its time I can take the iPad into the kitchen, turn it landscape and prepare dinner using the recipes that I chose earlier in the day and the stuff that I bought at the store using the shopping list I had created. After dinner there might be some time for a little Scrabble or I can check what's on TV. If there's nothing good then I can simply stream a movie from Netflix. All of the day's work can either be done on or facilitated with the iPad. It is revolutionary because its a game changer.

The iPad has many uses and it does nearly everything well. As with everything there is room for improvement. A front-facing camera for video chats would be fantastic. The screen still gets fingerprints and needs to be cleaned from time to time but there may not be a fix for that, it is a touch screen after all. Some people have complained about the wireless going in and out. I have not experienced the same issue but if this is the case I would imagine that Apple will have a software update out to fix it sometime in the near future. Otherwise I can't find too much to fault the device on. It is a solid, fast, intuitive device that just feels natural and it fits easily into any lifestyle.

Be sure to stay tuned for additional reviews including using the iPad in an enterprise environment or if its even possible to do so and reviews of Apples iWorks apps for the iPad as well as a review of Apple's iBooks app and Bookstore.

With just a few applications I can perform almost any function that I might want to on a daily basis. I can wake up in the morning and easily check my email and respond to what I want or need to. I can then open Epicurious and find a recipe for dinner, make a shopping list and off I go. I can then read a few newspapers either on the web or in dedicated apps, depending on my mood to check up in the news of the day and when done with that I can make sure that I am prepared for whatever weather the day may bring.
— Jason Pelletier, Information Technology Systems Engineer