1. iPad: The Everyday Use Review.

    I held off buying the iPad when it first came out, I told people that I’d be waiting for the next version. However one thing led to another and when Apple released the iPad 3G I ran down to the Apple store to buy one. I decided that I’d give the iPad a real test to see if it truly could replace the roll that my laptop has played in my day-to-day life. A month later, here’s my report.

    When I first saw the iPad, I viewed it as a “large iPhone that can’t make calls” however as I saw some of the ingenious apps and content that was becoming available on the iPad I started to pay closer attention to it and viewed it as a potential purchase in the near future.

    Why I Bought an iPad

    Beyond the growing attraction to the various media consumption, I was in need of mobile access to my media, emails, and work related files from a functional sized devise. The iPhone obviously is capable of most of this, however, the size of the iPhone makes serious emailing impractical.

    Leading up to the iPad I was considering waiting for tethering to become an option on my iPhone, but we know that won’t be happening any time soon. AT&T has dropped down my hate list due to the improvements to their network in my area, however they don’t seem to have a plan to allow tethering any time soon.

    Another option I looked into was the Verizon MiFi which I had tried out on several occasions, however I didn’t like the idea of paying $60/mo for something I wouldn’t use too often. The price tag just didn’t make sense for me. I made the assumption that my limited use of the 3G option would allow me to use the lower $15/mo and since it’s a month-to-month plan, that would be the most affordable solution.

    The biggest selling point of the iPad was the battery life. The idea that I could use the iPad on long trips without fear of running out of juice too quickly was the greatest selling point. On my last trip to New York, my laptop battery died an hour into the flight because I was watching a movie. The fact that I can watch an entire season of a TV show on a flight and not worry about having to find a recharge point the instant I land — is awesome!

    First Impressions of the iPad

    • Typing – It was fairly easy to pickup on the typing on an iPad. It’s not perfect, or easier than typing on a regular keyboard but the learning curve isn’t really that bad.
    • Screen Orientation – one thing that drives me nuts about the iPhone is that the gyros don’t always work well with many apps. You have to twist the iPhone around to get the gyro working. The iPad is much faster… Probably due to the improved processor.
    • Apps – The increased screen space seems to be a huge source of inspiration for app designers. The apps seem to be of greater quality that many of their iPhone counterparts.
    • iBooks – The ability to purchase and read books specially designed for the iPad is incredibly useful. I’ve already spent over $200 purchasing books that normally I’d have passed up on.
    • Battery Life – Apple did an amazing job on this. I know I already listed this above, but the battery life is so good it just can’t be understated.
    • Size & Weight – Again, I believe that Apple did a perfect job here. The device feels solid, real, and yet it isn’t too heavy a to make one handed typing a problem. Sure, some of the usability gurus don’t like the size/weight but honestly, I think it comes down to opinion. Go done to the Apple store and heft one, make the choice for yourself.
    • Accessories – I have yet to purchase any hardware accessories for the iPad other than an Incase iPad cover to protect it from daily use. I did hook it up to my bluetooth keyboard once as a test, but haven’t done any extensive testing on 3rd party add-ons.

    Replacing my Macbook with the iPad

    As I mentioned above, my goal was to attempt to replace my every-day use of my laptop with my iPad. I was curious to see if the iPad could live up to the task or if I’d just end up switching to my laptop when it came down to work.

    First, it’s important to know what hardware I have. Between work and home I have a 27″ iMac, a 24″ iMac, a Macbook Pro 13″ laptop and an old PC that I haven’t turned on in about 3 years.

    Only 20-30% of my day involves development or design work. I established early on that I wouldn’t be using my iPad for serious design or development work. The device is not designed to do that. However, I did find that for communication, to-do lists, and planning the iPad is a winner!

    I am able to re-treat to a quiet spot, sit down, and plan out tasks, reply to emails, and review work from the team all from this very portable device.

    At home, I have always used a laptop as my primary computing device. I wrote emails, listened to music, and watching movies on Hulu or iTunes. Since purchasing the iPad, I’ve been able to do –and in a way, prefer– to do these tasks on my iPad.

    The one major exception to this is Hulu. I don’t own a TV subscription. I find that the time-suck that is television is not worth the expense and the time wasted is just too much anti-productivity. However, I do love many TV shows and have used Hulu to stay up on my favorite TV shows. Since Hulu has no plans to switch to HTML5 in the near future I have had to resort to popping out my laptop to watch shows on Hulu. This is less than desireable, however, most of the major content producers like ABC and NBC have apps that allow me to watch their shows via their custom iPad apps or their websites which are already HTML 5 ready.

    In summary, I find that at most, I use my laptop 1-2 hours a week anymore. The iPad is what I use for all communication, reading, and video watching with the exception of a few Hulu shows.

    iPad Apps I Use

    I plan to update this list as often as possible, however this is a fairly complete list of apps that I use, and a short description of why/how I use them.

    YouTube (10/10) — I follow close to 100 subscriptions on YouTube and the iPad has one of the best designed interfaces for Youtube. The app is literally perfect and so conducive to browsing, and watching videos on YouTube that if you weren’t a fan of the new YouTube design, you should be now!

    AirVideo (8/10) — This app has a great interface, and allows you to stream any video to your iPad from the server software that you install on your PC or Mac. My server at home collects media files as I download / buy it and then it is automatically served up to my iPad whenever I want to watch video.

    Twitteriffic (9/10) – Though I prefer to use Tweetie on my Mac and iPhone, I think that Twitteriffic is one of the best design Twitter clients for the iPad. The design is so well though out that reading, and interacting on Twitter with the iPad is now my preferable option.

    WordPress (5/10) – Though I consider the app to be very underwhelming, it does prove to be fairly useful for quick edits to blog posts, and approving / spamming comments. I would love to see the developers improve the app to give it a better “posts” feature.

    AIM (8/10) – The iPad is perfect for chatting on AIM. Once you get the hang of the keys, you’ll be able to maintain a conversation with someone without any problems. The app is fairly complete and if you’re an Aol fan you’ll have access to your life stream and other Aol services.

    Things (10/10) – As a OCD person, I maintain and curate a GTD list. Things has always been my favorite despite it’s high price tag and less-than-ideal syncing options. The Avelient team uses Things on iPads, Macs, and iPhones to keep ourselves organized.

    Dropbox (10/10) – This app requires little introduction. My files, projects and data are stored on the Dropbox cloud and accessing documents and files for client meetings via the iPad is easily one of the best experiences you could ask for. Now if only it allowed you to edit files in the Dropbox via my iPad. /Wish!

    Epicurious (11/10) – I know, I gave this app an extra point. It deserved it, trust me. This app is a recipe book, guide and shopping list creator in one. Apps like this will revolutionize the way you think about cooking. For the nerds, this app makes cooking fun!

    iMockups (7/10) – Though you can’t do serious design work in this app, it does prove to be a great brainstorming-level layout application that I personally spent hours and hours playing around with. I now use it in all the brainstorming steps of my design projects.

    This is really just a sampling of the apps that I use. There are many apps like Netflix, Calendar, Contacts, Maps, Photos that are “default” to the iPad and I use them on a daily basis.

    Apps That Should be on the iPad

    • Hootsuite – How is this app not on the iPad. If you’re serious about social media, don’t leave your iPhone designed app as the only option for iPad users!
    • Digg App – Sites that have a focus on content can’t afford to miss out on the iPad. The increased size of the iPad makes reading / browsing news sites the ideal platform in comparison to the iPhone. Get on it Kevin!
    • Hulu – I would gladly pay a $20 for the app + a $10/mo subscription fee if I could get good, high-quality tv over my iPad.
    • iChat – I do not understand why Apple hasn’t integrated iChat as “the killer chat app” for their iPhone and iPad products. It makes sense and these services though feature limited are often the best native chat apps.
    • More to come…

    3G vs Wifi

    I made a concerted decision to buy the 3G iPad to ensure that I’d always be connected to my email and files while on the road. However, I have yet to subscribe to a 3G data plan on my iPad. I find that 90% of the time, I am near wifi and there is no need to be on the 3G.

    There are of course particular situations where I know I will end up using 3G and it’s nice to have that option always available to me. However, when you go to buy your iPad, really think about how you’ll use it before spending the extra cash on a 3G version.

    Still Using the Laptop? Yes.

    As I mentioned above, I’m still having to use my laptop or iMac 1-2 hours a week at home. Beyond my regular development and design work, I still find myself having to use my iMac to do screenshares, watch Hulu, or to make serious purchases online.

    Though Safari works well on the iPad it can be completely frustrating to fill out large forms or make purchases online. Now, this really isn’t Safari’s fault, it’s the poor form design that causes this. However, I am not willing to suffer through an experience on the iPad simply to say that I can.

    At this point, I do not think that a serious web user can completely eliminate the laptop or desktop from their life by purchasing an iPad. Infact, I recommend against trying it. However, the good news is that this isn’t what the device was intended to be used for.

    The iPad was designed to fill a void between laptops and cellphones that allowed for an ultra portable device that would allow you to perform every-day tasks, communication and interaction with great ease. If this is what you’re looking for in the iPad, you’re going to love the experience.