The (Initial) iPad Experience

I’m usually a late adopter of new technology, largely because I’m frugal. I don’t like to spend money until I know just what the value is that I will be getting. So, when I heard about the iPad, I wasn’t one of those who signed up in advance. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t have a case of techno-lust; I am a geek, a boy who loves his toys. And, after all, I am on the stump about mobile learning.

So, I followed the developments closely. I looked at the specs, and I tracked the software app announcements. And I reflected a lot about the potential learning applications of this new platform.

The decision

What I didn’t expect was to get transfixed by a new possibility: that this device could provide a new capability to me, that of a laptop replacement. When I travel, I use my laptop to work; I write, I diagram, I create presentations, and catch up on email. The iPad, however, was announced as coming with (or having available) software for word processing (Pages), diagramming (OmniGraffle), presentations (Keynote), and email (Mail). It would also, when in range of WiFi, do standard web stuff like browse the web and use Twitter.

It began to look like maybe this device did have a justifiable case, such that m’lady was agreeable. There were some considerations: did I need the 3G version, which would come later, and how much memory (16, 32, or 64 GB)? Given that I already have an iPhone, which would meet immediate email, twitter, and/or web needs when not in WiFi range, I figured I could go with the first one coming out. However, my iPhone at 16 GB is already half full, and I’d likely be adding more apps and documents, so I thought I better go for 32 GB (I also figured with aggressive memory management, I could skip the 64 GB version). So my decision was made, with one problem.

The purchase

I hadn’t signed up for delivery, and now that deadline was being pushed out. And, I had a trip planned before the next shipping date. Now that I’d decided I could use it as a laptop substitute, I already wanted it. I wasn’t frantic, and I hate to wait in lines, so I wasn’t going to queue up at the Apple store. However, I did discover that other Apple retailers would have them, particularly BestBuy, which has a nearby store. So my plan was made: I would swing by there just around opening time, and if there wasn’t a huge queue, I’d see if they had any left. I wasn’t particularly optimistic.

So, after breakfast on the 3rd, I headed out in time to get there 5 minutes before they opened, and while there was a small queue, it wasn’t too bad. I checked it out, and a guy told me that they’d been handing out tickets for the iPad, and they seemed to have plenty. They didn’t come out again before the doors opened, but I knew I’d have my answer, one way or another, in a few minutes. And lo and behold, they had stacks of iPads. My transaction was complete within 7 minutes of the door opening, and I had my new device! And once I tweeted this outcome, I very shortly thereafter had several requests for this blog post! (The Apple lady in the BestBuy said the same thing happened with the iPhone releases: queues at the Apple store, and walkin service at the BestBuy; now you, good reader, are in on the secret.)

I also had to accessorize. BestBuy didn’t have the case, but I got a neoprene one with a pocket. Then Apple did have the case when I called, so I swung by late in the day. The place was packed but they also had iPads left! I also got the display adapter so I can present from it, and AppleCare.

The experience

Now it was time to play. I got it home, connected it to my Mac, and started setting it up. One almost immediate surprise was that it wasn’t charging. Turns out that is not uncommon, you need to have a relatively powerful USB port to both power and synch, and I guess my old laptop isn’t up to the job. However, it was fully charged and I got 2 days of intermittent use before it got close to needing a charge. Still, a bit of a pain to swap the cable between synching and charging… However, it was recognized right away and synched just fine. I made a mistake and synched everything (all photos, music, etc) when I really just wanted the limited set I had on the iPhone, but I was able to rectify that.

And then it was time for software. I’m as frugal with software as with hardware, so while I took some interesting free new IPad apps (solitaire, I confess , as well as weather and news, a calculator, etc), I was more picky with paid software. I did get Pages and Keynote (not Numbers, as I’m not a spreadsheet jockey, tho’ I may well get it if I start getting a lot of Excel sheets). I also got a PDF reader, Good Reader, as I had an immediate need. So far I’ve held off of OmniGraffle (which I *love* on the Mac), as it’s surprisingly expensive and the first reviews suggested it may have speed and interface problems. I’ll keep tracking the reviews, as I have faith in the company. I’m looking for a good note taking option, that will handle both text and sketches and/or quick diagrams, but the one or two examples I’ve found have had mixed reviews.

Finally, the ultimate question is how does it work. And the answer is, very very well. The battery life is almost phenomenal. The display is superb. The overall user experience is compelling. Tweetdeck (Twitter), Safari (browser), and Mail look great and work effectively. And it’s pretty functional; I’m touch-typing this with the onscreen keyboard in Pages on the plane, with the case folded to hold the iPad in landscape, tilted so I can use the onscreen keyboard and still see the screen.

There’s still some software to come (diagramming, note-taking with sketches), and accessories (maybe bluetooth keyboard), but it’s working well for me already. (Update: it was a battle to get this posted!) I’m on a short 3 day trip with just the iPad and iPhone, laptop-less, and we’ll see how it goes. (I do have a pad of paper and a pen. 🙂 Stay tuned!

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