It's here! I just spent the weekend with my New Apple iPad: 16GB WiFi model (I'll also review the WiFi+3G model when it ships) and wanted to give you my in-depth review. It's exciting! As a matter of fact my buddy Bruce was waiting at his office on Saturday for his iPad to be delivered and when the UPS guy got there, they started talking and the UPS guy shared with him how people were following him in their cars and begging him to give them their iPads early before getting to their homes. I can't think of too many products that cause this kind of frenzy. See my Unboxing Video here (it's different than any other iPad unboxing video you've seen 😉 ) On to the review and keep in mind that I've only had the iPad for two days, so I haven't touched every single feature yet, but here's what I've seen and touched so far…
The iPad is another example of Apple's attention to detail. Everything from the packaging to the actual design of the device is top notch. There are just a few hardware buttons. The home button is there just like on the iPhone and iPod touch as well as hardware buttons for the volume controls on the right side, on/off switch on top, a screen/rotation lock on the right and built-in speaker on the bottom as well as headphone jack and microphone on top.
My first impression when I picked it up out of the box was "it feels heavy!" Although it's only 1.5 lbs, I was looking at it from a "hold it with one hand while reading" angle. Since it's a book reader, I would want to hold it with one hand while flipping the pages with the other. I would be easily fatigued if I had to hold it in one hand for more than a few minutes. Holding it with two hands won't be an issue and holding it with one hand as long as you have your knee or a table to rest on should be fine.
The iPad comes with a USB sync/charging cable and a wall charger.
It's FAST! The iPad is VERY RESPONSIVE. I haven't seen any lags whatsoever. Photos, Apps and everything I've tried so far have been very speedy!
Battery Life – So far so good. Keep in mind that testing for a weekend is not real-world regular use. However, I can easily see this thing going for 10 hours straight. I haven't run it all the way down yet, so I'll have to report back later on the actual battery life I get when I using it under normal conditions. Also very few will run it for 10 hours straight without a break.
Wi-Fi – The iPad takes advantage of 802.11n. So both range and network speed are GREAT! I must also remind you that this is the WiFi version and therefore will only connect to the internet via a WiFi hotspot. I know that sounds like a "duh" statement, but there seems to be a lot of confusion over the difference between the two models: WiFi and the WiFi+3G model that's coming out later this month.
The Built-In Apps
They are Freaking Amazing! Apple has completely redone all of the built-in Apps. So your Contacts, Calendar, Photos, Mail, etc. Apps are not only taking advantage of the larger screen size, but they are both graphically gorgeous and reworked to let you do more because of the bigger size and faster processor. Also I found at least one new feature in the Calendar App that isn't there on the iPhone. It's actually one of my biggest pet peeves with the iPhone calendar App. In the iPad Calendar you can UNCHECK the calendars you don't want to look at. For example, let's say that I want to see both my work and home calendars AND my Holidays calendar, but I don't want to see my non-profit and kid's school calendars. Now I can simply uncheck the ones that I don't want to see and have a single calendar view of the ones I do want to see (just like in iCal on the Mac!).
The Photos App is functionally amazing, but also adds a much requested feature and that's the ability to play music during the slideshow. Now you can choose a song from your iPad and have it play while your slideshow plays.
Little things – There are so many little things that I discover every time I pick it up. For example, you can have TWO desktop pictures. One will be displayed while the iPad is locked when you wake it up and other is displayed in the background of your Apps. This is handy for creating a picture that displays your Name and Contact info while it's locked, but that doesn't have to be the picture behind your Apps!
Surfing the Web
Steve Jobs referred to the iPad as "the best browsing experience you've ever had! Way better than a laptop, way better than a smartphone" Wow, that's a tall order and while the iPad is very nice. It's NOT the best web browsing experience ever. You can't call something that can't display a large quantity of sites "the best web experience ever" PERIOD. You can say "it's really awesome", you can say "the future is HTML 5 and we're ready", but without Adobe Flash support, TODAY the iPad is a "broken" web browsing experience. I'm a techie guy and I understand what's happening when I go to a site and the content doesn't display because the iPad doesn't have Flash support. However, to the average Joe, they're going to become quickly frustrated when they go to their favorite sites and content is either missing or they can't access the site at all. As a matter of fact to further hide this from the user Safari on the iPad now just displays a big empty white box (see the For the Photographers section below) where the Flash content would be. So if you didn't know something was supposed to be there you wouldn't think about it. I'm not here to defend Flash. Flash is by no means perfect. However, if the cheapest Netbook on the planet can see all of the sites out there and the iPad can't, then the iPad is NOT the best web browsing experience. See my Cons section below on more of my thoughts on Flash and the iPad. Now let's move on, the Safari experience is very nice for the sites it displays. It's fast and even gives me my same Bookmarks bar that I have in Desktop Safari.
One pleasant surprise I got was going to Facebook.com from my iPad. I'm so used to either using the Facebook App or getting the mobile site in Safari, that I was actually quite pleased when the regular Facebook page came up in Safari on the iPad. Other than not being able to play Facebook videos (they require Flash), I actually liked the experience BETTER than the native iPhone Facebook App. There were always things you could do on Facebook.com that you couldn't do in the native App. Don't get me wrong. I hope they update the App with a kick-butt iPad version, but in the meantime I'm quite content to use Facebook in Safari on the iPad.
3rd Party Apps Are The Key!
I got lots of questions from my friends over the weekend about 3rd party Apps and as you might expect there is lots of confusion out there. First of all, if your App worked on an iPod touch, then it should work just fine on your iPad. If your App was built specifically for the iPhone and takes advantage of iPhone features like the phone and camera, then the App may or may not work on the iPad since the iPad is NOT a phone. So it will vary from App to App, but for the most part you should be fine loading your existing Apps on the iPad. Netflix didn't have a native iPhone App, however they chose the iPad as the platform to debut their App on. You can stream videos from the popular rental site and mange your queue.
How do my existing Apps Look? – You have two choices. You can either run your existing Apps as is in their native size which will be a small window in the middle of your iPad or you can tap the 2x button to "pixel double" the App up to fill the screen. The later may not be desirable just like res'ing a photo up make it look less sharp and soft focus, so does your App.
Here's the CNN App running at it's native size on the iPad.
Here's the CNN App running at the 2x size on the iPad.
You're gonna want NEW Apps – Although your existing Apps should be fine, the experience is NIGHT AND DAY between the older Apps and the New ones that take advantage of the iPad. This one really took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting there to be such a stark difference between them and I can't really put into words how much of a difference it is. For example, I have the USA Today App on my iPhone. It's great. However, the NEW iPad version is blowing me away. It's just a totally different experience not only seeing everything nice and large, but seeing MORE content at once and the way you interact with the "paper".
It's gonna cost you – While there will always be FREE apps on the App store and many of them are really really good. The iPad will give developers a way to bring in more money by creating "iPad ONLY" versions of their Apps and charging for them as NEW App purchases. There's nothing wrong with this. It's business. Developers have a right to be paid for their work and you have the right to either buy the apps or not. However, you should be prepared to buy some of your existing Apps again if you want the iPad enhanced version. Now with that said, there are Apps on the App Store that have been "updated" to work on BOTH platforms (iPad and iPhone/touch). A developer can choose to go either way and each developer will choose what's right for them.
10 Must Have iPad Apps
I took the liberty of selecting 10 iPad Apps that you're definitely going to want to check out. See my picks here.
For more on iPad and iPhone Apps head over to my Best App Site where I will be doing all my iPad App Reviews from here on out.
What about iBooks
I'm a Fan of Amazon.com. However, if I worked for Amazon in the Kindle hardware division I'd probably be updating my resumé. The iBooks on the iPad are gorgeous. However, at the end of the day they are standard ePub documents. Apple just puts a very nice wrapper around them and they do something that you can't do in the Kindle App for iPhone/iPad and that is keyword search! Yes, you can do this on an actual Kindle device, but for whatever reason Amazon hasn't seen fit to bring this important function over to the Kindle App. I am grateful that Amazon did update their App immediately for the iPad. It looks good and more importantly lets me bring over my Kindle book investment (as small as it may be) over to my iPad. When my daughter comes home for the summer from college I'll be putting her Kindle up on eBay and replacing it with an iPad. She'll get to keep all of her existing books. By the way Apple gives you one free book to play with in the iBooks App – Winnie the Pooh 🙂
Making your own iBooks – Since the iPad uses the ePUB standard, this means that you can create YOUR OWN BOOKS for the iPad and load them right in. There's now a great tie between Adobe InDesign and the iPad. Adobe InDesign CS4 can export to the ePUB format (see my video here on how to do it). I exported an ePUB document from InDesign CS4 and dropped it right inside of iTunes. It showed up in my Books area of my Library and then I sync'd my iPad and my book was there in the iBooks App! I could experience it the same way as any other iBook. The Publishing Market is about to change forever. This will accelerate self publishing! Think about it. I could write a book today, put it up on my website and have people download it and put it on the hottest piece of hardware on the market without ever having to pitch it to a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers (if you're listening), you can't fight this. So therefore you need to embrace it. You need to become my ally in helping me take my books to the iBook Store and realize that your high profit margins have just been cut. Don't take this the wrong way. I still believe there is a need for "publishers" because they can provide value. Printed books aren't going to disappear in the near future. However, your business model needs to be adjusted from here on out.
This is Star Trek playing back on the iPad in it's regular 16:9 aspect ratio. Notice the huge black bars at the top and bottom of the video.
The iPad is a natural for watching video content. You can load your own movies as well as videos you download from iTunes. While the interface and playback work great, the only thing that bugs me is that the iPad's native resolution (1024×768) is 4:3 and not 16:9. So you'll either see black bars at the top and bottom of your videos or if you zoom them up to fill the screen then you're potentially missing content on the sides. Not the end of the world, but noticeable.
For the Photographer?
As a professional photographer I have high hopes of fitting the iPad into my workflow. The first obvious use for the iPad is digital portfolios. The display size and quality lends itself to showing your images to clients, friends and family very easily. Couple that with the support to hook up to a projector with the optional VGA adapter for Keynote presentations and you have a real winner from a presentation of your images perspective. Now what about the other way around? What about people using iPads to view YOUR photography website. This is where the iPad has an issue. Many of the photographers I know have their online portfolios in Flash because of the immersive experience it gives you.
So unless they rework them or create two versions or give up on the flashyness, their sites will NOT be viewable on the iPad. My buddy Scott Kelby, professional photographer and president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals and Host of D-Town TV has a interesting look at what the iPad means to photographers. See his post here.
Missing in Action – The iPad Camera Connection Kit has a lot of promise. However, it's not slated to ship until "late April". So I'll have to review it separately or with the WiFi+3G model.
Landscape Home Screen – On the iPhone/iPod touch the home screen can only be in portrait orientation. However, on the iPad it rotates just like all your other apps.
Picture Frame Mode – When you have your iPad docked and charging in a stand you can enable the Picture Frame mode from the locked screen and it will play a slideshow of your selected photos (in the prefs). There's even an option to have it Zoom in on automatically on Faces. Nice touch!
Safari can now play embedded YouTube videos (once they've been rendered by YouTube in H.264) right on the page without taking you to the YouTube App!
What about accessories?
None of my ordered Accessories have shipped yet. So I'll hold off on those until the 3G model ships and I review it. Hopefully by then I'll have my case, dock, keyboard and Camera Connection Kit.
Pros – What I like
The Experience – I don't know that I would go as far as to call it "magical" like Steve Jobs does, but I would certainly say that it has exceeded my expectations. The user experience again is something that you can put into words. I heard someone say over the weekend on Twitter that they are not excited about the iPad because they don't know where it would fit in their lives. I replied back "if you held one for 5 minutes you would change your mind."
The Built-in Apps – are hot! They make my iPhone apps feel old and dated. I can't wait to see some of the tweaks take place on the iPhone OS.
The Display is Breathtaking – The screen is GORGEOUS and bright. No chance of eye fatigue here. I could stare at this display all day long.
The 3rd Party Apps are the Big Thing – I can go on and on about a lot of little things I like, but at the end of the day what makes this device really sing is the IMPRESSIVE 3rd party Apps that have been reworked or brought out for the first time for the iPad.
Cons – What I don't like
No Multitasking – Just like the iPhone/iPod touch there is no ability to run multiple 3rd party applications in the background. With the iPad's 10 hour battery life (Apple's claim), battery life is less of an issue. So multitasking is actually something you'd expect on a tablet device. Apple's Apps can run in the background. For example, you can start the iPod app playing a playlist and then go run other Apps while the music continues. I would expect the same for 3rd party apps at this point.
Missing Apps?!?!?! – I went to go use the Calculator and I discovered that there ISN'T ONE! Apple didn't include something they've been including on all of their hardware since 1984. There is no native calculator on the iPad. You'll also find the Stocks App, Weather App Clock App and Voice Memos App missing too. There's no reason to not include these Apps other than Apple didn't take the time to redesign them for the iPad. I'm sure 3rd parties will step up to the plate pretty quickly, but I'm stunned that this basic functionality is not there. While I can certainly replace (and have) the Calculator, Weather and Stocks App with 3rd party alternatives, the Clocks app is not so easily replaced. Why? For one simple reason. Since it was a native Apple App it could run in the background. Therefore on my iPhone my Clocks App is my alarm clock. You can't do that (yet) with a 3rd party App and therefore the Clocks App will be missed.
Built-In Apps are Hot, but Still Need Work – The NEW iPad Apps (Calendar, Mail, Contacts, etc.) are definitely better than their iPhone counter parts in terms of design and a tweak here or there. However, there are still many of the same annoying issues that have been there since day one. For example, Mail still has no unified InBox (c'mon Apple, don't any of you have more than one email account?) so it's still a pain going between email accounts. No Spam Filter or Rules for processing incoming mail either. Still no multiple email signatures. There are still no Calendar APIs to allow 3rd party developers to tap in and use the Calendar data. Bento could really use this! You still can't invite others to a meeting unless it's an MS Exchange calendar. I could go on and on, but you get the point. These apps, while improved still need work.
No Multi-User Support – While the iPhone and iPod touch are more personal devices, the iPad seems like it would lend itself more to family sharing. However, without multi-user support there is no easy way to have different users each with their own logins, email accounts, calendars, etc. So people may be reluctant to hand it over to a friend or family member who would then have instant access to all of the email, notes and other potentially senstive info on the device.
No Wireless Notes Syncing – With MobileMe Apple lets you sync your contacts, calendar and mail to your iPad, however for some strange reason you still have to plug in a cable to be able to sync notes. I don't get it!
No Camera – I have no interest in taking pictures with my iPad. However, I would definitely see the benefits of having a front facing camera for video chats. This device is screaming for that. Also if it did have a camera of some sort it would be the ultimate Inventory Data Collection Tool! Hopefully Apple will at least allow third parties to do this via the Dock Connector.
No Native Printing Support – Although this not something I really care about, I have to address it for this kind of device. I don't expect to be able to print from my iPhone. However, the iPad is different. It's different because you can "create" content on it. Apple even sells iWork Applications for it. So it's not too much to expect to be able to print those documents via WiFi or Bluetooth. Yes, I'm sure there will be 3rd party apps for this, but I think this is something that should be built-in.
No Adobe Flash Support – It feels like 2007 all over again when I wrote my review of the original iPhone. It was a revolutionary device, but it lacked Flash support in the browser. Back then the lack of Flash support was more easily dismissed or forgivable for a couple of reasons. One reason was that Adobe Flash wasn't really ready for a device like the iPhone. Flash came in two flavors back then, Adobe Flash Player for desktop computers and Adobe Flash Lite for mobile devices. Flash Player was too big and not optimized for smartphones and Flash Lite was more about interfaces and less about providing the full browser experience on a modern smartphone browser.
Now let's Flash Forward (pardon the pun) to today and we have the iPad which is bigger and badder than the iPhone with a bigger display, more memory and a faster processor. We also have imminent Adobe Flash Player 10.1, which will work on 19 out of the 20 top handsets on the market today, including the Droid and the Palm Pre. So from a technical perspective there is NO reason that the iPad (or iPhone for that matter) couldn't run Flash Player 10.1. During the iPad introduction, Steve Jobs referred to the iPad as "the best web browsing ever" and I would have to disagree, because without Flash support you can't see much of the content on the web today.
Whether you love Flash or you hate Flash or think that HTML 5 is the future, the fact of the matter is that there are many popular websites using Flash TODAY. About 75% of all videos on the Web using Flash. This was made clear even during Steve Jobs' own iPad demo when he brought up a site that displayed a big hole where the Flash content would be (New York Times Website).
Today every Mac ships with Flash Player installed right in the OS/Safari and for those who complain about its performance (and I'm not defending it by the way), I wonder how many of you have turned it off/uninstalled it? If it were really so bad you would think Apple wouldn't have shipped it in their latest Snow Leopard OS, much less updated it in a dot release. Instead Apple is basically saying you can't view certain sites or content on certain sites and I think that's wrong.
So my point to all of this is that Apple could and should have Flash Player on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch with a switch for those that don't want it to be able to turn it off. This would end the argument and make everyone happy. This decision is totally in Apple's court now. All Steve Jobs needs to do to give you the "the best web experience ever" is to say "yes."
As far as video goes can't we all just use H.264? I think H.264 video is GREAT! I use it often. However, the problem with the HTML 5 video tag is that it's not supported across all browsers. Mozilla (Firefox makers) publicly announced that they aren't going to support it nor is it supported in Microsoft's IE browser. So if you want your videos to be viewable by all, then you're going to have to encode them multiple ways.
While I really like the iPad, the lack of Flash means that many of us will now have to go pay someone to maintain multiple versions of our sites, encode multiple versions of videos to reach the widest possible audience and where does this leave us? If HTML 5 could do all that Flash could do this would be a non-issue, but it can't. Flash Player already has 98% browser penetration. If Apple supported Flash Player on their mobile devices no one would have to change anything!
The Bottom Line
The iPad is by all accounts FANTASTIC and I don't regret my purchase for one minute. However, there's a big question that I need to ask myself: Do I really need a 3rd device? I have a MacBook Pro that I need to do my job (software presentations). I have an iPhone 3GS for all my mobile communications. I know that the iPad is designed to fit right in the middle and it does. The question though is do I really need a 3rd device in my life? The iPad is not a phone so it won't replace my iPhone 3GS. The iPad can't run Mac software, so it's not going to replace my MacBook Pro. So it really means carrying a 3rd device. I'll definitely use it for portfolio viewing/showing, watching videos, and I can certainly see this as my vacation travel device. It will also likely be my preferred device for air travel entertainment. However, it remains to be seen if it will become a permanent item in my computer bag? For now it will go where I go, but ask me again in 6 months.