My (Belated) First Impressions of the iPad

iPad First Impressions

At the time I started writing this, it was April 27, and it was the first day I had my iPad. A little late to the game you may think, but if you follow this blog on a regular basis, you may know that I was out of the country traveling for the last 7 months.

I took advantage of my return ticket from Brisbane, flew 11 hours to Los Angeles, picked up a 16GB iPad at a nearby Apple Store and jumped in another plane a couple hours later to go to France. That was a wild trip!

During the last 6 weeks, I have been able to use the iPad in all every possible way and today, I think I can give you a honest review of the “magical device”.

The Design

Apple sure can design beautiful products and the iPad is no exception. It is a gorgeous device that feels more like a piece of art than some tech gadget.

I sometimes surprise myself staring at it laying on the coffee table for a few seconds. That sounds ridiculous but that’s how beautiful I think the iPad is.

The first time I help the iPad, I realized it was actually bigger and heavier than I thought but that was to be expected. Because it is a little heavy, I tend to avoid holding it in my hands. Instead, I try to put it on a table, or on my lap, while bending my knees.

It’s pretty hard to hold the iPad with one hand for an extended period of time. I have already started to develop a tendinitis because of my iPhone (no joke) and I expect the iPad to make things worse if I am not careful of my usage.

If you have an iPad too, you know it can feel a little awkward to hold and handle at first. After a couple days though, I quickly found ways to hold it and make sure it wouldn’t fall off.

Lightning Fast

I remember reading early reviews of the iPad saying it was a very fast device. Although I was a little skeptical, I quickly changed my mind when I first used it.

Once you turn it on, you can’t help but notice how fast it is. Apps launch instantly and pressing the home button takes you back to the springboard seamlessly.

I hope it stays like this because I can remember my iPhone 3GS being super fast too. Fast forward almost a year later and my iPhone is definitely not as fast as it used to be.

Bigger Is Better

While the home screen looks a little awkward and empty, I think Apple did a great job at maximizing the real estate on the stock apps like notes. They didn’t just make things bigger, they slightly changed the UI to take advantage of the extra space, making your iPad screen look more like the one of a personal computer than a blooded iPhone. Thumbs up for that!

Every app optimized for iPad that I’ve seen really takes advantage of the increased screen size and that’s a good thing.

The Keyboard

I hate typing on my iPhone. I mean, I hate typing anything more than phone numbers on my iphone because the keyboard sucks (if you don’t agree, then it means you never tried to do any kind of work on your iPhone).

I am positively surprised by the iPad keyboard. To be honest I can’t see how anyone could type more than a few characters in portrait mode as it is just not practical at all but landscape mode is very good.

It’s far from being perfect though, and I don’t think it will be until Apple introduces a proper spell check that can realize for example that “ilikemilk” should actually be 3 separate words, but it’s still a huge improvement (due to more space) compared to the iPhone.

One thing that bugs me on this keyboard is that the “backspace” and “return” keys are not as the same spot as they are on the iPhone, making me hit “enter” every time I want to hit the backspace key. It’s not a big deal though as I’m sure I’ll get used to it quickly.

The Battery

Again, that’s one area of the iPad where I am positively surprised at how well it does. The first time I fully charged my iPad, I had juice for 3 days, during which I spent hours browsing the web, playing games and reading/sending emails.

Now that I’ve used the iPad under various circumstances, I can tell the battery is impressive. When I do some average internet browsing, I go far over the 10 hours of battery life that Apple claims. I’m probably closer to 13 hours, although I haven’t scientifically reported this.

Two days ago, while on my flight from Paris to Chicago, I watched the video keynote of the iPhone 4 presentation. It’s a 2 hour video that used only 7% of my battery. I couldn’t believe it. I then played games and read a book for a couple of hours. I was still at over 80% of battery.

Obviously your mileage will vary. If you like to play games, I doubt you will be able to play for 12 hours. If like me, your usage is mostly focused on web browsing and very light gaming, then you should go a long way with one full charge.

The Social Status

Owning an iPad is like owning the very first iPhone again. I remember when I was one of the very few that owned an iPhone, back in 2007. Everybody was amazed by it and wanted one. It was a status symbol. Owning an iPhone automatically made you cool. The iPad brought back this cool status symbol that had died when the iPhone 3G came out, making the iPhone available to the masses.

Don’t you think I sound like a spoiled brat? You’re right. I admit it. The iPad makes me cool and edgy and I love it. That’s part of why you buy Apple products. At a larger scale, that’s also why you want to drive a nice car. Too often, people pretend to not be what they really are. I’m not one of those. I like cool and beautiful products, which is why I own an iPad and drive an Audi.

Can the iPad Replace Your Laptop?

I am asked this question pretty much everyday. The answer is: it depends.

It depends on what you do with your laptop. If like most people you only use your laptop to check your emails, update your Facebook status and read the news, then yes, the iPad will replace your laptop.

On the other end, if you are like me and need to actually work from your iPad, that means typing a lot, then the iPad won’t do it for you.

As a blogger, I need to type, to copy/paste, to switch between screens a lot and the iPad can’t do all this really quickly. Heck, inserting an hypertext link in a blog article is painful! For that reason, I know the iPad will not replace my laptop anytime soon.

Who is the iPad For?

Like I just said above, the iPad is mostly for casual web users. Someone like your mom probably. Someone who goes online 30 minutes a day to read emails, look at a few pictures on Facebook, and browse a few websites.

Is the iPad for you? Well, you’ll have to figure this one out by yourself as only you can make this decision.

Conclusion: What I Think of the iPad

By now you have probably understood that I am a huge fan of the iPad. Before I got to see it and use it, I was one of those that said the iPad sucks. Just like the iPhone got me to fall in love within minutes, the iPad worked the same magic on me.

I now spend more hours on my iPad than I do on my computer. It is so much more convenient. I can take it with me everywhere around the house, it’s on in a second, it’s simple, it’s fast.

As I said before, the iPad will not replace my laptop for intense work on the go. I might however take it with me rather than my laptop when I go on a weekend somewhere.

I bought the 16GB wifi model and I’m glad I did. I don’t plan to make my iPad a media device to store my music and movies. Sure I’ll put a few songs and a couple flicks on it when I travel but that’s about it.

Should you buy an iPad? Well, again it’s up to your usage but if you like technology and if you have an extra $500 to spare, then go for it. I swear you won’t regret it.