What I love and hate about the iPad

I was lucky enough to be given an iPad when it first came out in the UK and was going to write a quick post about it then but decided to wait a few months before giving my opinion, so I could really test it out and see how I would end up using Apple’s new device.

I now feel the time is right, but see little point in covering all its features and listing its specifications as most people know all these by now. What I’d like to do instead, is to discuss my own personal experience of using the iPad; what I’ve mostly ended up using it for, as well as what I had hoped to have used it for, but found I couldn’t.

What I hate

I’ll start by having a little rant about what I hate about the iPad. These are not things I was hoping I could do with it, that I can’t, such as using it to create artwork or upload blog posts (both of which are possible, just not the quickest or easiest for me to do with the iPad). I already knew it would be best suited to consuming media, rather than creating it. Rather the issues I have are selling points for the iPad made by Apple, that I personally feel let down by.

Reading digital books

One of the things I was most looking forward to on the iPad, was using the iBooks app for purchasing and reading digital books. The interface looked good and the ability to get books instantly at the touch of a button was a huge bonus. I was already aware there could be issues with eyestrain using the display but as I tend to read at night in bed a backlit display was a positive for me.

Sadly I’ve still not read a whole book on the iPad for two reasons. Firstly, there’s the display, while I have no issue with the backlighting, as it’s easy enough to reduce the brightness as not to strain my eyes, however the resolutions is an issue for me. The text is too jagged for me to read, I just find it distracting. The resolution is just not high enough on this device to produce smooth text.

What’s strange though, is that the type seems worse in both the iBooks and Kindle apps, then it is when looking at text on websites using Safari. Therefore it must be a software / book format issue, rather than wholly an issue with the screen resolution. Though the Retina Display on the next iPad model should greatly help, hopefully making the jagged text a thing of the past.

My second issue is the price of the books on the iBook Store. Let me be clear on this, I am not willing to pay more for a digital book than I am for a printed version, I’m just not. There may be exceptions to this, for example, when there are additional features to the digital version, such as video, sound or some other benefit, but as a general rule, I expect it to cost less. I don’t want to hear issues about converting to digital formats, paying Apple a percentage, or whatever excuses there may be. At the end of the day they have not had to print, bind, pack, store or distribute the books, so don’t try and rip me off by charging more.

I understand digital books are subject to VAT in the UK, unlike printed books, but the lack of overheads that physical books require should offset this. It’s unbelievable how much Apple / the book publishers try to charge for digital versions. Especially compared to Amazon, where I can often get the printed version for much cheaper, let alone their Kindle edition, which is often half the price of that on the iBooks Store.

Looking at photos

Now, let me start by staying I’m not blaming Apple for this and I’ve not looked into this enough, there could be solutions that I’m not aware of but I would like to mention this for the reason that when I first saw the Photo app being demonstrated by Steve Jobs, looking at photos full screen and running slideshows was one of the uses I was most looking forward to.

I have many photos which after trying various Mac software (including iPhoto and Aperture), are now within Adobe Lightroom - I just wish there was an easy way to view these on the iPad. I guess it is down to Adobe to come out with an app to allow me to do this, plus the photos would need to be cloud based, which could present issues with storage size.

I’ve also got a Flickr account with a growing collection of photos, but as yet have not found a Flickr client app that really fits the bill. It would be nice if the Photo app could display my flickr photos; I don’t need any fancy editing or to see comments etc, just one folder within Photo containing all my Flickr photos, that I could see full screen or use the slideshow with.

What I love

Now that I’ve got the things I hate about the iPad out the way, it’s time for the things I love. There are some that I don’t mention, such as watching movies or tv shows, that the iPad is good for but it’s not something I have really done enough of to make it worth discussing.

Surfing the web

I must say, the iPad is the best device I’ve used to surf the web. There really is nothing like holding the device and using the touch gestures to move from page to page, site to site, it just feels so natural. It’s fantastic to be able to sit in a comfy chair or in bed and browse without feeling the restraint of sitting at a desk, or the extra size and weight of a laptop.

There is of course the issue of no flash, but the main times I come across that is with videos not displaying on certain sites, but that’s becoming less and less with the move to the H.264 codec, with the HTML5 standard being employed by many video sites such as YouTube, Vimeo and Daily Motion.

Watching Youtube videos

I think the Youtube app on the iPad is great, I really like the layout and find using it a much better experience than that of youtube.com. That being said, I know there are features missing, such as thumbing videos (though I believe that is coming with an update), however I still prefer this version and, as with surfing the web, it’s great not to be restricted to a desk. And the biggest benefit at the moment, no adverts popping up over the videos.

Keeping organised

I have tried several Get Things Done (GTD) apps for the iPad and I’ve ended up going for OmniFocus. I was put off initially by the price but it does have some great features and unlike the mac version which can get a bit confusing, the iPad version is well laid out and quite easy to use. One of the biggest pluses for me is the fact that it can sync using Mobile Me between the various devices - iPad, iPhone and Mac.

Playing games

When I first got the iPad I wasn’t intending to play any games on it, but it didn’t take long for that to change. Over the past few months I’ve found many games that I’ve really loved playing, though some I got bored of very quickly, whilst others have stayed around and become a regular source of distraction when required.

My favourite games are those suited to being played for short periods of time and easy to dip in and out of, so here are my top five, in no particular order: Angry Birds HD, Words With Friends HD, WordSearch Unlimited HD, Real Solitaire for iPad and a new addition Blue Block for iPad.

my top 5 app store games

Using Twitter

I had tested out various Twitter client apps for the iPad and none had really done it for me, with Twitterrific being the one I had settled on, that was until the official Twitter app came along, Twitter for iPad (beautiful app icon too!). For me it’s blown the rest away, including those on the iPhone or Mac, I love using it and find the UI really refreshing - once I’d got used to it that is. There are several issues with it though that I’m hoping will be improved with updates, these being:

  • The ability to de-select a tweet, without switching from the timeline.
  • Tweets that mention me in the timeline should be highlighted in some way.
  • To have a choice for how the ‘quote tweet’ should look (I prefer the ‘via @name’ at the end).
  • On opening the app, only the last two hours of unread tweets are displayed, which is fine as there is a zigzagged gap to click that will load more, but when it loads them, they appear below the place I’m at rather than above. So I have to scroll down and repeat the process to find, and get to, where I was when I last used the app. If when clicking the zigzagged gap it loaded the older tweets above where I was then I could keep scrolling up as I normally would with tweets I’ve not read until I’m up to date.
  • And the most important, that is to be able to sync timeline position between all official twitter apps, currently that would just be the iPad and iPhone but hopefully in the future the Mac also (if Tweetie for Mac gets updated to Twitter for Mac). It really is annoying to have to scroll past what I’ve seen and try to work out where I had got up to on another device.

As you can see, the things I love using my iPad for, far outweigh those I felt let down by, therefore I would highly recommend it. It’s a great little device that I use all the time and would find hard to give up now.

That being said, I am looking forward to the iPad 2, which will hopefully have that Retina Display and should include FaceTime, though it would be useful if that could run in the corner of the screen so the device could still be used for other things at the same time, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen anytime soon. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the iPad after a few months of use, all in all, a great addition to my Apple family.

About the author

Paul Galbraith is a logo and brand identity designer, working with startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs in the UK, USA and beyond.