iPad Impressions

I’ve had the iPad since the day before it came out, and opening weekend is almost over, so what are my first thoughts?

To start with, I don’t need to tell anyone that it is a beautiful device. Apparently it is causing the Japanese electronics industry to do some soul-searching about how an American company beat them to the tablet crown (I can’t find the link), and I can see why. The industrial design is superb.

It is also surprisingly heavy. Having heard so much about how light it is and how it will replace books, I am beginning to wonder. It might be lighter than a thick hardback – but I can’t see it replacing the novel. I’ve tried reading some e-books on it and I find the screen to be a bit tiring. I particularly like reading Google Reader (one of the big reasons I bought it was to browse in bed), and while scrolling with a finger beats the mouse wheel hands down, I’ve not yet found a suitable app for reading feeds. That said, I’m quite fussy when it comes to reading feeds, I want the font to be just the right size, I want everything available offline, I want to be able to sort what I read any which-way. Hopefully I’ll not have to wait for long for something better than the micro-font-sized Google Reader, or the rather average News Rack app.

Needless to say, as soon as it was out of the box, I was downloading apps: Good Reader is a nice PDF reader; the Guardian Eyewitness app is a beautiful demonstration of how eye-poppingly beautiful photos look on the screen; the Marvel app is great – it has a storyboard feature which walks you through the frames, though the resolution could be better; and I really like the Korg Electribe grovebox app which lets you design some seriously crunchy beats.

There is also the not so good – many apps feel rushed out, and I’m sure they’ll improve, for instance the Right Move property search app is pretty but annoying and much less useful than the website. And this leads to one big problem I have with the ecosystem. At times I was reminded of the frustrating experience of loading up a BBC micro game and then spending ages trying to work out which keys to use. On the iPad, I’m not the first person to notice there’s little consistency between apps, and I found myself pecking around the screen with my finger trying to work out which bits of the screen were ‘active’, and what they did.

However, the built in apps are amazing. The maps app is lightening fast, the Youtube app is much better than the website, and the photos app is a vision of the future. I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop.