Angry Robot

What the World Needs Now is 1500 Words About the iPad

All the things that make a laptop better than a desktop computer are true about the iPad compared to a laptop – it’s lighter, more portable, more personal. And the things that make a laptop worse are mostly true, as well – it’s not as powerful, and there are input and screen size limitations, so it’s not the best way to do processor or screen intensive work.

But at the same time, it has these things it does better, things that computers have never been crazy great at. No one thinks a computer is the best way to look at photos or watch movies. You certainly would never choose it as the best way to read a book. The iPad performs these tasks amazingly. I still prefer my Kindle for books and a big ol’ TV for watching films, but the iPad beats any computer, including a laptop. And you often turn to it because it’s the thing that’s already within arms’ reach.

That’s because of the iPad’s single greatest feature: its battery. 10 hours means I don’t think the battery has ever been dead when I wanted to use it. My previous laptops all got about 2-3 hours when their batteries were still healthy. So you’d have to think about how long you had, where the charger was, etc. The fact that you don’t have to think about that with the iPad means you grab it instead.

When laptops were still relatively rare, and WiFi a new thing, I remember explaining to people why it was a great setup: use your computer from anywhere in the house, to look up stuff on IMDb while watching a flick, catch up on email in bed, heck, watch a movie in your back yard. These are all things I now use the iPad for. A 15-inch laptop seems archaic to me now. I lust after the Air of course, as the biggest downside of the iPad is the lack of a keyboard (no, I’m not saying they should stick one on it, and yes, I’m aware you can use a bluetooth keyboard with it – I have one, and have used it once).

The iPad is the perfect couch computer. It’s nearly the perfect travel computer. At some point in the future, it may be the perfect computer period.

Just a big iPod Touch

I probably don’t have to address this, do I? I also may not be the perfect person to do so because my iPhone is ancient (3G) and totally slow as shit compared to the iPad, so I always choose the pad when it’s available. But I imagine others do this because of the extra screen real estate, which makes it better at anything that displays content or has a fair amount of interface elements.

But running the same OS and all, the phone and pad do have a lot in common. There is this feeling of newness and optimism still. When you turn to these devices and ask them to do something, they’re like, “sure! I mean, I’m just learning how to do that, but here’s some attempts! Is a dollar too much?” Where a PC would say, “that will cost $200, and take you a few weeks to learn.” That’s why the App store is so integral to these things – you go there to see what new things are being tried, each success adding new capabilities to your gadget.

Not everyone who has a smartphone needs a tablet as well. I’ve found that the roles I ask of my devices change a lot. I use the iMac when I want to edit, design, type a lot. The iPhone is great for music, texting, twitter, email notification, and mobile reference. And the iPad…

iPad Apps I use the most

Reeder. It could still be improved upon, but this is about as good as newsreading gets, and makes the iPad my preferred way of reading feeds.

Safari. This is a damn fine web browser, still missing some power features, but it has enough that I’ve never bothered downloading any of the other available browsers. And I’m a real browser enthusiast.

Instapaper. I probably don’t have to explain why this is so good.

Maps. I think the maps app is the best existing interface for dealing with google maps. Pinch-to-zoom just makes it all worthwhile, bro. Google Earth is pretty sweet too.

Plex and Netflix. I have a longer post about Plex in the works, so I won’t go into it here. Anyway, these are the killer apps for portable movie & TV watching.

Remote and VNC Viewer. Lumped together because they are for controlling computers, Remote for iTunes, and VNC for the whole deal. Remote is my preferred way of choosing music.

Kindle. I have an actual Kindle that I use 90% of the time, but I love that the read position is synced to the iPad app so I can use it at night, screen inverted, when my lady is asleep.

Evernote. I’ve been using Evernote for a while and while the service has plenty of downsides, it works very well on the iPad. I’ve been doing a lot of cooking lately, and the method that seems to work the best is keeping recipes in evernote, and calling them up on the iPad in the kitchen. That way I can save them from any website, edit them myself, and always get at them from anywhere. There are some slick note-taking apps out there that sync to dropbox and are super full of awesome, but I love the web clipping aspect of evernote and that keeps me using it for general research and writing as well.

Games – it’s a great platform for gaming, but still immature. Here are some I have dug on though: Scrabble, Pinball HD, Osmos, Infinity Blade, Galaxy on Fire 2, Robokill, Plants vs. Zombies, Civ Rev, Supremacy Wars, Strategery, Ascendancy.

Please fix this

The problems with the iPad are all problems with iOS. I do hold out hope that things will improve with time.

Sync. Apple’s solution is so backwards it blows my mind. I am sure they are working to fix it, but it’s still crazy. The iPad should not need a computer to do things for it. Jobs said computers are like trucks, and people still need trucks, but most of the time people buy a car. So imagine you make them own a truck just to tow their car home.

File system. So people never really understood files and file systems, yeah, yeah. Still not a good reason for why I can’t click on an mp3 on the web and download it into my music library. At the very least, why can’t they do for files what they did with photos, and allow you to save into a big catch-all bin?

Lack of hardcore apps. I’m thinking of this in the sense of hardcore games – there are plenty of casual games on iOS, but few hardcore ones (that work well anyway). Likewise there are plenty of casual apps, but few good hardcore ones. Apple itself is just now getting iMovie and GarageBand onto the thing. I am already impatient for Final Cut, Aperture, Ableton Live.

OK, one hardware complaint, but not about Apple – the lack of a good keyboard case. Seems like a no-brainer: a good case with a built in keyboard that makes the iPad into a netbook. Yet I’ve been following all the models released thus far, and they all seem to suck it.


So that’s where I’m at after eight months of tablet action. I’d say the iPhone has had way more impact on my life, but the iPad has already taken root and has far more potential. It’s already making other things feel obsolete. You ever try and touch a screen that’s totally not a touchscreen? That’s how you know these tablet things are here to stay. And I’m okay with that.