Saturday, October 23, 2010

Late to the iPad Party

Since I've been hating on Apple for quite awhile now, it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I did not "invest" in the iPad when it came out back in April. But truth be known, I came very close to buying one back then, and mainly didn't because of the lack of Flash support and the omission of a front-facing camera - two "gotta haves" in my opinion back then. Since that time I've reconsidered this decision numerous times, then as the months progressed I told myself that rather than purchase one now I would instead hold out for the next-gen model - it still wouldn't have Flash, but for sure it would have the built-in camera plus the latest and greatest multi-tasking iOS version...and maybe even some other neat bells and whistles.

Well, after 6 months of pondering I finally caved in and bought one a few weeks ago. What was it that finally put me over the edge? Well, for one thing a few of my friends had recently purchased or considered one and that got me more interested, and as a result I spent more time playing around with the iPad and fell in love with some of the applications. In particular I can't say enough good things about the amazing Flipboard app, which takes content aggregation and formatting to a whole new level. I particularly like how it aggregates and displays Twitter and Facebook feeds in a more user-friendly and consumable format...great stuff!

I also wanted the ability easily read or watch videos while laying around the house or in bed. Sure, I can do that already with my regular laptop, but in reality I rarely do so because it's a bit too clunky and inconvenient, and I always have to worry about running out of battery. The iPad does a fantastic job of this. Both the iBooks app and the Amazon Kindle app work great for reading books, the built-in Safari browser does a formidable job in rendering web content (although I prefer the 3rd-party Atomic browser), and the free Netflix app as well as the overly expensive SlingPlayer Mobile player do a fine job in streaming TV shows and movies. And the iPad's battery life is simply out of this world...I can last a full week on a single charge using the device a an hour or two each day.

Lastly, I wanted something more lightweight than my normal laptop which I can tote around with me wherever I go and still have access to the internet as well as any applications I might need to use. My netbook was supposed to serve this purpose, and though I previously raved about it I soon came to realize that it really didn't do anything particularly well...I've since given up on it. The iPad's form factor and light weight make for great portability, and though its lack of a physical keyboard as well as support for some of the more common desktop applications prevent it from being a full laptop replacement, I feel that at least 80% of my computing needs can be fulfilled by it. The iPad is hands down the best reading device on the face of the planet, and let's face it - most computer users, including myself, spend the majority of their time simply consuming content - email, web browsing, social networking, watching videos, etc. As for the other 20% of my computing (including writing this blog article) I'll still have to go back to my laptop, though by using a nifty remote desktop app such as Desktop Connect I can even get away with using the iPad for accessing some of my Windows-based applications.

Is the device perfect? No, like anything else it does have its share of flaws. The biggest annoyance for me is the lack of multi-tasking, which I hope will be addressed with an iOS update that supposedly arrives here in November. Too often I find myself having to break out of the current application I am using (sometimes even forced out), then when I come back to it later it reloads rather than resumes where I left off. And boy it would be nice to have Pandora running in the background all the time. I also find both the CPU and graphics rendering to be pretty sluggish at times, but not nearly as bothersome as with my netbook. And though it is the quintessential reading device I do find the iPad to be a bit on the heavy side, especially when compared to the pure e-readers such as the Kindle and Nook. The lack of Flash support is also a bummer, though it seems like many sites have aggressively moved to HTML 5 in recent months - so it hasn't been as big of a problem as I thought. And finally....a front-facing camera would sure be great for video conferencing and the like, but now that Chatroulette is on its death march I guess I can live without it :-)