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My Early Impressions of Apple's iPad & a Quick Hands-on Review

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For a long time, the world has been searching for a device whose capabilities and design place it right smack in the middle of a phone and a laptop. But while some have argued that netbooks were the answer, to me they’re nothing more than cheap laptops. Today, that third device came out of stealth, thanks to Apple (s aapl). It’s essentially a super-sized iPhone with the power of a laptop. Thanks to an uber-mobile chip and stunning 9.7-inch IPS display, the iPad is an ideal device for today’s world.

Despite their evolution, laptops and desktop computers as we know them are essentially work tools. They’re designed for content creation — be that of writing blog posts (or a book), editing photos or creating videos. On the iPhone, we create content of another kind — personal, communication-centric content.

The iPad, on the other hand, is made for the consumption of digital media: games, music, photos, videos, magazines, news papers and e-books. Sure you can use it to check your email or work on a keynote, but the iPad’s primary purpose is to help you consume the ever-expanding amount of digital content on offer.

iTunes App running on an iPad

So in many ways, today is a brand new day for content creators and owners alike. For if we’re smart, all of us — from large media giants such as Fox (s nws) to upstarts like my little company — will figure out how to build a new magazine/news experience that leverages the iPad’s powerful processor, great graphics, stunning display and most importantly, Internet connection. In fact I’ll go out on a limb and say that today may be the day we start to rethink how we build web sites.

In the meantime, here’s a short and sweet hands-on review.

Despite the size, the device is light (1.5 pounds) and is easy to both grip and use. The screen size is ample, the processor powering is beefy and as a result, the iPad is amazingly brisk. And onscreen reading is easy on the eyes.

YouTube Running on an iPad

Most impressive are its multitouch capabilities, which work anywhere on the massive screen. Since I was already familiar with the iPod touch and iPhone, figuring out how to use the iPad was easy.

Will iPad Kill Kindle? I think so!

First the good stuff:

  • There is one single button on the entire device, which I think is just brilliant because it means fewer distractions.
  • There’s a sleep/wake button at the top, much like the iPhone.
  • There’s a headphone jack.
  • I like how the device switches from landscape to portrait mode so quickly in all four orientations.
  • The web browsing experience is easy and satisfying, thanks to an ultra-responsive touchscreen.
  • The Maps application is pretty stunning, especially the street view, which comes alive on the iPad screen like never before.
  • YouTube works as advertised, including the HD videos. It’s a damn shame there isn’t an iPad version of Hulu.
  • The iTunes store and iTunes Video work very well, and the music buying experience is no different than, say, on a Mac.
  • It’s simple enough to plow through a whole bunch of email very very quickly.
  • iPhoto is a much better experience on the iPad than you would imagine, especially the slideshows.

Now here is the stuff I don’t much care for:

  • The onscreen keyboard isn’t as great as I thought it would be.
  • The screen resolution of 1024 X 768, or about 4:3, is underwhelming.
  • There’s no way to lock the device into either portrait or landscape mode.
  • The decision to work with AT&T for a wireless 3G data is just straight-up dumb. It’s not like Apple doesn’t know how bad the performance of the AT&T network is. (Related GigaOM Pro report: “How AT&T Will Deal with iPad Data Traffic“)

And a couple of additional facts:

The device will work with any Bluetooth keyboard, but not with a Bluetooth mouse. The keyboard dock for the device will cost about $69. A case/stand is going to cost $39.

Bottom line: If I didn’t own a Kindle or an iPod touch, the decision to buy an iPad would be an easy one. But I own both, and even if I only owned one of them, it would be a tough decision. More thoughts on this device later, when I’ve had time to digest its impact and implications.


112 Responses to “My Early Impressions of Apple's iPad & a Quick Hands-on Review”

  1. ….where is the stylus ? can open /edit documents on it ……does it have video cam ? can i connect it to projector ? Can students take notes and do their assignment of it ? Where is flash ? How do i watch video ?How do i do video conferencing ?How do i use it office ? its not e-paper …its lcd screen what difference does it make while reading books .

    its big waste of money and time….just do your self a favor and buy touch note book like aus eepc ->> its cheaper too around 480 $ on amazon … or other netbook tablets from hp and acer

  2. Other than this article sounding like an advertisement. Seriously, did Ohm REALLY write this line? “Thanks to an uber-mobile chip and stunning 9.7-inch IPS display, the iPad is an ideal device for today’s world.”

    When did a 1Ghz processor become uber?

  3. Now Apple needs to invent a revolutionary hydrophilic screen material so us sweaty palmed folks too can enjoy a slick (pun not intended) experience on touch screen devices.

  4. Your first two points about the iPad (with the first one being about the Home button) contradict themselves!
    – There is one single button on the entire device, which I think is just brilliant because it means fewer distractions.
    – There’s a sleep/wake button at the top, much like the iPhone.

    I’m not mentioning this as an “aha”, but it’s interesting that people always think there’s one button on the iPhone and now the iPad, when it has the home button, sleep/wake button, volume up/down button(s?), and lock toggle. It’s not that there’s one button, but a hierarchy with the home button and everything else out of the way.

  5. olawale Williams

    It is interesting to see the various lenses thru which the ipad is being judged. No device will ever be perfect, people have all this hardware/software expectations and yet they are not willing to pay for the surge in price as a result. So… early adopters like me will buy this device knowing that although this iteration is not what it can/will be, i can sense the possibilities. Without being a fanboy of Apple, i think they have a chance to crack the holy grail that is tablet computing. The race continues…..

  6. I’m just fantastically disappointed with the whole thing. As I see it, it is just a JooJoo with a built-in book store..Not even flash? And why do we need 64GB if all that one can store is music, books and apps purchased from iTunes…

  7. If the lack of Flash in the only gripes of this device then it’s pretty damn good!

    Flash is used at 99% to watch video. As this device spreads, website will adapt and support HTML5 video for iPhones and iPads.

    YouTube and Vimeo already started. I don’t think it’s gonna take long for online newspapers follow.

  8. I’m not sure what to think about this thing to be honest. I’m trying to decipher my own mental reaction to the first viewing – “man, where do I get a screen protector for this thing?”.

    Not very impressed… yet. Potential? Sure. Game changer? Hardly.

  9. Good post. Regarding locking orientations – that’s usually the job of the applications. For example, on the iPhone, the Kindle Reader app allows you to lock its orientation.

    Regarding AT&T vs. Verizon – much of what sours people’s perception of AT&T is poor voice quality and dropped calls. I’ve compared AT&T’s 3G vs. Verizon’s (using a MiFi) in several cities and noticed that my throughput is often higher with AT&T. For me, frankly, it’s a wash. They’re both good and both bad – at different times and places. Of course, I know there are exceptions and cities where AT&T just sucks (like where you are). But, I also get the impression from recent quotes made by both AT&T and Apple execs that the problem (and perceived problem) is well known and that big efforts are being made to rectify the situation.

    I suspect AT&T made a sweetheart deal with Apple and Verizon did something boneheaded (again). Just a guess. It certainly would have been possible for Apple to go either way with their radio selection.

  10. This is the first showing so to some it’s just an evolution of the iPod-Touch. But, if media (old/new) now use a little imagination it could usher in a whole new era of rich media distribution. Newspapers/magazine management don’t seem to be the most creative or imaginative people in the world or they wouldn’t be in the trouble they are. Now they have something physical to light a spark and maybe even trigger their imagination.
    See –
    I’m betting six months to a year from now, as new things have been developed for it, most won’t even remember the current resemblance to the Touch

  11. I am impressed with the hardware. But, given my experiences with the development process, I am very simply going to require seeing if this thing is as locked down as the iPhone. It is sad that alternative models of media distribution and communication are not allowed.

    Is it a computer or not? If it is not, I am not interested in owning one.

  12. Om,
    I was waiting for your review. I thought may be you have a point about the media. Steve J is helping the news media the way he helped Music industry. But thats about it.
    The rest of the features are usual APPLE marketing gimmick. It is by no means magical. The media and books can be accessed from any PC / laptop / netbook / Tablet / iPod / iTouch (using iTunes). The design is not new , the fusion garage guys beat them to market with a similar design (though they will be history now). The million dollar question is how many millions of these gets sold ? and who buys this thing ? I don’t see APPLE faithful jumping to embrace this , because they have a Mac / iPod / iPhone and can’t afford to carry (though they can buy) another device. The corporate world and students probably have a PC / Mac / Netbook …..and are least interested. That leaves with regular consumers, who have many options rather than buying a computer that is limited to 64 Gig , which gets filled in no time if you have a Digital SLR and a HD Camcorder. Besides folks can’t do webcam. Whats up with that.

    So who is buying this thing anyway ?
    This would have been a really “Magical” device if APPLE released it four years back.They could have released it in 2006, sold few millions before releasing the iPhone which folks would have bought anyway.

    • I am not going to predict anything – boss I used this for 10 minutes and as a media start-up, let me just tell you, this offers a lot of opportunities. From using touch for navigation to HTML5 to other such features, I think one needs to build a new media environment.

      I think lack of WebCam is for sure a big miss.

  13. @Chris K has positioned iPad the only way it will fly, I think. And since Apple hasn’t yet made Chris’s points on the first day, I wonder if they’ll be able to do a market image catch-up, since there’s such heavy chatter about iPad.

    There was a lot of desire for a better product. That’s where some of the hostility’s coming from. A lot of younger consumers are making fun of, and even dissing, the name, which they’d ignore if they’d fallen in love with it. Their reactions seem like a bitter parting from dreams.

  14. “…today may be the day we start to rethink how we build web sites…” — explains the hostility rising, which seems general, and which I found pretty surprising.

    The iPad would have to be way more spectacular and lower-priced for me to go for it. As @Guthi says, netbooks offer more functionality. I’m not a passive consumer. What can iPad give me that makes me want to spend a good part of what a new laptop would cost for it?

    If iPad let me create content as well as consume it — and I mean high-end visual and written content, using apps that let me paint, write and edit with my fingers, for example — then the price would cover the value. But for now, it seems more like the equivalent of a G3-and-display-enabled Vuitton bag.

    I’m having a feeling that iPad is Apple’s brick wall, meaning the place / product where things being to get so feature-overloaded, complex, and recursively-implemented, that they begin to settle, first into a gel-like substance, then into a solid — stiff, and too easy to break. This feeling comes, in part, from Apple’s using iPad to tighten control of market share by narrowing, or making new, product access bottlenecks. We’ve seen how well that’s worked for very large corporations, the music industry, the film industry, etc.

  15. Jeff Gorndt

    Media consumption device?

    Without flash or multitasking, the media you’ll be consuming will be Geocities pages from 1998. At only 500 dollars, this is hard to pass up!

    • JosephLewis

      Flash is DEAD! As a former Flash developer I can tell you now that HTML 5 is the way to go.

      I personally can’t wait to see all of the places the iPad shows up. Mounted on a wall in the kitchen, instead of a TV.

      As a musician I see the iPad really replacing a laptop on a stage.

      • A few years down the road, Flash might be dead / mostly gone from major popular site… but in the short to medium term, Flash still play a very important role on the internet… So if the ipad is coming out in 2 months time, why Apple does not include Flash is just beyond me… yes there is certain issue where they do not want people to play Flash games and stuff, but a lot of website that I visit are all heavily Flash dependent and I am sick of the fact that I can view them on my iphone… I will definitly not tolerate that on a tablet device… so I will never get a tablet in the short to medium term that does not support Flash… also the lack of USB and multitask makes this iPad useless really… I do not need another device to watch my view on… if I am at home sitting on the couch, I have my big TV to do that… People are looking for a device to travel with that can replace their netbook… but the ipad is clearly not a netbook replacement which is what bothers me… To be honest, I just want apple to build a computer or tablet (a real one, not the iPad as it currently is) that is the size of a netbook, even if it cost more than a netbook (at the same price range as Macbook), I will still buy it… but I want FUNCTION… not just a bigger ipod touch or iphone…

    • Flash is as great a threat to the security and stability of Web users as Windows is, mainly because it’s not limited to Windows.

      Helping to kill off Flash puts this solidly into the “public service” column, on my scoresheet anyway.

      • FINALLY I hear some common sense. I am sick and tired of all the whining about Flash. The best thing apple could do (and is doing) is to bully Flash out of existence by forcing sites to deliver content in a standards based fashion. HTML 5. In a couple years as iPhone keeps selling and iPad settles into market, sites that are worth a damn will have no choice but to go to the standards. Can’t wait!

  16. “This is the best browsing experience you’ve ever had.”
    “Typing on this keyboard is a dream come true”.

    Give me a break. Jobs threw some standard marketing phrases and everyone is buying it. Unbelievable.

      • What about the web browsing experience… I always run into those little cubes when browsing on my iPhone because of the lack of Flash support. It cannot be a web browser replacement if I keep running into content (especially video) which I cannot view without going to a computer.

        Yes, HTML5 is one thing… but on the web were many sites are still written using nested tables to organize the layout. I do not think it is a good idea to assume that everything will take advantage of HTML5 anytime in the near future.

        For me, the lack of Flash support, and therefore a crippled web browsing experience is a deal breaker.

      • Paul Roberts

        Flash content “bubbles” can’t be displayed–wrt comment below (can’t reply to it for some reason).

        The majority of the Flash content that results in those empty bubbles are ads–you can keep them. I actually have Flash disabled in my browsers so that it will only open in Flash if I click it. Really, Flash stuff has polluted the web.

        That being said, this is the one place I think Apple needs to rethink their logic. I actually don’t think iTunes is at the center of this–it’s probably because Flash is one of the single most common browser plug-ins to crash computers (any computer) or at least the browser. The decision was probably originally made to keep the iPhone stable, but this device as a “consumption device” and not a phone should have the ability–optional or not-to render Flash.

        I’m all for HTML5 and can’t wait for it to displace Flash (fingers crossed), but I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot on this one.

  17. Luis Solivan

    I’m soooo disappointed. Time and money badly spent. They should have spent the time and money designing a MacBook converted with a touch screen running Mac OS X and maybe a phone feature… Just a thought.

    • That way, Jobs wouldn’t be able to sell all that stuff from iTunes.

      The iPad is just one massively hyped platform that will force you to purchase more and more from iTunes..It does not have a purpose other than to help Apple post even massive quarterly results next time..

      • anand, no one is FORCING you to purchase from iTunes. you can continue to download from any where you want. why this aggressive stance? no one is forcing you to buy an iPad either. why are you so sore? all ok?

  18. Yeah, but if you have a desktop and want to browse content at home away from the desk then an Ipad looks ideal.

    IF you have a family of four then maybe you don’t have 4 computers you have a couple computers and a couple of tablets.

    Also I’d say a tablet is more convenient than a laptop for reading content based on what I’ve seen today. Much lighter, more compact, always on, better battery life, less unwieldy form factor, ….

    I think it pays to think of this thing as an advanced Kindle rather a giant Touch or neutered laptop.

    Sure many will just use a laptop and smartphone and won’t go for this. But does everyone buy every product Apple puts out? Do you own all the Ipod models they put out? Probably not. You own what works for you.

    No different here.

    Me I have a desktop. No Touch. Don’t want a laptop. This thing would be my document reader and couch surfer and book reader. I’d check my email while at home on this thing instead of jumping onto my desktop. I might use it a modern encyclopedia. My kid is always asking me a question and seems like this would be way more handy to jump onto the internet with than to go to the desk with computer and wake it from sleep etc.

  19. Sean Fitts

    I’m disappointed that you’ve apparently fallen hook, line, and sinker for the Jobs effect on this one Om. Maybe the iPad could have been the device you claim we all need and maybe it can yet become that device, but it isn’t now and it isn’t close.

    I do think that there is a market for a more general purpose “media consumption” device and I think that what the iPad is trying to be. The problem is without broader media support (lack of Flash being the most glaring example), support for multitasking, and interaction improvements (multi-touch is fine and all, but the blown up keyboard is a joke) the iPad just falls short.

    To me it seems that Apple got a bit lazy on this one and figured that if Steve can say “magical” and “best ever” enough times then no one would notice.

  20. “For a long time, the world has been searching for a device whose capabilities and design place it right smack in the middle of a phone and a laptop.”

    I don’t think that is true, which is the whole point. The laptop is, for long periods, just as uncomfortable as a tablet (in bed or the couch), but it allows you to use ALL your tools, has flash and allows you to consume all media, not just that of iTunes.

    As for the iPhone/iPod touch, the size makes it ideal for when you have no laptop.

    With 10-11 inches laptops (not netbooks), there is simply not a need for a big, itunes locked device. This is why AppleTV fails, people dont want to only consume through iTunes!

    • Gabe

      As a creator of a blog, I think the power of this device will be in building some awesome HTML5 web apps and using the screen real-estate to create a magical experience. I think this is not just iTunes — it is the web which is truly the killer app of this.

      I wish you could see the MLB app up close and personal. So different than I think those are subtle differences. Anyway let’s both wait to see how this does. If you are right, then you are :-)

      • Agreed with Gabe.

        With the iPad, Apple has just opened the gates for Google to enter into a touchscreen based laptop device that will do everything that iPad does, plus let you install and run all that you need. I’m going for that..

        PS: Is it what the rumored Google Netbook is all about? I don’t have much clue…

    • The discussion about iPad being a cool device for content consumption, and then talking of specific apps for the iPad in the same breath…likely alludes to the death of the browser. And I don’t want to take that lying down.

      Let a zillion devices bloom, but let none kill the spirit of the net.

      If there will be a plethora of devices (iPad, Kindle, iPhone, ), each claiming as USP, it’s own novelty in content presentation, and hence, needing custom creation / packaging of content, I see the spirit of the net being let down.

      The browser is central to keeping the internet going. I’m happy if the iPad or any other device supports a free and open, standards compliant browser. I couldn’t care less if they run vendor specific apps in the best possible way.

      Of course the device makers and the content makers need to come up with monetization schemes, but not at the expense of creating “vertically integrated” services, much like the cable TV industry did.

      My browser allows me to buy content today while keeping the spirit of the web alive. I sincerely hope that stays.

    • jimjerky

      I agree with Gabe. People that truly like this device are struggling to rationalize its use. As such, Apple fanboys will buy this and, if Amazon doesn’t drop the Kindle down to $99.00, Apple will kick them in the ass, but that’s it. Some people may buy the iPad instead of a Macbook, but this only shirts dollars for Apple.

  21. George Creedle

    The iPad is all about internet as an appliance. That concept was exposed with iPod Touch/iPhone, this complements that and goes places an iPhone screen cannot.

  22. So it’s an add-on to a Notebook/Desktop.
    What would you buy Chrome/OS (as much as we know about it) or iPad?
    The integration with a cable to backup/load(local) iTunes, I don’t know.

    Can you print? I mean I sometimes want to print reservations.

    I got the feeling the innovation is mainly in HW, the SW is so-so(meaning old) and lot is missing even for a consumption device.

  23. Envious you played with a real one. I commented earlier here and on my site that I don’t have a problem with the AT&T decision because this first iteration at least doesn’t seem like it would ever need 3G. It’s a “digital media consumption” device, not a communications device per se. Not revolutionary, just better (albeit more expensive) than the existing alternatives (Kindle, iPod Touch, netbooks). For the two regions of the country where people actually commute by train, this thing’s a slam-dunk.

    • I think it would surprise you as a “reader” especially since it used the web so effectively. I have to show you guys a photo of GigaOM on this device. It completely focuses on the content and has not distractions at all.

  24. This is such tripe. All of the pros you had listed out above are as much true for the Ipod Touch. If you just replaced iPad everywhere with Ipod Touch, the review would work as well.

    As you are obviously saying, this device is not going to replace the laptop. And you diss netbooks which offer more functionality than the IPad (leaving the multitouch part). So from a market segmentation point of view, where does this device stand. Why can’t users just continue with their ITouch which is easier to carry around.

    Rarely seen a more random review – check out the reviews in Engadget for some wiser counsel.

    • Guthi

      I mentioned in the past that the tablet would essentially be a bigger iPod/iPhone, so from that point I totally understand what you are saying.

      That said, I would respectfully urge you at least have a look at the device and then you will realize that it is a bit different kind of a device. In many ways we have to stop thinking about the world from the lens of computing as we know it.

      Anyway let’s talk about this in a few months — I have used this device for exactly 10 minutes so can’t really be authoritative.

      On your comment about reviews from Engadget, I would rather stick to my own opinion for now.

    • It features a high speed processor, large screen, up to 64GB ROM, that’s kinda enough for me to differ it from iPod touch or similar devices. How easy it will be to read newspapers or favorite mags, and not to mention watching films and photos, see it here yourself if you need more arguments

      • Agree with OM, if you haven’t “experienced the device” how can you judge its utility? I think the biggest challenge this device faces is portability. You can’t just lug it around without a bag (specially padded sleeve, etc.) and therefore is it an in home device primarily? And finally…I’m reminded of the Russian cosmonaut who asked for a writing implement that would work in space. The US spent millions developing an anti-gravity pen and the Russians handed the cosmonaut a pencil. This device while interesting…addresses a population of people who actually read and want a richer experience. The latte crowd are the primary buyers and there are plenty. Another win for Apple.