An “Apple Hater’s” Thoughts on the iPad
What do I do when I’m not racing aquatic creatures competitively, participating in lumberjacking contests or breaking records for maple syrup tapping (all of which are things most Canadians do)? I work at a small IT company serving clients in the Toronto area. Last week, we had an iPad in the office for a few days, and I was able to spend some quality time with it, beyond a mere few minutes here and there on my way through my local Best Buy store.
I have a few thoughts on Apple’s tablet that I’d like to share. However, realizing that the web is already rife with reviews on the iPad, I thought I’d offer my thoughts from a slightly different perspective – that of a so-called “Apple hater.” If you’re a heavy PC user and you’re considering the iPad, you may appreciate some of my insight here.
Le gasp! How can you hate Apple, you weirdo?
People often confuse my preference of a PC over a Mac as hatred for Apple, but this simply isn’t so. True, I love using PC’s, I use the Windows operating system almost exclusively (both at work and at home) and have gone out of my way to avoid iPods when shopping for MP3 players. However, I readily admit that many of Apple’s products are fun to use, built well and have great interfaces.
I don’t subscribe to the “Steve Jobs is god and his products are like magical rainbow unicorn eggs that grant wishes” attitude that I’ve observed in some. But it’s not like I bow before Microsoft, either. What I’m trying to express is that I hold an objective viewpoint towards both PC’s and Macs, despite my personal preferences. Both have their faults, as they both have their strengths.
So the iPad Doesn’t Suck After All – The Pros
I was actually quite impressed with the iPad. It feels solidly constructed, and seems to be just the right size for a tablet. While clearly no replacement for a full notebook computer, it fits a specific role very well – that of a mobile web browsing and email communication device.
Great reading/browsing. The iPad’s operating system is incredibly smooth and fun to use, and its web browser is no different. In fact, I found it easier to read many web sites and blogs on its screen than on any of my other computers. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was that made such a difference, but it was noticeable.
Good email client. The iPad’s email client is likewise easy to use and navigate. I was pleasantly surprised when connecting it to a Microsoft Exchange server with an SSL certificate (an email platform commonly used by businesses). This is something that’s caused me to go Hulk smash on more than a few iPhones, so I was expecting a fight. But it just worked! After all the problems I’ve had with iPhones connecting to Exchange servers, I was one error away from hanging myself. So, thank you, Apple.
On-screen keyboard. The biggest surprise, for me, was the iPad’s on-screen keyboard. I’ll be honest – I was expecting it to be awkward, at best. But when I started typing on it, I found that it allowed me to type almost as fast as I can touch-type on a regular keyboard. What’s more, I could do so with near 100% accuracy. The key spacing felt perfect, and the haptic feedback (it vibrates slightly on a key press) made the typing experience that much better. So yes, the iPad’s keyboard makes me want to kiss a walrus.
Ok, Maybe it Sucks a Little – The Cons
iTunes. I don’t like iTunes, and I don’t like being forced to install it to use an Apple product. But the iPad won’t even start up without being connected to iTunes, first. So I installed it on a notebook I didn’t care as much about. After making me download a 77 MB file and wait to install the software, it failed, and told me I had to reinstall iTunes. Nice. When I finally got it working and connected the iPad, it only needed about ten seconds to do its thing before the tablet was ready to go. Why can’t it be ready to use right out of the box?
Lack of Flash support. Like I said, web browsing on the iPad is really nice. But where’s Flash? Oh yeah, I forgot about Apple’s little feud with Adobe. So if you need to view content on the web that’s built in Flash, forget it; you’re out of luck. This is one thing that makes a Google Android tablet look particularly attractive when compared to the iPad – built-in support for Flash.
No USB ports. One of the first things I do when I pick up a new notebook or netbook is turn it around to see where the USB ports are. So imagine my disappointment when I inspected all four sides of the iPad to find absolutely no USB ports? Ok, even I said that this is no replacement for a full computer. But come on, not even one?
Built-in battery and storage. I really like being able to upgrade the storage in a mobile computer, or at least add more. I don’t want to have to buy a new tablet just because I’ve maxed out its storage capacity. And what about the battery? Rechargeable batteries die eventually and need to be replaced. Why should I have to buy a new iPad when this happens? I’d like to be able to swap out the battery myself, but alas, Apple doesn’t let you do that.
The verdict – Would I buy one?
If I really needed a tablet that did just what the iPad does, I’d consider buying one. There has to be a way around iTunes, right? 😉 But what really makes a purchase difficult to justify is the price. The base model starts at $550 CDN. The 64 GB model with 3G connectivity that we had at work last week cost $880. For that price, I could buy two loaded, fully functional netbooks.
With a great email and browsing experience, and an amazing on-screen keyboard, the iPad is a great tablet computer; But considering the level of functionality that Apple withholds from you for the price, I can’t see it being worth your hard-earned pesos. If money is no object to you, and you can stand iTunes, then I’d recommend it. If it were a couple hundred dollars less, I might already have one. But as it stands now, 367 coconuts might give me more value for my money.