iPad: First impressions on the road with new device

Posted on by Mike Evans

I've lived with my new 3G 64GB iPad for a week now. As I said in an earlier post, I left for foreign parts the day after I got the device and intended to show how I could manage entirely without my MacBook Pro. While the iPad has proved a disaster for Typepad blogging (which is something to do with the Typepad web editor not accepting rich text input via Safari), I am otherwise very pleased with the newcomer.

First, though, apologies to readers for the lack of posts this week. I've had lots to say but not the means to say it.

My initial surprise was that the iPad is larger than I imagined. But that makes for an excellent screen which, for reading books, newspapers and web browsing is comparable to a 13-in MacBook Pro. It's easy to use and intuitive - after all, it is a big iPhone - and surprisingly convenient. I did have some problems with the wifi cutting out (in conjunction with my MiFi portable router) but, for some reason, this problem seems to have gone away. I tried switching on and off auto screen brightness, which some have suggested exacerbates the problem, for I cannot come up with a definitive cause.

I am hampered by not having access to the US App Store so I cannot try or comment on many of the new iPad apps, including Pages and Numbers. A few of my current iPhone apps (Instapaper, Dropbox, Evernote) have been upgraded to universal apps and they are a pleasure to use. But I won't get the full iPad experience until May 28 when the UK App Store opens.

I am impressed with the combination of iPad and the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. For travellers it is a lightweight and convenient duo, probably better than the dedicated keyboard dock, which I haven't been able to try. The keyboard sets itself up quickly, though it is a good idea to switch it off before carrying it in a bag. There have been some reports of keyboards activating the PIN-input on the lock screen of the iPad and causing a complete lock-out. In use, though, the Apple keyboard feels natural and I was soon typing at maximum speed - a novelty on iPhone OS.

The virtual keyboards, both landscape and portrait, are much better than I anticipated. Having been used to the two-thumb method of the iPhone, I wondered how I would get used to the larger format. The answer is to type as you would on a mechanical keyboard. The only slight snag is that the right thumb doesn't always press the spacebar and it's sometimes necessary to deploy another digit for the task. It's just a matter of practice, though, and I would feel much happier typing longer documents than I do with the iPhone.

As a book reader, the iPad is a great hit. I've only been able to try the Kindle App so far, but the experience has been positive. The text is clear and the page-turn animation addictive. I'm now hooked on Whispersync and it's a lifesaver because I have my current book available both on the iPhone and the iPad. The only possible complaint is that the iPad is a big book reader. It's heavier than you are used to with the likes of the Sony or the Kindle e-ink books, and, of course, it is bulkier to carry. Over the past few months, since I started reading on the iPhone, I've stopped carrying around a messenger bag. Now, though, I will have to take a bag if I also want the iPad reading experience while out and about. I shall have to reserve judgement on whether or not this is a deal breaker.

Probably the most positive impression of the iPad, apart from the great screen, is the speed of operation. Everything is so much faster than on the iPhone and, despite being restricted to a 3G connection (via MiFi) here in the Swiss Alps, I am very impressed with the speed of operation. It feels like I am using a faster wifi connection and sometimes I have to remind myself that the data is coming over the cellular network courtesy of Swiss Com. As I mentioned in a previous post, Swisscom offer a data card for around £15 which includes a credit for a similar amount of usage. The charge for data is capped at 7.5 Swiss francs (about £5) per day and for this you get unlimited data. For visitors staying a week or two it is an unbeatable deal.

So far, so good with the iPad. My blogging problems are very specific and are not really a criticism of Apple's product. It is just that the odd inconvenience such as this means you have to really think through your expected usage when spending time away from home.

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