Saturday, July 17, 2010

Story of my experiments with iPad (The first 24 hours!)

How I got around to actually getting an iPad is a long story - maybe to be told another time. Regardless, y'day at about 10.00 AM I ended up with one in my hands. Interestingly when I saw the FedEx tracking site, it showed it was shipped from China on July 15th and was delivered here in CLE on July 16th via Anchorage and Indiana. The world is indeed FLAT.

The packing was beautiful with one small card for instructions essentially stating, "Download iTunes to your computer and connect the iPad to your computer with provided cable". You cannot do anything with your 500 dollar device till you take these steps. After a >90 MB download and install, I was ready to go.

Some observations in random order:

  1. The thing weighs more than it looks.  All the ads you see with people holding it in one hand and scrolling around with the other, had to be pretty short ads.  You cannot hold this in one hand for more than a few minutes without risking tendinitis.  I am sure we will start seeing some cases of this soon.  
  2. The device is very sleek and smooth.  Looks beautiful and the screen is gorgeous.  This unfortunately makes it somewhat difficult to hold.  There is no area with some "rumble strips" that would make you feel comfortable holding it in one hand while taking it from one place to the next.  You would want to hold it between thumb and your fingers but you would worry about smudging up or putting too much pressure on the screen.  Once I get a case, it might be a non issue, I hope.
  3. The device is quick to start and one gets to the home screen instantaneously partly because by default it does not ask one to set up a password.   I have not had time to research this but the feeling I get is that this is like a PC where by default we are getting the Guest User Account and the screen where we choose the user is bypassed unless you go into the device setting and then you can create a 4 digit PIN but the account still stays as a guest level one.  This clearly increases the security for the device from virus etc. but having only used PCs and Ubuntu previously, this makes me feel very hamstrung.  Also there is only a single user account, and thus if someone borrows my iPad, I would have to either disable my PW or share it.  Since data-entry is a bit of a pain on the device, one would like the device to remember all your log in information for sites and apps but then if you share the device, you would have problems.
  4. The provided cable has the proprietary Apple docking plug on one end (connects to the iPad) and a USB plug on the other.  This end connects to the charger or computer.  Unfortunately it seems that connecting to a PC actually might drain the battery of the iPad instead of charging it!  It charges slowly only if connected to a Mac.  
  5. Was glad to see the iPad was able to connect to a public WiFi and my home WEP enabled WiFi quite easily.
  6. Was excited to see that there was Bluetooth built-in.  But when I tried to pair it with my Win 7 Laptop, it did not work.  Nor did it work when pairing with my Blackberry.  Seems the only purpose of the Bluetooth is to connect to headphones?  And possibly for multi-player games with other iOS device users. What a bummer!  
  7. I wanted to get some photos from my laptop to the iPad so I could test the photo app.  No SD card slot, the Bluetooth does not allow file transfers. Me very sad :-(  
  8. The only way it seems to transfer files is by connecting with the cable to your computer and use iTunes!   What if you have files on multiple computers that you want to get on the iPad?  Seems like you have to download and install iTunes on each machine, connect to each one with provided cable, and you get a prompt that says - you already have a syncing relationship with another computer, do you want to transfer all your "purchases" to this computer (or something to that effect)?  This even when I have no purchases.  There is something called home share that I have to investigate further. Of course you can buy a subscription to an Apple service call Mobile me that allows this simple functionality but charges for it.
  9. Setting up iTunes required an interesting step - you have to provide your Credit card number even if you want to download just free apps.  Caused me some concern as one I don't like to give my CC # to anyone in general but more importantly, the iPad allows only a 4 digit PIN for a password.  I created a ShopSafe temporary CC# with 5 dollars credit and 2 month expiration.  I did find later that one can set up the iTunes log in to prompt for a password.  
  10. iBooks: This is something I was interested in looking at, having recently played around with a friends Kindle 2.  iBooks is a free app in the Apple Store and was easy to install.  I tried to find books on the Apple store and kept coming up blank.  I searched for a title that I knew was available and it still did not find it.  Then realized that one has to look for books from the ibook app on the iPad.  If reading a book is one of your primary reasons for buying the iPad, forget about it.  Just get the Kindle instead.  The iPad is too heavy, the screen brightness is fatiguing.  One can adjust the brightness, or change the background to sepia, and flip the iPad to landscape mode to get a 2 page view.  But these are minor pluses, the only real plus might be the ability to read in the dark.
  11. Some of the apps are just incredible - the Netflix app where I watched part of "24 hours" was superb, watching YouTube or Ted Talks was fun, the NPR app with 3 rows of horizontal scrolling thumbnails of stories was beautifully presented, the NY times editors picks is great.  
  12. Up until now when I thought of user interface, I usually thought of the Graphical User Interface or GUI.  One also thought of the human computer interface as a separate issue. The form factor of the device was a third separate issue. The iPad more than any other device makes these 3 somewhat separate issues merge into one.  The iPad generally wins in the human computer interface area with the multi-touch screen, it has a distinct problem with the form factor - it is too heavy to hold in one hand for too long and does not have a built-in way to prop it up or easily carry it; and the GUI is very much dependent on the App builder but the ones I saw are beautiful.  The on screen keyboard was a bit of a wash for me - I stated to use one hand typing using multiple fingers as I was holding it with the other hand, or had to prop it up against something so I could type with both hands, still had to look at the keyboard as I was not confident of my "touch-typing".  When I placed it on my lap I had to elevate my knees by "tip-toeing" otherwise the screen would be sloping downwards and the display would flip over.  (one can lock this with a hardware button).
  13. The other key issue is the balance between security and owner rights.  While someone might appreciate the security model, Apple in my humble opinion has gone to far to the extreme.  The other issue is forcing owners to use proprietary Apple tools - the docking port, the lack of SD card, forcing use of iTunes, inability to share with Bluetooth or tether with Bluetooth, all are very frustrating.  The lack of administrator rights and multi-user password options on login are disasters.  Apple could very easily have built a biometric device into the black frame around the screen so the login could have been quite seamless.  Users could enable the PW feature and also be able to log in as admin for "Apple Unapproved" uses/apps if they want.  The iPhone is a personal device and does not probably need multi-user accounts but the iPad is something that would be shared between users.
  14. Since I am an Apple newbie, I am sure I will learn more soon but I can understand the folks whose first step when getting an iOS product is to Jailbreak it. 
  15. My open e-mail to Mr. Jobs
"Can I suggest someways to make the iPad better?
  • Add a sturdy metal rectangular wire that folds into the frame but can be pulled out to prop up the device and be unfolded completely to become a carrying handle.
  • Allow transfer of files using Bluetooth and SD Cards
  • Allow a log on password for admin rights or for use between multiple users - maybe embed a biometric device into the side to make this seamless
  • Allow tethering with a data-enabled smartphone for Internet connectivity.
  • Stop asking for CC numbers to set up iTunes account even to download free apps.
  • Allow charging of the iPad when connected to a PC (not just a Mac)
  • Start contributing the iPad users health plans to pay for their visits for treatment of tendinitis!


  1. LOL... I have not used Apple in 20 years. I used to be a pretty big fan boy but everything you listed in the suggestions to make the iPad better were more or less similar to things I wanted 20 years ago. The iPad is a media consumption device not a PC replacement. It is a form factore that has been around for 20 years and still hasn't caught on for a number of reasons. Maybe we are getting closer and more people are hopeful but I just think there are more folks hoping for a bigger iTouch.

    Nice and thorough review. I wonder if this type of device and the kindle for instance start to have other medical consequences similar to carpel tunnel syndrom.

  2. I agree with the user above...the iPad is NOT a PC. Find a good case, has great deals, cases which convert into stands--thus avoiding the carpal tunnel. Also, invest in a microfiber cloth to wipe off the fingerprints. It does get pretty messy after good use.
    I agree that it's a shame that the iPad doesn't charge while plugged into your computer. Also, I think Apple assumes that one who purchases an iPad has owned an iPod or iTouch and the user has already created files within their iTunes account ready for syncing.
    Your issues with the bluetooth are purposeful on the part of Jobs, AT&T and Apple---if you can blue-tooth or tether your iPad, then you won't purchase the 3G or the data plans, therefore, loss of potential revenue.
    I'm sure there is more that I wanted to add here but I just wanted to add my two cents as Aimee shared this with me, as well as her desire to integrate the iPad for the office/students.
    Good Luck---and get that case QUICK! :)

  3. I am great fan of Apple products. Most of the time I hate not having 'Open Source' tag on Apple's software, but still love to carry these gadgets. In addition to the list, I would like to see these important features in iPad:
    1. Front and Back camera, for video calls, video chats and capturing photos or for recording purpose
    2. USB port (to attach external drives)
    3. Support for Flash

    Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

    (I am surprised with the charging issues on connecting with MAC/PC.)