Our iPad impressions: not magical, still revolutionary

Over the weekend, I took a big gulp of the Apple Kool-Aid and bought a 64 GB iPad.

There was something sickening about the atmosphere at the Apple Store in Santa Monica, sterile and whitewashed, adorned with wall-spanning iPad posters and packed with the curious. It was as if Apple was forcing its particular vision of consumerism upon the masses, and we were all dutifully complying.

The queasy feeling subsided back in the real world of my apartment, where the practical reasons for wanting an iPad reigned. For too long, I’d used an iPhone to casually surf the Web, check e-mail and play games. The laptop got to be too much, despite its might. I can’t recline sideways with it on the couch without craning my head. I can’t use it in bed without balancing it on my stomach. The iPhone’s touch screen was just easier to use than a trackpad and keyboard, but it was too small to really enjoy.

Our iPad impressions: not magical, still revolutionary

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So yes, the iPad is essentially a giant iPod Touch, but the implications of a large touch screen on a slim slab are much greater than that statement implies. I won’t exhaustively describe the iPad’s capabilities, because you’ve probably heard them all before. But yes, reading articles is easier on the large screen, there are menus and pop-up boxes everywhere (the best part of Tweetdeck, a Twitter client, is the ability read Web links within a dedicated window — why doesn’t the PC app do this?) and video games are easier because you can make more accurate touch gestures.

Theoretically, any tablet could do that, but it took more than two years for the iPhone to get a proper competitor in the form of Android, and even in smartphones there’s no clear winner. But I pulled the trigger on the iPad because I didn’t feel like waiting.

As expected, the iPad fails at business tasks, mostly because of the operating system’s limitations. There’s no folder system for downloading and managing documents — unless you download a third-party app — and the only way to attach files to an e-mail is from the program that reads that file, such as Photos for images or Pages for text. You can’t attach multiple files to one e-mail, and the lack of USB or SD card input means loading files onto the iPad is a chore, requiring a computer as an intermediary. Even the set-up process requires you to sync with iTunes on a computer. The iPad is not ready to become your next computer, but the potential exists.

What the iPad excels at is casual computing. And while that’s not magical, nor is the price unbelievable — despite Apple’s marketing — it does bring about an “aha” moment when you realize you don’t have to be at a desk, table or comparable flat surface to use a computer. The tablet allows information and media to always be within arm’s reach, accessible in seconds.

Therein lies the revolution.

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