As far as tech toys go, I’m a late adopter. I like playing with free betas, but when it comes down to handing over money, I become very conservative. I like at least one Service Pack on my new OS, a critical mass of my friends on social apps, a solid couple of months post-release on a massively multiplayer online game, and a stalwart recommendation from my IT friends for new hardware. I delayed my purchase of my Xbox 360 for almost two years; then shortly after I bought it, they announced the big price drop with the addition of the Elite model (shoulda waited longer!)
But this time, I threw the dice and pre-ordered a 32 GB Wifi-only iPad. I even threw in a Mac Bluetooth keyboard, the dock, and a case. There’s no super feature that made this the penultimate gadget for me; my desires were based around a great experience with my iPod Touch, a slowly growing interest in e-books (much to the dismay of my library card) and the ability to have a “one-stop-shop lite” computing device. I game some, I email a fair amount, I watch videos while I travel or work out (no more tiny iPod on the treadmill – huzzah!) and I’ve been using the iPod Kindle app when I fly.
For me, the iPad gives me a richer media consumption experience than the iPod Touch I’ve been using. To Kathy’s point, this is my primary expectation for the device. I create content on computers and (to a much lesser extent) my Blackberry. For me, my Apple products are one-way entertainment tools, and I’m fine with that. Call me Gizmodo’s Reluctant Pragmatist (except for the pooping part; that’s just gross) – my iPad is a gadget that I expect I’ll get a lot of use out of.
So in that light, here’s a quick rundown of my thoughts on the three ways I’ll use it most, based on a weekend’s worth of play testing.
As a games platform
I played a few iPad-specific games: Party Pad: Marble Mixer, Worms HD, Command & Conquer Red Alert, Diner Dash: Grilling Green, and Aurora Feint 3. Generally speaking games that were re-engineered for the iPad were pretty slick. The graphics were pretty good and the controls worked well with the larger touch interface. C&C was a little clunky responding but there’s a hefty amount of PC / mouse bias that I have when it comes to real-time strategy games.
I also imported my existing crop of games from iTunes. These non-optimized games launch in an iPhone-sized window, but all loaded faster than my iPod and performed well (if small). Due to the cost of retrofitting games with higher resolution art I suspect that we won’t see any free updates, but will see re-releases. Compare, for example, the popular iPhone game Flight Control, which is currently available for $0.99 in the App Store with a new iPad version, Flight Control HD, selling for $4.99.
We’ve seen iPhone games lead the way for the smartphone category in the mobile games industry. The iPad’s faster hardware and lush screen is going to spur another gold rush for devs. Due to the maturity of the App Store, however, it will be a much more compressed race from heady launch date prices ($13?!) back down to the sub-$10 impulse buy range.
As a media platform
The iPad is an awesome media player. I’m watching my videos in a much bigger window; I’m reading my e-books on a hard cover-size screen. Photos look really nice (but have to be managed through iTunes – a minor annoyance). The Netflix app is nice, but not a big seller for me – we stream already through the Xbox 360 to our TV; when I travel I can watch via the Web on my laptop. I haven’t used the iPad for listening to music yet; the much smaller form factor of the iPod wins here, when it comes to portable music while working out.
As a productivity platform
So far I’m slightly disappointed outside of the email / calendar apps (both of which were nicely updated to capitalize on the larger screen). Google Docs is read-only within Safari; since I haven’t been able to swallow $9.99 for each of the iWork apps (Keynote, Pages, Numbers), I don’t have a writing app outside of Notes yet. That said, Notes isn’t bad, but it’s a very rudimentary text application.
But Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard does a lot to help speed up the typing process, which is a boon to productively using these apps; the virtual keyboard is a little too small for touch typing, but 3-4 fingers is pretty good. Once my iPad case arrives, that will help even more by propping up the iPad at a better viewing angle.
Overall, I’m enjoying the iPad quite a bit. For me, as I expect it will be for many people, its niche is the home reference tablet (email browsing, quick Google searches, etc. – things that you don’t always want to boot up a computer for) and mobile entertainment device.
Jeremy Snook is a third year MCDM student and an avid gadget junkie. During the day he is the Director of Distribution at GameHouse, the games division of RealNetworks.