After a week of playing with the iPad and working out what does and doesn’t work, here is our look at the iPad, what it is like to use here in New Zealand (before it’s officially available) and what we think of it.
Now you may be wondering why it has taken so long to write this, and the answer is that I wanted to have a good sit down with it and figure it all out first. Whenever you get a new toy like this you tend to spend the first few days showing it off to other people who are eager to have a go, and consequently you don’t really get to know it enough to give your verdict on it right away.
So without further ado hit the ‘read more’ link to find out more thoughts of the iPad… a week later.
When I received the iPad, although I had read all about it, I was surprised at just how small the box was. For some reason, despite even having made a life-size cardboard cut-out of it (which Steve took a photograph of himself with and put it on his Facebook page on April fools’ day), I was expecting something larger – I don’t know why, I just was. So even more of a surprise was the size of the device itself once I had taken it out of the box.
The iPad is smaller than you think, I know it’s a strange thing to say but it really is. The second thing that hits you when taking it out of the box is the weight of it. It may be small but believe me it is solid. Holding it for the first time in one hand I wondered if it were perhaps too heavy, but you soon get used to it and after a while I was happy that it felt just about right.
In the box as you are probably aware by now is the iPad, USB cable, the wall plug, a very basic user guide and the usual Apple stickers: nothing more and nothing less and that is just fine. You have seen the cables and plugs before so there really is nothing to distract you from grabbing the iPad and switching it on. The wall plug that comes with the US model is obviously a US two prong plug, but the prongs come off and can be switched out with your New Zealand prongs from another iPhone or iPod touch plug. If you don’t have an iPhone or iPod Touch or another set of New Zealand prongs, then you can get yourself a US >> NZ adapter or get either the Apple USB Power Adapter or get the .
As soon as you switch it on you need to plug it in and ‘activate’ it with iTunes. Now, you could just do the basic setup and get straight into the fun, but where is the fun when there is nothing but the built-in apps? I decided I would sync with iTunes and get my existing apps, music, photos and videos across and figured that once I had done that I could really just sit back and let rip. I have to say the time it took to sync all my data was agonising – in reality it probably wasn’t all that long but when you’re waiting to play with your new toy it seemed like an age!
Interestingly after you set it up it asks you if you want to restore from a backup of a previous device and then shows you your iPhone or iPod touch backups. Now this to me isn’t the smoothest thing to happen when you first plug your device in and it leaves you wondering what else it is going to do that isn’t quite right.
Well the next thing didn’t take long to come about. This is probably more of an iTunes issue but it only affects the iPad and not the iPhone. As I previously said, I wanted to sync my apps, so I went to the ‘Apps’ section under the device in iTunes and what I was presented with was every single one of my apps, whether they were compatible with the iPad or not AND they were in one long alphabetical list. So I had to painstakingly go through and select only the apps I knew were compatible or that were iPad specific. As I say, this was a painful process as I have just about two-hundred apps downloaded to my iTunes library. It’ll be good to see an update to iTunes to fix this issue as it is very annoying.
Once you have everything installed and you are good to go, it’s time to sit back, relax and get comfortable. The trouble is everyone wants to see or touch it. I suggest finding a quiet room where you’re not going to be disturbed. After all, this is your new toy and you just want to play with and see what it can do for yourself before you show everyone else. It’d be like buying a new Ferrari and letting everyone else (including the kids) drive it home from the forecourt while you take the bus!
So after finding your quiet place, the first thing that strikes you is the screen. I can hand-on-heart say I have never seen a screen like it on any device. It really does blow you away. It is so crisp and clear that even after tapping away for a while and getting your sweaty finger prints all over it it is still a joy to look at (although I do have a cleaning cloth with me at all times now).
I thought the UI was going to be just like the iPhone only on a bigger scale, and whilst it is similar in many ways,it is also completely different. It is more responsive, faster, smoother and generally more refined that it’s smaller screened sisters. I think this is also helped by the screen, because the screen is so gorgeous to look at, it makes the UI all the more amazing. Colours and textures just pop off the ‘page’ – photos look stunning, text looks crisp and print-like, and menu structures are intuitive and a pleasure to use.
The first thing you need to do is setup your Wifi Internet connection. This should be straight forward, or so you would think. OS 3.2 (for iPad) has a well publicised bug, in that it can’t deal with dual band routers, which I happen to have. So, to get it to connect I had to switch off dual band broadcasting and add the Mac address into my routers config (I use Mac address filtering) which again should have been straight forward, however the iPad uses a Mac address that starts with 72: instead of the standard 00:. For my Linksys router this was an issue as it won’t accept these types of addresses so i have had to switch this off and search for a work-around. After a lot of messing around it finally connected. I do find that it often loses the connection and then finds it again, but this may be my setup and not the iPad.
As this is the wifi model and being used to the always-on internet connection of my iPhone, I was interested to see what it was like when you were out of range of a connection. To be honest, it isn’t that great. You are very limited as to what you can do and it pretty much boils down to playing games, reading books, listening to music or viewing photos. To me the 3G version is a must if you want to be able to get the most out of your device wherever you are. I would take this everywhere if I could have it connected all the time. As it stands I won’t and it’ll pretty much remain in the house at all times, unless I know I am going somewhere with wifi access.
Even if you were going on trip, you would want to take it with you, but if you were in the car or a motel / hotel you would want a connection otherwise you would get frustrated and end up not using it. If you were in a Motel or Hotel then you could have access to the hotel’s wifi, but you’d be paying a premium for it.
I know what I’ll be doing when the 3G version gets released, and that’s trading up. I love using this for everyday internet access and emails and I hate the restriction of only being able to use it over wifi. If you are an iPod touch user then you will be used to this and it may not be such a wrench for you, but as an iPhone user I am used to being online all the time. Now I know I have an iPhone for these tasks, but the iPad makes you want to use it all the time.
When I got it I took it to work with me to show-and-tell, but along with my iPad, i had to take my MacBook and my T-Stick, just so that I could set-up an ad-hoc network and have it connected. There is a Jailbreak app called MyWi which turns your iPhone into a wireless hotspot, but I am not jail-broken. Alternately i could get a Vodafone 3G Mobile Broadband Hotspot, but at $499 for the device only it’s a huge expense.
The other thing I have noted is when you have it plugged in via USB to your computer (not the wall plug) it shows ‘Not Charging’ in the corner. However after testing this it does actually charge, albeit very slowly. My guess is it is not enough power for the iPad to recognise that it’s charging, but just enough to give you a slow top-up.
I will get into the details of the apps in another post, but let’s just talk about what it can and can’t do in little old New Zealand.
To be honest, nearly every aspect of the device works here. But one thing that doesn’t (and this is a rather large point) is the App store. Once I had starting using it i realised that I was missing an app I wanted that I had previously downloaded, so I figured I would just hop onto the App Store and quickly download it. Unfortunately this didn’t work. Why? Because the App Store on the iPad is only available in the States (whilst the device isn’t available anywhere else). This was/is a real disappointment after all I can access the iPad apps from my MacBook, so why not the iPad? Apple are restricting something here that really need not be restricted, but hey that’s Apple for you. The only way to access the App Store on the iPad right now is to sign in using a US account. Fortunately I have one of those, so if I want freebies i can download them. If I want paid apps though i have to download them from my New Zealand account on my MacBook and then sync them across. It’s a pain but something you come to expect when getting something from Apple in a country it is not intended for. Obviously once the iPad is officially sold here this will be resolved.
The App store isn’t the only app to not work without a US account, however, and there are also apps that require you to be in the US for it to even load ( for example, ABC player). If it only requires you to have a US account then you can usually get around this, but if it requires you to be in the US (and therefore have a US IP address) then you are going to have a much harder time and you will need to use proxies or know someone who can give you access to a US VPN. Fortunately iBooks is one such app that only requires you have access to the US store and doesn’t care whether you’re actually in the US or not.
So after using it while what do I think? Well, the first thing I have found is that going back to my iPhone feels odd at first. The size of the screen on the iPad is phenomenal and when you go back to the iPhone it feels small and takes a bit to get back into. I can imagine that if the iPad had been released first, the iPhone would have felt a bit… meh!
But the biggest issue I have is getting it comfortable on my lap. You will notice that in every single advert or video from Apple they show the user sitting back and then putting their feet up to use it. This is fine in theory but it isn’t all that practical and you might look a bit odd doing this at work or at the bus stop! In actually using it like this you find the device slipping down your leg, so you have to hold it with one hand, leaving only one to type with. Now I have written this entire post on the iPad so it is possible to use, but it is just sometimes awkward and you find yourself fidgeting around all the time.
What is most interesting to me is the fact that I am no longer in the “oooh” and “ahhh” stage anymore. I am quite surprised that the ‘magic’ has worn off so quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it and wouldn’t be without it now, but I am used to it already and it is now just another device. I know, I know some of you are thinking you ungrateful b####rd but it’s true and I am not the only one. I gave it to Steve to take home, and when I initially said this to him he thought I was mad, but when he gave it back and I asked him what he thought, guess what… he said the same thing! Like me he still loved it, but it was no longer a ‘need’ (unlike the iPhone) but it was now a ‘want’, and a ‘want’ that can wait.
I would definitely recommend getting an iPad, personally I would wait until the 3G version is out, but you should still get one. The few kinks I have found will be ironed out when it is released here and with updates to iTunes. It truly is a fantastic experience. The speed of Safari, the beautiful images, the fun of the games, the ease of Social networking and the overall media experience just can’t be beaten on any other device I have. I would say that since I got the iPad the split between my iPad and my MacBook was 80/20 (in favour of the iPad). I only really use my MacBook for image editing and uploading to Vimeo or Flickr ( once the camera connection kit gets here it’ll be even less on the MacBook).
So these are my thoughts on the iPad. There are a ton of in-depth reviews out there and I recommend having a read of Engadget or Gizmodo for that. I really wanted to tell you more about my thoughts after having used it for a week.
In my next post I am going to have a look at the stock apps that come with the device. After that I will review some of my favourite apps that have specifically designed for the iPad.