July 05, 2010

Two Months in Quick Thoughts on My iPad

Quick Thoughts on the iPad

I have spent two months with my new iPad and can say that the experience has been superb with even more expectations as clever apps continue to be designed by inventive people (refer to related links at the end of this post for examples of innovative, unexpected uses of the iPad). I have used the iPad at work, at home (everywhere except ...), outdoors, in coffee shops, and at conferences. Below are quick thoughts categorized under what I really like, what needs improvement, and disappointments (so far). In the beginning I missed having the convenience, typing angle, and protection of the Apple iPad case, which arrived as a backorder one month later. If the iPad in some future version becomes a possible laptop replacement, then I might consider using a keyboard.

What I Really Like
  • Magic comes to mind when tilting, rotating, and touching the iPad. One should not underestimate the attraction of elegant design, near instant responsiveness, and attention to detail. A quibble - the volume control button could be easier to adjust.
  • Sure it's obvious but often not stressed enough how important instant access to information can be not only for the techno-savvy and impatient but also for people unnerved by technology in general - immediate feedback is important. For example, NPR Music online takes several clicks and fussing with browser windows before your are ready to play and switch between programs. On an iPad it's a couple of swipes and presses. NPR Music is one cool app.
  • The USAToday Reader is one of my favorite iPod touch apps and it is fantastic on the iPad. I can quickly look up the weather, news, scores, and share articles by e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. The design is beautiful, evidenced at its best with Day in Pictures, information is easily retrieved, and yes it is free.
  • I am not bothered by the lack of multitasking and in fact would argue that less distraction is an advantage when reading, listening, and taking notes. Read this interesting article Understanding Multi-tasking on the iPad: What is it really? Exception: Apple apps such as iPod can play music in the background but 3rd-party apps such as Pandora and RadioTime cannot. The iOS 4 upgrade for iPad when released in late Fall should address this issue.
  • Dropbox is an essential app, which is available as a share when your iPad is connected to a wireless network. Dropbox displays iPad compatible file formats (e.g. images, music, Office and iWork documents, rtf, and html) stored on your share and provides tools to open them into apps such as GoodReader, Keynote, and Pages.
  • One of the reasons I purchased an iPad was to read rich content PDF's such as the Horizon Report, Educause publications, The Amazing Web 2.0 Projects book, and the Pew Report. Although the newly updated iBooks app can now handle PDF's, GoodReader is the best available document reader and recently added displaying double-pages, horizontal page-turning, and VGA output.
  • Keynote for iPad easily and quite accurately imports PowerPoint (Windows or Macintosh) and Keynote (Macintosh) presentations, especially when used with the Dropbox app. From your PC or Mac save your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation to a Dropbox folder (e.g. presentations), open Dropbox on iPad, load the presentation, and choose Open In Keynote, which automatically imports the file. The optional iPad VGA adapter allows you to project your Keynote presentation, although it must be in play mode.
  • With Netflix for iPad subscribers have essentially the same functionality as the full web browser version (manage your NetFlix DVD and Instant queues, view Recent activity such as when your next DVD's will ship, etc.) and can instantly watch TV episodes and movies streamed from Netflix on their iPad in full screen. The quality is excellent and the experience is superb.
  • Finally! The new version of iBooks adds a note taker to its built-in dictionary, search, bookmarking, and multi-color highlighting tools. The bookmark index can be synchronized with the same books on your iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4. I am currently reading The Heart of Darkness and taking advantage of these features.
  • It’s a social device! It's rare to pass around a laptop or netbook for sharing such as browsing photo slideshows and listening to music but an iPad, yes. Think social and collaboration when using apps such as SonicPics for Creating Collaborative Audio Slideshows.
  • With the excellent built-in speakers, the iPad is the best multipurpose, portable music player ever! You can play iPod music, NPR Music, Pandora mixes, RadioTime radio stations, and much more! The experience is fantastic.
Needs Improvement
  • The Dock Connector to VGA adapter works with Keynote presentations in play mode, iPhoto slideshows, and iTunes movies that are not protected. There is no audio output. Read a C- review by iLounge. I would put this in the Disappointments list but find it useful for Keynote presentations and am optimistic that more apps such as GoodReader will support VGA output.
  • I used Pages to take notes during a conference and the process was cumbersome. An efficient note taker that includes a built-in web browser for bookmarking would be better. I am also considering using NoteTaker HD with a Pogo stylus.
  • Apple did not include its built-in iPhone apps Weather, Clock, and Voice Memos. They are simple, fast, run in the background, and free. For example, it is not possible to set a third-party alarm unless the app is running, which renders it near useless. The lack of Apple's Voice Memos is especially disappointing because no app can match its feature set: simple, elegant design; .m4a compressed file format; built-in trimmer; background recording; and iTunes file conversion. The $1.98 Voice Memos app by Kenditech comes close but does not support backround recording and does not include a trim editor.
  • Apple does not support enhanced-chapter podcasts (.m4a format) on iPad by design. The full audio of an enhanced podcast plays, but only first the slide displays. This is a setback because enhanced podcasts, which are essentially slideshows played in sync with audio recordings have signficant potential for learning, especially when played on a larger screen such as an iPad. I have submitted feedback to Apple hoping that a change will be made in the future.
Related Links


  1. Hey Joe,

    Enjoyed reading your summary. I was wondering if the device has changed your behavior in any way? Do you do things differently now because of it? For example, I now carry it around campus all the time. This means no laptop, no power cord, no need for my iPod, no need for my satchel to carry everything in. Any changes for you?


  2. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks! The iPad is my go to early morning device for reading news and keeping up with tweets and as a side companion to my home and work desktops (iMacs). I use it bedside for listening, watching video clips, and some reading. Although I took a laptop to a recent conference to complete a PowerPoint presentation, I used the iPad for most everything else. Although note taking with Pages was cumbersome (looking at alternatives), not having to worry about weight, clutter, and charging was a really plus! I still use my iPod touch for instructional support but much less often.

    I would like to transition to how you use the iPad around campus but am not there yet.



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