iPad hands on — it’s amazing

April 3, 2010

Well, it’s been a few hours and my iPad’s now thoroughly smudged, though the display still looks absolutely fabulous. What’s right about this world changing device and what could use some polish? Click through for a detailed look at Apple’s play at redefining how we compute and 10 iPad apps.

First, all of those things you’ve heard about the iPad being very, very responsive and having an absolutely superlative display are spot on. Also, I’ve been using this iPad now for about four hours and the indicator has barely budged, even though I’ve watched video, viewed comics, slide shows, surfed, done email, played a few games — it’s amazing how strong this battery is.

That said, I’m still surprised at how heavy this pound-and-a-half device feels. I haven’t dropped it, but it’s not hard to imagine that it will find its way to the floor, sooner or later.

Nevertheless, Apple’s latest creation has been showered with love by the company’s hardware and software people, and there very, very few rough spots.

It’s the all about the apps

Real Racing for iPhone looks passably good, plays great.

There are hundreds of iPad optimized apps available right now. Further, most of the iPhone apps I’ve tried so far have worked quite well.

For example, Real Racing for iPhone (see also Real Racing HD, which is absolutely fabulous), though the images are just a little jaggy, plays and looks really good. In fact, whereas my kids were previously the only ones to play this best selling racing game on one of our family’s iPod touches, it’s so much better on the iPad I can see myself playing this game for many hours.

ABC News (see also ABC Player), my source on the iPod touch for video news updates, biz new and entertainment updates, plays well enough to be useable — onscreen text is still legible — though it really needs a rewrite as pixel doubling isn’t sufficient with this particular app.

Another app in the useable but needs a rewrite category is Facebook Mobile, which benefits greatly from the iPads superbly fast processor and fast network response. Yes, it’s all still quite useable — having bigger buttons is nice — but taking full advantage of the iPad’s brilliant and crisp display is required, even for a relatively simple social networking apps such as this.

Google Earth is likewise functional, but in strong need of a rewrite due to interface jaggies and a lack of iPad-specific features. However, this app really performs well on the iPad with redraws and zooming just about instantaneous — I’m really looking forward to seeing what Google can do here.

iPad optimized apps

One of the most anticipated apps has been NPR for iPad and the delivered product is beautiful, smooth and, well, very iPad-like. Yes, you can listen to pretty much any programs you want and adding individual segments or entire programs, such as Morning Edition, is easy and quite slick, and the you can listen while you digest pictures and text-based new.

These features use pop up menus that are crisply rendered and very responsive, and these things bring us back to just how solid the hardware and operating system integration is on the iPad — perfectly smooth. However, like NPR on the iPhone, if you leave the app, the programs you were listening to go away (download the podcast — pain in the butt to iTunes) — please, Apple, give us true multitasking, now.

Another app that benefits mightily from an iPad rewrite is WordPress. The interface does get a new layout that makes this app finally useful and the near full-size keyboard, which is very good, makes writing much, much easier.

However, WordPress for iPad succeeds because it leverages that big screen while maintaining a laser like focus on the core and generally quite adequate functions that they built into the iPhone app. Yes, it’s still a bit of a pain to get text and pics from Safari and move them into WordPress, but the extra screen screen space is generally well used.

Another free daily use app that leverages the iPad well is The Weather Channel Max, which includes nifty little animated weather icons (i.e. the thunder storm icon shoots lightening). Also, you can horizontal scroll a 36-hour and a 7.5-day forecast all without changing views or loading any additional pages (sweet), and there’s also a small but nice selection of “On TV” (22-minute) programs.

Bundled iPad apps

This is a killer email device. Apple’s iPad Mail (Apple guided tour) is a superlative app in that it’s simple, yet powerful and you never feel hemmed regardless of whether the device held vertically or in landscape mode — Apple’s engineers have outdone themselves.

Here, although the software keyboard is more than adequate (I use a three-finger technique), mating the iPad with Apple’s wireless Bluetooth keyboard is easy and fast (mush faster than our Mac mini), and delivers a quantum leap in functionality — get one and put it in your bag.

When it comes to browsing, there’s no question Safari on iPad is a huge improvement over the iPhone experience and is greatly superior to anything the competition has to offer. Nevertheless, the better choice for browsing on the iPad is iCab Mobile 3.0, which handles tabs much, much better than Safari.

Further, iCab offers a slew of exclusive features — porn mode, iPad to Mac file transfers, file downloading, etc. It costs $1.99, but I think you’ll find the investment well worth it, especially since you can use it on your iPhone or iPod touch, as well.

And, the battery? I’ve been using the iPad almost continuously for seven hours and it’s still showing 68 percent full. Sweet…

What’s your take?

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