Life with my iPad: Are we dating, or is it something more serious?


In our very first “You Asked For It” feature, we bring you the gadget that tops our weekly request list…and has for quite some time. Even months after its initial release, people are still asking us about the Apple iPad. Do you like it? What do you use it for? Is it worth it? Well, now that I’ve had some special “private time” with my sexy new friend, I feel a bit more comfortable talking about the relationship. Before we get in to the gory details, I have to start by saying this: The iPad still attracts a crowd. In fact, all of you single guys out there listen up: You no longer need to borrow your neighbor’s puppy or take your three-month-old niece out for a stroll in order to get some attention.I’ve never seen people gravitate toward an inanimate object the way they gravitate to an iPad…it’s actually kind of bizarre. At first, you’ll enjoy sharing your new toy with the small group that starts to gather around you; you’ll answer some questions, throw a few smiles, even let some overly-eager stranger hold it for a minute…until you realize that no one is leaving. You’re standing with a now, not-so-smal crowd feeling a bit uncomfortable. Then you realize it’s you that has to get up and leave, taking a high-tech walk of shame to a less obvious part of the mall. Suffice it to say, as capable a machine as the iPad is, its popularity is not conducive to getting work done with it when there are people around.

Ok, it attracts attention…let’s move past that to how you actually use it on a daily basis. The one negative thing you tend to hear people say about the iPad is that “it’s just a really big iPhone.” Let me respond to that with this: WHAT’S WRONG WITH A REALLY BIG iPHONE?? That’s not a negative at all. Look at all the cool things an iPhone does: you can browse the web, check email, read books, watch movies, play games…the list goes on. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to do all of those things on a bigger screen and still have it be easy to carry with you? Of course it would…and it is. You can’t criticize the iPad for doing the same things an iPhone does, but better; it’s about having a choice. It would be just as ridiculous as saying that “a laptop is just a small, portable computer.” Of course it is….and that’s what makes it attractive. Look, if you can only carry something that fits in your pocket, it doesn’t get much better than the iphone…but if you CAN carry something a bit larger, the iPad is a great choice. Oh, and by the way…the iPad is not a phone, so you’ll still want to have your iPhone with you as well.

As cool as it is to read and write emails on the iPhone, the iPad makes reading and returning emails even more intuitive and fun. The user interface is actually better on the iPad thanks to the extra size and the huge virtual keyboard helps reduce the typos we all make on mobile phones. Web browsing is also an amazing experience on the iPad. If you think pinch-and-zoom works well on an iPhone, it’s nothing compared to the responsiveness of the iPad. Yes, it’s true; some websites simple won’t render on the iPad because it does not support Flash. Guess what? You’ll live. Though you may get occasionally frustrated that a certain site is not supported, the majority of the browsing experience is so good, you don’t even mind. Seriously.

As for watching movies, it’s probably the best media player on the market. Between the 9.7″ hi-res display and the intuitive (you’ll hear me use that word a lot…Apple really excels at software design) interface, movie watching is a pleasure. Now, some have mentioned that the iPad’s weight takes a bit of getting used to – and I tend to agree. The first thing you’ll notice when you pick one up (hopefully not mine, and hopefully not while I’m at the mall) is that it has some heft to it which leaves you a bit conflicted. On the one hand it feels substantial, with all of the metal and glass being put to good use; on the other hand, you wonder how it’s going to be holding this thing up when you watch a movie or read a book. Well, regardless of the weight of the device, most of us don’t read books or view media players by holding them in the air; we usually rest them on something. Perhaps the biggest challenge to owning an iPad is finding that perfect position to hold it in while in bed. It took me a few days before I found my preferred iPad placement for reading and now I don’t even think about it. Reading on it, by the way, is fantastic…I’ve had no eye fatigue (which some thought would be an issue) and love NOT having to hold a flashlight when reading in bed while my wife sleeps. Come to think of it, disturbing my wife while reading in bed is not even an issue considering the fact that she now “borrows” it from me every night to read her favorite books. Note to wife: The very definition of the word “borrow” implies giving it back at some point…

Is the iPad for everyone? Well, like everything else in life, it depends on your expectations. The iPad does enough things, and does them well, to find a place in any home. The question is, what do you want it to be? Will it replace a computer? if you’re among the majority of folks who simply use a computer to check emails, view photos, browse the web…then the iPad would be a great computer substitute; people that use their computers for a bit more will want to keep their computers and use their iPads as a secondary device. The most important thing to realize is that while laptops are a portable device, something to take from point A to use at point B, iPads are truly a mobile device that can be used between points A and B. This true mobility is what makes the iPad so special and creates a new category of device. The only real decision I see people having to make is whether or not to pony-up for the 3G model. If you have any intention of using the iPad to fetch emails or browse the web while you’re out and about, I’d spend the extra $130 and get the 3G model. Considering the fact that you can pay for data on a month-to-month basis, (and the data rates with AT&T are oddly reasonable) it’s worth spending the extra money for the option to use 3G, even if it’s in the future.

I’m actually enjoying my iPad more now than when I first brought it home…high praise for a tech device, considering how quickly we tend to get distracted by what’s coming next. As for the staus of my relationship with my iPad? I just introduced it to my mother this past weekend. What does that tell you?