After much pacing around and nervous energy release doing yard work, the UPS truck finally arrived mid-afternoon last Saturday. Not only did I have to sign for the small brown package, I had to verbally recite the spelling of my last name and my street address. Do they ask that all the time now I wondered, or was this just designed to delay my anticipated joy even longer?
Well, THE WAIT WAS WORTH IT! The iPad is going to be the platform I thought it would be. There are many “first impression” blog postings in circulation, and rather than rehash all the technical details that have already been well hashed by others, I’d like to share how my own out-of-box experience went. I learned a few non-obvious things you may find helpful.
Why The Joy?
- The size is just right. It feels good both in your hand and under your fingers. You will not want to put it down.
- Mobile Safari. The web browsing experience is simply a joy. Navigating the web and manipulating individual pages with finger gestures is so much more natural and intuitive than the traditional mouse/keyboard routine we’re accustomed to. I found myself reading more content, reading it more carefully, and reading more efficiently simply because I could navigate, pan around and resize pages so effortlessly.
- The thoughtful integration of hand gestures in the built-in apps, such as the “pinch to expand” gesture in iPhoto, which allows you to peak inside your photo albums. Try this out on a friend’s iPad or at an Apple Store, or check it out in this video on YouTube.
- Responsiveness. The iPad is fast and responsive. I’m sure that Mobile Safari was specially fine-tuned to run like a Ferrari, but all of the built-in apps are very snappy also.
- iBook. After installing the iBook app, I found I was entitled to a complimentary copy of Winnie The Pooh – all 300+ pages with color illustrations. It’s a great book to showcase the new navigation features that will have many of us reading more books simply because of how enjoyable the experience becomes. This is the secret sauce of the iPad in my opinion – it will change the way we interact with content in ways that will improve how we absorb and process information.
- Limitless Possibilities. It finally provides the platform for something I’ve been dreaming about for over 10 years. More on that below.
The iPad comes with a 10W power adapter, and you’ll want to keep close track of it. There are some erroneous reports claiming that you absolutely must use this charger, and that the iPad won’t charge while attached to your Mac. That said, you will want to use this charger, but the iPad will slowly charge while attached to a Mac USB port. The official iPad User Guide, which you can find in Safari’s bookmarks states:
The best way to charge the iPad battery is to connect…using the included…10W USB power adapter. When you connect iPad to a USB2.0 port on a Mac with the Dock Connector to USB Cable, iPad may charge slowly while syncing.”
And in fact it does, as I found when connecting my iPad to a MacBook Pro. The manual goes on to say:
Important: The iPad battery may drain instead of charge if IPad is connected to a [Windows] PC, to a computer that’s turned off or is in sleep or standby mode, to a USB hub, or to the USB port on a keyboard.
I haven’t yet verified this using my own Windows PC (iPad is supported with iTunes 9.1 on Windows), but in any event the included USB wall charger is clearly the way to go, despite the fact that a power cord isn’t included. If you already have a modular MacBook Pro-type power cord, you can use that with the iPad charger. There are probably some good options at Best Buy or Wal-Mart as well.
I sometimes read Walter Mossberg’s tech articles in the Wall Street Journal, and in his iPad review he claimed to have gotten 11 hours of run time from a single charge. He essentially set his iPad up to continuously play videos and simultaneously download email until the battery died. I haven’t run mine quite that hard, but I have used it a lot, including for app development work, and I haven’t had to recharge it since it arrived on Saturday.
Initial Sync Surprise
When you first turn the unit on, it will immediately inform you that it wants to be attached to your Mac or PC for initial syncing and registration. No problem I thought. What I didn’t notice in my rush to get things set up is that if you have an iPhone backed up to iTunes, it will ask if it should restore that backup to the iPad. I somehow didn’t notice this and consequently ignored the warning. So, as soon as the sync started I saw iTunes dutifully downloading all of my iPhone apps and iTunes media library! I realize some folks may actually want that to happen, but I certainly did not! Happily, iTunes does maintain separate sync settings for each device. This mistake cost me only a little clean-up time; there certainly was no damage to the iPad’s configuration.
If you have an iPhone, you’re no doubt familiar with the mute button next to the volume controls. The iPad has a somewhat similar looking switch located next to the volume controls also (see photo above), but it is NOT a mute button. Sliding this switch to its “on” position will prevent the contents of the screen from rotating as you turn the device. At first I was taken a bit surprise by the need for that, but after you’ve used some of the built-in apps for a few hours, you’ll understand why that’s a handy feature to have. If you do need to mute the sound, simply press the volume down button until you get silence.
File Sharing Warning
The iPad supports file sharing via the Apps tab in iTunes 9.1. You can drag files to/from your iPad via the Apps tab as well as delete files. This feature is enabled on a per-app basis, so not all apps will appear in this portion of the Apps tab. I have tested file sharing extensively with the app I’m developing, and it works as advertised, but let me warn you about something that isn’t necessarily obvious. If you delete an app from the iPad (which is done the same way as on iPhone), the documents and data that were part of that app get deleted along with it. So, you will want to be careful to preserve your files before deleting apps.
The keyboard that pops up for text entry is closer to what a touch typist would expect, and I’m satisfied with it for the most part. It would be nice to have the ‘;’ under my right pinky as a standard QWERTY layout would have, but that’s a minor nit. I could always go with an external keyboard for serious heads-down typing. I do wish, however, that the ‘@’symbol and ‘.com’ were on the keyboard at all times in Safari and Mail. I would hazard to say that we will all be spending much time typing email and web addresses into our iPads, and those two items would very handy to have available on the keyboard when doing anything online.
I also found an interesting keyboard item in the iPad User Guide. Apple says that “if you touch the wrong key, you can slide your finger to the correct key. The letter isn’t entered until you release your finger from the key.” I didn’t find that to be true. Whenever I held a key, I got a set of foreign language equivalents for the key I was pressing, just as on iPhone. Sliding my finger made no difference. I must be missing something.
Don’t Scratch Me
I’m glad I read the manual on this topic before attempting to clean my unit. Simply stated: USE NO CHEMICALS. A soft, lightly damp cloth is the suggested tool. My initial thought would have been to use Windex – it’s glass right? – but the rule is no chemicals and nothing even remotely abrasive. A damp cloth worked well for me.
An App In the Works
I happen to be an amateur musician (keyboards, piano, and organ), and I play weekly in our church’s praise and worship band. As an amateur, I need sheet music – lots of it. As I don’t have the gift of memorization or making up the music as I go along, I have tons of sheet music to manage during a performance, not to mention during rehearsals and practice sessions.
Let me state what may be the obvious to musicians: Sheet music is a major hassle. It’s really a subject for another day, but I will say now that I have notebooks from over 10 years ago where I scratched out software designs for displaying sheet music on a PC, just so I could ditch the paper and not have to worry about turning pages. There was simply no way, however, that I would trust a live performance to Microsoft Windows, and I could not see wedging a Mac onto the piano or keyboard stand back then. My idea simply wasn’t practical given the technology of the day.
Such products are now available, and a few are really well done, but they are out of reach of the average amateur musician both cost-wise and from a usability standpoint. And, I still don’t trust Windows. The iPad has suddenly made my ideas practical, and I’m working to bring out an alternative to paper sheet music that is both affordable and easy for the average musician to use. I know the sheet music problem from a musician’s standpoint, and I believe I have something to offer that will be very helpful to a lot of people. I hope you’ll stop back to check on my progress!
Please share your iPad experiences below – I’d love to hear how you’re using it and how you like it (or don’t!)