I had a play with an iPad at the Apple Store in Brent Cross today, so here’s my summary:

  • I have plenty of Apple kit, and I always like it. Apple’s after sale service has been poor for me, but to be fair it is normally because things I think should be in warranty aren’t (e.g. hard drive in a year-old Mac Mini?).
  • I am not an Apple hater. Quite the opposite: I love the fact that Apple has made technology so approachable so that friends and family can surf the net on the move as I have been for nearly ten years (even Wiffy is a dab hand at Googling on the CrackBerry).
  • The iPad is a lovely looking and feeling device, as always. Industrial design is great. (I think HTC is close with the Desire, but still not the Apple greatness.)
  • Really good fun with games, and the big screen is about spot on for watching videos alone. I’m not sure how it work for over-the-shoulder or joint watching (I guess you’d need to perch it somewhere).
  • It is heavy. I deliberately held it up in the air continuously while using it for ten minutes (partly due to my height vs the table). Everyone else in the store was using it on the “look at me” cradles provided (except the kid playing a really loud racing game). I wouldn’t be able to use for very long it without resting it on something. I wonder how comfortable it would be on the tube when standing.
  • It was really bright (plugged in and powered, obviously): I turned down the brightness a bit to read Winnie the Pooh.
  • The book things are very pretty, but I don’t need the turning page metaphor (unless it disguises the next page render; really it should do that as I read the page, so there should never be a delay). There didn’t appear to be much interactivity in the WtP book, but maybe I didn’t look properly. It looked very nice though, with fab pictures.
  • It took me a while to remember the multiple home page idea: the dots at the bottom do not stand out. Scrolling off the end of the pages to get to search is a little of a surprise the first time.
  • Loads of fingerprints on the device, but it was being used by people pretty constantly.
  • Reflection was a real problem playing the labyrinth game: when I went through horizontal, I couldn’t see anything. Again, this was probably a function of store lighting, and not necessarily the result at home.
  • Screen flip isn’t instant: there’s a slight animation with it. I’ve now got used to my HTC Desire flipping pretty much as fast as my eyes can.
  • The inconsistency of the App interfaces is as big a problem as is is for Android. Even the three news applications (Reuters, FT and NY Times) I used on the iPad all had different ways of moving from screen to screen (tapping columns! it’s like that really clever way of folding the broadsheet to read on the tube without disturbing people), different ways of zooming and returning to articles and different ways of doing titles.
  • I wonder if the great screen size and web access will mean that people migrate back to web sites and away from Apps? In many ways, the specialised Apps are specialised mobile versions of the web sites they link to, so there is less need for the App when you can use the website very effectively on the device (e.g. I can read NY Times on the Desire quite happily, but their Android App is a little better for navigation.)
  • I know this is a wider issue, but I really don’t like the way zoom works on the iPad and Safari (there’s probably a setting I’m missing). When I zoom on the iPad, I am essentially looking at a smaller part of the whole canvas at higher resolution. This is what you want for Photos, where you want to see detail, but it is not what you want for text. When I zoom in on the Desire (using the now normal pinch gesture) the text reflows at the new size, so I don’t have to scroll horizontally on the screen. On the iPad and Safari, I have to scroll in both directions to read the text: this is horrible interaction. Imagine wanting a recipe large because the device was on the worktop and you were moving around the kitchen. You couldn’t possibly pop back and forth to scroll back and forth.

Normal view               Zoomed view I want     (faked) iPad example


So there you have it. More as I remember it. I’d be delighted to have one, but won’t buy one specially. I will, no doubt, get an Android tablet when one emerges that is comparable (design quality, battery life, allows existing Apps to work).