Vincent Chang's Blog

Vincent Chang male Former Senior Tech Writer

Vincent has written enough about tech to know that he doesn't know enough about tech. But that's not keeping him from going jargon-heavy about processors and mobos. After all, "you can't stop the signal".

Confessions of an iPad Virgin - Part 2

~Don't it always seem to go
  That you don't know what you've got till it's gone?

Now that the my week is up and the iPad is no longer by my side, am I feeling the loss, like a phantom hand or leg? 

Well, I'm certainly feeling some loss now, but that's more to do with reaching the end of Scott Pilgrim's fantastic adventures. Though as a consolation, the movie's coming out soon. But back to the iPad and whether it made a convert out of me. The short answer is no. The long answer?

The iPad as a device is either (depending on who you hear it from), a new, unique way of computing, or a hybrid device that sits in between your smartphones and notebooks. When I started to create this blog entry, I couldn't find an appropriate 'category' of devices to classify the iPad in HardwareZone's content management system. It runs an operating system meant for mobile phones but harbors ambitions of matching the productivity of a notebook.

In fact, I had intended to write this entry on the iPad, but that didn't happen as Safari just wouldn't recognize the input field in our content management system for the main body text. Everything else was fine, but I would have posted a blank entry if the submission had gone through the checks. Apparently, this happens with Google Docs too, where editing content is out of the question.

Personally, a productivity tool, the iPad is not. Typing on the touchscreen keyboard, while no doubt superior to doing so on a typical smartphone, is apparently an acquired skill which I was unable to pick up in my short week with the device. Can someone enlighten me on why the 'Return' key can be pressed and held to delete more than one character, but I can't do the same when I need to type a long word with the same letter? You know, like ZzzzZZZZzzzzz.

I sort of did find the answer here, and I suppose one will eventually get used to the touchscreen input, because humans are adaptable like that. If not, Apple is always keen to sell you a physical keyboard. On the bright side, I could definitely get used to the predictive text feature on the iPad that helped to auto-complete my words.

Safari was also not exactly the fastest browser. It may be decent for a mobile browser, but in my unscientific attempts to compare it against a desktop browser like Firefox, the desktop version rendered the page faster. It's probably not a fair test, but I can be impatient like that. And I know I shouldn't mention the 'F' word but yeah, there's no Flash support. There's no lack of online video content however. You just have to get used to having an app for every video site you visit.

YouTube is an app, and there are many other sites like DailyMotion and even Crunchyroll that would like me to download their apps to view their content. Soon, my iPad was filled with 'pages' of app icons and while one could search for apps or move the icons to the first page, it just feels like clutter. 

I tried some of the preloaded apps that were on the review unit, from games like Mirror's Edge to magazines like Vanity Fair. But mostly, I was just reading comics with the free ARCreader app. It was easy to use and while it lacked the fancy features that you can find from other comic readers, it was free. The other oft-used app was Stanza for reading ebooks.

I prefer reading over listening to music or watching videos, especially when commuting. (And the iPad's speakers didn't sound like it was any good for movies.) I don't have a dedicated ebook reader like a Kindle, relying on my smartphone instead. Reading with the iPad while commuting depended on the crowd. The iPad is significantly larger than my phone and it is also much heavier. On a crowded bus/train, using the iPad was a bit tricky, with the constant worry that someone would bump it out of my hands. No doubt the larger screen makes for a better comic reading experience, but for books, it's less important and just not worth the additional weight.

And let's not mention gaming on the iPad during commute. Thanks to their size, buttons and superior grip, the Nintendo DS Lite and the PSP are much more suitable than the iPad for this. Even the iPhone beats the iPad here. You may lose out on the better screen resolution but again, standing on a train at peak hours has made me very hesitant on using a large device that I can't afford to drop.

So where would that leave the iPad if I did have one? Well, having it at the couch while watching TV allows me to check the email or surf the internet during commercial breaks. Or googling to find out if that cool 'CSI' thingy they just used was even remotely feasible. It's a luxury for those moments when I'm too lazy to move to the desktop PC to check something online. It's also a pretty good comic and ebook reader, but on the couch and not during commute.

Not everyone will share my habits and lifestyle, and as Apple's iPad numbers have shown, it's certainly leading the way for a new revival of tablet-like devices. Just don't count on me jumping on board just yet.

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