iPad – It’s Just A Big iPhone

The Larger Screen Matters

Ever since watching the first Harry Potter movie, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of having newspapers with video and continually updated content. I have always hoped that someday we would have the same experience, and the iPad is the first gadget to finally succeed in bringing us this reality. After using the iPad for a few months now, I think that it is still a luxury consumption device that could definitely fit between the laptop and phone markets. It really is just a larger iPhone, and with similar resolution to the new iPhone 4 Retina Display ™, but it’s amazing how having a larger form factor makes apps and games so much more enjoyable to use. While it is currently meant for consuming content, the addition of a bluetooth keyboard and more powerful apps will allow for creating content such as drawing, composing music, documents, presentations, and writing screenplays as just a few examples.

While it can replace the Amazon Kindle for most people, I still enjoy reading on the Kindle due to it being very light to hold, and it’s excellent for reading in bright sunlight. But, if you only want to buy or carry around a single reading device, then the iPad is definitely the device to have. It is a great replacement for reading books, magazines, newspapers, and cookbooks. It works very well as a PDF reader, especially with the new support in the Apple’s official e-reader app iBooks. It can also be used for playing games, watching movies, viewing photos, browsing the internet, looking at maps, and much more.

Hands-On Using the iPad

Watching video is definitely what I use the iPad for most often with apps for Netflix, ABC, iTunes Video, and soon, Hulu. The resolution of the iPad is 1024×768 and while it looks great and can be viewed from a wide angle, it would have been awesome if it were somewhat higher resolution. The aspect ratio is 4:3 and not 16:9 or other widescreen ratio. Personally I think this was a smart move because this device is meant to be used for running applications and web browser as well as watching video, it is not meant to be solely used to watch HD video. Video can be zoomed in similar to how it works when watching various widescreen format movies or television on a big screen HDTV and it supports a VGA output for apps that support it, including Apple’s Keynote presentation app.

Gaming is one of the killer features of iPad, and it really shows where just having a larger screen is enough for it to be much different than the iPhone. So far I’m very pleased with how well games play, especially when written with touch and more casual setting in mind. Plants vs. Zombies is definitely one of my favorites, it being a unique take on the tower defense style of game play. Reading on the iPad is a pleasant experience in most situations. It does have a highly glossy screen so it can be difficult to see the text in bright sunlight or a room with a lot of lights or windows that reflect off the screen. The brightness of the device can be turned up high enough to use in direct sunlight, but is not well suited for reading at length in that environment.

Typing on the iPad was better than I expected, especially after hearing many reviews, both in portrait and landscape mode. In portrait mode I was able to use two thumbs and in landscape mode I can touch type just like a regular keyboard with surprising accuracy. Apple could possibly improve the current setup with alternative keyboard layouts, however, I think the current keyboard more than adequate for things like normal-length email responses, Twitter posts, filling out forms, entering a URL, or even writing a short-to-medium-length blog post. You can also pair a bluetooth keyboard which brings the typing aspect of the device up to par with a laptop, but of course a dock or other means of propping up the iPad to a desirable angle is necessary to make this a viable option. I’m writing this using the onscreen keyboard with the iPad in my lap on a laptop stand angled at roughly 20-degrees and I am typing at about 80% speed with high word accuracy, partly helped by Apple’s correction suggestions. Beware of some small odd characteristics of the on-screen keyboard, most notably not having a tab key.

Final Thoughts

This is definitely a first version of a new product, but it is a quality first version. Most people who will likely buy a device like the iPad in the next few years should probably wait to see what other devices come out, or at least wait for the iPad 2 (whenever it comes out). This will also give you time to see what apps are worth buying, and give time for developers to implement the capabilities that you might want. Anyone who already has a netbook or laptop necessary to do work and doesn’t mind taking it along while traveling does not need an iPad and would likely find it costly and limiting.

After spending a few months with the iPad I can honestly say that it is a great device that I will continue to find new uses for, but as a programmer I am going to use my laptop for a majority of my work. However, I will use the iPad now when I travel, when I’m watching TV, while I eat breakfast, as a digital photo frame, and especially for reading, watching movies, and playing games. It is a luxury item right now, but eventually the costs will come down a little bit and the increasing capabilities of the apps you can buy for the device could easily allow this to replace your netbook or even a laptop for many people. If you haven’t bought one yet, you might consider waiting for the next version of this device, or even for an Android or other platform with the same form factor, but I think you’ll be pleased with the iPad if you purchased one today.

Apps The I Use

Video / Music

  • Netflix – Free (Requires $9+/mo subscription)
  • Pandora – Free (To remove ads $30/yr with Pandora Pro account)
  • Last.fm – Free (Advertisements)
  • Air Video – $2.99 (Stream video from a PC or Mac over the LAN or Internet)
  • ABC Video – Free (Most shows delayed by one day)
  • Hulu Pro (Requires $10/mo – coming soon)

Social Networking

  • Twitterific – Free ($3 pro version removes ads)
  • Gowalla – Free (Well designed iPad app for location based check-in)
  • IM+ – $9.99 (great multi-protocol messaging client)
  • WordPress – Free (blogging editor and management for WordPress sites)

Books / News / Info

  • BBC – Free (great app with news and video)
  • iBooks – Free (Allows reading of PDFs as well as ePub formatted books)
  • Bloomberg – Free (Stock information and charts)
  • Instapaper – $4.99 (read saved websites and content for offline reading – free version also)
  • Wikipanion – Free (view wikipedia pages)
  • IMDB – Free (checkout info on movies and tv shows)

Productivity and Office

  • Evernote – Free (Offline support with $5/mo premium subscription)
  • Good Reader – $2.99 (Manage and Download files from variety of sources including dropbox, google docs, etc)
  • Dropbox – Free (sync your dropbox files)
  • Wolfram Alpha – $1.99 (Mathematica-based calculator of sorts – website)
  • Ebay – Free (Better experience than through the browser)


  • Plants vs. Zombies – $9.99 (a linear style tower defense game with humour and high replay value)
  • Flight Control – $4.99 (touch paths to guide air craft to land safely without crashing)
  • Harbor Master – Free (similar to flight control with ships, and just as entertaining)

Art and Drawing

  • Sketchbook Pro – $7.99
  • ArtStudio – $2.99
  • iDraft – Free
  • Adobe Ideas – Free


  • Epicurious – Free (Cooking, recipes, instructions, shopping lists, etc)
  • Kayak – Free (Search kayak.com for cheap fares and hotels)

Resources and Related Content