The Idea of the iPad – I’d Rather Wait

or Why I didn’t buy an iPad?

 

My imagination tricked me into thinking I would love the iPad. I believed the advertising. And, it’s completely true. It has changed how many people interact with digital content. I was drooling over the previews posted on various websites, (links are included at the end of this post). I could see how my parents or friends would love it. They are, for the most part, still struggling to integrate basic technology into their daily lives. The iPad is the perfect device for them; the time has come when technology stays out of the way, and, just like a car, you turn it on and just “drive”. And, a smooth drive it is! The iPad is a wonderful magazine and book reader when you’re on the road and in situation where you can’t use a computer, but you need something to do, i.e., while waiting in a hospital, in an airport, or sitting on a commuter train.

 

During my first weekend back in the US, the lust for an iPad steered me towards the Apple store. I was finally able to put my hands on it! My husband and I gave it a good 60-minute run around the internet, and tested a few apps we have grown to love on the iPhone. I was fascinated with the touch screen user controls when flipping through photos, reading books, watching videos, and browsing the internet.

 

We punched in our favorite websites. Then, the first “oh, that doesn’t work” or a few similar revelations, started to emerge. We were surprised that the limits associated with an iPhone experience, which we were ready to accept, felt entirely unacceptable on a device created to augment the current content consumption experience. And, as a result, our enthusiasm waned, piece by piece.

 

Here is our short list of the major deal-breakers:
No multi-tasking: 
It’s hardly an issue that the iPhone can’t multi-task, but it is really unacceptable for a larger device. It seems this device is a returning time traveler, who went from the 21st century into the early 20th century, but hasn’t returned for 7 years, and is now surprised how much technology has progressed while she was away. One example: I took a screen shot of an iPhone look-a-like application we created for a non-profit, and wanted to e-mail it to myself so I could show it to the client. Well, I wasn’t able to use the e-mail feature to click on the attachment, and then attach it to a document. Instead, I had to go into the photo application and click on the “Share via e-mail” option, one at a time. Now, I would accept this on the iPhone, as it is meant to be used a “crutch”, or a limited feature tool, but I am not able to accept that limitation on a computer device, as limited as it wants to be.

 

No Flash: 
It might make sense on the iPhone, but it really gets in the way on the iPad, when you expect to be able to view all your favorite websites and see all the TV shows, etc., like you do on your laptop or desktop. A grudgingly, albeit, accepted annoyance on the iPhone, it is a deal breaker on the iPad. Seriously? Really. No Flash? No Fox TV, no Hulu, and no, no, no to lot of other websites. A plug-in that has been around for over 12 years, just came out in Version 10, and an army of web developers, designers and animators have used it to spruce up the web experience for three generations. And, now, I can’t enjoy it anymore? Seriously? The touted ‘alternative’ HTML 5 is not yet up to the task, as the Apple HTML 5 Demo revealed.

 

No browser cache:
Every time I hit a website that I’ve already visited, it’s loaded again; I can’t just hit the back button or forward button and jump between sites. Again, an annoyance on the iPhone on which I hardly browse, because of the tiny screen, but it’s definitely getting in the way of my iPad experience. Of course, in light of AT&T doing away with the unlimited data plan, the ticker runs with any reload of a website you have just visited. That way, you are hitting the bandwidth ticker faster, of course.

 

Not more than 9 Safari tabs:
The OS will tell me that I am not able to view this page because there already 9 browser windows open. It’s a content consumption device, therefore, I would prefer to see no limit on browser tabs.

 

Mobile version browser:
Any website that has a mobile version available might display the same version on the iPad, as on the iPhone. This doesn’t really make sense, as the iPad screen is about 8 times larger. It looks clunky on iPad. I am always happy when companies have websites that change their behavior when you look at it through the tiny screen of an iPhone, and I’ve studied mobile web space a bit, and have had my share of problems. I still do not understand the reasoning behind the decision for the iPad to register with websites as a mobile device, when it is a full-sized screen device, and the browser renders large websites beautifully. Apple is in control of how their browser comes to a website; if it pretends to be an iPhone, then it is doing something wrong on behalf of their users. The NBC site, for instance, doesn’t register as a full browser, it shows the mobile version, which might be OK on the tiny iPhone, but, on the iPad, it’s virtually unreadable.

 

No camera:
Yes, it doesn’t have a camera. As astonishing as this is, I was equally surprised when I learned that the iPod touch doesn’t have a camera. Apple was very late to include a video camera on the iPhone — about 3 years late to the game. Why do I want to have a camera? Because, then I would be able to use it as a convenient Skype device, that allows me to talk to my friends and family, without hauling around a big laptop or failing at the attempt with my iPhone. 

 

Price/Value ratio:
Considering the convenience in digital content consumption I would have to give up using an iPad, the $499 price for the basic version, is way too high. We have seen wireless picture frame devices for $79, that allow photos, music and video playback from my computer on 8″ screens, with a touch interface. And, I can plug my SM cards and USB into it.

Summary: For occasional, beginning online creatures, it is a fantastic device. It makes for a great online content experience. However, even novices will outgrow the iPad fast. No Flash definitely diminishes the online experience. No multi-tasking limits the sharing, and no camera diminishes connecting and subsequent sharing. There is a lot of catching up to do. A shiny cool interface does not make up for the loss of features dear to my convenience level since Win95, and necessary for an all around experience. The fate of my iPad would be that I’d use it extensively for a week enthusiastically, and then never look at it again, waiting for better things to come about. I like the idea of it. The practical implications, however, are less exciting for me.

 

All the photos in this post are from other tablets/slated products in the pipeline of major manufacturers around the world.  I captured them from Tablets.com, a site reporting on the latest development of tablet devices. If you are still on the fence, browse there for a while and compare features, sizes and prices.
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Posted by Birgit Pauli-Haack

Since 1998 Birgit Pauli-Haack has worked with nonprofits as a web developer, a technology strategist, a trainer and community organizer. She founded Pauli Systems, LC in 2002, now a team of six. It is a 100% distributed company. Since 2010, her team has used WordPress to build new nonprofit sites and applications. In her spare time, Birgit serves as a deputy with the WordPress Global Community team, as a WordPress Meetup organizer and a Tech4Good organizer.