Sep 7, 2010 - iPad Review - Part 1 - Fun & Useful Features
In the next few blog articles I'm going to share the features and functions of the iPad that I find to be the most intriguing and useful.
Since getting the iPad, my laptop has thankfully become far less necessary for many tasks. I now read email, news, blogs, and manage my tasks, calendar and contacts, often while sitting outside enjoying a coffee.
Prior to iPad's launch in Canada, I read many reviews and was concerned to hear that the device seemed more geared towards consumption and less geared towards creation. How wrong that is. What I can say is that consumption of content on the iPad is SO enriched compared to a laptop or desktop computer. Reading even the most simple news web site on the iPad is greatly enhanced by multitouch and being able to scroll and swipe as you go along.
Glorious consumption aside, I'm having no problem using the device for creation, communication, research, and yes, even for fun!
1. Keeping Informed
My morning starts by firing up the ipad and browsing my news feeds. I use a number of apps for this including MobileRSS, River of News, and The Early Edition. A relatively new app in this genre is Flipboard, which is another excellent and very unique app compared to the competition.
Presentation-wise, Early Edition is one of the most impressive apps I've found. It downloads RSS feeds, and when you go to browse your news, you're greeted by a gorgeously formatted virtual newspaper that is far more enjoyable to read than any physical newspaper I've ever wrestled with.
At the current time (early September 2010), The Early Edition doesn't synchronize my "read marks" with Google Reader, which has caused me some grief. Due to this one missing feature in The Early Edition, I tend to rely mostly on MobileRSS for reading and syncing my RSS feeds with Google Reader. I do expect Early Edition will eventually receive an update, at which point it may become my #1 choice again...
A new RSS app I've recently started using and found to be quite enjoyable is River of News. It's similar to many other RSS readers, but as it's name suggests, it flows more like a river, which is a nice way to enjoy RSS feeds.
River of News:
Email is also nicely executed on the iPad. I have 3 different accounts added, and can easily check for new messages, and reply using the on-screen keyboard.
I'm a big weather geek. I normally visit Weather Underground on the web, but since getting the iPad I now use WeatherBug HD (below) and WeatherHD. Seeing animated radar maps, multi-day forecasts, and being able to pinch to zoom in/out is great if I'm planning an outing elsewhere in the province. These forecasts are incidentally far better than anything I ever find on TV, I'm not sure what the meteorologists are using but maybe they need an iPad too.
There are also many great news apps including USA Today, Reuters, BBC, NY Times Editor's Choice, and Skygrid to name my favorites.
Depending on the time of day, I may decide to tune into TV. I use Slingplayer physical hardware and an iPhone app to access my HD cable box. Imagine a super-thin flatscreen on the kitchen counter while you make dinner, yes, that's the iPad again.
Slingplayer for iPhone
I also check Twitter using Twitterific, browse Facebook using the built in Safari web browser, and YouTube has never been easier to use and view than it is on the iPad's YouTube app.
When it comes to sitting down to watch TV, Zap2It's "What's on?" app is amazing. TV listings customized to your cable/sat provider make it easy to see what's on, mark shows as favorites, and even get a reminder when a show is coming up. The app allows multiple locations, so when I go up north I get the Bell Expressvu listings, when at home it's the Rogers lineup.
The fact that I'm writing this post on the iPad goes far to debunk early reviews that say the iPad is more geared for consumption. In addition to writing and typing, I use some other apps to help me either map my tangled mind, or just draw and paint if I feel so inclined.
As I mentioned, Mental Note is a cool app for organizing articles and notes. Shown below is a Mental Note including a diagram dropped in from the Popplet app.
For painting/photo work, Adobe Ideas is a scaled down version of Photoshop, and quite nice to work with. Even better is Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro (shown below), which is a completely impressive painting program.
4. Fun and time wasting
I don't spend a lot of time playing XBox or Wii games these days, so, it's no surprise that I'm not finding myself engrossed in games on the iPad either.
That said, there are boatloads of great games available, from auto racing to flight simulation, bowling, pinball, and so much more.
As it turns out, when I feel like taking a break, I seem to find myself reading articles in Early Edition, or sometimes browsing recipes in the visually stunning Epicurious app.
Part 1 Conclusion
The bottom line is, for entertainment and keeping up on what's happening in the world, this device is a game-changer. Being able to move away from sitting in front of a PC is great. Being able to interact with my fingers using gestures is intuitive and there's not much learning curve if any at all. Being able to sit outside and surf the web or even deal with work emails, is fantastic. And to be able to paint and draw when inspiration arises, is also something new, no need to boot up the PC and Photoshop when you've got a sleek tablet at the ready.
Continue to Part 2. Professional Purposes