Tablets

TabletThe more I use it, the more conflicted I am about the iPad. It’s bright and renders images beautifully. I love the way designers are now taking this big screen into account when they produce apps like Pulse news reader and FryPaper. It’s really fun for showing photos to people.

But—and there are so very many buts—it’s not brilliant for writing or taking notes. It’s super fast on slideshows, but takes ages to type, correct, select, copy, and paste. Editing text is still annoying after weeks of practice.

Blogging, as I’m doing now, keeps reminding me how much easier this would be on my trusty laptop. That image I want to use isn’t quite right, so I’ll skip it. What I won’t do is try to find a good image editor app that actually doesn’t resize, then find another that does but hides the file somewhere I’ll never see it deep in the workings of the iPad, I assume. So i won’t do that…again.

Dedicated apps can be brilliant, but the ones for services I use aren’t always. The WordPress app, for example, is terrible. There isn’t an iPad version of the excellent tumblr app for iPhone at all. So, for most things, it’s site-based tools missing letters like tumblr and flickr. But these don’t always render well, and if they need Flash, you’re obviously stuffed.

I’ve also just discovered that I can’t scroll within a frame. This means that I can’t edit—or even see—the text I’ve typed here. So I’ll have to trust that it’s ok. (It isn’t, I’ve switched to my laptop, and have corrected a typo and fixed a missing markdown link.)

More often than not, I’ve got my laptop or my iPhone with me, and more often than not, the iPhone impresses me with its usefulness and size. Indeed, my relatively new iPhone 4 is the best piece of kit I think I’ve bought this year. It’s fast, the resolution is stupifying (I can finally read books on it without feeling eye-strain). Its battery life is great, and it replaces a camera, flip video recorder, sat nav, pad and paper and pen relatively painlessly. There are more dedicated apps for it than for the iPad, and they’re usually better. So the iPhone continues to impress me, and the iPad continues to fail to impress me. When I’m sat at home, coffee shop, or office, the Mac reliably does everything it’s possible to do, and is only slightly bigger than the iPad really.

It’s not that I think the iPad is a terrible device; far from it. It is an impressive piece of kit, and its screen and speed and battery life are great. I do enjoy the times I’ve passed it around to show photos, for example. I was impressed that my two-year-old niece was able to make swirlly patterns on it, and she did it without needing any explaining. It’s great for consuming: for reading Kindle books and magazines and blogs and watching video. It’s got something fun about it, and did I mention that screen being brilliant?

So, I don’t understand tablets. I don’t get the desire to touch the thing you want to work on: your hand blocks what you’re looking at! It’s also awkward compared to a laptop which angles so you can see it and work at the same time. The iPad is constantly falling off, and its keyboard only makes sense if it’s mostly horisontal, making it difficult to see. The screen is so reflective that it’s useless out of doors, even in relatively sun-free Britain. They don’t multitask in the same way that a laptop does, and they’re not as portable as a smartphone.

So, unless a tablet is running a kick-ass operating system, is small enough to be truly portable and has thousands of dedicated applications written for it (hmm, sounds like an iPhone…), I don’t think I’m sold.

3 Thoughts

  1. I tend to agree. Used a friends iPad while on holiday and loved it. Then took the plunge and bought one. Decided it wasn’t as useful or even as good as my iPhone 4 and promptly returned it (buyers remorse). Maybe iPad 2 will be lots better (not that iPad 1 is particularly shoddy) but I keep wondering what place it has for someone with a laptop and smart phone..

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  2. But I WANT them to be successful- the whole idea is so cool. Something with a screen large enough not to go blind trying to read (ie NOT a smart phone), and NOT heavy enough to make your chiropractor rich (ie NOT a laptop), that can sit beside you in the living room for those quick “I wonder what the GDP of Puerto Rico” answers, or to take on the plane with you ….
    Admittedly, my HTC EVO is a giant step in the right direction, but still, the whole idea of that much computer in something the size of a pad of paper is intoxicating…

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  3. I agree with the writer. I have been toying with the idea of purchasing an iPad. My parents got one and it just sits there. It is cool but at the end of the day, and you want to write something, well, a trusty laptop is great.

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