Two years with the iPad
Two years ago today, the original iPad went on sale. It was first unveiled by Steve Jobs on January 27, 2010 during an Apple press conference at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. After a few months of snickering about its name, the world was ready to buy the tablet in droves. Apple sold almost 15 million the first year and 40 million in its second year. It grabbed more than half of the tablet market by the end of 2011.
Sales figures and market analysis are important, but what's more important is the impact the iPad has had on our lives. How has the iPad changed us? What do we do differently now that we have used an iPad for one or two years? Read on to see what the staff here at TUAW has to say about Apple's tablet device.
I skipped the first iPad, and in retrospect I'm glad I did. From what I hear (and not just from the media, who are obviously prone to overstating things), the original iPad was an underpowered machine whose flaws are becoming more apparent as the software that runs on it becomes more demanding.
But the iPad 2, oh my. That was the first iPad I used for more than five minutes at a stretch in some electronics retailer's little Apple products cubbyhole, and within days it became my primary computing device. I loved that thing, and the transformative, almost Zen-like experience of it becoming whatever was on the screen at the time was mind-blowing. That feeling has only grown more profound with the iPad (3), a device that has the best-looking screen on any device I've ever used.
Admittedly, for most of my first year of iPad use it was almost strictly my "screwing around" device – games, reading, news, and the like. It's only relatively recently that I've begun using it in a work context, and even then it's mostly for things it does better than the Mac – drawing, sketching, diagramming. For the traditional "heavy lifting" tasks like photo editing, video editing, and even word processing or spreadsheets, I still default to my Mac even though the iPad is technically capable of all these things. The Mac remains better-suited for some portions of my workflow... but when I leave the house, the Mac stays behind and the iPad comes with me, every time.
I've owned three iPads, one of each generation. They've each provided me with endless hours of entertainment, and they've been the topics of several books I've written. Every day I find myself moving another piece of my work life from a Mac to the iPad, and see the day coming soon when rather than owning an iMac, MacBook Air, and an iPad, I'll probably just have one Mac and an iPad.
The biggest impact of the iPad in our family hasn't been on me, but my wife. In the past six months, she's undergone two knee replacement surgeries. During the recovery period for each knee, the iPad has kept her entertained and connected to the world while she's been homebound. Through her participation in an online joint-replacement forum, she's not only been able to learn a tremendous amount about what she's going through, but has been able to offer advice and consolation to others who are recovering from this difficult and painful surgery. The iPad has become a virtual chat room for my wife, allowing her to become part of a worldwide community of fellow surgery patients.
Two years? Seems like much longer that we've been in the iPad era, but thinking back pre-iPad I remember a lot of discussions -- some heated -- about what the hypothetical Apple tablet "absolutely had to do" to attract users and buyers. On some Sunday nights, I found myself explaining at length to a few of our Talkcast listeners why their sincere and heartfelt wishes for an Apple tablet running Mac OS X were simply not going to be fulfilled.
The tablet was clearly going to be an iOS device -- the proverbial "big iPod touch," which provoked derision and denial. "That's going to suck, a big iPod touch; who's going to want that?" Meanwhile, when I discussed the rumors with my non-technophile wife, her immediate reaction was exactly the opposite. "A big iPod touch? That's going to be awesome!" Just like Jason Snell recounted in his iPad 3 review, as soon as my spouse got a share of the family iPad it was difficult to get it back.
While it promised to be "the computer for the rest of us," during the 26 years between the Mac's 1984 introduction and the iPad's 2010 launch, Apple's revolutionary desktop never quite achieved that goal. In just two years, the iPad has made a strong case that it finally will.
I bought the first iPad not long after it came out, hoping to free myself from my 2007 MacBook. It went to a new home, and I was happy ... for a time. It did everything that Steve Jobs promised it would do, but I found myself frustrated that I couldn't do other things, such as blog for TUAW while away from home if I only had an iPad. I couldn't use Photoshop or InDesign, and I realized I needed a machine that could bring me these. I used it as an ebook reader but found that I was staying up stupid hours of the night and keeping everyone else awake as well with the bright LCD. I could feel the eyestrain as I read a lot of books. In February 2011, I sold the first iPad to my comics partner and got an 11-inch MacBook Air and a Kindle. Bliss.
In August, I decided to get an iPad 2 to help me do reviews. It was rather silly for an app review editor of an Apple blog not to have an iPad. Except for reviews, it sat mostly untouched until January when I went to Macworld | iWorld. I put my hand on a very good stylus, on several pieces of software, and saw some brilliant use cases. Suddenly, I began to realize, "I could change my workflow with these things."
I got home and started taking the iPad 2 to work. I began loading paper budgets (lists of items going in a newspaper) onto it and marking it up with my stylus. I got work email on there and began to do more things. We can even log into our virtual desktops from the iPad. I don't even keep a notepad around my desk anymore because I have my iPad. All of my work documents are contained in Readdle's Remarks. I have knitting patterns in iBooks, edit photos in iPhoto and more. I keep the iPad up as a second screen and watch Netflix a lot. I read on my Kindle, and my mobile tasks are divided among the MacBook Air and iPad. The iPad is absolutely brilliant, it just took time (and a second chance) to figure out how to make it work for me.
What's even cooler? My editors have begun adopting iPads as well thanks to the work I've done on them.
I've had the first 2 iPads. They are a joy.
I do a lot of remote controlled astronomy, and using Team Viewer I can control my astronomical equipment from the house, or even anywhere else with WiFi. I'm also a news junkie, and Zite and I get together several times a day. There's nothing like it on OS X so Zite alone is a reason to buy an iPad.
I've owned two: the original iPad (64 GB Wifi) and now a new The New iPad (same again).
To me, the iPad has three key features. It's the quintessential living room computer (for everything that doesn't require lots of typing, anyway -- I still break my MacBook Pro out for blogging) for lazing on a sofa reading the web, light gaming, checking IMDb, that sort of thing. It's the computer I can carry anywhere -- I take it to work every day, for example, and using it for note-taking in meetings and catching up on personal stuff during my lunch break. The small chassis, light weight, and rarely-have-to-think-about-it battery life are a great combination. And finally, it's the perfect travel computer, effortlessly eclipsing the meagre seat-back entertainment offering on planes and letting me keep up to date with the web and do light photo post-processing of my RAW files before I get home.
Some derisively called the first iPad just a larger iPod touch. But after giving my kids iPod touches, I can say the iPad is more of a creative tool and utility device than I ever imagined.
At first I used the iPad for some yoga videos and to help me practice magic, as it's much easier to control playback on the iPad than a DVD player. I also loaded it up with games. I read the entire Steve Jobs biography and a few other books on the first iPad and it's a decent ebook device.
Now I'm using the new iPad to inventory my magic in Bento, compose music in GarageBand and write articles and comedy. I usually perform holding my iPad. I frequently use it as a second monitor, which has freed up desk space. The 4G hotspot is icing on the cake.
I sometimes find iPad apps which evolved from Mac versions are easier to use on the iPad. OmniFocus is one example. Then there are apps which just make the most sense on a big touchscreen, like Bebot.
Finally, nothing blows people away like mirroring my iPad screen on my HDTV using AirPlay.
I bought the iPad 1 a few months after it came out, and loved everything about it, except for the RAM. It was *just* a little underpowered, which made it a hassle to switch to another app and then come back to Safari and find the tabs needed to reload. I used it mostly for reading (books, web, email, RSS) and some games. It was also great if I needed to take minutes at a meeting or notes during a class because it was compact and didn't seem as intrusive as a laptop would have in some situations.
I sold my iPad 1 to Gazelle when the iPad 2 came out. In hindsight, that was a big mistake. Gazelle gave me a fair price for it, but it would have been much better to hand down to my wife or son. It would have gotten a lot of use. The iPad 2 was as close to perfect as I could imagine. It felt like it had enough RAM, the screen was great, and the battery life was amazing. I used it even more. My mom also replaced her aged Windows laptop with an iPad 2 last summer and has loved it. My mother-in-law bought one a few months ago and has used and enjoyed it far more than she ever used a PC because it doesn't intimidate her as much as a "real" computer.
A few months before the iPad (3rd generation) came out, I said to my wife, "I'm not sure how Apple can improve on this." But of course, the answer was "a retina screen display." I ordered one as soon as they were available, and my wife inherited my iPad 2. In the meantime, my mother-in-law has nearly sold *her* step-mother on one, and my mom sold my uncle on getting one for his wife. My son is already eagerly awaiting the "next" iPad so he can inherit the iPad 2.
How can they improve the iPad? I love my iPad 3, but in some ways it does feel a little like the iPad 1. Although Apple increased the RAM, it doesn't feel much faster than the iPad 2. Obviously the retina display is working the RAM and processor hard. Also, 16 GB is starting to feel like "barely enough" rather than "enough." As hard as it is to believe, I think the next version of the iPad is going to be the one that blows *everyone* away, assuming that they manage to make it feel a bit faster with whatever combination of processor/RAM improvements they can make, and increasing the base storage amount.
I've always wanted a tablet device. I spent years spending time and money on Windows XP Tablet PCs. I would buy them, use them for a few weeks, and then sell them after they sat in their boxes unused. The tablets, like the Samsung Q1 or Viliv X70, had solid hardware, but they just didn't have the software or ease of use to fit into my daily life. It was a chore to use them.
Not only was the iPad familiar to this iPhone owner when I bought it on launch day two years ago, it was the right size to hold while sitting on the couch, didn't have any clunky physical keyboard and was fast to boot. It was the first tablet I actually enjoyed using.
Now two years later, the iPad hasn't replaced my iPhone or even my MacBook Pro, but it has filled that gap in between. It's also changed how I think. Whenever I have a problem to solve, I often turn to the iOS App Store first and ask if there is an iPad app that'll help solve my problem. Just this week, we realized my son needs extra practice with fractions and the first thing I did was buy an iPad app that he can use. And I always go to the iPad first. The iPhone is too small, my MacBook is too cumbersome, while the iPad is just right.
My husband also uses the iPad everyday to read. He used to go downstairs to read Safari bookshelf on his notebook at his desk downstairs, now he sits with us in the living room.
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