Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The iPad's titillating promise

Titillating promises of what can be are often more interesting than the real experience.

Like all Apple products, the lovable iPad turns heads. Just because. The guy next to me on the plane felt compelled to open a conversation when he spotted me using it. In fact, you take it into public place to elicit just such a response.

Conspicuous consumption of the 60s and 70s turned to conspicuous morality of the ‘90 and ’00 and now we have graduated to conspicuous coolness, brought on not by a 350hp all wheel drive red coupe, but by a small 8x10 piece of electronics.

The problem is that the iPad’s hipness is not backed by its utility: it simply does not know what it wants to be: Too big for a phone, too small for a computer, too heavy for a book, too fragile for casual handling.

The screen is brilliant except outdoors where thumbprints overpower the content.

It’s too heavy to hold with one hand without your thumb wandering into the active matrix area and causing presses you did not intend. I keep swishing for 3 finger holes in the back (like a bowling ball), so I can hold it with one hand and operate it with the other.

It will not charge from most USB ports, and the battery life is so-so. Wifi reception is mediocre, unable to connect where other devices can.

Love seeing the NYT, WSJ and Bloomberg on that brilliant screen. Kindle app, iBook look great, but the device is simply too heavy to sustained reading. I found myself too preoccupied with how to hold the device that with reading.

Google Map is just the bomb! Intuitive, speedy, accurate, just brilliant!

Where the iPad really shines is web browsing. I miss flash, but the web experience is good and intuitive.

But the iPad’s biggest problem is that it simply cannot be used standing up or lying down. It cannot be used on a desk and it cannot be used on a recliner. It’s just too heavy and fragile for that.

So here’s my recommendation: if you’re the kind of person that sits up straight 80% of the time, buy an iPad, otherwise a combo laptop/smartphone is still the best way to go.

Unless you want to look cool. They hurry up and buy one before the charm fades.

As for me, I will continue to use this darned thing for the next couple of weeks and a few business trips. Maybe I’ll finally learn to sit up straight.