Road-testing the iPad
16.07.10 | Neill Denny
Having borrowed the office iPad for a bit of a play over the last couple of days I would make the following observations:-
1) The reading experience is essentially fine and better than the Sony equivalent; scrolling page turning especially addictive. Larger text/smaller text option useful, typeface changes less so.
2) Glare and reflection of the glass screen is a definite problem when reading in sunlight.
3) The slippery metal finish makes the thing slightly hard to hang on to, and you never quite lose the fear that if you do drop it that's the best part of £500 down the drain.
4) The writing needs to be very good to keep you immersed, because there are so many other distractions on the device. I found myself checking the FT, surfing the web or looking at some of the other apps people had loaded up when the action slowed down a bit. At a more subtle level the device crystallises neatly the fact that books are constantly competing against other entertainment functions for consumer's leisure time. The reading app is just one more way to spend your time, as opposed to surfing the web, playing a game, watching a film, reading a newspaper etc. This of course has always been the case, you choose between reading as book, going to the cinema, watching the telly, but when everything is constrained in one tiny arena the competition is more brutal.
5) Whipping out an iPad on the morning train in to Waterloo was a mildly unsettling experience. People openly stared, although the middle-aged men who habitually tap away on lap-tops looked suitably crushed. I find The Guardian or whatever I'm reading on proof doesn't have quite the same effect. Presumably, when the devices become more commonplace this degree of interest will lessen. Not sure I'd risk one on a night bus quite yet though.
6) On the train my favourite app was the aerial photo/map function, which allows you to follow your progress across the landscape as a little blue dot. It is astonishing accurate, even moving when I moved rooms at home. It does of course raise the mildly unsettling thought that if you can see your own location marked, so can someone else. I suspect that if I had the thing permanently the novelty of this would soon wear off.
7) The quality of movies/videos/game graphics is astonishingly good, better than TV quality. Many people will buy iPads just for that.
8) Two obvious drawbacks with the iPad are a) it's so big you need a bag to carry it around in, and b) it doesn't have a phone application
9) So for my money iPhones and other 'smart' mobiles will be the real mass market product in the long run.
10) However… here is no doubt that the iPad is a transformative piece of technology, which will sell in very decent numbers. Whether old-style reading, long-from narrative with no pictures, sound or interactivity will sink or swim on it though is a very open question.