IPad: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Despite my best efforts to remain uninterested in the new IPad from Mac until I heard news all the kinks were out, alas dear readers I bought one.

Here’s how it happened:

A friend, who knows nothing about computers called me up and asked me to drive to the one Mac dealer between our two towns and help her decide whether to buy one or save for a “real computer.” I knew she would get sucked in, so I went along. The parking lot was full and the store was crowded. People were milling around, eating snacks placed out just for the launch, and playing with the impressive display of fully loaded 64GB IPads. I positioned myself next to a young tween boy and started to sort out the newest Macs pros and cons. The computer is sleek, light, and user friendly (in the store) and there is something extremely seductive about its design. Before I knew it, the kid and I both were enthralled by the little piece of hardware, swearing we would go to the ends of the earth to get one if we had to. And we did … the store had only ordered 150 of them and they sold out in the first 30 minutes after their arrival.

So my friend and I drove to the big city Mac store and inquired there. They too had sold out of most of their cheaper models (the 16 and 32) but had the 15 of the more expensive 64GBs left. Since they were down to their last inventory, they were also not charging extra for a silver model; apparently, white is standard and if you want silver you have to pay extra. Same thing if you want 3G which was not available in our area.

We asked very specific questions of our salesperson based on the make and model of my friend’s computer (it is an older Mac that only runs 10.4.11 and the IPad needs a Mac that runs 10.5 or higher). We were told that while this would compromise the ability to use itunes, all of the other apps would work just fine and not to worry about it. Well we should have worried …

The Ugly

  • Mac has configured the IPad to stall at an itunes window when you turn it on – meaning, you absolutely have to have 2 things:
  1. a second computer which acts as the parent to the IPad at least when setting it up
  2. up to date software which includes Itunes 9.0 and MacOs 10.5 (or Windows XP) – because Mac didn’t bother to send update notices to its subscribers on a rolling basis throughout the last month prior to the release of the IPad it took almost 2 hours to download and update the software today because of all the stalls on line
  • you CANNOT use the computer at all without setting up Itunes, you can’t even get to the start menu

The Bad

  • there is no way to wipe cookies from your system so it is spyware haven on the IPad
  • staying logged on is the default for all programs which means those cookies just keep adding up & collecting your info
  • several of the programs will not operate without you allowing them to access the GPS signal in the computer … Big Brother much?!?
  • the computer absolutely needs a case for protecting the screen and that is extra
  • apple has priced the accessories at ridiculously high rates in general – all of the accessories are extra and some are needed for a functional machine
  • despite supposedly being fingerprint proof, the store models all had massive smudges and the booklet says the protection can and will wear off over time
  • the cursor moves really quickly and the buttons can be incredibly sensitive – meaning, you will have to be mindful when typing, leaning in, etc. or start what you are doing again
  • moving icons by hand from screen to screen doesn’t always want to work and some times you can be at it for way too long because it just doesn’t want to do it
  • THERE IS NO MULTI-TASKING – you can only do one thing at a time and it takes up the whole screen
  • You can’t change the background image without importing the new image to the photo album and then selecting it to be the background – that is entirely too many steps for something we are all used to doing with a right click
  • some apps do not work the way they are supposed to, several have been reported for crash problems, and at least one I looked at was already on recall for redesign (update and fixes are promised for Tuesday of next week)
  • the free ibook has a dismal reading selection (but they do offer compatibility with the kindle with a separate app)
  • the cwtv app does not allow you to watch any complete episodes without paying first but you can watch them on a regular computer for free
  • hulu or anything else requiring adobe does not work on this computer
  • there is only one usb port
  • MOST COMPUTERS DO NOT PUT OUT ENOUGH JUICE THRU THEIR USB TO RECHARGE THE IPAD’S BATTERY
  • for older users the system is much less intuitive than one might think and the standard font size is too small (and I’m not sure it is ADA compliant either but I’d have to check that)
  • I couldn’t find the help feature on the computer and had to access it online
  • while common email is pre-configured none of the competing networks for ATT are
  • it only comes in two colors
  • it has no webcam
  • there is no discount being offered in stores for students
  • my notes app did not work
  • the screen spins around a lot if you don’t lock it down (button on the side) and some apps will still open incorrectly oriented even if you do

The Good

  • It is sooooooo pretty!!!!
  • the screen is much larger in feel and look than anything IBM has to offer, especially with the Windows & screen restrictions
  • all of the apps you are already used to are available
  • apps to fix some of the missing items on the IPad, like a record function, wide variety of background images, or writing and presentation tools, are available for free or cheap
  • it connects to the internet quickly, runs the programs quickly, and generally is a zippy little ride
  • though it does not come with much software out of the box, the things it does come with are all essential for a portable – calender, map(quest), youtube, movie player, etc.
  • there is an endless variety of free apps to choose from – though very little queer content and slightly more poc
  • it has a 10 hour battery life – I played with mine for 5 hours straight without having to plug it in … love that
  • for younger or more tech savvy users it is extremely easy to use
  • it has a wide array of apps for school including a note taking program that allows you to organize your notes by class and task needed (including due date reminder); you can then share them via email right from inside the program, there are writing and presentation tools, and even a blackboard app, a Spanish and English dictionary, etc. which makes this ideal for students with a little extra $$ (buy the apps, the docking station with the keyboard, and the carrying case/stand for privacy in class, and you are good to go)
  • the IPad is compatible with both Mac and Windows systems
  • netflix ready

Ultimately, after the whole itunes update fiasco, I was pretty happy with mine. My friend, on the other hand, was frustrated by ease of use issues, font size, and not being able to “take it out of the box and go” as she was promised b/c of her outdated operating system. I have to agree with her that it is silly to invent a computer that requires another computer to run properly. Apple is treating the IPad like an accessory more than a stand alone and that is where Windows computers have them beat. The latter offer stand alone systems, better initially software, cheaper prices, and no price gauging on needed accessories because most of what you need is already included. And I do believe they offered student discounts on the netbooks as well.

I have both an Acer netbook with windows 7 and the IPad 64GB and I have to say, all things considered, the IPad is the better machine. It runs faster, gives a fuller screen picture especially on the internet, has apps specifically for accessing things like wordpress, twitter, and email. The cost of their writing programs and presentation programs are also 100s of dollars cheaper and coupled with the free pdf app they are usable across systems. And it comes both youtube and netflix ready. I loved just typing in my password and being able to watch instantly without a scrunched up or truncated screen or any massive buffering. My Acer was my favorite, especially its bright purple color and the way my colleagues oohed and ahhhed over it at conferences, but it was always a bear to check my email or try and write a blog post.

So I do I think you should rush right out and buy one?

If you can, I’d say wait until the 2.0 edition. It will likely come with a camera, more usb ports, and a fixed battery charger option.

But if you want something sleek, fast, and fun to use, you can’t beat this machine. It really does suck you in and with very few exceptions, fully decked out, it is perfect for almost anything you could possibly want to do. (Mine has already helped me prep a class, find a vegan restaurant my friends & I could agree on for brunch, email them all directions instantly, watch a movie, and play a fun Spanish word game while waiting in line at the grocery store. I’ve also used it on twitter and wordpress with great success.)

4 thoughts on “IPad: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    • Truthfully, I was until I went to print. I have downloaded two different print software apps from apple at a cost of $15 total and neither works. Given the IPad cost $799 + tax, it should have come with basic software preloaded and any software should work by definition. So far, I have seen many app programmers promising “fixes” and “updates” so the print software isn’t the only issue. Then I went online to price a new Sony or Toshiba (I have an existing Toshiba 17″ used primarily as a desktop and an old, smaller, Sony I used to trot out for conferences before I got the acer netbook) A Sony with a considerably better processor, all the software needed for academics, and with bright shiny colors (including for keyboard) starts @ $100 less than I just spent on what has essentially become a portable electronic games and movies device … I am strongly considering paying the $120 restock fee to return it …

  1. I’m sorry to read the iPad isn’t fulfilling your expectations. If one can’t print, what good is it?
    That being said, was the iPad marketed as a device w/the ability to print? It was my understanding that it’s essentially a big iPad Touch, with the ability to read books and articles.

    • It was advertised as a multi-use unit that represented an alternative to a netbook (which does print and has a USB to hook up 3G at any given time, neither of which the iPad has). As an ebook reader it is subpar to the Kindle (no highlighting, no built in voice reader, tho there is an app, no backlight to make it possible to read outside, weighs more – the heaviness makes it hard to hold up on your own for long periods of reading, etc.).

      Since writing this, they have solved some of the issues I raised here. Some of the app crashes have been fixed, tho it takes 3 steps to print instead of one, printing can happen, and the screen for their ebooks has been darkened. It’s still just a really expensive toy but I have worked out most of the bugs I had issues with and I use it regularly.

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