For years now I’ve been pretty anti-Mac. Mostly because I’ve been turned off by the “cooler than thou” Mac attitude. I guess I identify with the PC guy; I sure as heck do not personify Mac’s target market. So after swearing for years that I would never own a Mac… I broke down. I bought an iPad. I was definitely the lone nerdy mom in a sea of twenty-something hipsters in black shirts and skinny jeans in the Mac store that day. And I’ll admit, I sort of felt like a PC traitor. I’ve been loyal to Dell since college, and have not been disappointed. With the exception of Vista, Windows has been good to me.
So it was with mixed feelings that I walked out of the Mac store with my purchase. But hey, like Eve in the garden, I was tempted by the shiny apple of knowledge. Online shopping, email, Netflix, iTunes, e-reader, and a gazillion other apps in a portable package with a killer battery life that feels nothing like an actual computer? Satan, pass me a fig leaf, I can’t resist. Cursed Mac.
The biggest draw for me was the idea that I could get the benefits of a light use at-home laptop, minus the laptop. I’m in front of a computer all day at work (a Dell, mind you) and so when I get home, I usually have no desire to have a computer in front of me. That being said, there are some things that I like to do in my off time that involve a computer, i.e. email, brainless web surfing, the occasional Facebooking, and streaming movies/TV on Netflix or Hulu; and the iPad has been great for those things. Snuggling up in bed with a Ken Burns Civil War documentary on my down time, no laptop cord required? Nerd heaven.
I’ve also used the iPad for some work related things, and that’s worked out really well. Basic documents have so far transferred pretty seamlessly via email between Pages and Numbers/ Microsoft Word and Excel, and for short stints at typing the iPad keyboard does ok. I wouldn’t be able to type for long periods of time, but for documents I’ve already written that just need some editing, it works well.
The most unexpected part of being an iPad owner has been the addictiveness of apps and games. I don’t have an iPhone, so the world of apps was pretty new to me. The Kid loves Disney Fairies and Big City San Francisco; and both of us are addicted to Osmos and Angry Birds. I secretly relish mornings when The Kid and The Boyfriend are still asleep and can wake up, stumble downstairs for a cup of coffee and then climb back under the covers with Crosswords, NPR or Huffington Post.
I will say, though, that while the iPad is unbelievably great when it comes to all of these things, there are a few things that I’ve noticed where the iPad comes up short. No Flash player? Really? Hmm… sure makes a lot of websites pretty useless. Also, it would be nice to be able to print directly from the iPad. Maybe there is a way to do this and I just haven’t tried hard enough to figure it out. (UPDATE: The latest software update allows printing from the iPad. Sweet.)
But the biggest disappointment is reading. Real reading. Not web surfing, or short news item reading, or Facebook newsfeed reading, but actual lengthy reading. For a bookworm like me, this is important. I’ve had Amazon’s Kindle for a long time now, and I was sort of hoping that the iPad would prove to be as awesome as the Kindle. No dice. Sure iBooks is pretty, and there is a Kindle app, which lets you download books from your Kindle library so you’re not forced to buy books through iBooks, so that’s great. But there are several reasons that the iPad physically doesn’t compare to the Kindle.
- Weight. It’s not heavy by any means, but the iPad is a little too unwieldy to hold with one hand. The Kindle is perfectly sized and super light. Perfect for when you can’t put down a good page-turner.
- Ergonomics. I guess this might go along with weight, but I’m talking specifically about buttons. The kindle has perfectly placed buttons on either side for advancing to the next page. You can turn the page without even thinking about it. Not so with the iPad.
- E-ink. This is the biggie for me. I read a lot. And I don’t buy that staring at a backlit screen for hours on end doesn’t hurt your eyes. Additionally, since I have to look at a computer screen for work, I don’t want to do it for my reading pleasure. The e-ink screen on the Kindle is just like paper. Really. It’s absolutely comfortable to read at for very long periods of time. Sure, the e-ink isn’t color, but if I’m going to purchase a book for its pictures I’m still old-school enough to buy an actual book, even if the digital version is in color.
Bottom line, don’t get the iPad as an e-reader. Get the Kindle, you’ll be glad you did.
So four months later, I still have mixed feelings about my iPad. Not because I still feel like a PC traitor, I’ve gotten over that, but because the iPad has turned out to be about 10% usefulness, 90% frivolity. There really is not much that the iPad is good for that can’t be done well by technology I already have, i.e. my regular laptop or my Kindle. But I suppose that’s not the point. I sure look cool when I’m playing Angry Birds.