Two (and a half) Weeks With My Apple iPad 3G

by PocketGoddess on May 19, 2010

The Beginning

I received my iPad on Friday, April 3oth, and it was indeed a magical day. It started with some apprehension, because I’m always a bit nervous when I’m expecting an important delivery. Will it arrive before I leave the office for the weekend? Will it be taken to the wrong address? Matters weren’t helped when I got a very early morning call from FedEx about my package, which was really weird–especially since the number FedEx called was not the number I gave to Apple when I originally placed my order. I guess that FedEx somehow tied my address to our corporate account. . . not really sure about how it happened.

What was even stranger was that the recording played during the call invited me to press a number if I was not going to be available to accept the delivery, but there was no way to say that I would be available. I very carefully kept my fingers away from the dial pad and hoped that everything would turn out OK. It did, thankfully–my iPad arrived at 1:34 in the afternoon. It was early enough that I would have time to take some photos during the unboxing (a PocketGoddess tradition) and get everything set up before I headed out for the weekend. The FedEx guy that delivered my package said that more than half of his freight that day was the iPad; not surprising since his route includes a college campus and the surrounding (very affluent) neighborhood.

Setup was as simple as taking the iPad out of the box and plugging it into my computer. It was great to see that the iPad was already fully charged and ready to go, though it was slightly disappointing to see that it could not be used at all until it was synchronized with iTunes. That went pretty smoothly, except that I wasn’t given the option to choose which apps I wanted to install on my new iPad. Since I had been busily grabbing all of the cool new apps that caught my eye in the iTunes store, a ton of stuff was installed that I didn’t really want on my new device. Even worse, I had too many apps to fit on the iPad–you are limited to eleven pages of apps, 20 apps on each page, no matter how much free storage space you have on your iPad. That may sound like a lot, but when you’re a reviewer like me (or just an app addict) you’ve got a ton of apps.

My Impressions

I’m not going to write an actual iPad review, because there are already a ton of them out there. So what I’ll do here is share some of my impressions after using the iPad 3G for the past two and a half weeks. The first thing I have to say is that Steve was right: this thing really is magical. It has already completely transformed the way I compute. For simple tasks like email and web browsing, I’m much more likely to turn to my iPad than to my Windows 7 laptop (at the office) or my desktop (at home). Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by today’s trend toward instant gratification, but it’s so much easier to pick up my iPad when I want to check my mail. I don’t have to wait to boot up, I don’t have to jump through hoops or anything else. The same thing is true of my television viewing–I don’t even DVR my favorite ABC shows anymore, because it’s so much easier and more enjoyable to watch them with the ABC Player app.

Of course if I need to get some actual work done, I can use my old Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard and work up a storm using the iWork mobile apps. I’ve reviewed the entire suite of apps for TabletPCReview and found that though the apps are nicely polished and easy to use, there are still some major missing components that make the experience less than it could be. Numbers and Keynote in particular do not allow you to export your work to the corresponding Microsoft Office format, which means they are of limited utility for a “PC” like me. I’m fortunate that I don’t need advanced spreadsheet or presentation software in my line of work, though I’m hopeful that future updates will address that problem.

One surprising note is that the iPad is rather green, in that I don’t seem to print things anymore. There are several frequently updated documents that I have to refer to constantly at work, and I used to print them often. The iPad’s screen is large enough that I can use it for reference, so I don’t need to print those documents anymore. This is a major plus for me, because the way my corporate Exchange account is set up, I have to download each and every email attachment–there’s no way to preview them (don’t ask). On the iPad, I can preview attachments with a single tap, which has made me a more productive employee, and a much happier one. And thanks to SugarSync and DropBox, I’ve found the same freedom from paper and printing in my personal life as well (full reviews of those apps/services to come in the near future).

I was pretty skeptical about the battery life claims at first, but they appear to be genuine. The iPad seems to sip power, instead of chugging it. I always leave both WiFi and Bluetooth on, and I can easily get several days of use out of the iPad before I have to recharge it. Gone are the days of carrying an extra battery pack because I was afraid I’d run out of juice at the worst possible moment. I remember long business meetings in the past when my Dell Axim would go dead two hours before the end of the day, with no way to continue taking notes unless I brought along a backup pen and notepad–how was that supposed to make my life easier?

Wireless connectivity is a dream, whether you’re using WiFi or AT&T’s 3G cellular data network. I haven’t had any of the issues with WiFi connectivity that some of the earliest adopters have had; perhaps I’m just lucky in how my home and corporate networks are set up. The process of signing up for AT&T data was gratifyingly simple–just enter in some basic information such as your name and address, plug in your credit card number, and choose. I went with the $14.99 250MB plan for now, since I’m rarely away from WiFi coverage, but will of course bump that up to the unlimited plan when I travel. One of the greatest joys of the iPad, and the reason I went with the 3G version of the device, is that I have the power to choose when I want to pay for data. I’m not locked into a tw0-year contract, so I can pay when I need it and cancel it when I don’t. According to AT&T, the 3G iPad data plans is being handled like a prepaid service that automatically renews unless you cancel, and that’s perfectly fine by me.

My traveling life will definitely be much simpler from now on. Instead of packing my iPod Touch and Sony PSP (for short trips) or my laptop plus the iPod Touch and PSP (for longer trips), the iPad is all I need. If I want to stay in touch, my email and the web are a tap away. If I want to be entertained on the plane or after a long day of meetings, ┬áthere are plenty of games out there for me to enjoy, in addition to my music and movie collections. At a pound and a half compared to my laptop’s four pounds, the weight difference may not sound like much but the real life difference is measurable. The AC adapter for the iPad is also about one-fourth the size of my laptop’s power brick, and substantially lighter as well.

Perhaps my greatest delight is how the iPad has personalized my computing experience. There is no longer a keyboard getting in the way, distancing me from the screen. Part of that is the form factor, part of that is the touch interface. I’ve never owned a tablet computer before, though I’ve looked at them longingly in the past. Working with the iPad is kinda like the latest HP tagline–“the computer is personal again.” It’s hard to describe the feeling to someone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves, but the effect is the same with every person who has spent some time with my iPad. Whether they’re relatively new to computing or a total nerd, whether they’re iPhone pros or new to the Apple experience, they just “get it’ almost instantaneously. There’s something extremely gratifying about the up close, tactile experience that the iPad provides. The iPhone/iPod Touch can’t provide that same experience, because their screens are just too small. And my laptop can’t do it either; the ergonomics are such that I’m usually hunched over my desk, squinting at the screen and pounding on the keys. The iPad changes all of that, and for the better.

So Should You Get One?

That answer depends on a great number of factors, most notably your budget and how you compute. If you’re always on the go and want something that keeps you connected via email and the web and offers some seriously fun entertainment options, the iPad could literally serve as your only computer (you’ll still need a computer for initial setup and to sync/backup your info). If you’re an ultra-mobile professional, the iPad could still fit the bill, even for short trips, especially if you don’t want to do any heavy duty content creation on the road–the iWork apps are pretty good, but they’re still a work in progress.

For me personally, the iPad 3G is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made, and you couldn’t possibly pry it from my hands–at least until the next model comes out. I’d love to see a camera and a few other enhancements, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next. I’m still looking for the perfect case, and will be reviewing several different options here on the site in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for updates, and feel free to ask questions either in the comments section below or by using the contact form.

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