Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Thoughts on the iPad 2

I bought an iPad 2 a few weeks ago and I'm very pleased with it. Here are some thoughts.

My habit was to listen to podcasts on my way between my home and work. Now during the time I spend sitting on the train I read using the iPad. I still keep up with my favourite podcasts such as TWiT,  The History of Rome, Philosophy Bites and In Our Time  via iTunes, but iBooks is a fantastic way to read e-books and PDFs.

Web browsing on the iPad is fun. You can sit comfortably while reading and navigation is very easy and intuitive. However it's at it's best as a passive experience. I participate in several forums and I've found that posting to them is painful. The main issue is quite a technical one. The little text editor windows that web sites provide to edit your post are fixed in size and have no scroll bars. If the text content is longer than the editor window, the iPad provides no way to move up and down inside the text document. On a desktop computer you'd use the arrow keys, but the iPad virtual keyboard doesn't have any.

Last weekend I visited my 94 year old grandmother. Over lunch we browsed through a collection of family photos on the iPad, watched some family videos, then I used it to skype to my wife and children who are in China right now. She couldn't believe she was seeing and talking to her granddaughters right there in front of her. The large screen was important as a phone's screen would have been difficult for her to see clearly.

I had a similar experience using the maps application with my mother. We used it to look at some of the places she had lived and worked during my childhood. I showed her how to drop a pin and 'walk' around the streets using streetview. She spontaneously reached out and started using it herself to look around a school where she had been head teacher. She was delighted to see that the school sign incorporated a drawing she had made of the school years before. Her attempts to navigate streetview was hit and miss at first, but clearly this was a device she instinctively felt should could use herself.

I'm building up a collection of games and apps for my girls to play when they come home with my wife in a week's time. I've also downloaded a dozen or so free books from the iBooks store. There is an extensive collection of project Gutenberg books in there. I have collections by Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Rudyard Kipling and many other and can't wait to read them with the girls. I'm on a Pendragon kick as well right now so I downloaded copies of Mallory and Historia Brittonum which I'm using as companion pieces as I work my way through reading The Great Pendragon Campaign pdf.

It seems like a lot of money to spend for such simple uses, iPads are not cheap, but the quality and ease of the experience is astonishing.

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