Why I still don’t love my iPad and why the iPad 2 won’t help
By Leigh Gallagher, Assistant Managing Editor
Two ounces? The iPad 2 was launched this week with much fanfare and subtle but snazzy upgrades: it’s thinner, it’s faster, there are front and rear cameras, and we will be able to get it in white. But to me—and granted, I am not a tech product expert, nor have I held it in my own hands—what stood out was the shedding of only two ounces, especially since the original iPad’s weight issues were among critics’ chief complaints.
Okay, this critic. But still. 3.2 ounces is 13% of its weight. I guess if I lost 13% of my weight it would be pretty significant. But 1.3 pounds down from 1.5 pounds just doesn’t sound like much.
Then again, I’ve been in the minority about the iPad since I wrote about my early indifference to my new acquisition last fall. The story hit a nerve, prompting a surge of comments from the vox populi. Readers ranged from the incensed (“Apple hater!”) to the vindictive (“Your an idiot”) to the all-knowing (“Ur doin it wrong”). Some agreed with me; one romantic compared buying an iPad to falling in love with Eva Peron (“beautiful, alluring, yes, but high maintenance.”) One person feared for my life (“Man…. good article but you live in a dangerous time…You will be attacked by blinded investors… some advice, look behind to see who is walking behind you… when you go to sleep at night, keep all the lights on in and out of the house.” ) And of course there was at least one opportunist who picked up on my issues with touch screen typing: “Leigh, I have a keyboard dock I don’t need. Email me and I’ll let it go cheap.”
But perhaps the most spot-on observer simply told me to “stop complaining that your Corolla won’t cut the grass. It wasn’t designed to be a lawnmower!”
Reader, you have a point. Much of my early criticism fell to those typing difficulties, which isn’t meant to be the iPad’s forte, as well as my own clumsiness with the touch screen interface. Once I became more comfortable with it, colleagues and friends told me, I would surely become as enraptured as everyone else. So convinced were they of this fact that my editors made me promise to update this column in three months.
Well, it’s been almost four, and I’m still not totally sold—and the iPad 2 doesn’t really address my complaints (though it addresses some of them). That said, to my own surprise I have come to like it a lot more—and there are a few things about it that might even merit the L-word.
Here’s what I’ve loved about the iPad
Podcasts! The iPad speakers aren’t exactly Hi-Fi, but when I’m putzing around the house, a Ted talk or a storytelling podcast from the Moth is the perfectly-sized piece of content: not too long or taxing, usually entertaining, and sometimes educational. I’ve found that queuing them up and playing them back-to-back removes the tedium from putting on makeup.
I still adore reading newspapers and magazines on the iPad. To my
Wall Street Journal
apps, I’ve added the
New York Post
, which is just like reading the real, ink-stained thing, but with better celebrity pictures. And of course Fortune just keeps getting better, too (check out the extra pictures of Chilean Patagonia on our latest issue out today). Other apps from favorite content providers are like new fun toys to discover: the 60 Minutes app has all sorts of extra video with interviewees that are like catnip for subjects you’re interested in (say, Marky Mark), and you can watch it as soon as the show airs. (Our own Phil Elmer-Dewitt loves this one too.)
My iPad has been great for cooking; I used it to make an Ina Garten bolognese sauce and managed to not splatter anything on it, through sheer luck. The Martha Stewart Makes Cookies app is great (just the concept of its “cookie runway,” a long, swipeable photo display of the 50 cookies included, is almost worth the $4.99).
Cookies are on hold now that I’m training for a triathlon, but there, too, I was able to find all sorts of apps to help me plan my training schedule. I downloaded one that delivers the training secrets of Navy SEALs and another that generates workouts for every day of the week. But, in the triathlon training world, to look truly hardcore during swim workouts, you’re supposed to go analog, keeping a paper workout in a plastic sleeve, which I suppose isn’t Apple’s (AAPL) fault. (And if I brought my iPad to the pool, I would look like a tool.) Still, the training apps have helped.
Then there was my Flipboard epiphany. Early on, everyone I talked to said I just needed to try the social magazine app and I’d love it. I loaded my Facebook account into it and thought the magazine-style layout was neat, but I didn’t really care about seeing my more obscure friends’ posts in that format; Flipboard had no easy way to distinguish the tangential “friends” I haven’t spoken to in years from the people in my day to day life, whose updates I care more about.
But then a few weeks later I loaded Twitter into Flipboard, and instantly saw the difference: on Twitter, I choose and edit the people I follow carefully, and for a pretty specific purpose: to discover and ingest news and stories I might not otherwise come across. Displayed on Flipboard in full article form and easily flippable, it’s a whole new story—actually, tons of them. I then discovered you could set up entire Flipboard sections for just a single Twitter account, which I did for Fortune, for some of my favorite news outlets’ specific feeds, and for the most active person on Twitter I follow whose tweets I am also most likely to read (Heidi Moore, that’s you!). Now, those tweets are all filed away in one place, for me to read chronologically–almost like a book of single-topic tweets–whenever I can sit back, relax and get a moment to breathe (forget about the fact that Twitter itself makes you feel like you will never, ever, again, sit back and have a moment to breathe).
Another small but critical discovery came on the topic of fingerprints, which in my earlier writing I found unsightly and highly visible. After seeing my story, an enterprising company called ToddyGear mailed me a microfiber cloth it had designed just for the iPad that works like a charm. One side is plush terrycloth that has just enough texture to rub the fingerprints right off; the other side is silk for polishing. Seriously, the thing is pure analog genius – though they’ll have to make a new version, taking advantage of the magnetic self-cleaning cover that the iPad 2 ingeniously sports.
But I still have complaints.
Apps take a while to load. So does the front page of Flipboard. So do web pages. They just do. I seem to attract bizarre glitches. The other night I wanted to watch Joan Rivers: a Piece of Work on Netflix Instant (NFLX), so I downloaded the app. But when I tried to log in, I got an error that said something about my account or device or the app not being able to support streaming. (I couldn’t read the error in its entirety because each time I tried the app crashed instantly; after attempting several times, the only words I could catch were “device” and “streaming.”)
Being a bit of a technoidiot, I didn’t know what to make of this, so I gave up. Yes, commenters, I understand the Netflix Apps works very well on your iPad–and in fairness, my app worked fine when a few of my colleagues logged into their own accounts on it (my own account also worked when I logged into netflix.com on safari). Maybe I gave up too soon, but Apple has conditioned me to have zero patience for anything that is not easy and intuitive, and there’s not a lot of troubleshooting one can do in iOS anyway. Anyway, a Netflix customer service agent said this was an Apple problem, not a Netflix problem–how does that square with my colleagues’ success on my device? I’ve had trouble downloading other apps too, and it’s never immediately clear what the iPad wants you to do when a download fails.
I did find it fun to watch the Oscars and read my Twitter feed on my iPad at the same time, especially with the Twitterati having a field day with James Franco. But while I found myself retweeting a storm, I wasn’t doing much original tweeting, mostly because of my persistent touch-screen typing handicap: it’s just hard enough for me to type that I usually don’t.
My biggest problem with the iPad is that I still don’t want to take it with me to and from work, so I can’t make use of all this good stuff on the subway or while I’m at the office. To me, that’s the biggest stumbling block. With the original, Apple made a pretty great guess at how people would use a device they’ve never seen before. For many people, they guessed right. But for me, they didn’t, at least not yet.
Here’s what I wish:
That it were lighter. That it were a little smaller–but only a little. That there was a DVR-meets-Time-Machine app that would let my recorded TV shows jump wirelessly onto my iPad. (Apple TV has some of this functionality, but of course, its limited to what the networks and cable companies are willing to enable.) That you didn’t have to turn it off and stow it during flight takeoffs and landings, sacrificing a solid 40 minutes of reading time. That there weren’t so many iPhone apps still lurking around, which look clunky on the iPad.
The iPad 2 solves some of these issues. It is, after all, thinner and lighter, and picking it up I might notice those two ounces more than I think. It will be faster, a welcome upgrade. The smart cover that also wakes the iPad up and puts it to sleep sounds pretty cool, as does the camera and the potential for video chats. And early reviews say iPhone apps look better on it.
But here’s the thing: I don’t have the iPad 2, I have the iPad 1. Like a lot of people, I’m not going to spend $500 for a new one; I have to love the one I’m with. And it’s not my job to fund Apple’s R&D, though many Apple fanatics seem happy to stand in line semi-annually, at this point, to pick up the latest new iWhatever. Do I like the iPad a whole lot more after a few more months of use? Yes. Am I in love with it? No.
It’s possible the iPad 2 is just the first of many steps toward iPad perfection; many people have said to me that I should consider the first and even second and third generations as early iterations toward a total “post-PC” computing revolution. But it’s also possible, as my favorite comment-writer on Fortune.com so effectively said, that we are all just a little too gaga for it. “It’s a product, for goodness sake,” wrote Billie T from Georgia. “Not everything Apple does is supernatural.”
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