Saturday, April 10, 2010

iPad: one week

This is another fairly long post, all about the iPad, still from a college student's perspective. If you've had enough of the freaking iPad already, I won't be offended if you continue on with your life without reading this post. If you're curious - by all means read on!
If you haven't already read my first impressions, please do so!

I have now had the iPad for one week. For the last week I have carried it everywhere and taken any excuse to use it. Though I am used to people talking about me (I generally wear a kilt in public), I have heard many more people than usual whispering or mutter to one another as I pass by with my iPad... apparently everyone knows what it is but they are all too shy to come talk to me about it.

First and foremost - the Textbook issue: It appears that some of the e-book publishers are hoping to get on board and offer textbooks for the iPad. CourseSmart, a company that I already buy my electronic textbooks from, has an app for the iPhone and has one for the iPad in the works. Though I attempted to contact them to talk specifics about the new app, I got no response. IF they can get an app that works well and really offers me access to the books I buy from them, I expect my textbook issue would be 50% solved. CourseSmart only offers 10,000 textbooks, which might seem like a bunch but if the one specific book I am looking for is one they do not offer, the app becomes useless to me.

Outside of that, I have topics about general iPad use to discuss:

After using it constantly for the first weekend, I found that the iPad needed to recharge. My iPhone battery charges in two hours solid, so I admit I was hoping for a really quick charge time. Unfortunately, because the iPad has such a larger battery, it takes much longer to charge - about 4.5 hours from 20% to 100%. Additionally, it has to be plugged into a wall outlet to charge at that rate. Depending on the power of your USB port, it *might* be able to charge as long as it is asleep, though the charge rate is much slower.

Once I had it recharged, I loaded a few movies onto it and sat on my couch to enjoy The Dark Knight.
This is really where the glossy screen on the iPad made me want to throw it across the room. As long as there is any ambient light where you are trying to watch a movie, you get a lot of reflection. I spent half the time of the Dark Knight trying to convince my eyes to focus on the movie rather than my own reflection. Watching movies outside in the sun as I tried to do on one particularly nice day is impossible. I saw very little of the movie and a LOT of the grass, the sky, and the people wandering campus behind me. Overall, a fairly miserable experience with movies.

The direct sunlight was less of a problem when reading, though it definitely made it less enjoyable than with a real book. I found that I had to face a certain direction (into the sun) and that I had to remove my sunglasses to read. Doing so with a hat or cap is no big deal, but without one it gets fairly miserable.
I was able to finish The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes while getting my tan sunburn started and i'd give the overal reading experience an 8/10, because it performs wonderfully in low-light and almost acceptably in sunlight.

One of the things I hoped to do was to take the e-books I already have (nearly all of them are by David duChemin) and convert them from PDF to ePub. I downloaded Calibre, a free program for your real computer that converts a host of formats to the iPad-compatible ePub format. It works like a charm and I now have Mr. duChemin's photos and writing at my fingertips whenever I like, thought it does mess with the intended format - some landscape photos that ran full spreads are divided and put a few pages apart to make room for text.

A lot of people have been having issues with the iPad's wifi. I have been connected to my internet constantly at home and the only problem I have had is when the device suddenly decided I had the wrong password for my network. It prompts me to re-enter the password and then lets me right back onto the net. I expect Apple with have a fix out for this fairly soon.

One of the biggest things about the iPad is that it has a host of apps available. When i'm not doing anything I've taken to perusing the free section of the App Store and downloading apps that look good. One I very much enjoy is the NY Times Editors Choice app. It's free, and pays the NY times by showing you an add every once in a while. You get the option to "Skip this ad" and continue to the story, though I figure wasting another 15 seconds of my life to help out the NY Times can't hurt too much, so I watch the animated adds that Chase Bank has to offer me.
Here is a list of the FREE apps that I use:

PCalc Lite (because the iPad does NOT come with a calculator app built in)
Feeddler RSS
iBooks (duh)
GoSkyWatchP (I'm in an astronomy class this semester)
Twitterrific (doesn't allow for "old" retweet style)
Tweetdeck (doesn't allow clicking links in landscape)
The Weather Channel MAX+
Editors' Choice (NY Times)
Pandora (duh)
Adobe Ideas

I've decided not to pay for any Apps until I know whether or not I'll be keeping the iPad. At this point, I'm about 50/50 on it. I plan to watch CourseSmart to see how their app works for reading textbooks, and of course I have to watch my bank account, as I significantly decreased my available funds when I decided to review this sucker.

On a closing note, I am now nearly proficient at typing on the iPad. I make much fewer mistakes than I did a week ago and I can comfortably sit and compose an email of pretty much any length without too much pain or gnashing of teeth.

I shall continue diligently using the iPad for all I can think of - attempting to find reasons to save it or sell it. I will know by the end of April whether I will be keeping or selling mine.