The iPad is being hailed as the future of computing by the Apple army. Anyone used to using an iPod Touch or iPhone 3G, will be instantly at home – the touchscreen experience is utterly familiar, although the user experience is something completely new. Read on for our thoughts on the latest Apple wonder...
There's no denying that the iPad really looks the business – it uses its expansive screen to let information be displayed in all its glory. It’s an althogether more relaxing, more comfortable experience than the iPod Touch or iPhone.
Reading e-Books through Apple’s iBooks app is snappy and enjoyable. The backlit LCD screen, while less natural-feeling than a paper tome, is still natural enough to spend an hour or two perusing. Likewise, email and web browsing offer a luxurious experience compared to the cramped confines of the iPhone.
Apple’s new pop-over menus make the iPad’s apps feel almost like desktop equivalents, with menus and inboxes appearing as layers over e-mails and webpages underneath. It’s a great way to skip through messages and websites, and is a better solution than fiddly keyboards and trackpads of the iPad’s netbook competitors.
Web browsing in particular is very close to perfect. Apple’s roomy 9.7-inch screen lets you swoop and zoom, as well as read lengthy passages without squinting. When rendering web pages, the iPad is as quick as our current-generation MacBook Pro.
Where the iPad really shines, of course, is the new generation of custom-made apps. Marvel’s iPad app shows Apple’s device to be a capable comic-book reader, bringing genuinely new innovation, while Scrabble shows the iPad’s potential as a pass-around games machine, or the hub of next-gen party games when combined with iPhones and iPod touches. The iPad offers deep engagement with its content and users – the sort that casual computing netbooks can only dream of.
There are flaws underneath the iPad’s slinky shell. For a start, Apple’s e-mail system lacks true file support, which makes using the iPad as a serious laptop replacement a no-no for the time being.
When it comes to browsing the web, the iPad is also left out by its lack of Flash support. Skipping through pages might look great at first, but closer inspection reveals a few disappointments such as this. The iPad shows sites littered with gaps where video players, adverts and even standard site navigation buttons should be, although thankfully YouTube videos do now play inside webpages, rather than forcing you into the iPad’s YouTube app.
If you’re after anything but the most basic web entertainment, or a comfy web-reading experience, the iPad falls short.
The bottom line
OK, so under that gorgeous skin and updated interface, the iPad really is a gigantic iPod Touch, or an iPhone without the calling abilities and it has the same flaws a sboth these devices. But we love our iPod apps, and the iPad gives them space to grow, evolve and become more than tiny time-wasters. It's the first step in the handheld revolution.