First impressions of the iPad: Buy one as soon as you can

This is a data dump right from my brain concerning the iPad. It’s not necessarily dispensed in logical order. And I do go back and forward in tense. It’s just a dump. But I wanted to get it out right now rather than delay for a few days to collect thoughts. More reasoned stuff will follow.

I took the iPad down to the pub this evening. I did this for a number of reasons. First, I wanted to get ‘out of the office’ to spend a bit of time with the iPad. Second, I wanted to see how people reacted to it.

I had a lot moving at work today so I didn’t really get a chance to sit and spend time with the device. The time I spent with it was devoted to QIKing and photographing it and so on.

My first problem when looking to leave the house with the iPad is what to put it in. It doesn’t readily fit in a pocket. You want to keep it good. And you want to keep it away from the thieves and vagabonds on London’s streets.

In all honesty I think I could have done the 15 minute walk actually holding the iPad in my hand. But that would have been too ostentatious for me. (Seriously!)

And… I felt a weird urge to keep it covered.

It is not expensive, you see.

To put it in context, the iPad costs 326 UK pounds. About the same price as a mid-level sim-free handset. Top of the range mobile handsets hit the market at 700+ pounds sim-only. The iPhone 3GS will set you back £800 from Expansys. Even the Nexus One tops out at £590 sim-free.

So it’s weird feeling like you have to protect the iPad.

When I arrived at the pub, it was empty. Which is good news. Because I was beginning to get nervous. I took it out, connected to the pub’s WiFi and started having a play.

The UI is shocking. Shockingly good. I … it’s very difficult to explain just how natural it feels to use. Coming back to my desktop machine feels like a step backward. I felt ever-so-slightly annoyed at having to reach for my mouse as I placed my hands on my desktop keyboard. Rubbish. It really does feel like a step backward.

Nothing can prepare you for it. You can see it on video, but it just cannot do justice to actually experiencing it.

I think it’s the Captain Picard thing from Star Trek: The Next Generation. They all used to walk about with computer pad things. And back when Windows 95 was all the rage, those things looked positively space-age. Now we’ve got it. Admittedly the iPad is a little heavier than the super-light pieces of plastic that Jean Luc used to walk about with — but the technology is here.

It sounds stupid writing ‘nothing can prepare you for it‘ — but I do feel it’s truly a new experience, a new interaction level. You cannot help but admire it. Indeed, anyone who tells me that the iPad is just-a-big-iPhone, said in a sardonic write-it-off manner, well… not only is that very short-sighted, it’s actually nigh-on offensive. I think it’s perfectly fine to prefer a command line interface. If that’s what you like, no problem. But to dismiss the iPad and it’s capabilities is laughable.

Sitting there in the pub I became very angry though.

Very angry.

I’m angry at Nokia, BlackBerry, Dell, Microsoft, Sony Ericsson. I’m absolutely livid that they haven’t produced anything like this, even as just a proof of concept shown to delegates at the company’s annual conference.

I’m really, really pissed off that .. YET again… YET AGAIN the sodding marketplace is being moved on by Apple. They thoroughly deserve it, unfortunately.

It’s unfortunate because I just don’t want to believe that everyone else is incapable of delivering anything other than slightly-better-than-shit products.

It puts tablet computing — as we previously knew it — to total, total shame. Laughable shame.

It makes anyone at Microsoft (pre-Courier, mind you) look like total chumps.

Anyone at HP? HP? You’re all — in the context of the iPad — total chumps.

Why does it take Apple to do this? Where were you HP? Where were you Dell? Where are you Nokia? Don’t you dare give me a point-and-click piece of rubbish at your next product iteration, Nokia. Don’t you dare.

If anyone else is planning a tablet or a similar sort of device, don’t you dare ship it unless it is — at the bare sodding minimum — exactly the same in terms of potential and abilities — as the iPad. Please don’t waste my time. Innovate. Make it better. Like The Microsoft Courier. That actually looked genuinely encouraging.

Right. We move on. Back to the pub.

The first thing I do is fire up Safari. Goodness me it’s shockingly good. “The internet in your hands” as they call it. They’re not wrong. It really is joyous.

Then I fire up maps. Wow. Full screen Google Maps. Like it was meant to be. Everything you thought was cool on the small iPhone screen, magnified up to tablet size. Wow.

And the speed. Woosh. It’s flippin’ fast.

As the pub began to get busier, I — well I couldn’t help myself, I had to hunch over the iPad.

I feared other people seeing it.

I was afraid because of the total mismatch in expectations for the normob (‘normal mobile users’). It was causing people to stop by my shoulder and freeze.

Mouths — I kid ye not — were hanging open.

And that was getting embarrassing.

I was fearing for the ‘normobs’. Fearing because they simply-cannot-compute it. They can’t understand it. They weren’t expecting it. It’s a totally new user model. And when they saw me swiping, flicking, swooshing and generally arsing around with the device myself, eyes widened. Mouths continued to drop open.

Crowds were drawing up. Normally quiet reserved folk — men and women — were coming over asking stupid questions.

I can’t help but expect that your average consumer should know about the iPad, but of course … no. Not in the UK. Not yet.

The wow factor simply cannot be ignored.

You and I think it’s pretty nifty to pinch and zoom images on our iPhones. So doing that on the iPad is par for the course. Showing someone who’s currently using a piece of shit LG handset and a clunky Vista-powered 2-year old Dell, it makes for a nigh-on mind-blowing experience.

The average folk in the pub simply couldn’t believe it.

And when you explain that it’s only 326 quid…

Of course Apple will screw around with the pricing so if it’s $499 dollars, it’ll be.. what.. 399 pounds? Something like that.

These things will sell like hotcakes.

People will need to try them, first though. The experience looks nice in a TV advert, but it’s far too easy to cross your arms and explain, defensively, that your IBM laptop that you’ve got in the kitchen is perfectly fine.

Yeah. You’ll feel like a right idiot when you’ve picked one of these things up because you’ll recognise that the iPad experience is a world apart from pissing around with a trackpad and one of those in-the-middle-of-the-keyboard nipple things.

You’ll feel even more of an idiot if you got a credit card (or a debit card) with 300-400 quid’s worth of disposable income ready to blow on the iPad.

Oh you can choose to get the WiFi+3G model. You might want to splash out and get the 64GB one. But you can have the iPad whizzy gorgeous experience, right there, right now, for around 300-400 pounds. And you will.

Why would you deny yourself the fun, the joy, the utility?

But for anyone working in the mobile industry, you must have an iPad. Do not pass go. Get one right-away. Whether you ‘like’ the experience or not, you need to study it. You need to form your own opinion of it, swiftly. You need to play around with the apps, the features, the UI — you need to be briefed, too, because you’re going to get a lot of questions from inside and outside the industry. You can’t give an opinion on the iPad until you’ve held one and used it for a good few hours hours.

So expense it, deduct it, claim-it-back. Get one as soon as you can. UK users might want to wait until they launch at the end of April officially — I had to arse about with a US iTunes account to download apps and that’s not entirely frictionless because it means I don’t have my existing apps synching on it, neither do I have my existing TV/movies/music working. But I can now begin to evaluate the iPad and what it means for the mobile industry and the technology industry as a whole.

Right.

I’ll stop there.

There’s a ton more to say. And I can put it in a lot more of a logical thread next time. Meanwhile thank you for staying with me.
If you’d like some advice on getting an iPad imported, post below and I’ll help you out.

And now, here are some pics:

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  • http://gorumors.com/ Anand Srinivasan

    Ewan,

    Your review is full of enthusiasm..so much awe for the new exciting user experience…But I tell you, this is for probably the next week? next month? Try replacing your laptop for a week with this thing..I am sure you will come running back willing to compromise on the crankiness of the older thing that can still do pretty much everything..

    In short, the iPad is good to show off to your friends when the thing is still new. But, you cannot use your iPad alone..Wherever you take it, don’t forget to carry your laptop/netbook along because the iPad is just a flashy looking toy…

  • http://gorumors.com Anand Srinivasan

    Nevertheless, I must add that there is nothing to beat Apple’s attention to the user experience..these other manufacturers should take a crash course from Jobs on how to build such beautiful interfaces..

  • Jeff Cronkshaw

    Love the raw nature of this review Ewan. When these things land in Singapore they will sell like chicken rice in a sale.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Nice one Jeff!

  • basilfarano

    Great article Ewen. Want one more now!

  • http://openattitude.com Andrew

    “I had to arse about with a US iTunes account to download apps and that’s not entirely frictionless because it means I don’t have my existing apps synching on it, neither do I have my existing TV/movies/music working. But I can now begin to evaluate the iPad and what it means for the mobile industry and the technology industry as a whole.”

    I think you just did.

  • http://twitter.com/krasivy KRaSiVy

    Nice piece, Ewan – as always :)

    Try out the BBC app for the iPad. Now THAT will truly blow you away…

  • vinitneo

    good review… nice pictures… No idea when it'll come to India, I'll buy it for sure.

  • http://fonearena.com/blog Varun

    I want one too now :D

  • Mark

    The iPad looks great. Such a shame people like you get paid to write drivel like this article. Your opening statement was both nonsensical and insensitive.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Nice one Mark, how would you adjust the opening statement to improve it?

  • http://www.ipadcreative.com James

    “and insensitive”, a bit like your comment then.

  • http://www.allaboutiphone.net/ Matt Radford

    To be fair to Mark, Ewan's opening line is actually doubly insensitive – taunting us with both having an iPad before almost anyone else in the UK *and* going to the pub (a rare treat for me these days)! Although, combining those two things, surely Ewan showed off the Carling iPint app on his iPad, for massive virtual drinking action? ;)

  • http://twitter.com/mobileminmag Antoine RJ Wright

    I've played with one twice now. And while I agree with some of your impressions, I don't know that its as forward thinking as it supposed. It is forward in application and overall integration – that's something I'd expect you to bash the industry over in a more formal piece. But the ability, the use, nah, its been done – and I'd simply point to my Nokia N800…

    …yea, I mention it because for all of the excitement that the iPad has attached to it, I have (that's present tense) the same when I use my N800. Now, that being said, the software isn't nearly as polished, and I had to dial-down my use in order to see what I see with it now. Nokia gets a mark here because it should have been what we see with the iPad now.

    Shoulda been isn't a win though. And for that, I totally agree that this is *nearly* the type of computer that dang near all of us need.

    Side note: that piece about feeling like you are touching an ancient mess going from iPad to laptop – I've felt like that for years now when going from any mobile to whatever we are using that passes as a PC. Frankly speaking, and mimicking the Engadget piece I once read, PCs are woefully under-developed and under-utilized. We (users and enthusiasts) should loudly clamor for a lot more.

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