Just a little forward: it’s not because I am greedy or enjoy spending money. (Allegedly?)
January 27th, 2010. The entire world was anxiously awaiting this glorious day when Apple would announce its next revolutionary product. Predictions of an innovative tablet computer was rumored for years and anticipation would soon be relieved as our dreams would finally come true.
Then Steve Jobs announced the iPad. And I thought it sucked.
“It’s just a bigger ‘iTouch’!!” was the general consensus among my friends, and I too was in that “iPad sucks” boat. I tried to find articles that could clearly state what makes it so mind-blowingly amazing. “The iPad, it has a camera and can read SD cards and can use Flash and can talk in sign language and can wrestle bears”, THAT would have been great stuff. But instead, all I got was “The iPad, you can read emails and watch TV shows and access the Internet and avoid boredom via a whole buncha games!”… everything my iPod does. Sure, an iPod Touch is cool, but why the heck would I need a big one when I have one I can carry around in my pocket? WAY TO DROP THE BALL, APPLE.
I remained underwhelmed and uninterested for a while, but just a few months later, my opinion had changed. I thought about it and realized that the iPad NOT just a big iPod Touch, it can be incredibly useful, and I want one.
Great Big or Small
Like the Apache Chief of the Super Friends, electronic devices have changed sizes many times before: desktop computer to laptop, NES to GameBoy. The thing about those technologies are that the two interfaces are relatively the same. Playing Mario Kart on my GameBoy Advance is essentially the same as playing Mario Kart on my old SNES, the only difference being variable screen sizes. People then assume (people like me) that if the iPod Touch was blown up to 10 inches, the experience would be pretty much the same.
We couldn’t have been more wrong.
See with videogame consoles and handhelds, your interaction with the game is the same: press A to accelerate. No matter the size of the screen, you press A to speed pass the finish and dominate all other inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom (granted a freakin’ blue turtle shell doesn’t blow you up 2 inches from the line). The key that makes the iPad so different than all the other size changes in technology is its touch screen. Because the screen is not used for just looking at apps, being able to interact with 3.5 inches of content can be a far cry from interacting with 9.7 inches of content.
In order to use an iPod Touch, you’re required to use at least one finger, maybe two at max. This is because designers know you’ll probably be holding the device and only have your thumbs available, so using more than two fingers would just feel awkward. Menus are almost always one-column that fill up the entire screen.
Now look at the iPad. Developers have no problems displaying more than three columns of menus, all easily read and navigable. The screen is also large enough that someone could easily place four fingers (I’m thinking thumbs and indexes) to interact with one of the many iPad-specific applications.
Speaking of which, if the iPad is just a bigger version of an iPod Touch, shouldn’t the Touch’s apps work just as well on the iPad? A la GameBoy Player to the Gamecube? If you’ve never tried it, let me save you the trouble: it’s pretty ugly. It doesn’t look good, it’s clunky, and it doesn’t feel right. Why else would companies be making entirely new applications for the iPad when they could have just kept they one they already got for the iPod Touch?
So the next time someone says “the iPad is just a big iPod touch!”, your highfalutin response could be “not true! The iPad’s enlarged touchscreen compliments a multitude of different design elements, thus varying the interaction with the device when compared to the iPod Touch, resulting in a completely new experience!”
iPad: It’s a niche filler.
I am honestly not a huge technology geek. I keep up with some of the latest trends (see, iPad), and I DID buy some bluetooth wireless headphones (FYI, DON’T BUY ANY, the technology’s not ready yet…), but other than that, I really don’t care much about stuff like 3D TV’s (which I conclude is just a fad), so I have no interest in learning about the processing power of Apple’s next product (so long as it’s sufficient).
So what’s the iPad’s selling point?
For me, it fills a niche. This has been stated before elsewhere (and just subtly marketed), but the iPad fills the gap between a full blown laptop and a smart phone or iPod Touch. At first I didn’t believe that I had such a niche to fulfill, but surprisingly, I do.
Almost everyday I find myself discovering an interesting article or amusing video on the Internet, and most of the time I add it to my Bookmarks to view at a more convenient time. Well sometimes sitting at my computer desk isn’t all that convenient. I’d love to read online articles in the comfort of my bed or couch (especially to avoid that loud HUMMM from my desktop tower), but my Macbook weighs in at around 5 pounds, so it is too fat and bulky to hold, not to mention the keyboard is unnecessary for just reading. My iPod Touch is decent to browse through my Bookmarks, but its Internet connection is nothing to brag about, and concentrating on such small text doesn’t sit too well with my eyes.
Alas, the iPad is the perfect fit for late night web browsing! It’s not too heavy, not too slow, not too small, not too big – it’s the baby bear of Apple products.
Here’s another example: Let’s say I want to view some online video; I just get this sudden urge to watch Crater Face for the millionth time. The problem is that my computer is not on, and it’ll take what seems like hours to boot up. Do I turn on my computer and subject myself to a long wait? Or do I just flip on my iPad and start watching the video in less than 20 seconds? You be the judge. (But the correct answer is flip on my iPad.)
“Want”, not “Have”
After all this hubub of how amazingly useful this new Apple device could be, there is still a lot I didn’t cover (which is actually covered in this article that I just found: http://flmug.org/2010/03/19/ipad-12-reasons/ .) I also regret to inform you that I do not own an iPad. It’s too expensive for my stingy pockets. Maybe one day, when the fruits are ripe, the planets align, and the price drops a lot, I’ll put down the money and invest in the iPod Macbook fusion thing that is the iPad. For now, tis but a dream.
Lastly, via Laughing Squid…