My iPad: First Impressions

Stock PhotoActually, these are my second impressions. My first weren’t so good, but that was because: a) I have no Mac experience; b) I wanted to learn to do many complicated things at once, and preferably by osmosis; and c) I am impatient. Oh, and d) I neglected to notice the User’s Guide, which really is a pretty handy little thing! But I’ve had my iPad for a couple of weeks now and I’m falling in love with it. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of what I can do with it. I’m a true novice. Still, for those of you who’d like a novice-eye view from a decidely un-techie person, I thought I’d share. 

One of the things I love best about the iPad is that I can type a document on the screen. I bought an external wireless keyboard thinking I would need it, but I may just take it back. The screen is so much fun and easy to use. It’s especially great for typing a draft. I’ll probably never use it for major editing since I love a mouse for that, but I’m impressed with all I can do with this little keyboard alone. I use an ergonomic keyboard with my desktop because of rheumatoid arthritis, but the pressure needed to type on the screen is so effortless that–so far–it’s not causing me any problems.  The keyboard also changes according to my needs. Trying to go to a website? The keyboard automatically offers me a  “.com” button. Very cool.

I use the Pages application for creating documents, as I’m doing right now. It’s correcting my mistakes as I type. There are zillions of applications you can download for free or very little money, and I’m only getting started exploring them. I have a calculator app to help when I’m balancing my checkbook online. I have Passport Wallet to help me remember all my passwords. . . as long as I can remember the password I used to lock the wallet. Hmmm. What was that password?

The apps I will never download are the games, and I’m making that statement here publicly. Games are my weakness. Years ago I blogged about my Freecell addiction. Back then, you needed a password to get to Freecell.  I finally made up a long, complicated password that I knew I’d be unable to memorize. I jotted it down and gave it to my stepdaughter when she came to visit, telling her never to allow me to have it. But I called her before she’d even reached her own front door, pleading for the password like the addict I was. I’ve taken all games off my computer and I hope I have the strength to keep them off my iPad.

The iPad doesn’t take the place of a computer. You can’t use it to save a bunch of files, but you can email them to yourself or to a “cloud account” like MobileMe, then pick them up on your desktop or laptop. MobileMe is also busy syncing my calendar and contacts at all times, a huge convenience. I never did master the calendar sync function on my Blackberry, but so far it’s worked seamlessly with the iPad.

Surfing the web and managing email are easy and I love that I can change the size of a web image with a pinch of my fingers. I went with the 3G model, which means I can connect to the Internet even if there’s no WiFi connection available. I opted for this feature because I recently stayed in a couple of hotels (good ones, mind you) where I ended up needing to use a cord connection (ethernet? what do I know?) to physically connect my laptop to the ‘net. What a hassle, and with the iPad I would have been out of luck. Getting 3G  turned out to be a good thing, because our household WiFi connection is apparently not all that strong in my home office and having 3G allows me to connect in my office as needed. But the 3G is a luxury. If you don’t mind being disconnected when you’re out and about until you can find a Starbucks or Panera with free WiFi, then don’t bother paying the extra money for 3G.

I love the airplane mode feature! By flicking this little toggle, you disconnect from the Internet, thereby extending your battery life. Whether you could still use the iPad to read on a plane during take-off and landing, I’m not sure. I think that’s the theory, but when I last flew we were told to turn off anything with an on-off switch, so that would include the iPad. That’s the negative about using an e-reader. Those around you on the plane are turning pages and you’re staring out the window at the runway. Still, the page-turners have five books in their suitcases while you have one little e-reader, so it all works out in the end.

Back to reading. How does the iPad fare? Well, it’s fantastic. . . but you can get other e-readers for far less money, so I’d only go the iPad route if you’ll be making good use of its other features. I’ve had a Kindle for a couple of years and I love it, but I never knew what the book covers looked like because they don’t show up on the Kindle. By installing the free Kindle app on the iPad, suddenly all my Kindle books appeared in front of me in all their colorful, graphic glory. Wow! I’d had no idea! I also love the backlight and the ability to adjust the brightness, but if you’re the type to suffer eyestrain from computer use, the Kindle or another more page-like e-reader might be a better choice. I do miss the dictionary feature of the Kindle. There may be something similar on the iPad, but it’s not intuitive and I haven’t checked the user’s guide to find out where it exists. With Kindle, if you put the cursor in front of a word you don’t know, you instantly get the definition. Beautiful.

Battery life. Well, it’s not the Kindle, which kept on ticking for a week or two on one charge, but that’s because the iPad is doing so much more than simply displaying books. I’ve been charging it about every other night. Not a big deal, but the Kindle spoiled me there.

I have a lot of travel coming up in the next few months and I’m wondering if I dare leave my laptop home. Right now, I couldn’t. I have too many documents and pictures on my laptop that I need. . . and that I can rarely predict I’m going to need. Promotional requests that require one certain buried image, for example. Or a document I’ve tucked away someplace on the laptop, never thinking I’d need again. But if I can get my act together well enough to upload the things I might need to MobileMe, I might just risk it. We’ll see.

I’d say I’ve discovered about 10% of what I will ultimately be able to do with the iPad. I still have a lot to learn and plan to take one of the free classes at the Apple store if I can ever find the time. If you’re using an iPad, I’d love to hear what you like–or don’t like–about it. Just don’t tell me about your favorite games!


  1. Karen on September 2, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I love my ipad.

  2. Sharyn on September 2, 2010 at 9:20 am

    While you’re reading in the Kindle app, if you put your finger on a word it will highlight and the definition will show up at the bottom of the screen. Easy…

    I love my iPad! But I’m not loving MobileMe…I can’t get the calendaars to synch between my desktop PC/Outlook 2003, my iPhone and my iPad. I’ve lost all my appointments. 8-(

  3. Diane Chamberlain on September 2, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Oh, Sharyn, that’s my nightmare–losing all my appts. It’s happened to me with Outlook in the past, so every week I print the next few months of the calendar on PAPER, just in case. I don’t trust anything that syncs, and yet it’s so convenient when it works. Thanks for the Kindle app tip!

  4. brenda on September 2, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I used my son’s IPAD while I was in CA. I loved it-taught myself…he did download the directions from Internet-but I just did it myself. Made it so easy for me when I was able to get an IPHONE (really really really cheap) this fall…had no problems at all with it. The IPAD does have a tiny key board-as you know-with arthritis-difficult to type sometimes…love it…hope to get one some day.
    Diane-thanks FOR EVERYTHING you do for US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. brenda on September 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    I now leave LAPTOP at home and take IPHONE…however, it will be even easier when I have the IPAD…

  6. brenda on September 2, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I don’t do the games. However, the battery-yes…must do that often.

  7. Marie-Reine on September 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Diane, you’re my new hero for blogging on reading and writing with a disability. I am especially grateful for your iPad review, because I’ve been obsessing over which e-reader I should get. The fact that iPad costs so much more than Kindle or Nook was the issue I’d been struggling with, but now I’ve decided on the iPad, thank you. I’ll just have to wait longer until I can afford it! I do need something, though, since my special bookstand is no longer a good option for me. After an academic life, I have begun to write fiction and it is exciting to know that the iPad’s on-screen keyboard might be a very good option for me.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on September 3, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Marie-Reine, the on-screen keyboard probably won’t be for everyone and I do make a bunch of mistakes with it, but for a draft, I don’t care. You’ll have to play with it and see what you think. You can get a wireless keyboard to use with it if the on-screen keyboard is a problem, and there’s also a docking keyboard that holds the iPad upright in landscape position. Lots of options! Good luck to you.

  9. Autumn on September 4, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks so much for the great review Diane. A friend showed me this in person at Starbucks and even that hands-on demo wasn’t as informative. 🙂 So, now this is next on my wish list! I’m still patiently waiting for my Kindle, which is back ordered. I’m already thinking I will donate the Kindle to my husband (after a suitable amount of time) and then use the iPad for everything.

  10. Vanessa Grant on September 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I enjoyed your iPad blog, Diane. I’ve had my iPad since June. I bought it because I found it easier to read on the iPhone than on my Sony eReader because of my need for supplementary lighting – I have vision problems that can’t be fully corrected and I never seemed to have the right light. Now I can read in bed again. I turn the backlight way down at night and it’s great. I like that the iBooks application can show the book horizontally with 2 pages – just like an open book. I also like the way the display shows exactly where I am in the book when I’m reading, and that I can see book covers on the shelf and quickly search my bookshelf. If you’re using iBooks, you should be able to double-tap any word you want looked up in the internal dictionary. I like reading in the hotpool or tub and I put my iPad in a ziplock bag. Like you, I found the on-screen keyboard easy to use but I definitely make mistakes. I did buy a bluetooth keyboard last week and it’s very nice. Haven’t yet done any real writing using the iPad, but I’m in an editing phase right now and it’s not great for that. Pages looks like the best application but unfortunately it doesn’t support the Dropbox application I use (Documents to Go supports dropbox, but I like Pages better). I also downloaded a mindmapping program called iThoughts and it’s very nice for playing around with story ideas and making notes about future scenes as I progress in the book. Have a good day! Vanessa

  11. Diane Chamberlain on September 30, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    thanks for this input, Vanessa. i’m going to check out ithoughts right now.

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