Why I Hate The iPad

posted in Tech on Jan 28, 2010

You’re going to see multitudes of articles today about the iPad, Apple’s take on how a tablet would work. And while there will be some argument for the usefulness of the device (coming, most likely, from those within Apple itself), I – like hundreds and thousands of others – cannot find a place within my life that justifies such a device. Apple has invented a square peg that fits in a round hole that doesn’t exist.

Let’s start off with the basics. The ‘Pad is a 9.7 inch (diagonal) screened iPod Touch. Those are the basics. That’s it. That is what this is. If you want to think that it is more than that, then I will respectfully say that I respectfully accept your opinions, respectfully, but at the end of the day it’s a giant iPod. Or, if that doesn’t suit your fancy, it’s a giant iPhone with less functionality. That is also what it is. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. What makes this such a worthless device?

Firstly, those who are in the know understand a couple of things about me. I like Apple. I really do. I might have recently purchased a big ass computer and I love it. It’s really hard to use other computers now once you’ve beheld a 27″ badass screen of awesome. I have a lot of appreciation for the design of the computers and devices this company makes, and I currently own an iMac, Macbook Pro, and iPhone. On any given day, I use all three. It’s great. Hell, I recently changed the banner on my page to a picture of my MBP and iMac. There ends my attempt to establish some “street cred” before writing several paragraphs on how lackluster yesterday’s announcement was.

Yep. That's it.

Now for the fun: the tablet itself runs one fancy new 1GHz A4 processor, which means little to me other than they say it’s fast and fancy. Which brings me to probably the biggest achilles heel of the entire device, and everyone plus your grandmother hates the fact that: there’s no multitasking. When the iPhone came out (now nearly three years ago), one of the only chinks in its little armor was the fact that you could only do one thing at a time. Other smart phones could multitask, why not the iPhone? Well, turns out that multitasking on the little phone probably would lead to some dire performance setbacks, and we accepted that. I still use a first generation iPhone and while occasionally I get pissed that I can’t open two things at once, it’s really not that large of a burden.

Enter the iPad. Running on a modified iPhone OS (we finally get to have a background on the home screen!), with a fancy new fancypants processor, one would think that the limitations of the iPhone would be absolved. Apple is trying to position this device as something you’d use on the couch while doing whatever-the-hell. They want me to, ostensibly, leave my laptop in its bag if I want to do some couch computing, but I just can’t do anything productive. You could be surfing or fiddling with email or reading a book (which I’ll get to shortly), but that’s it. And for some people that will be fine, it’s the complete iPhone experience. But why is it so limited? Why can’t I simply have a Twitter client open (think of how awesome Tweetdeck would be on that thing) while I browse the web? It’s not like Safari is going to take up that much resources because there’s still no Flash support. I don’t even care if Apple limits my multitasking ability. Limit me to two to three apps total that can be open. I don’t care! Just give us SOMETHING. Don’t boast your processor when you don’t even use it. It’s like buying a Porsche but the dealer doesn’t give you wheels. “Well, no, we don’t really want you to use it to its full potential, but you can turn it on and listen to the radio.”

Another large point I that I don’t know if I have seen mentioned yet is the sitting position they expect you to use while typing on the device. In all of the pictures they show, the person is laying comfortably on a couch, or leaning their feet up on a desk; those type of positions. But what if I’m just sitting at a table, or holding it in my hands? On the table, you’d invariably be forced to lord over the device like a miser stacking coins, looking straight down onto the screen so you can actually see both the keyboard and the screen. If you’re standing you are relegated to holding the device with one hand and doing the old hunty-pecky. Not really that fantastic, if you ask me.

There is, actually, a fairly elegant solution to the problem but it will cost you even more monies. The iPad case is actually pretty cool. It has the ability to not only protect the screen, but prop up the device to make it viewable in a “landscape” position. Or, alternately, it can lay flat, allowing you to more easily type by angling the device up a little bit. I hate to say it, but that’s one of the coolest things and they didn’t even show it on the presentation. Shame.

I might be the only person who could conceivably want this in a tablet-like device, so this next point might be moot to some, but I was really hoping there’d be some sort of stylus option in there somewhere. As someone who uses and LOVES his Wacom drawing tablet (and I don’t even draw, I use it to edit video mostly, Photoshop things second), I think it’d be an absolutely fantastic opportunity to have a really solid device that could accept a penlike input. This gripe is more personal in nature, I fully admit that, but I can’t help but also think that there is this group of people (students, office workers) who could benefit from a really sharp device that also includes precision note taking. As it stands, typing out notes and trying to keep up will essentially be a sheer impossibility. The tablet that will end up dominating that space, most likely, is the Microsoft Courier. The Courier is sexy as hell. SEXY AS HELL. So long as it works like it does in the video provided at the link and has a battery life that isn’t crap, I hope that thing takes off like a rocket ship to Mars. I hope they jump in the market and attack that shit like a bear.

Another large issue that I will touch in an extremely brief fashion is this: the iBooks software. Not only does it have the laziest name outside of “iPad,” it also gives potential readers the ability to burn their ever loving eyes out reading a backlit screen. Well, to be fair, that’s not iBooks’s fault but that of the hardware, but the statement still stands. Reading Anathem by Neil Stephenson, a title of upwards of 935 pages, is not something I want to do while staring intently at a lit screen. The argument can be had that we do that all day with our computers, and that’s true. But reading a novel in that fashion is different, trust me. I do hope Apple proves me wrong on that front.

And lastly, this will be completely off topic of what this whole post is about, BUT: This is an open paragraph to Apple. I could write an open letter but I’m too lazy so you’ll just have to settle. Here goes: Dear Apple, stop being so G.D. smug. You have the right to be smug; you do. I’m typing this out on an incredibly amazing, wonderful iMac. I have zero qualms with my purchase and I hug it every night before bed. It’s awesome. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished with hardware like this and how great the majority of your products are. Where the problem lies: right now with this tablet you’re too effing smug. The first line of your promotional video for the device ends with “…it sort of becomes magical.” This word “magical” has been thrown around by a few people in your company and during the event on Wednesday, and a healthy set of buzz words for your new toy is not a bad thing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. You made a big iPod. You did it. Congrats. I just don’t need this guy telling me how it’s going to change my world when it’s not:

Just cool your jets a little, turn the smug down from 11 to about the normal 8 or so, and we’ll all be ok.

There are a few other things I could touch on – ha, get it? – (like gaming) but I won’t. I’m already long in the tooth. You probably have already heard a lot of the complaints that I’ve talked about there. The fact that my same complaints mirror those of many others just goes to show that there are inherent problems with this device. Apple needed to prove to their audience that a device in-between the iMac/MBP and the iPhone needed to be built. They didn’t. It doesn’t really do much beyond what an iPhone can do, and does much less than what a MBP can do. Again, why try to shove a square peg into a round hole that is already filled by other devices Apple already makes?

Images from Endgadget and Gizmodo