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
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  • Sam

    You’re wrong. Nothing personal, but it’s true. They’ll sell millions. Maybe not to you in March, but they will. Not to worry, though — you’re not alone.

  • Garret

    My argument is not with them selling it; it’ll sell. It’ll sell like super-hot-cakes. That doesn’t mean it’s not flawed.

    Nintendo is about to release the DSi LL, a super big DSi, a product that is wholly not needed, but it will sell like gangbusters.

    I might be a little harsh right now on it, and I will reserve final judgement until I get to play with one, but it right now I cannot get on board.

  • Matt M.

    Even Hitler is disappointed in the ipad, and he had such lofty dreams for it.

  • Michael D.M.

    I am disturbed that you find “one of the coolest things” to be a case that props the damn thing up. 😉

    WARNING: This was going to be a quick reply, with a promise to discuss in person, but it’s my day off and I just kept typing and typing and typing…

    You raise very good points (raised elsewhere, as you said, but good to know where you stand). I honestly hadn’t thought of the ill effects of reading books on a backlit screen – though I figure my eyes are either A) already shot from the amount of time I’m in front of my computer and TV or B) already mutated into super-resilient super-eyes from said time with said devices.

    I think that perhaps many Cultists of Mac (myself included) are enchanted with what the iPad WILL be and are secretly heartbroken that it’s not IT yet. For me, that will be once it has a front-facing camera and nonjailbroken multitasking – Flash the Magical Resource Hog can go to hell. As far as stylus-writing goes, that’s definitely a void. However, they’re probably relying on the “free-market” of the App Store and the third-party accessory companies to produce some apps and styluses (stylii? stylusuum?) .

    As an example of how the iPad could fit in someone’s life, I’ll tell you a plan Erin and I have contemplated. We sell our laptops. We then buy a Mac Mini and two iPads. We have the Mac Mini + HDTV for the heavy lifting, the iPads for light lifting around the house or on the go (internet, typing stuff, reading, etc), and our iPhones for, well, phoning and other things that aren’t annoying to do on a 3″ screen.

    I can certainly see, though, how an iPad may not fit into your life right now. You already have the heavy-lifter (iMac), the mobility (MBP), and the pocket-mobility (iPhone), plus your new eReader. The only difference to consider is the trade-off being made with your mobility. You have a more-cumbersome mobile heavy-lifter and an eReader VS. the not-as-cumbersome-but-maybe-will-burn-your-eyes-out light lifting iPad. Situations like this are why I think it will take quite a while for it to catch on…

    But you will see… you all will see…

  • Garret

    For some people the product will fit in their life handily, I don’t doubt that. We definitely shall see.

    What they need to do is show examples of software that takes advantage of the larger screen. They showed iWork, and that’s ok (although I have qualms about its total usefulness, which I’ll outline in a second), but there needs to be something beyond that and a larger fingerpaints program.

    iWork sound cool, but what happens when you’re working on a project that uses Numbers and Pages? Say you have a bit of information you want to take from one to the other; you open Numbers, load the file, edit, copy, save, exit, load Pages, load, paste, edit, save, exit, load Numbers, etc.

    With that said, though, here in a couple of years when my MBP explodes, if multitasking makes its way onto the machine I can’t say that I wouldn’t be interested. Apple likes to have closed systems and that’s fine, but here it’s just overkill. “Check out our awesome new power plant!” “Sweeeet! Look at all that stuff we could do with it!” “Well, yeah, but we’re only going to let you power this light bulb. Have fun!” On the other hand one app at a time won’t confuse my grandma, so maybe that’s the point.

    Lastly, over the weekend I read 160 pages on my Nook, and it’s great. No eye strain at all; e-ink really is the way to go for intense reading. And even though we are so used to screens, it’s nice having a device that doesn’t hurt my eyeballs for a change.

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