Junior will understand why his drawings have been replaced
Because the iPad is such a versatile device, it's as difficult to predict what you'd use it for as it is to predict what you use your computer for, beyond a few generalities.
As you might remember from Part 1 (Form Factor and the Smart Cover) of this review, I was testing out the new iPad 2 while awaiting Jury Duty, and unfortunately I was selected for a trial. This involves spending a lot of time in the courtroom and some downtime hanging out in the jury room. I quickly discovered one of my fellow jurors, who worked as a Geek Squad Manager, also had an iPad 2. While I've been an iPad user since the first iteration, Juror #1 was a first-time user.
One week is not really enough for me to get a wide and representative cross-section of how the general iPad-using populace employs their devices, particularly when it's one week of mostly being locked in a jury room; but at the very least, I can tell you the differing ways in which both I and Juror #1 used ours, both in the building and at home, over the course of that first week.
What I Use the iPad For
As I mentioned, I've been an iPad user from early on, using the Wi-Fi only model. The iPad 2 I tested out had 3G so it added some functionality that was new to me.
Since purchasing the first iPad, my reading has skyrocketed. This is not a function of the iPad simply having a reader app; it's the result of having this little techno-ecosystem that works together. If I'm researching something online, it's a quick matter to hop over to Amazon, find books on the subject, read reviews of them, and quickly purchase them. For various reasons I prefer buying books through Amazon and reading them on the Kindle app as opposed to using Apple's iBooks, and I really appreciate that Apple has not blocked this competitor the way that Sony traditionally would have. We're allowed to access the content we want.
Because I have busy days I do most of my reading at night, in bed before going to sleep. For this I prefer a chunkier case like InCase's Convertible Book Jacket, as it provides a good handle area and has a thickness to it comfortable for resting on your stomach or chest. (Without a case, or with the Smart Cover, the cold metal of the iPad leaves a line in your skin.)
The other reason the iPad is great for bed-reading is for occasions when there is someone else in the bed with you trying to get some shuteye. As it requires no light source, it's easy to read without disturbing others.
The dictionary integrated in both the Kindle and iBooks apps is a godsend when reading complicated scientific or financial texts: Hit a word you don't recognize and the definition pops up. I use this feature so much I often question my own education level.
But these reasons alone are not why my reading has skyrocketed; it has increased because of the ecosystem. Since I own an iPhone 4 that syncs to the iPad and also has the Kindle app, I can continue reading anywhere. For example, I read at night on the iPad; the next morning I get on the signal-less subway, and assuming I've synched the Kindle app before going underground, I can pick up reading the same book on my iPhone in the same place; later that night I pop the iPad open, and the book picks up just where I left off. Because I always have my phone on me, any moment of downtime—waiting on line at the bank or post office, waiting at a cafe for an interviewee to show up, etc.—becomes a reading opportunity to supplement my nighttime reading. In this manner I'm able to tear through books at a rate I simply couldn't before, because I never carried around all of the books I was currently reading.
This ecosystem effect is something that's difficult to clearly advertise in a commercial, but to me it is one of the most important features of the iDevices, and a large part of why I love them so much.
b) As a Technical Manual
One thing I never predicted using the iPad for, and which I now do regularly, is use it to help me refurbish vintage sewing machines. I've downloaded PDF manuals and adjuster's manuals to various models, and when I'm working on a particular machine I have the iPad display the diagrams I need to refer to. Using the Smart Cover in the vertical position is great because it displays the material at the angle I need to see while occupying a very small footprint on the worksurface.
I prefer using the iPad to paper versions of the various manuals I need to refer to for two reasons: One, I occasionally need to switch from one manual to another, or even over to an instructional YouTube video on how to perform a particular operation. It's much easier to have all of that in one device. Two, sometimes while doing the repairs my hands become oily, greasy or otherwise dirty. If I touched paper with these hands I'd foul the vintage manuals I own, which instantly decreases their value. In contrast, swiping from page to page on the iPad only requires a fingertip and leaves very little dirt/oil/grease on the glass, and whatever residue it does leave is easy to clean off afterwards. You'd think I'd be afraid to touch the iPad with grimy hands, but it's just the opposite because it is so easy to clean.
c) In the Kitchen
The coolest thing about the magnetic Smart Cover, as you can see up top, is that it sticks to refrigerators (and metal tool cabinets), holding the iPad securely in position even during swiping. If I'm watching something on my laptop but then need to do something in the kitchen, I can slap the iPad on the 'fridge and pick up where I left off. And as with the sewing machine repair, I don't care if there's messy stuff on my hands; as long as my fingers aren't dripping with fluid I'll still tap and swipe the screen readily and give it a wipe at the end.
d) Roadtrip Navigation
The iPad 2 I tested was a 3G model, enabling me to use the Maps app on the road, which I'd never done before. I had a weekend gig to do out in the wilds of New Jersey, where I always get lost because New Jersey road signage is the worst in the nation. I had my co-pilot navigate using the iPad, which is simple to use even for someone who can't read maps: There's a button you can hit so that the map orients in the direction you're traveling, and that blinking blue dot indicator showing your location makes it hard to fail at navigating.
A shooter and I were heading into Jersey to do some videowork for a client, a last-minute job. Since the iPad had 3G, in between navigation tasks I was able to have the shooter review the client's current videos on YouTube, boning up on the material en route. We also realized, halfway there, that we had forgotten some materials. The shooter poked around on the map, located a nearby town that had stores, and guided us to the appropriate exit for our last-minute shopping.
These latter two tasks are not things I would have anticipated using the iPad for. But if you build something that works well and give it connectivity, useful applications just seem to present themselves.
On top of this I use the iPad like you see in the commercials: For web browsing, e-mail reading and light composition, and brief sessions of gameplaying when trying to de-stress. On long train and plane rides I've found my original iPad invaluable. The battery just doesn't die, whether I'm reading, watching movies, listening to music or killing zombies.
A Camera App Idea
As I mentioned before I do not use the cameras, finding the resolution too low for my tastes. But one thing I want to mention is an app idea for you developers out there. I predict some app developer is going to get rich by writing a Makeup App for women (if one does not already exist) that compensates for the following factors. When you activate the facing-you camera, it does not provide a true reflection due to its placement; which is to say, when holding the iPad directly in front of your face, the image returned is from a higher perspective, so you appear to be looking down on your own face rather than staring directly at it, which provides some cognitive dissonance. I believe this can be corrected through software that would skew the image appropriately. If some developer did this, and added a white border to the image of your face (to provide even illumination so women could apply makeup), well, I can practically hear the cha-ching of a cash register.
How Juror #1 Uses the iPad
Juror #1, aka Andrew, is not only a first-time iPad owner, but decided to take a bold step and ditch his laptop altogether to replace with the iPad. (He still has a desktop unit.) As the son of a professor of Graphic Design, he has a bit more design awareness than the average consumer, citing he's a fan of "anything designed by Jonathan Ive."
a) On the Couch
Andrew never uses the iPad at his desk, preferring the couch, and he made the rather interesting ergonomic observation that apps should have their control buttons at the top of the screen, as they are in the Engadget app; when they're on the bottom of the screen, as with The New York Times app, they're difficult to access when the iPad is resting in your lap, as it is when you're sitting on a couch.
b) As a Laptop Replacement
I ask him why he'd take the drastic step of ditching the laptop altogether. "I was using a 2008 MacBook, primarily for web browsing," he explains, mentioning that he uses his desktop machine to do the heavy lifting. "The iPad weighs less, the battery lasts longer, it's easier to carry around, and there's an emotional appeal to it. I haven't found anything lacking in the iPad compared to what I used the laptop for, except for being able to play the occasional Flash video."
c) In the Kitchen
He's also found that he uses the iPad for things he wouldn't do with his laptop. "The other night I found myself using it in a 'live kitchen environment,' which I wouldn't have done with the laptop. My girflriend and I were cooking. I had the iPad on the table and would flip back and forth from the Chowhound recipe to Time-Warner coverage of what's going on in Libya."
Why wouldn't he do this with the laptop? "I'd be less likely to do that with the MacBook because of its size, it would make it more of a to-do. The iPad's size make it advantageous to use in that setting."
d) Not on the Subway
"One place I won't pull it out is on the subway," he says. Not for fear it will be stolen, but to negate "the conversation factor. At this point it's new enough that if you pull it out, people will start asking you questions about it."
Juror #1's Thoughts on the Smart Cover
We both expressed enthusiasm about the Smart Cover, particularly when I showed him it would stick to the metal file cabinet in the Juror's Deliberation Room. After discussing the positive factors I've already covered earlier, I asked him if he had any gripes about it.
"Well, I do wish [the case] would snap to the back of the iPad when you fold it around [like a magazine cover]. At the moment it flops loosely and you have to hold it in place. I also wish there was some way to mount it in handle fashion." Lastly, he finds that he's "sometimes hesitant to use it as a base [in the vertical screen position] as it seems not quite so stable."
Juror #1's Conclusions
After one week, his conclusions on the iPad 2 were:
"It's sexy, refined, elegant, and I think the design is superior to the first. I really like the bezel and I'm super happy with the form factor aesthetically.
"On paper the Xoom might have better specs, but the useability [of the iPad] is so high and the price point so low, I think nothing else really comes close. It's easy to use, the learning curve is slight. If you already have a MacBook and an iPhone, you may not need it, but I'd recommend it to anyone who needs a tablet solution." (I personally disagree with a part of that latter point, as I have both a MacBook and an iPhone, yet still find the iPad a necessary in-between device.)
On some days, I observed during jury breaks that Andrew didn't have the iPad with him; he explained that his girlfriend had commandeered it. "Oh, so you guys are sharing it?" I asked.
"Well," he said, "I paid for it, but...."