Thoughts on our huggable cuddly iPad that wuvs us

ipad!Our iPad arrived late on Saturday (its release day) and I was super excited to open the box. As always, Apple outdoes everybody in elegance of packaging (which just heightens the excitement level). Once out of the box, the iPad at first glance looks like a big ass iPhone or iPod touch. And when I turned it on, just like an iPhone it needed to be plugged into iTunes to activate. No big deal there. It came 70% charged so I could play with it right away. And once I started using it, the comparisons to the iPhone and iPod touch flew out the window.

The iPad is FAST. The accelerometer is almost too sensitive, it flips from vertical to horizontal that fast. Apps pop open instantly and web browsing is easy. I loaded several apps on it with the first sync (which took a while), but was most interested in iBooks (the free ebook reader app) on it to see how it works as a Kindle-like device. Verdict: it is by far the most glorious ebook reader that I’ve seen (and I’ve tried the Kindle, Nook and the Sony ebook reader). The fact that the screen is so bright means that you don’t need to carry around a little mighty bright light to attach to it so you can read at night. They’ve made page turning easy & intuitive – if you want to turn pages by tapping on the left (to move back a page) or to the right (to move forward a page) or just swipe, it all works. Pagination and illustrations look just like a real book (unlike the other ereaders) and are in full color. Wow! Kindle killer? You bet. But the potential of the tablet device as an ereader or universal schoolbook is pretty boundless, IMHO. And book pricing is on a par with the Kindle: prices range from $7 to $15. Apple coyly bundle a lovely illustrated version of Winnie the Pooh with the iBook app and I can see kids all over the world grabbing their parents’ iPads and happily flipping through the pages, taking to the new device like little ducks to water.

the arrival of the ipadDigital photos look bee-u-tee-ful on the screen and as has been pointed out if it didn’t do anything else, the iPad could be a great digital frame. I also love the ABC Player, which lets you stream ABC programs to the iPad. Headphones make things sound great (just like an iPod) but the built-in speakers are surprisingly good, too. I hear the free Netflix app rocks as well, but we closed our Netflix account so can’t comment. But given the zippy streaming of the ABC Players, I’m sure it’s good.

Because it uses the iPhone operating system, when you are web browsing quite often mobile-savvy sites default to their mobile versions so you have to type in the actual URL of the big kid site to see the real deal. So far, the lack of Flash support hasn’t been a big deal at all. The keyboard is much easier to use than the iPhone’s as the keys are larger but Chuck griped that he couldn’t type with all fingers because it was too sensitive. Our friend Camille, on the other hand, had no trouble typing away using all digits. So I guess your mileage may vary on that. Pages has so far been the app where we’ve done the most typing, and Apple has done a great job of modifying the app for the iPad to take advantage of the touch screen. You transfer docs to and from the iPad to your computer via iTunes (though it would be great to see an ftp app for the iPad).

All in all, two big thumbs up. I hope there’s a Skype app soon – it seems like it would be a great device for that, although there is no camera :-(. Battery life has been great – it’s still trucking on its first charge. Oh, and it does want a USB 2.0 port for syncing. $499 is a bit on the high end for an ereader, but given all the other stuff this thing does, it seems pretty fair. And if you’ve been holding out for an ebook reader, I’d say your wait has ended.

Final note: we decided NOT to take it to Europe. I had visions of myself sitting in a cafe along the Seine, sipping an espresso, browsing the web on my iPad. But this thing is truly eye-catching, and both of us think any thief worth their salt would jump at the chance to grab it so we’d end up spending way too much time worrying about it.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes it will blend.

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