Fanboi's lament – falling out of love with the iPad

Newtonian affair grows cold


Comment As the iPad goes on sale in the UK (and eight other countries), I've had my own "magical and revolutionary" Apple tablet for exactly 56 days. And I'm using it less and less each day.

My fading relationship with my iPad reminds me of a long-ago college fling with a young lovely. High anticipation, fervent consummation, growing familiarization, decreasing fascination, and the inevitable: "No, hon, it's not you. It's me."

Which is the line you use even when you're pretty damn sure that it is indeed her.

Full disclosure: I write this as a fervent fanboi who has used Macs since literally the first day that the original Macintosh 128k became available in 1984. I've partnered with and enjoyed PowerBooks, Quadras, Performas, iMacs, Power Macs, MacBooks, Mac Pros, and iPhones — even a Newton.

But of all of those Apple products, it's my whirlwind affair with the Newton that most reminds me of my first 56 days with my iPad.

With the Newton, as with the iPad, I eagerly anticipated its release, and bagged one as soon as I could. I took it on business trips for note-taking and email, had no problems with its much-maligned handwriting recognition, and even played the occasional game on it.

But after the first blush of novelty wore off, the Newton's flaws asserted themselves: small display, unpocketable bulk, non-standard file system, and so on. I found myself spending less and less time with it, and soon returned to my previous partner, my trusty PowerBook 170.

So it has been with the iPad. I've taken it on business trips for note-taking and email, have had no problems with its much-maligned keyboard, and even play the occasional game. But I'm spending less and less time with it. As a fanboi, I'd like to say that the jury is still out, but I'm afraid that the most important evidence — that I'm less frequently using the li'l guy for either business or pleasure — is in. My iPad is clearly moving into Newtonian territory.

Not that the iPad is a steaming turd, as many rabid Apple-bashers like to fulminate. Nor is it a useless toy. For example, it's been a helpful business partner in meetings and interviews due to its abilities as an unobtrusive, silent note-taker with no display to get between me and my interview subject. What's more, Apple's well-engineered $39 iPad Case holds the iPad at the perfect typing angle.

The iPad's instant-on capability makes it more of an impulse-satisfier than a laptop could ever be. I can, for example, quickly check MLB.com's At Bat 2010 for iPad at any time to find out how badly the San Francisco Giants are losing.

Apple may have left out a good deal of functionality in iPad 1.0, but there are apps available to provide some of its missing capabilities. Air Sharing HD ($9.99), for example, provides a usable file system and enables printing by way of wireless printer-sharing (Mac OS X or Linux only).

The iPad's battery life is truly impressive, although charging it is a bit of a pain. Since it requires more power than an iPhone or iPod, not all Macs, PCs, and USB hubs can charge it when it's awake. However, nearly all can charge it — slowly — when it's asleep. When it's hooked up to a low-power port you'll see a Not Charging notification when it's awake, but you obviously can't see any notification when it's asleep — a mild annoyance that Macworld refers to as the modern-day equivalent of "Does the refrigerator light stay on when I close the door?"

Then there's the matter of web access, supposedly way up the list in the iPad's raisons d'être. Surfing with your iPad while comfortably ensconced on your couch is all well and good, but the lack of tabs in the iPad's Safari browser makes doing so a less-useful experience than it could be. And although the iPad's 9.7-inch display is a vast improvement over the iPhone's minuscule window on the web, browsing on a full-fledged Mac or PC display is still a better experience.

Maybe I'm just spoiled — I have a 20-inch display hooked up to both of my Macs, one at home, one at work. Or maybe computer-based browsing is simply better.

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