How I Spent My iPad Vacation
Talk about a vacation — me and my iPad on the high seas for five days. We met at the Apple Store in Miami and went straight to the port for a Caribbean cruise. Some of the highlights:
• Trying to read a book on an iPad in the bright sun is futile. Kindle wins, hands down. Anti-glare, anti-fingerprint screen, anyone?
• USA Today was a big surprise. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the design seemed primitive at first glance (and still is, to be honest). But the usability is outstanding. It's become my default app for a quick review of the day's headlines. I expect that it will only improve as time goes on. (Now about that FBI teaser above . . . ) All in all, though, the web itself remains the primary source for news. The New York Times website and even the iPhone version are so much richer than the iPad sampler that it hardly makes sense to bother with the Editor's Choice app.
• Popular Science lived up to its "The Future is Now" pledge with its layered approach to presenting information. The graphics looked amazing, and I look forward to seeing them animated in the near future. The ability to remove text elements with a thumb press was a healthy baby step toward true interactivity — and something that other publications will surely emulate. One knock: all of the scrolling got in the way of reading, particularly when the type was layered on top of not-quite-opaque panels.
• Prediction No. 1: A camera-equipped iPad will be offered at Christmas, and children throughout the land will get their parents' hand-me-downs. Meanwhile, we're left to create Rube Goldberg-inspired cameras through apps like this.
• It took a while to download full magazines, particularly GQ. PopSci was worth the time, GQ not so much. Of its 57 pages, one Lexus ad is repeated six times, one Braun ad is repeated six times, one Gillette ad is repeated three times and another Gillette ad is repeated three times. There are four Armani Exchange ads and four Burberry ads. The editorial well doesn't fully kick in until page 39 or so, and the pages suffer from disintegration — the pictures and captions and type work on three different levels instead of coming together as they do so elegantly in the print edition. PU GQ — I'll stick to the print edition, where I only have to endure each ad once.
• Typing on an iPad is a joy. I wrote most of this blog on the plane ride home, and it was preferably by far to having a hot, bulky laptop wedged into my gut. In sideways orientation I can comfortably type with two hands, and Pages did the job as a word processor on the go. Suddenly the iPhone seems unforgivably tiny, particularly in portrait mode, and the MacBook Pro seems like an anchor. The iPad is definitely my new travelling companion.
• Magazines face three obstacles in the early going: the cost ($4.95 for Time magazine with no subscription option), the download time (as long as 15 minutes for some), and the payoff (the same content you get at the newsstand, plus video if you happen to be connected to the Internet). The solution, as offered previously, incremental apps. Allow the reader to download the menu and order a la carte. Perhaps throw in a free App-etizer. The price and download become less objectionable and the immediate payoff is a custom-made magazine.
• A WiFiPad is like a Vespa — you can putter around town with it but forget about the open road. All of that portability goes to waste without an Internet signal. 3G will make a huge difference, but whether it will be enough bandwidth to push rich media to the iPad remains to be seen. Again, another argument for incremental apps that can be crammed with the specific content and coding necessary for putting on a show.
• If you have any doubt as to what's possible on the iPad, plunk down $3.99 for ESPN Pinball. Thank me later.
• It seems like we are months away from truly integrated animation and video, for magazine covers and information graphics, which is going to be very noticeable when the Flash-powered tablets come out later this summer.
• Prediction No. 2: Within two years Apple will lop the keyboards off their MacBooks and the iPad Pro will allow you to store files locally and connect to peripherals.
• Buried one or two screens deep in the App Store, magazine covers take on a revised role on the iPad. Freed of the need to sell newsstand copies, covers no longer require so many words — the secondary and tertiary headlines that the marketing department insisted upon when the ship started going down. The primary job of the cover is to brand the content within. It is worth considering the thought that one magazine has five or six covers, allowing the reader to choose his or her own entry point from an array of words and pictures that exemplify the brand. Meanwhile, someone needs to configure a true electronic newsstand that puts these covers back on the shelves.
Note the difference between the iBookstore . . .
. . . and the iNewsstand:
Look carefully and you'll find Round 2 of Time magazine on the iPad, inconspicuously wedged between Gossipwiper, RSSBrowser and techNews HD. Apple? Google? Someone? (Be sure to check out the included bonus: a reproduction of the very first issue of Time.)
Oh well, vacation's over. Time to wipe off the smudges and spills from the iPad and return to the daily grind. After paying 65 cents a minute for seafaring WiFi, it's good to be home.