iPad – First impressions

4 04 2010

Yesterday morning, I took my visiting family to Niagara Falls which is oh-so-convenient-ly close to the US border, so of course I *had* to pay a visit to the Apple Store at the Walden Gallery Mall and buy the iPad I had reserved “just in case” 🙂 . At least that’s the story I tell myself to justify traveling 400 km just to address this totally illogical gadget lust.

I have not had much time to blog or do much else actually over the last 40 days or so, being busy at both work and personal fronts – had a few folks staying with us and others visiting us too. So, this post is going to be a bit rushed, just collecting my first impressions on the most expected iThing of the year. On top of it, I’m typing this on the iPad itself, using the revamped WordPress app, so pardon the clunkness of this post. So, there you go, in bullet point format:

– Overall, huge thumbs up to Apple for adding a new category in the already crowded portable computing landscape. The person sitting beside me at the mall was completely unaware of what the fuss was about at the Apple Store, thinking they were giving away something. When I opened the box, she gasped: “OMG, that’s a gigantic iPhone”! It definitely looks like that, but after a day using it, I can honestly say that it’s much more than that. As biology has repeatedly shown us, small increments in features can sometimes drive major leaps in innovation – stand-up posture and opposable thumbs being just two recent examples. The iPad is not just a big iPhone or iPod Touch, not a laptop without a keyboard, not a crippled netbook, not a fancier Kindle, nor a Mac version of the Tablet PC. It’s in its own category, and will follow its own evolution branch path. Personal Computing speciation just occurred, and we witnessed it first hand. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that the iPad will succeed in its current incarnation. But it will influence what others will be doing over the next few years.

– The big positives: the device is fast, the screen is crispy, the layout is gorgeous and it feels good in your hands. Battery life is just unbelievably long. Maps, iBooks, Photos, and the various comics/magazines/newspaper/drawing apps all feel brand new in the big screen. That’s just a glimpse of what’s coming. The iPad is the best portable device to consume content that I have ever used.

– The negatives are well published already: the iPad would greatly benefit from a front-facing camera, multitasking, and more flexibility for applications to share context and objects, including files. All these limitations have one thing in common: they are related to content creation, not consumption. From a market perspective, it makes a lot of sense to target content consumers first, as they represent the vast majority of buyers. I also suspect those limitations are all part of overall Apple strategy to keep us buying the latest and greatest every few years or so. The Cupertino-based brain-trust creates products with enough features to make them desirable, but very rarely offers everything that’s technically feasible in any given release. This way, when an iPad with a camera comes next year, they will sell it in loads again. Furthermore, sometimes we waste too much time thinking about what we don’t have, as opposed to what’s there now for us to enjoy. That’s like being in Paris and complaining about not having a good beach to go to.

That’s it for now!

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My “frugal” Philips headphones

12 08 2009

I blogged before about being an avid podcast listener. In my new job at RBC, my commuting time is longer (about 50 minutes door-to-door), so now I have full 100 minutes to randomly go through my ever-growing list of fluffy stuff. For years I’ve been using Sony Fontopia in-the-ear headphones. While not great, they fit my ears better than the ones that come with the iPhone – which kept falling off all the time. I’m not sure about the precise Fontopia model I had, but it looked like this one:

On Monday though, my 3-year-old decided to play hide and seek with them, and I’m still trying to figure out where they are. I bet that a few years from now I’ll find them inside some old shoes or some jar around the house. After a day suffering of podcasting withdrawal, I paid a visit to the Best Buy store at Yonge and Dundas to get a new pair, and found these Philips in-ear headphones (model SH5910) for CAD$ 9.99:

Call me cheap (or “frugal” as suggested by some friends on Twitter 🙂 ), but I loved them. They fit my ear canal perfectly – I’m glad I’m not the only one with a wacky ear shape, they have the best isolation I’ve experienced to date, with the exception of those noise cancelling phones that I find eerily quiet, and, well, they are really cheap 😛 .

Of course, take this recommendation with a huge grain of salt. First of all, I’ve been wearing them just for a day. Also, I use these phones mostly for podcasts and audio books. At home, I have fairly good Sennheiser wireless headphones to listen to my favourite songs, but for the road I really need something I can fit in my pocket. Finally, the rush hour ride in the Toronto subway is not exactly a home-theatre like environment, so my number one need was good isolation, not pristine sound quality. The fact that I can now listen to podcasts without having to max out the iPhone volume is probably good for my hearing health anyway.