My (current) relationship with Apple

The first iPad was my reintroduction to the world of Apple. I’d enjoyed doing my high school homework on the boxy little Apple Macintosh Classic, but the lack of games made the Intel 486 a much more appealing machine. Although I spent summers working to afford memory upgrades, the ability to take control of both hardware and software – to tinker – made all the difference. A brief experience working with the lethargic and endlessly freezing iMac G3 reaffirmed my disinterest in the Apple platform.

The iPhone changed everything, not as a phone, but as a mobile media device. I don’t use the very basic mobile I have very much, so the iPhone was not something I was interested in, but the iPad offered a way of abandoning my beautiful, but heavy, Dell laptop. I picked up the last WiFi iPad in Wollongong on the day of the launch, a little impulsively perhaps but after just a few minutes of experimenting with the JB store’s display model I was hooked. Then after just a few days of using the iPad a friend, moving overseas, offered to sell me a second hand iMac and that is when we become a three operating system household. I’ve since stop using Linux (I’ve plans to return to Ubuntu at some stage), but the Mac and the PC happily sit side by side on two desks and I now use the Mac exclusively for work, with the PC functioning as my primary games system. Thanks to Google docs and Dropbox I don’t use any Microsoft software and rely on Pages to handle documents created in Word.

The Apple keyboard, like the brand new Apple keyboard on the iMac, I purchased with the first iPad didn’t last the year. I’ve used the Mac keyboard a lot, and it is great for prolonged typing, but as with the desktop Mac keyboard they just don’t stand up to normal wear and tear let alone any kind of punishment that the kids can dish out. Typing on the iPad directly is fine for meetings, browsing and quick email replies, but for any serious writing and document editing a separate keyboard is required (I’ve only just discovered the undo/redo functions on the screen keyboard, but I rely heavily on keyboard shortcuts).

The app called Notebooks has been excellent for taking and organising notes and general writing on specific topics. I quite like the minimalist approach of iWriter, and I’ve been impressed with the Pages app for creating long, picture heavy documents, although I usually export the document to the desktop version of Pages to finalise it. The iPad has thoroughly infected my everyday technology and media use, and while I actively resist unnecessary upgrading, I’ve been trying to get hold of the iPad2 since it became available in Australia. Knowing that L would be instantly hooked the moment she started exploring iBooks, the iPad2 is less of an upgrade, and more of a sidegrade.

Both H and X love using the iPad, and X (not quite 2) is amazing in his command of the device, and it’s really brought on his enjoyment of puzzles, colouring and drawing, and games. This has of course made things difficult, when the iPad was just ‘mine’ the kids were less objectionable giving it back, but now there are two and X can say ‘turn’ quite clearly it has caused more of the ‘screen’ issues that access to the TV and the desktop computers cause.

I walked into the insanely busy Applestore in the Chadstone Mall last weekend, and surprised when the Blue Shirt acknowledged the presence of WiFi models in stock. I’d narrowly missed out on the 32gb version, but was more than happy to take the 64gb on offer and after a week of use I’m very impressed with the new version. I’d nearly filled the16gb iPad with apps, emails, PDFs and Doctor Seuss books so the 64gb version provided some welcome head room.

A few people have scoffed when I’ve mentioned how much lighter the new version is (at just over 600 grams) but it makes a big difference to extended use, especially when reading and marking up PDFs. I have a pretty hefty rubber case on the original iPad that helps insulate it against rougher treatment, and I’m planning on an integrated keyboard/case option but I went for the cheaper of the two new covers in the mean time.

The new ‘Smart’ covers are great for regular use, the instant-on feature and the magnetic side attachment aren’t just neat, they increase the functionality remarkably. The folding cover becomes a desk stand and useful handle for the device. The magnetic cover attaches to the side bevel and it is this part of the new hardware that is the least impressive design element of the new device.

The bevel makes the side volume and top off switch harder to access and use, but the new speaker grill on the base seems to increase the volume slightly. The screen is the same resolution as the original, but the new dual processor adds a snappiness to the screen interaction and faster load times for the apps. I don’t play many games on the iPad, but I have been checking out the games created by Australian developers and there is definitely more accuracy and responsiveness in the new version.

I was concerned that a new iPad would require re-purchasing all the apps, but after a backup and renaming, I was able to add the apps I wanted to the new version from iTunes library. I have to admit I was pretty surprised at this, having lost video and music purchases from iTunes before on the PC, I was very impressed at the ability to share apps between iPad devices.

Less impressive is the new still camera. Mashable  reports that Flickr has an average daily user count of 23 people uploading images from the iPad2, compared to the 4,402 daily active iPhone 4 users. Quality isn’t great, but then the size and shape of the iPad isn’t really conducive to on-the-go photography anyway. I have seen some excellent use of Callibre in conjunction with video and image capture on the iPhone shared as an interactive document to a classroom full of iPads, which I’m sure will lead to some excellent educational applications, but a full implementation of this is going to be heldback by the low resolution capacity of the iPad camera, which is the same as the iPod touch.

The video camera works well for Skype and Facetime, although after about 20 minutes into a Skype call the video and audio of the connection de-synched. The iMovie app is an non-standard extra, downloaded via the app store, much like Pages and Keynote. I’m looking forward to experimenting with iMovie app and will update the review in the near future.

I’m still not an Apple ‘fanboi’, there is a lot wrong with the Apple monopoly of the app marketplace, but there is no denying the superiority of the iOS over Android (L has an HTC desire mobile, which while a nice phone has been nothing but trouble in terms of the OS). I hope the upcoming release of the Android-based tablets and other tablet devices will continue to put pressure on Apple to innovate and continue to improve on the iPad, but I’m not expecting any of them to come close to being as good as the iPad is all round.

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