My Week With an iPad

17 Mar

Ever since the iPad was released I’ve wanted one, but it wasn’t until I started my PhD and my girlfriend started work that we had enough money to afford one. As soon as I started hearing rumours of the iPad 3 around January I knew that I could wait no longer, and as soon as the press conference showing it off had finished I ordered one. Part of me was always worried that as soon as I got it I’d feel buyer remorse but thankfully that hasn’t been the case. Here’s what I do feel about it:

The Keyboard

For me the split keyboard is surprisingly easy to get used to and works really well, however it could just be that years of growing up with a Playstation have given me more articulate thumbs than most people, not everyone I’ve shown it to has liked the idea of typing with their thumbs. While it may have been easy to get used to the feel of it, it’s not yet up to speed. I find it can still be slightly quicker to type one handed on the full keyboard, mainly because I’m still working out which letters are on which half of the screen.

I had always expected the split keyboard to be interesting to use, but what I wasn’t expecting was how nice and easy it was to use the normal keyboard. With the iPad propped up slightly on my lap or on a desk I can type at roughly the same speed as on a normal keyboard, sometimes even faster [1]. The layout of the alphabet keys in landscape mode is pretty much the same size as on the keyboards I have at home and in my office, which may explain why I’ve taken to typing on it so well. I don’t think I’ve really had to adjust my typing style as most of the keys are where I’m used to them being.

The Camera

The front facing camera is a bit of a let down. It’s very grainy in low light and doesn’t seem that much better in good light. You tend not to notice it as much if the picture is moving, but in stills it’s very apparent.

I know that it was never meant to be the best camera, and I realise that photography will not be one of my main applications of the iPad but better cameras would have been nice. After looking up the specs and testing it, it turns out the rear camera on the iPad is of comparable quality (at least to my eyes) to the rear camera on my iPhone 4 (see if you can guess which photo comes from which camera), however the iPad seems to have less contrast and captures a more natural image.

The Display

At first I didn’t really notice the quality of the new retina display, having had nothing really to compare it with. I find I notice changes in visual quality a lot more when I go back to the lower quality as opposed to the other way round [2]. That’s not meant to detract from the quality of the display, it’s pretty much perfect. When something takes full advantage of the resolution the results are crisp and flawless, I just feel I can’t appreciate the step up in quality as much as someone who had an iPad 1 or 2 will be able to. One of my only small gripes about the display is that quite a few of the apps I’ve got haven’t taken advantage of the new retina display and so can be slightly pixelated in places.

When I first saw the iPad I thought the icon layout was very spatially inefficient, however when I used it something happened similar to the case of image quality. After using the iPad for an extended amount of time, switching back to the iPhone made everything seems so small, squashed up and cluttered. After a while I got used to the iPhone display again, and I think the effect is slowly diminishing, but it is still there. The reason I likened it to the case of image quality is that is seems to be a unidirectional phenomenon, going from the iPhone to the iPad doesn’t make the iPad seem too spread out like I initially thought it would.


If you’ve used the app store on the iPod or iPhone then the iPad one will be more of the same, just with a slightly different layout to make use of the bigger screen. There is a brilliant feature in the app store that looks for iPad versions of iPhone apps you already have, however it seems to be a bit hit and miss as it didn’t pick up on some of them like the Amazon and Skype apps [3]. As I mentioned in the Display section, quite a few of the apps I have haven’t updated yet to take advantage of the new retina display but hopefully over time this will change. If you can avoid using iPhone apps I would recommend it, they look hideous blown up to fit the iPad display.

General Stuff

The dictation is good, but suffers a bit from background noise. Whilst showing it off to my dad it was slightly confused by my mum talking at the other side of the room. It also only works when you have a connection to the internet, like Siri. Speaking of Siri, I found the lack of it slightly odd. My friend John speculated that it may be to do with Apple not wanting to make the install base too large while Siri is still in beta, which seems reasonable.

So far the battery seems to be giving the predicted amount of use. Being left on constantly throughout the day, and then being used fairly heavily in the evenings has run down the battery in about 2 days. The Apple website says the battery should retain 80% of it’s charge after 1000 charge cycles, which comes out to about 5.5 years at the current rate. I doubt I get that long out of it, but we’ll see.

So far the iPad has done what I wanted it to and replaced my laptop in the living room. It’s more comfortable to read my comics on, quicker to start up, and just as easy to browse the internet or check emails. It’s the future.

  1. My normal typing isn’t that fast and I can’t touch type, maybe my lack of proficiency with a physical keyboard has lent itself to me adapting to a non physical one, maybe there’s no link whatsoever.

  2. HDMI vs. Scart on the PS3, BluRay vs. DVD for Thor and Retina Display on the iPhone 4 vs. the standard display on the 3rd Generation iPod Touch are three examples where I didn’t really notice the step up in quality but really noticed the step down.

  3. I don’t know if this is an issue with the app developers or Apple, it’s worth pointing out that the Amazon app has a different name on the iPad, which could be why it couldn’t find it, however I can see no difference between the Skype apps.


Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Blog


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6 responses to “My Week With an iPad

  1. johncoxon179

    March 26, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    The front camera on both iPad and iPhone is intended for video, not still photography; the back camera on the iPad 3 is roughly equivalent to the iPhone 4 (worse than the iPhone 4S).

    • Fred

      March 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      I realise the front camera is not intended for still photography, but that doesn’t change how bad it is. Everything else about the product is so good that it just seems out of place to put, in my opinion, that bad of a camera on it.

    • Fred

      March 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      I’ve edited the post to hopefully make clear that the rear camera comparison is with the iPhone 4.

  2. matthewcro

    March 28, 2012 at 7:15 am

    It is clearly designed primarily for entertainment purposes, whether that is taking photos, recording movies, playing games, wathing films etc. but with regard to you’re closing comment ‘It is the future’, and being a PhD student, can you see yourself writing your thesis on it?

    If you can, and it completely replaces the functionality of your laptop, then yes it is the future, but personally I wouldn’t want to type up a 30+ page dissertation or report on it. While the functions to heavily edit and write a report are there, on the size screen and using your fingers to use those functions would lead to more frustration than an old fashioned mouse (but this maybe something you get used to overtime perhaps).

    Perhaps the ability to connect to an external keyboard (wirelessly/Bluetooth) might help?

    • Fred

      March 28, 2012 at 7:39 am

      As I mentioned in the post, I do find in very nice to type on, but as of yet I’ve not tried to keep that up for a sizeable length of time. I actually have looked into LaTeX apps for editing my thesis on, but they seem too expensive to take a chance on just yet, maybe once I’ve seen if I can cope with typing on it for longer amounts of time.

      I imagine that the hardest part about editing a large document on it would be, as you point out, the lack of a mouse. A mouse would greatly speed up the navigation of the document and it may be the case that trying to navigate it with just a touch screen gets very annoying very quickly.

      I’ll be sure to let you know how I feel after more use.


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