A Testament to UI Efficiency, Distinctively Apple

I've always called the iPhone OS a very efficient UI. The ease at which you can perform primary tasks on the iPhone is what I mean by that. By comparison, many earlier tablet and handheld computer concepts used full blown desktop OSes scaled down so much that you could hardly get anything done. UI elements were far too small to be navigated with portable screens. On the flip side, if you scaled the iPhone UI to a 22" desktop PC you'd also lose efficiency, the UI simply wasn't designed for that purpose. You use the right tool for the job and that's exactly what the iPhone OS, webOS and Android try to do. They are great smartphone interfaces.

The success of the iPad's UI is really determined by how well it scales up to the larger screen size and resolution of the display. Simply running iPhone apps on the iPad doesn't cut it, something that is made obvious by how little I wanted to use them on my iPad.


An iPhone app running on the iPad

Thankfully, with the exception of running iPhone apps, Apple has ensured at that all elements of the iPad UI are enhanced specifically for the larger screen. The most obvious is the larger keyboard but there's also liberal use of columns in apps. You'll also note that there's very little forced consistency between the look and feel of iPad applications. Their UI is determined entirely by their function.

The popup dialog is also widely used throughout the iPad OS:

Thanks to the A4 SoC inside, multitouch gestures react even faster and smoother than they do on the iPhone. Particularly the pinch and stretch gestures for zooming in and out. Apple also introduced a new pinch/stretch to zoom feature in its Photos app. To expand or collapse any album or event simply take two fingers and stretch them apart or pinch them together. It seemed gimmicky when I first heard about it but in practice it works really well and I'd like to see it used in more places.

While not really significant to the plot, there are some nice touches that Apple has included with the iPad that are worth mentioning. The home screen is, er, home to a lot of the more prevalent examples of Apple flair. All the icons have a nice drop shadow behind them.

Bringing up the home screen from another app causes all the icons to fly in from the outside as if they're all scurrying home before you get there. Rotating the home screen also results in a sweet zoom out then in effect.

Despite having the screen real estate Apple doesn't get wasteful with UI elements. They are all fairly tiny and not intrusive.

Scroll bars in the few applications that have them are far less boring. In the Calendar and Photo apps the horizontal scroll bar is a date and photo scrubber. In Pages the vertical scroll bar gives you a magnifying glass preview of each page as you scroll by it.

iPhone users will feel right at home as there is a consistency between these devices. Tap the home button once and it takes you home. Tap it again and you can search. Tap it twice while you're playing music and playback controls appear. Also, when you're playing music the cover art for the song or album temporarily becomes your home screen background.

Although there's no mute button, holding the volume down rocker for 2 seconds mutes the device instantly.

There are dozens of little features like these that show an attention to detail that is missing from most products. Rushed or not, the iPad still has the little things that do make it an Apple product.

It Was Meant For You Stop and Smell the Roses Computing
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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    I definitely appreciate the corrections :) Fixed!

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • odditude - Friday, April 09, 2010 - link

    Bottom of P12: "Most developers just got access to the iPad on " - unfinished fragment Reply
  • afkrotch - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    I found a bunch of errors in the article, but I chalked it up to him trying to use the iPad for actual work. Something it apparently sucks at. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, April 09, 2010 - link

    lol, I thought the article might have been a little rushed, kinda like the iPad. Great insight and content, but could have stood for a little more editing. Reply
  • CyberMonk - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    According to Apple, you're incorrect about the iPad not having an oleophobic coating. From the iPad's tech specs page: "Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating" Reply
  • solipsism - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    3rd-party accessory are allowed. Bluetooth keyboards already work with it and Apple licenses the iPod Dock Connector port so there is nothing stopping anyone else from selling their own keyboard, dock, or whatever, which I hope they do as the one Apple supplies has no option for folding down for easy travel.

    You can even use a simple USB-A(f)-to-USB-A(f) coupler for syncing your photos instead of paying for Apple's adapters. There are other options that already exist in this arena for USB.
    Reply
  • Grump642 - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    Think I will hold on till the HP Slate comes out. It will have most of the things on it that the iPad is missing. Reply
  • afkrotch - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    If the HP Slate runs Win7, I'd be all over it. I picked up a HP TM2, but the touchpad was broken on it. I went for a replacement, but none available. I'm waiting for more to come in stock, hopefully that's before the Slate comes out.

    I tend to jump right into purchases and I'd rather see how the Slate does. If it comes out before the TM2 comes in stock, that might not happen.
    Reply
  • joe_dude - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    That was a very detailed review. Only disagree on the gaming aspect. While the touch interface is cool, the CPU, GPU & memory seriously limits its potential. Others have already mention that.

    http://www.gamesradar.com/f/real-gamers-review-the...

    Nothing against retro-gaming, but Worms, C&C, RE4, Scrabble, etc. are netbook quality at best.
    Reply
  • ekul - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    An excellent article as usual. While most of the ipad reviews have been quite through you have managed to discuss elements of the device no one else has touched on.

    That said I have to disagree with your plea for a moorestown cpu. Even with moorestown being so much more efficient than regular atom based systems it can't touch a cortex a8 for idle or load power draw. Combine that with smaller packaging for arm, lower costs and true SoC designs and it isn't even a contest. The price is lower performance but I'll take the trade for battery life.

    Keeping ipad the same architecture as existing iphone OS devices is a big bonus as well, lowering development costs for both apple and app developers. ARM is also providing an excellent upgrade path from a8 to the a9 SoCs that are sampling now and should be in devices shortly.

    Once there is a true SoC design based on atom it might be worth considering but for now it's just not ready
    Reply

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