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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  • solipsism - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    I also thought the Moorestown recommendation was odd, especially when the next page was about the phenomenal battery life. If he made a more detailed case for it perhaps he'd have a point, but the simple "because it's faster" stance is lacking. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Initial power specs for Moorestown appear to be fairly competitive with ARM based SoCs. Remember this is Moorestown, and not Pineview. The two chips are very different.

    Realistically I don't think it would be Moorestown, but the 32nm follow-on starts to make a lot of sense.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • metafor - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Just curious, what are the initial power numbers for Moorestown anyway? Keep in mind that with the change in bus architecture and the use of LP DRAM, performance will be significantly slower in some cases than current netbooks. Also, would it really compare to an A9-class SoC? Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Friday, April 09, 2010 - link

    I have a feeling Apple didn't go Moorestown for two primary reasons.

    1) Timeframe
    2) Cost

    Moorestown should be announced shortly, but the devices based on it won't be available until Q3 of this year. That's 6+ months from when the iPad is going to release. And although Intel might achieve both better performance and comparable power usage, but the sacrifice there will be higher cost. Fully integrated SoC like the A4 costs significantly less.

    Performance should be quite good. There's a 600MHz version for smartphones that can use Burst Mode to 1.2GHz, and a MID oriented version that probably clocks at 1.3GHz base and does 1.9GHz burst. It's supposed to feature "Bus Turbo" as well.

    If they also do a full integrated memory controller unlike Pineview we have a good chance it'll be clock per clock faster than Netbook Atoms. Earlier on Intel claimed "30%" boost over previous platform but clock speeds weren't mentioned.
    Reply
  • metafor - Friday, April 09, 2010 - link

    Moorestown will be a fully interated SoC. It'll have LP DDR1 and LP DDR2 memory controllers as well as a GPU, the Atom CPU and various peripheral connectivity. It's comparable to the A4 in terms of features although I really would not write it off as "comparable" in terms of power until some data is published. Reply
  • ekul - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    I'd agree the successor to moorestown is more promising. Are there even any shipping products based on moorestown yet? I don't think apple is going to take a gamble on an untested platform.

    I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing performance numbers for cortex a9, especially since there will be real dual core mobile variants, not just hyperthreading. A technique like what MS is planning for IE9, rendering a website on one core and compiling javascript on another, would help bridge the perormance gap along with the higher clocks.
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, April 07, 2010 - link

    really this is easier then a laptop/notebook?

    A notebook by its vary nature I can rest on my lap or a table and adjust its screen. To watch a movie I dont have to hold the thing up.

    To type, I dont have to bend to werid angles to hold the device up, etc etc.

    IMHO, it seems like alot of the experance is attributed to the newness of the device vs its actual usage. I'm wonder how this newness will wear.
    Reply
  • manicfreak - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Can't you do all of those aforementioned things on an ipod touch/iphone? There are already home automation apps for the iphone right now.

    What can the iPad do that the iphone/ipod touch can't? Beside having a bigger screen and longer battery life?
    And for such a big device, the performance should be closer to an atom instead of a snapdragon.

    If something doesn't fit in my pocket, then I would rather bring a light-weight CULV laptop with me... with touchscreen if one wishes (i.e. Acer Timeline 1820T) or a hybrid notebook-tablet (Lenovo IdeaPad U1).
    Reply
  • jasperjones - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    "there are some things the iPad does much better than anything you might own today. Web browsing, photo viewing, reading email, any passive usage scenarios where you're primarily clicking on things and getting feedback, the iPad excels at."

    What exactly makes it better at those tasks? It's not that I disagree but, in my opinion, you didn't drive this point home. I don't understand why you think it's better. And yes, I read the whole article.
    Reply
  • solipsism - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    I don't think anything anyone can write can convince you. Many aspects just feel more natural to use. That isn't to say it's perfect everywhere but I think that as a casual mobile consumption device it's much better than a notebook, and much better than a netbook. Reply

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