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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  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    it occurs to me that i would want a way to protect the screen from getting scratched, and that would mean a
    cover or case that would take the place of the clamshell design of a netbook/notebook.
    why would i want to pay a price premium for a device with slower performance which only achieves acceptable functionality with the addition of expensive peripherals?
    even after all the peripherals, i still lose the ability to effortlessly prop-up a netbook on my lap and type an email, or set a netbook up on a table in a coffee shop.
    nothing about the tablet form factor is convenient for on-the-go usage for me.

    the only situation where i can possibly imagine this being a preferable form factor is for wall mount usage or some other kind of "always left out in the open" type of use, like a universal remote control, or a mini home television viewer in the kitchen.
    but it seems too expensive for those uses to me.
    there must be a better alternative.
    Reply
  • MacTheSpoon - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the great review. I was shocked you'd typed 40% of it with the iPad.

    Would you mind doing a comparison between the iPad keyboard and a physical keyboard? Since there is no utility to measure WPM for the iPad, maybe you could time how long it takes to type the same passage on both--something with some semicolons, quotation marks, and/or em dashes would be ideal, as I'm curious how the virtual keyboard stands up when the user must switch between layouts.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    You know, this was something I was dying to address a few times. I'm hoping that the iTextspeed application developers update their code soon to be iPad compatible, because that's something I want to test for sure.

    I've gotten to the point where I can touch type in landscape pretty easy, but I can also type pretty fast on the iPhone (around 80 WPM using their application). If and when it's updated, we might do something and include the update.

    If it helps any, this was also composed pretty quickly from an iPad. ;)

    Cheers,
    Brian Klug
    Reply
  • solipsism - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    1) How did you get a 720p video on the iPhone for the video test when the allowable maximum "up to 1.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second" video?

    2) From my testing, the iPad uses about 20MB more than the 3GS on startup. Most, if not all, of this is for the GPU. I've also noticed that native apps are also using more RAM. While the 3GS has enough to support standard multitasking the iPad does not. Even switching pages in Safari on the iPad would have to be reloaded while the 3GS does not. This will even more of an issue with the 3G version of the iPad. This gives me doubts about multitasking unles iPhone OS v4.0 is much more efficient (making 3.2.2 a stand in, which looks to be the case) and Apple has a more intuitive quasi-multitasking concept to unveil today.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    I can't speak about the RAM usage - are you using iStat or similar?

    However 720P H.264 video is certainly supported, which is what we used. I tested all the different profiles in handbrake, all of them work if you keep the video at or under 1280x720:

    "H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format"

    That's straight from http://www.apple.com/ipad/specs/

    I think you're getting confused with the MPEG4 limitation which is indeed 640x480. ;)

    -Brian Klug
    Reply
  • Ph00 - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    sorry to be ot but is that a black mouth cur dog? Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    I'll wait for iPad v2 with reliably working wifi, no overheating, working PDF export, at least a backside camera for snapshots and maybe short flicks and perhaps multitasking. Ill stop here because any more missing features would seem greedy - apple needs a reason to sell you the 2012 iPad...

    As for atom based ipad - are you nuts? Nobody wants that garbage. Gimme a dual core cortex A9 instead.
    Reply
  • Mike1111 - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    You mean the 2011 iPad, right? Because there's no way Apple isn't gonna do a yearly refresh cycle like they do with all their iPhone OS based products. Reply
  • Mike1111 - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    My mistake. You meant even iPad v2 in 2011 won't be feature complete because Apple needs some features for the 2012 iPad v3.

    Hm, how do I delete a post?
    Reply
  • Lemonjellow - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    "Sure, but so could a TV that made me pancakes. Neither is ready yet or guaranteed."

    Can you confirm or deny that someone is working on said TV project? :- D
    Reply

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