I don't exactly remember when I stopped using the iPad, but it wasn't without me trying to use it. We reviewed the WiFi version on AnandTech last year but it was the AT&T 3G version that I ended up using most of the time. For short trips around NC I'd carry it with me. It was the perfect car companion. Smaller and lighter than a notebook but functional enough to get me through any short trip. I tried carrying it to lunch and meetings around town but for the most part it wasn't portable enough for that to make sense. A smartphone was a far better companion.

For several trips around the country I remember trying to take just the iPad, but I always needed to work on an article or publish something extensive while I was gone. For months I boarded every plane with the intention of bringing only the iPad but I always ended up bringing a notebook as well. Even when I went on vacation last year I had to finish a review and ended up bringing a notebook just for three days of use. Eventually I just gave up completely and left the iPad at home. As I mentioned in our review of the first iPad last year, this is a device that augments your existing setup - it replaces nothing. You'll still need a computer of some sort and you'll still need a phone, you just get to have another device that's more convenient than both of those occasionally.

These days my iPad sits docked at my desk doing nothing more than charging and receiving updates. Yet every time I'm at an airport I look around and see tons of passengers with their iPads. It's the new ThinkPad. I see it everywhere and people seem to be happy with it. In fact, last quarter 17% of Apple's total revenue came from iPad sales.

AAPL Revenue Sources - Q1 2011
  iPad iPhone iPod Mac iTunes Store Software/Services Peripherals
Percentage 17.2% 39.1% 12.8% 20.3% 5.4% 2.9% 2.2%

Clearly there are some users who love tablets and can use them on a regular basis, I'm just apparently not one of them. That's not to say that I don't like the iPad, in fact there are a number of things I still love about it. In our original iPad review I wrote about the more relaxed computing experience the iPad offers for those of us who work at a computer during the day. It's fun to just sit on a couch and surf the web on a tablet. It's easier to show your friends web pages and videos on the iPad than it is on a notebook. You can pass a tablet around like a pad of paper while a notebook is far more clunky. The overall experience is just so much more intimate. In using the iPad, Xoom and iPad 2 for this review I even found myself missing parts of the experience that I'd forgotten about. Overall my stance hadn't changed. While I enjoy using a tablet and find it to be a more relaxed way of computing, it's the lack of performance, still not quite perfect ergonomics, the clunky multitasking UI and the lack of a convenient physical input devices that keep the iPad from being a part of my daily life. Don't get me wrong, I do believe there's clearly a future for tablets - the present day sales alone are proof of that. It's just that I believe tablets are on an evolutionary course towards perfection.

I'm currently typing this paragraph on an iPad 2 connected via HDMI to a Dell 24" display. If I wanted to I could even push the iPad to the side and use a bluetooth keyboard. This thing could easily replace a mainstream PC, it's just missing a few features.

There's no support for Flash. Like it or not Flash support is still an important part of the overall PC experience. Eventually Apple will either cave, become irrelevant or HTML5 will replace Flash entirely on the web. One way or another, this problem gets solved.

Multitasking is a pain. When the iPad first debuted there was no hope for multitasking, but now with the feature it's still far from magical. I need to tap the home button twice to bring up a task switcher, then tap or swipe/type before getting to the application I'm trying to switch to. There's no alt+tab (or cmd+tab) and no immediately visible task/dock bar of my currently running apps. Copying data between apps is a pain as I can't physically look at two things at once, there's just constant switching required to get things done. When I get a new email on the iPad I have to stop what I'm doing, go read the email and then switch back to what I was doing. The same goes for if I need to respond to an IM quickly while writing in Pages. With apps only running full screen and no support for windows, using a tablet can often times seriously reduce productivity. These are solvable problems. Apple and Microsoft figured out how to do it on the desktop after all, but we're just not there yet with tablets.

Alongside multitasking is the performance problem. With the original iPad even deleting several emails at a time was a bit choppy, and web page rendering performance needed tons of work. As always Apple does its best to hide the limitations of the platform but I must point out that even the iPad 2 with a pair of ARM Cortex A9s has lower CPU performance than a netbook with a single core Atom. The fact that you can't really tell most of the time is a testament to Apple's software engineering, but it doesn't change reality.

Ergonomics aren't perfect either. Brian Klug actually helped me realize this next point but the iPad and other tablets aren't great on-the-go devices. Tablets work very well when you're stationary but if you're up and about, moving around, a smartphone is a much better fit. Even when you're stationary there are issues. You have to be in the right physical position to comfortably use a tablet. Simply plopping it down on your lap like you would a notebook won't always work.

There's also the idea of synergy among devices. Even if you play within the Apple universe and own a Mac, an iPhone and an iPad, there's no magical way of sharing data and applications between them. I should be able to work on my Mac, step away and have my apps/data come with me. Your best bet is something like Dropbox but that's no where near the type of cohesive solution I'm talking about. Think HP's webOS touch-to-share but on steroids and you're on the right track.

The list goes on and on. If you've ever spent sufficient time with a tablet you'll quickly be able to add to this list. The tablet is still in its infancy as a computing device and as successful as the iPad may be, it still has a long road ahead before it's anywhere near perfect. Just the items I've mentioned above are too much to address with a single product update, but remember that revolution comes about via constant evolution.


Apple iPad 2 (left), Apple iPad (right)

Meet the iPad 2.

The iPad 2
POST A COMMENT

189 Comments

View All Comments

  • synaesthetic - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    Touchscreens are the very antithesis of good ergonomics. Unless haptic feedback can defy physics or we get some deformable/flexible screens, devices with actual buttons will always be superior.

    The human brain simply reacts better to physically pushing a button. Touchscreens have horrible ergonomics--a tiny bit of vibration is not really much haptic feedback. It feels like a lot to us (and it certainly helps me on my phone) but it only feels like that beccause a touchscreen is so far away from any semblance of "natural use."

    Touchscreens should be used when they are REQUIRED--such as on smartphones, where the number of controls, commands and options far outstrip the physical size of the device and the physical space to place buttons.

    I don't think tablets will ever stop being a toy.
    Reply
  • stephenbrooks - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    Page 2, final picture. The iPad 2 is on the BOTTOM not the top there. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    Fixed! Thanks :) Reply
  • Omid.M - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    "There's also the idea of synergy among devices. Even if you play within the Apple universe and own a Mac, an iPhone and an iPad, there's no magical way of sharing data and applications between them. I should be able to work on my Mac, step away and have my apps/data come with me. Your best bet is something like Dropbox but that's no where near the type of cohesive solution I'm talking about. Think HP's webOS touch-to-share but on steroids and you're on the right track."

    Anand/Brian/Vivek:

    I'm sure that's what Apple is planning with NFC-enabled iOS devices, but then wouldn't that require a saved state to be stored in the cloud and then re-downloaded on demand on the next device used? I would imagine that "lag" in the UX would be a problem. How long would you feasibly have to wait for stuff to download the first time you sit down with a new device (new as in rotation) ?

    Also, would this be limited to stock-Apple stuff only? It would be a bear for Apple to save the state of arbitrary 3rd party software from one device to the next (assuming both devices have the client installed). Right?

    Next...

    "So if you're actually torn between the iPad 2 and the Xoom my best advice is to wait. Apple needs to update iOS in a major way and Honeycomb needs a hardware update. Whichever gets it right first should get your money."

    This is really the money statement of the review. I think Android tab makers need to NOT simply look at the iPad 2 to figure out their next move, but to pave their own path, not for the path to be a RESPONSE to the competition. The Xoom should have higher quality display for sure, and Honeycomb needs faster incremental updates. I really liked it but it just lacks so much in terms of functionality and compatibility, at least if we're considering it for productivity.

    None of the tabs on the market right now are really meant for editing/creating content--even if you're able to with a handful of apps--but simply consuming existing content (iTunes music streaming, sharing videos, social networking--and I think that's the biggest issue with tablet to replace netbooks or become devices taken seriously.

    Please, please cover the WebOS tablet when it comes out.

    Thanks for the review, guys. Great work. The technical section on glass, for instance, is one reason with AT does the best reviews.

    Worth the read. Will tweet for others to check it out!

    -Omid
    Reply
  • clb - Monday, April 04, 2011 - link

    I agree on both, but the point on #1 is missed. It is not the need for the cloud on NFC, but the fact that you cannot actually sync the device:

    >I should be able to work on my Mac, step away and have my apps/data come with me.

    Even if you are going from a Mac to the iPad (1 or 2), there is no sync feature that covers everything. A note created on the iPad has to be emailed to your Mac; Apple will not let you read a note created on the iPad on a Mac unless you email it to yourself! And there is no way to get a note into the Likewise, using DropBox is great, but now files have to be loaded up, then you must reconnect, then load down. You cannot simply have the Mac send to the iPad or vice versa.

    This is because unlike the early iPods, the iPhones and iPads do not allow the user to move files. Early iPods could be treated as FireWire drives. Not the iOs devices. Everything must go through iTunes or via the cloud (i.e., third-party sites). If I'm at a beach house with no cloud connection, and want to move content from my PC/Mac to my iPad, I'm SOL in many cases.

    This is bad.
    Reply
  • Adam Chew - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    Judging from your review of the iPad, its competitors will stand no chance of ever gaining traction in everyday use.

    So get a Macbook Air.....LOL

    The problem is the everyday user is not a tech blog blogger, the iPad is ideal for consumption of everything of the net and not like some tech blogger who needs to blog unnecessarily with a laptop when an iPad is at hand.
    Reply
  • nickdoc - Sunday, March 20, 2011 - link

    Loved your contribution! The geek talk was getting really boring and repetitive. Hello! Normal people have needs, too. This is what the reviewers often forget. Not everyone needs to create content to be consumed by other creators of mostly the same content. Lol! Reply
  • stephenbrooks - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    OK, why where you joining *two iPads* together with magnets and buying a "smart vase" from Apple? :D

    "The iPad aligns and attaches to the body of the iPad 2 using six magnets along its side that line up with a similar set of magnets on the device. When I acquired the smart vase at launch, I [...]"
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    Fixed again :) Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    How the f does it work? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now