Gear Lust (part one) iPad – first impressions

26 Jul

Like so many other Apple users I’m enamored with each deliciously-designed product that they release. But I understand what they are doing to us – they are changing the way we think, compute, consume and buy. As a futurist and early-adopter of most technology I’m ok with these changes. But Apple seems to be single-handedly launching us into new markets long before the public knows what to do with them. On one hand it’s the entrepreneur’s dream to have a new wild-west to conquer. But as consumers we are easily tricked into putting money back into Apple, AT&T and so many other companies’ products to feel like we are on the cutting edge of technology in this brave new age of computing. My first impressions of the iPad are exactly these thoughts. It’s not a matter of is it cool (it totally is) or do I want one (couldn’t wait.) It does everything I wanted and more. It’s got a few limitations I find frustrating. But once I got my hands on it I was drinking Apple’s kool aid once again and didn’t put it down for about 14 hours. Below is a brief review of the product and some initial impressions of the philosophy behind the technology, some questions about productivity and some excitement about the possibilities.

Out of the box

Out of the box it’s gorgeous. Heavier than I expected but it makes sense with the battery life (10 hours) and gorgeous screen that the iPad uses. The interface works just like the iPhone but a bit more tactile. The keyboard works much more brilliantly than expected. It’s sized (on horizontal format) the same as the smaller (bluetooth) Apple keyboard. I use this keyboard for my iMac so typing came quick and easily. Typing ON the surface of the document you are writing was refreshing and fun. The screen looks amazing. It works a lot like the iPhone in most regards but has a snappier feel to it due to the speed and larger interface. Too much fun to play with, hard to put down. It’s a little heavy in the hands after a while, maybe too heavy for a long novel. But in my courier bag it feels lighter than a laptop.


Apple’s interface and also that of many iPad native applications use the new space widely. Two and three-column layouts allow you to see mail messages in a list next to the one you are reading. Mail messages look particularly great on this screen. TweetDeck and the photo interface also look and feel great. Touching documents, photos, words, books in a joy. iBook was probably my favorite app but more on that later. The icons, spacing and user experience are beautiful. The mail interface is a bit clunky, especially after using Android’s intuitive Gmail interface. It seems like I have to ask the iPad to do a lot more than my Droid phone does intuitively. I imagine that Apple will further the user experience with the next OS update as many people seem to be talking about this issue.

Adobe Ideas App - color selection tool


Apps are the first thing you go for as a new user and free apps are the first that most of us search for. Below is a list of some essential free applications for the ipad:

• Adobe Ideas – BRILLIANT APP! Allows you to create color palettes from photos on your iPad, create drawings, play with photographs as a layer beneath the drawing. It’s limited but perfect for the iPad and a lot of fun. The simple interface kept rewarding me with new things I didn’t realize it could do. Get this app.
• Dropbox – cloud-like file sharing service and application.. essential for collecting all your data
• Craigsphone – a much better designed version of craigslist
• Dragon Dictation – free speech to text converter – works pretty well!
• Tweet deck – full featured and nice looking twitter client
• Harbor Master – a fun free game – get it
• Draw – fun but limited drawing program
• Pocket pond – play with fish, listen to the rain
• Soundrop – clever and simple music app
• WordPress – a bit limited but nice to have if you blog on
• Evernote – note taking and organization software
• IMDB – great interface for information on films
• Ebay – clever interface lets you watch all your ebay activity. Does not support contacting buyers or sending invoices (bummer.)

Paid Apps

I did break down and get a few paid applications after reading reviews and checking them out. Two in particular that I recommend are:

• Pages – apple’s amazing word processor works just like it’s mac-native version, comes with some cool templates, allows photo placement and a lot of editing features. I imported my resume and it came in perfectly with links working and the ability to edit on the fly (as I job hunt with the craigsphone app.) Pretty amazing application. Makes me want for more apple-developed apps.
• iElectribe – Korg took one of it’s most popular hardware music products (the Electribe drum machine) and put it in the ipad. It looks, feels, sounds like an electribe. Some limitations – it’s just the original electribe so it’s all analogue-synthesis. But that’s awesome and fun and creative. You can export wave files too. Sick.

iBooks and Epub

By far my favorite application is iBook, Apple’s E-book reader. It reads EPUB ebook files as well as PDF files. Having the latter is especially cool. As an avid reader I had mixed feelings about using a digital reader. Actually I resisted it for a long time and bad-mouthed the idea of not having a paperback to put in my bag. And to that end, it’s not the same. Reading a digital page is still different and you can’t earmark pages and you can’t give it to a friend over dinner with excitement for them to read it. But you can do a lot of stuff I hadn’t thought would be so cool.

For starters – having 300 books in my iPad is awesome. I may not read them all but I have them if I want them. I’m usually reading 3-5 books at the same time (different reads for different moods) so it’s nice to have a bunch to choose from. With the ePub format you can bookmark pages, highlight and copy text, make notes.. very cool for the brainstorming reader. I had a lot of fun checking out different things, bookmarking my place, jotting down ideas with Pages.


Here’s something I never thought I’d appreciate so much: An ebook reader that lets you read pdf’s in a book-like format. I never realized how many manuals I have that never get read (for Ableton Live, Reason, Final Cut Pro, some keyboards I have, some how-to’s I downloaded.) Suddenly I’m reading the Ableton Live manual while playing with the program at the same time. An expensive way to go.. but definitely useful and fun.


3 Responses to “Gear Lust (part one) iPad – first impressions”

  1. Markito Mehta July 27, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

    Great piece Mike! Makes me love mine even more. You have to get your hands on the TouchOSC and Griid apps! Griid will be out soon…

  2. Susan Abbott December 6, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    This posting is helpful, thanks. I just bought an ipad, hoping it could replace my heavier laptop when traveling. I am a visual artist, and have a blog that i keep updated with text and images, which I need to download from my digital camera and edit while on the road. I have had some buyer’s remorse, thinking i should have put my money into an a new Macbook Air. Having to go through the apps to do this work seems like it may be cumbersome. But then again, having a library, internet, music, movies, scrabble game all in one place is…addictive. Better get back to painting now…

    • Michael Walsh December 6, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

      Hi Susan, Thanks for the kind words! 🙂 And I think I understand your frustrations too. I also have a laptop AND the ipad .. and I ponder which to take every time i need a portable solution. The iPad is definitely FUN. and the apps are still being developed so I think in the future we may see more integration (and less app-hopping) to get things done. But I don’t love the keyboard for typing on it.. and It’s hard to download images for my blog (as you mentioned.)

      Things that are making me a happy ipad user lately:
      – Apple Bluetooth Keyboard – i had from my imac and it works well with the ipad. Good solution for blogging on the go.
      – SketchBook Pro – I also dabble with visual art and i love this program. layers, loads of brushes, nice interface. I also like Adobe Ideas but find it to be limited (they charge for layers..? what?)
      – Targus or Griffin iPad Stylus – these are way better than the pogo and I love them for drawing. (who wants to draw with their fingers anyway?)
      – Apple iPad Photo Connection Kit – this is really a USB port in disguise. You can use it to upload images from your camera, attach a midi controller (or other usb device that is class compliant and not a mouse). Definitely worth $30 and helps my photo workflow.

      If you are into music applications I also write for Dubspot where I did an overview of music making apps over here:

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