Tablets

Three Apple iPad 2 Disappointments

After almost a month with the iPad 2, there's a lot I like about my new iPad: stunning display, sleek industrial design, smart cover that turns the tablet on and off and doubles as a stand, a mostly intuitive operating system and the enormous ecosystem of apps. But considering the device's vast popularity and market share, I've been unpleasantly surprised by three shortcomings.

Multitasking

Being able to run multiple apps at once in the background, even invisibly, is certainly better than nothing. However, iOS's current implementation of multitasking still falls short, especially considering Apple's vaunted reputation for user experience.

On my 2009 Palm Pre I can view multiple windows at once and swipe between open apps. And, if I want to close an app, I press the home button once and then flick it off the screen. With the iPad, I need to press the home button twice to see all the running apps and then tap the one I want to switch to. This may sound similar, but I find the webOS implementation much more pleasing. In addition, WebOS displays small windows of the actual running applications in multitask view, not simply icons as with iOS, giving me a better idea of what's going on.

Perhaps most annoying, in order to close an app and remove it from the bar, I've got to tap and hold, wait for it to wiggle and then tap the close circle. That's quite a bit more time-consuming than a single flick, especially if you got half dozen or more apps running.

I hope a future version of iOS comes up with a more elegant way of switching between -- and closing -- several open apps.

Mobile Safari

Apple Mobile Safari
Astonishingly, there is no "search for on page" in either the default browser on my iPad or my Pre. Do software developers really believe we don't need to look for something on a page when browsing the Web? (Happily, some developer did realize the need, and I've loaded the $1.99 Find In Page app on my iPad). Update: The search box on iOS Safari does indeed search within the current page as well as on the Web, my confusion came because that search box is labeled with my default search engine (Google) and thus I expected it just searched the Web.

I'd also like to swipe between open browser windows on the iPad, instead of having to tap an icon on the browser bar to see all available open windows. I often forget and press the home button, not the open-windows icon, while in Safari. (Home works in webOS to see multiple open browser windows). On the iPad, though, pressing home twice brings me to the multi-tasking bar that contains all my open apps except the one I just left, i.e. Safari.

I'll readily admit that some of this may just be a case of retraining my finger memory from Palm Pre's gestures, which feel intuitive after a year and a half, to the iPad's, which are still new to me. But I really do miss swiping between windows.

Flash

OK, this one isn't a surprise; I knew going in that iOS doesn't support Flash. What I didn't fully realize is how many Web sites would be closed to me. From photo editing instructional videos to Comedy Central clips, there's been a noticeable amount of content that's closed off to me when surfing on an iPad. This issue may ease as HTML 5 video becomes more prevalent. However, there's a reason RIM is pounding away at the BlackBerry PlayBook's Flash capabilities in its advertising campaign, as it's one of Apple's points of vulnerability in the tablet market. As more tablets enter the market and Apple's market share diminishes, which is likely to happen even as iPad keeps its hold on the #1 spot, Web publishers will have less reason, not more, to abandon Flash for iOS users.

Bottom line? I'm still enjoying my iPad and the apps I've downloaded, but there's room for improvement.

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Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e-mail address is smachlis@computerworld.com . You can follow her on Twitter @sharon000 , on Facebook or by subscribing to her RSS feeds
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