Apple iPad, Day 29: Five Things I Like Most About the iPad

30 Days With the iPad: Day 29

In keeping with the precedent established in previous "30 Days With..." series, I devoted yesterday's post to detailing my complaints and criticisms. Today is dedicated to the counter point of view--a list of my favorite things about the iPad from my 30 Days With the iPad journey.

The iPad has an advantage over previous 30 Days projects (Google Docs and Ubuntu Linux) because I was already familiar with it before I began. While I was essentially new to both Google Docs, and Ubuntu Linux, I have had an iPad since the first day it was available. The challenge for the 30 Days, though, was to shift from using it as an accessory or complementary gadget, and instead rely on it as the sole computing platform.

There were, of course, some bumps along the way, but there are also a few things that I truly appreciated about using the iPad instead of my notebook. Without further ado, here is my list of the five things I like most about the iPad:

The iPad 2 is exceptionally thin and light compared to notebooks and even netbooks.
1. Size. Size does matter. And when you're talking about lugging a device around all over town, the smaller the a point. Carting a 15-inch notebook, or maybe one of those laptops with dual 17-inch displays, may provide more of a portable computing workhorse, but then we get into a semantic debate about defining "portable".

On the other end of the spectrum, you could argue that the iPhone (or an Android or Windows Phone 7 smartphone) are even more compact and portable, or make a case for smaller tablets like the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The iPad--especially the iPad 2--fits nicely in between those two extremes. It is big enough to make it practical, and small enough to make it portable. It has enough power and flexibility to do what you need it to in most cases, yet it is thin and light enough to be carried like a magazine. The same could be said of other similar tablets as well, like the Motorola Xoom, or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

2. Stamina. It lasts, and lasts, and lasts. As if the size issue of the device itself isn't enough, working with a notebook on the go for more than a few hours involves carrying the power adapter and/or a backup battery as well. I can leave my home office with a fully-charged iPad 2, and use it freely for any purpose all day with virtually zero chance of running out of juice. It has the added benefit that if I did choose to carry the power adapter for insurance, the outlet plug and USB cable add little in the way of either size or weight.

3. AirPlay. AirPlay is simply awesome. For now, it is primarily an entertainment feature enabling me to stream audio and video content from the iPad to my TV or stereo. It works with some apps, and not with others.

Apple's AirPlay makes it ridiculously easy to stream content from the iPad to a TV or monitor.
In a month or so when iOS 5 comes out, though, the iPad 2 will be able to support AirPlay Mirroring which will literally stream whatever app is open on the iPad 2 onto a much larger HD screen via Apple TV.

What I would really like to see is more third-parties licensing the AirPlay technology and incorporating it all over. I'd like to be able to AirPlay to my car stereo, or the drop-down displays in my mini-van, or just stream content to my AirPlay-compatible TV without the need for Apple TV to play middleman. As cool as AirPlay is now, that would make it really awesome.

4. App Store. You might recall that I have had some complaints about the Apple App Store. I'd like to see it cleaned up and better organized to make searching through 400,000 apps a little easier, and I wish the App Store would implement a test drive or return policy that would enable me to check out an app and scrap it if it doesn't meet my needs without getting charged for it.

Complaints aside, though, there is a lot to like about the Apple App Store. For one thing, apps are relatively cheap--many of them are simply free. Granted, The iWorks suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote is nowhere near as flexible or powerful as the Microsoft Office 2010 suite, but it only cost me $30 compared with a few hundred for Office 2010. Madden 11 HD from EA Sports may not be quite the same as Madden 11 on the Xbox 360, but it only set me back $10 instead of $60.

Aside from price, there is also the benefit of ubiquitous access. If I am working from Starbucks and decide I need a certain application, the odds of being able to locate it online, download it, and start using it immediately are virtually zero. With the Apple App Store, however, I know that I have access to the complete library of iPad (or iOS) software, and that I can install and start using any of it within a matter of minutes--or even seconds.

FaceTime logo
The front camera on the iPad 2 lets you make FaceTime calls with other iOS devices.
5. Front Camera. The rear camera on the iPad 2 is essentially useless. If Apple doesn't plan to make significant jump in the quality and capabilities of that camera in the next iPad model, it should just eliminate it. The front-facing camera, on the other hand, is quite nice.

The ability to conduct FaceTime video calls, or participate in video conferencing sessions using Fuze Meeting, or WebEx make the iPad 2 much more valuable as a mobile productivity platform than its predecessor.

There is really a lot more that I like about the iPad. I was already an iPad fan and proponent before embarking on the 30 Days With the iPad series. However, just because I like the iPad in and of itself, or as a tablet, does not necessarily mean that I like the iPad as a PC replacement. I tried to keep this list of things I liked focused more or less on the ways I like the iPad 2 as a PC replacement.

Check back tomorrow for my summary and closing thoughts on how this experiment went, and the lesson I have learned along the way in the final 30 Days With the iPad post.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux

Day 28: My Five Biggest iPad Complaints

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