Apple iPad, Day 28: My Five Biggest iPad Complaints
By Tony Bradley
My 30 Days With the iPad experience is coming to an end. That means it’s time to reflect back over the past month and sum things up. Despite the frequent claims of Apple fanboyism, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, and I have my share of issues with the iPad–at least as a replacement for a Windows 7 notebook.
Don’t get me wrong–I love the iPad. However, my appreciation for the iPad as a tablet in its own right does not automatically translate to loving the iPad as a full-time replacement for my notebook. With that said, here are my five biggest complaints about the iPad as PC.
1. Virtual Keyboard. Going into this project, I received a number of warnings, suggestions, and inquiries related to whether or not I planned to use a wireless physical keyboard. I did end up resorting to a Bluetooth keyboard, but in fairness it is not the virtual keyboard itself that I have a problem with.
The problem is that the iPad display isn’t very large to begin with, and the virtual keyboard takes up half of it. As for the actual typing, I like the virtual keyboard–but I can’t sacrifice so much screen real estate on a 9.7-inch screen.
2. File Management. I understand that the tablet is a different animal than a PC. The goal of the 30 Days With the iPad project was to figure out if an iPad can replace a PC in terms of functionality and productivity–not to try to make the iPad be a PC. That said, it would be nice if the iPad had some sort of common data storage native to the tablet.
Using services like Box.net, or the Files Connect app are good workarounds for actually storing and retrieving files, but iOS needs a file system that is shared between apps in a consistent manner. It doesn’t need to be the traditional file and folder system per se. It just needs to be something more core to iOS and less dependent on individual apps.
3. Safari. I don’t like Safari. I have never really liked Safari. But, like every other iOS user, I have been held hostage and stuck using Safari on my iPhone and iPad. There are two things in particular I dislike about Safari on the iPad–switching between different browser screens, and the fact that it’s “Safari on the iPad”.
The current method of switching from one browser screen to another involves tapping a button that brings up a display of tiles showing all open windows, or a blank one to open a new Web page. It is cumbersome and tedious. Thankfully, iOS 5 will change Safari to be a tabbed browser, so that problem should be fixed shortly.
I’m not aware of a fix for the other issue any time soon. The problem is that the browser is not detected by websites as just a Safari browser–it is detected as a Safari browser on an iPad which results in limited functionality in many cases. No, I am not talking about Flash. I don’t care about Flash. I am talking about things like trying to use Google Docs or Office 365 and having it work differently than it would if I opened the same sites or services in Safari on a Mac or Windows PC.
4. Multitasking. I have made the argument in the past that multitasking is not truly necessary on a mobile device. I still maintain that the pseudo-multitasking solution implemented by Apple in iOS is sufficient for a device like the iPhone. While you might want apps to remain open and maintain their status when not in use, the display is only big enough to actually view and use one at a time.
Even on the iPad itself–with significantly more display to work with than an iPhone–you can almost get away with it. But, in order to use the iPad as a primary computing device, I need to connect it to a real monitor via HDMI, or with AirPrint Mirroring when iOS 5 gets here. On a 23-inch monitor, I need to be able to have a Safari browser open on one side of the screen for research, and a Pages app open on the other side to do writing.
The iOS multitasking is functional on some level, and it is better than nothing, but it is a pain in the ass and gets in the way of working more efficiently.
5. Cost. As I noted on Day 26 when I tallied up the cost of everything, using an iPad as a primary computing device comes with a much higher price tag than just the tablet itself. By the time you get a case or cover, a Bluetooth keyboard, the adapter to connect the iPad to an HDMI monitor, and the various apps you need, the cost of the iPad is on par with much more powerful notebooks like the Macbook Air, or the Dell XPS 15z.
While it is not a direct comparison–like comparing two notebooks against each other–cost is definitely a factor when examining the available options for getting a job done.
The cost factor will vary greatly from one user to the next, though. Depending on how you use your PC, and what you would want to accomplish on an iPad, you might not need many of the things that bumped my total price tag up.
I have some other complaints, but I tried to leave out issues that will be resolved with iOS 5, and issues that are outside of the scope of what a notebook PC typically does. For example, if it weren’t for iOS 5, my number one complaint would be the reliance on physically connecting to a PC, and being forced to use iTunes in order to update iOS or sync the iPad.
As with the 30 Days series in previous months, tomorrow will be my counter-post to this–the list of things I like about using the iPad as a PC replacement.