Waltz with the iPad

April 7, 2010

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The iPad is heavier than it looks. Not a lot… it’s Apple-product heavy. Sort of like the iPhone is a little bit heavier than you would think by glancing at it. It’s also shiny. Very shiny.

After I picked up “my” iPad at the library, I took a quick look at it in the Learning Commons. Minutes later, a couple of people were asking me where I got it, which model I chose, and a number of other questions I wasn’t ready to answer. Unsurprisingly, there were also a couple of people telling me about it: why it’s awesome, why it sucks, why it represents a the beginning of a long downward spiral ending with the death of Apple, why it is a great product that will sell tremendously well. I had only had the thing for about 10 minutes so I wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to this – especially as the people telling me these things probably hadn’t yet laid hands on one. When I got to class, the same thing happened. Everyone wanted to hold it, type a few lines, see what it felt like. One of my classmates, a girl with long blond hair, a bright summer dress and sandals, asked if she could hold it. Of course, I nodded. She picked it up and exclaimed “It’s so beautiful!”, then held it at arm’s length and did several steps of what may have been a waltz before handing it back to me. Apparently that satisfied her curiosity.

A classmate and I used the iPad for a partners exercise in Advanced Fiction Writing and quickly discovered that typing on the iPad is not quite as smooth as we might have have hoped. It’s very easy to compose sentences and ordinary messages, but the shift button is a bit of a bother, and editing is worse. The on-screen keyboard doesn’t have arrow keys on it, so if you want to edit at a specific point in a block of text, you have to resort to jabbing your finger in the general direction and hoping you got it right. Auto-correction features are very good for most problems, but they don’t seem to work very well if you miss the space key and slam two words together likethis. You can try to move the cursor between thee and the t, but its much faster to just delete and retype the words. Despite these shortcomings, writing a story on the iPad was fairly easy and the result was longer and more legible than the story we wrote on paper. Overall, the text input interface is far from perfect, but ease-of-use will probably improve with practice. This is also an area where Apple could easily improve performance in a future software update.

In case it isn’t already clear, I am a Creative Writing Major, and one of five students blogging about the iPad for NC State in exchange for getting to walk around campus with brand-new and incredibly-shiny technology for the next week. I intend to take the iPad to all of my classes and use it as my primary computing device during this time, make posts at least daily, and make every effort to respond to any questions posed as comments to my posts.

Look for future posts about Google Docs, NC-State Gmail, and Amazon Kindle compatibility.