Although I had naturally formed opinions about iPads, I had until now kept quiet as any opinion would have been largely hypocritical, given that I had never used one. My main opinions resulted from drawing comparisons between what I had read about Android and the iPad (yes, contrary to common American grammatical butchery, the iPad is an entity not a concept and therefor the word “the” should undoubtably be used). This largely focused on price and ecosystem but no longer, as I am fortunate enough to be able to borrow one for a weekend to kick the tires!
My first experience with the iPad as it were, was through the rather technical process of supervising an iPad (as it belongs to my place of work) and attempting to make them a device appropriate for use by multiple users. Although I have not done my research to ascertain whether a similar system is available for Android, it is safe to say I am very impressed with Apple’s efforts here. Apple Configurator does a sterling job at user data management, application installation and feature locking, but that’s not the main focus of this post.
I feel that Android has come a long way, and that without a doubt there will have been no competition when the iPad was first released; it will have had the far superior interface and OS. Now though, I’m not sure. I really don’t think there’s much in it, and apart from the typical “there’s no widgets” type of arguments, I find little to separate the two. iOS is undoubtably very slick, and I believe my main grievances originate more from the limitations of the iPhone rather than iOS (and its worrying encroachment onto the Mac OS). I will say that Android is far from instantaneous in terms of understanding how it works, and iOS is much the same. I do however, feel that the OS is harking back to the days where apple insisted that a second mouse button was not necessary. I draw this analogy to the lack of a ‘menu’ button on iDevices. Having to search all over the current visual interface, or tap/hold/drag another part of the interface to bring up a secondary menu is not intuitive and causes the user to have to learn each individual application, rather than how to navigate the interface of the OS.
That’s enough negativity for now. [Edit: I couldn’t hold back, the negativity invariably continues, despite my best efforts to write a balanced review.] I want to focus on a decidedly positive aspect for the time being. The keyboard is very good in the way that it responds to typing, and with the help of the OtterBox case placing the iPad at a usable angle for typing I found that using the iPad for this purpose was a pleasure. The prediction appears to be largely based on the current word rather than the more advanced SwiftKey style prediction of short phrases, but the keyboard / screen is accurate enough for full touch typing so this isn’t too much of an issue.
I have had a good play with Garageband, and can safely say I am impressed. It is more than a toy or gimmick as I’d feared, but is a legitimate compositional tool. iMovie also seems to be quite capable, and I don’t believe there to be an equivalent on Android.
This aside, the other apps were nothing special; Evernote on the iPad is Evernote on a tablet device, likewise for Dropbox and WordPress, and here is where my issue lies. Now that the technology and Android OS has caught up with Apple’s pioneering technological development, I see it hard to justify the cost of a device based on Apple’s applications alone. Android is undoubtably prolific enough now that most apps are being made for both platforms, and there isn’t enough of an advantage to the iPad to justify the outlay. This I can now say having had first hand extended experience with an iPad.
Further to this argument, the camera on this iPad (2nd generation) is simply not acceptable for a device of this renown (and cost). There were significantly superior cameras in Sony Ericsson mobile phones several years ago, and I now feel even sorrier for the people taking photos on their iPads, who now litter tourist spots the world over. I believe the 2012 iPad has an improved camera, but it wouldn’t take much to improve upon this aspect.
My main bugbear though, is with the complete non-integration of installed applications on an OS level. Having used Android for so long (by comparison), I have come to take this concept for granted in Android. When an app is installed on Android, all other apps are aware that it is installed and if this app offers useful features any other installed app can “share” to it. For example, when Dropbox is installed on Android, any other app can share its files to Dropbox, therefore immediately uploading that particular file to Dropbox. This is infuriatingly not the case on iOS and unless the developer has specifically written 3rd party integration into the iOS app, neither application is aware of the other. “Sharing to iTunes” so that transfers can be made with a tethered USB connection shows how Apple’s tight grasp over the functionality of every aspect of their OS is still holding iOS back – I’m looking at you Garageband, iMovie, Photos, Videos to name but a few. Dropbox can upload the photos and videos to the cloud but so far, it is the only app I’ve found to do anything of the sort. The mere fact that iTunes (or iMovie) has to be used to copy photos and videos from an iDevice seems very limiting, especially when Apples shortsightedness also renders these two OS X apps useless when supervising an iPad and deploying in a multi-user situation.