Interface Design Blog: the good, the bad, and the utterly unusable...

Playdate with iPad

Posted on | April 8, 2010 | No Comments

I finally made it over to the Apple Store today to play with the iPad.  While handling it, like most other devices that come out of Apple, is pure pleasure, I still won’t buy it.  Here is why:

1) I don’t spend a lot of time traveling on planes and trains
2) I don’t have young children
3) I am not much into games
4) I already have a small laptop and an iPhone.

If you don’t see yourself in any of the use cases listed above, then you are better off saving your hard-earned $500.

San Francisco Apple store has 2 large tables with 10 iPads on each. Most people start by checking the utility/productivity features (Address Book, Email) and then quickly move onto video, books, movies and games.  Especially movies and games.

Frankly, I am a bit puzzled by this device.  It’s not a replacement for a laptop, nor for your iPhone or even your iPod (too big to drag around).  It’s sort of… in between.  The problem is, unless you are sitting on a plane, you probably don’t need an in-between solution.  It lacks important features like a camera, for example.  It’s not very good for doing a lot of typing (better than on iPhone but still awkward and not nearly as good as using a physical keyboard).  It doesn’t tilt up.  The list goes on.

It didn’t help that I got stuck while using a keyboard on iPad.  iPhone conveniently highlights the main action button once you start typing. As a normal lazy person who doesn’t want to think much, I now learned to trust iPhone to let me know what I need to tap to enter the text or prompt the most likely next action.  iPad doesn’t highlight the most likely to tap button – and it took me a few hits on ‘delete’ button (back arrow with x), the closest and brightest one, before I found “Go”.  Hmmm…

iPad keyboard

"Go" button on iPad is hard to find

That said, I do think that this device will be a  hit with preschoolers and elementary-middle school children.  It makes sense to them. It can make reading interactive, it can make education more fun.  “Poking” the screen and using gestures is natural for kids, and for that, if I was a parent, I would have gotten an iPad.

I am already being asked to re-design existing apps for iPad, and I encourage my clients to really think whether their iPhone apps will get any use on an iPad.  Upon some reflection, the answer is often ‘No’, or ‘Not yet’ for utility, productivity, and many lifestyle apps.

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