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Review: Apple iPad

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

A warm breeze from the ducted heating brushes past my face as I wipe my brow overlooking the savanna that is my coffee table. It is a harsh and varied terrain home to many inhabitant species, both native and introduced. Amoung them, the elusive remote. Wiley and cunning with extraordinary camouflage abilities, especially when ‘A Current Affair’ appears and speed of use is a factor. Next to it is the coffee table book, a slow somewhat dim-witted creature that requires frequent replacement due to yielding to natural selection (and current trends). Add to it your normal array of run-of-the-mill savanna denizens such as matchbox cars (lethal when stood on), Iggle Piggle (don’t ask), and a homeless forsaken sock, and you have the lowland Jarrah plains that situate in the middle of my lounge room. Today, the hierarchy of this fragile ecosystem was challenged as I introduced a new species to the region, a dominant male. The alpha dawg. The Apple iPad.

If I were to own an iPad (and didn’t have a 2 year old), the coffee table is where it would reside. Ruling supreme over other lesser devices that call the table their home. The remote simply controls the television, the books are just books, the toys are just toys. The iPad is all of these and then some. It’s almost any book you want, it’s a television centre, it’s games, it’s a notepad, it’s a stereo. It leaves anything that resides in it’s vicinity in the dust. If the coffee table is the savanna, the iPad is the lion.

The iPad has been out long enough for us to all know what it is capable of and what the user interface is like, but the real clincher is ‘how would it fit into my life?’ After my usual involuntary reaction of “gotta have it gotta have it gotta have it” after seeing a shiny new gadget’s release, I usually sit down and really think about where it would fit in my life and if I could really get use out of it. On the iPad I’m conflicted. There are times where I will LONG to own one of these, long drives and plane trips are what instantly spring to mind, especially with kids. Handing the rowdy child the iPad on the plane (with my eagle eyes sitting adjacent) and watching them be entertained for hours with the multiple games pre-loaded before flight sounds heavenly. Not to mention having the iPad as your internet connectivity device once at your destination. Once free wifi on planes becomes standard (shut up, give me my dreams) it will become even better to have an iPad with you. I’m not comfortable traveling with my Macbook Pro all the time and risking getting it damaged or stolen or otherwise man-handled, so the idea of taking a cheaper, smaller, more compact ‘computer’ that I can fit in my handbag is very appealing for things like travel. But for everyday, I don’t think I would use it a great deal. The times it would shine is when I’m out of the house and away from my main computer, or if I didn’t have a portable computer and wanted to browse while away from my desktop. We travel overseas at least once a year, and tend to travel interstate at least once also. But I’m not 100% sure these infrequent flights justify the world’s best inflight entertainment system.

As cringeworthy as it sounds, actually holding the iPad and having a play, it felt like holding the future. I felt the same when I first played with my iPhone. A million years ago when I had a gameboy, I was wondering what it would be like to one day have a handheld device that actually looked just like the Nintendo gameplay on my television screen. When I had my first mobile phone, a Nokia 5110, I longed for the day my mobile screen would be in colour, and dreamed of a day it would look like my computer screen. Now my phone looks just like my computer screen and is capable of more than I ever imagined, and the iPad feels like some kind of dubious witchcraft. It was a surreal experience, and I found myself amazed with how far technology has come. Actually using one is a pleasure within itself, and makes it hurt all the more that I probably don’t need one just yet. In a few years when the short person in our house learns the difference between an electronic device and a frisbee, I might consider it. But right now, I’ll settle for hiring or borrowing one for flights and times I think it would come in handy for us. It’s an amazing device and I really admire it. Once more iPad apps come out it will be even better, as a lot of what is out there at the moment are upscaled iPhone apps.

I for one am proud of my restraint. Normally I feel the need to have every gadget that impresses me. I should get some kind of prize for my efforts. Perhaps one that is about 680 grams, 24cms by 18cms… with a shiny LCD screen and Plants vs Zombies….

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