I was quite stoked to get an iPad when I first learned about them. We like to test our websites on lots of different computers and devices, so it seemed a natural fit. Besides, I heard I could watch Netflix on it, which sealed the deal for portability. I even treated it to a trendy travel case by Javoedge (pictured below). I was good to it and expecting great things!
I was a little thrown at first with the iPad’s one screen at a time behavior. Like a miserly wife counting bottles of beer, I was allowed to view this screen or that screen, but never the two screens at once. For someone who works all day with two 24 inch monitors side-by-side so I can have 10 windows and applications open at the same time, that was a blow. But I moved on. Who knew there were literally thousands of free apps I could download to see if a painting is level, or change my “Face” photo to an Andy Warhol? And the prospects of reading books on it was thrilling to say the least.
All I can say without going into hundreds of pages of teeth gnashing and hair pulling is that the iPad has been one big disappointment. After a year of utter nonsense, I’ve had enough.
To be fair, I did read a lot of books on the iPad. Not from the library, unfortunately, since it’s now virtually impossible to check out any book from a public library no matter how dated or unknown, thanks to the tens of thousands of readers and tablets out there and the severely limited number of e-copies made available. I had to buy them all, and at prices that were very little less than the full retail price of the paper and ink version. (But you can’t pass the files on to your friends when you finish reading them, or even trade books, or sell them at a garage sale, because they are locked and sealed to your own Apple account.) The convenience was amusing, but ultimately I found the iBookstore on Apple’s e-reader app just didn’t carry the titles I wanted and needed, and there is no way to download them from Amazon. If you’re a book club type of reader, and if you feel like paying almost full price, you might be content enough.
All iPads can connect to wireless networks, whether or not you get a 3G-enabled iPad. Which is wonderful – if you can connect to wireless. Last summer I sat for several hours, furious, on an Amtrak unable to get my iPad to connect while all around me people with normal, everyday laptops and netbooks happily typed away or did their email. And how many hotel rooms have I been in during the past year where there was no wireless connection? (OK just five… I don’t travel a lot.) But none of them had wireless in the hotel room, not even the 4 star Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu or the executive hotel in downtown Seattle. There was an Ethernet cable dangling over the desk of every hotel room we stayed in last year, but the iPad doesn’t have a hardwire port. (BTW, does anyone know why not?) So I found myself lurking around lobbies several times a day trying to make a connection, confirm my return airfare, or just get my email for heaven’s sake – while all around me people happily typed away or did their own email on regular everyday laptops and netbooks.
On that ill-fated trip to the States, I planned on using Netflix to watch movies. I was thrilled to read one of the perks offered by Amtrak is wireless connectivity. However, as I eventually learned, “The volume of people logging on diminishes the quality of Wi-Fi service; a few folks streaming video on Netflix or YouTube can shut down access”. So Amtrak, like a lot of other service providers, has blocked such sites. Seething, I plotted and planned: this wouldn’t deter me on my return trip. I would download some movies right onto the iPad and be ready to watch them on my way home!
But no. Once I finally patched together about 5 hours of wireless connections by sitting around hotel lobbies and various Starbucks all week (I am a determined little thing) my iPad suddenly informed me — about 20 minutes before finishing the first download — that there was no more room on my iPad.
No problem! I would just remove some movies I had added a few months earlier. This is what you would do on a normal, everyday computer, right? Just highlight and delete: gone in a second.
After tearing out my hair and researching forums online, I finally learned that you cannot simply delete a movie from your iPad. You have to wait until you get all the way home again, connect to your very OWN copy of iTunes on very OWN computer – no other account and no other computer will do – and synch em up before you can remove any unwanted movies. Foiled!
But once home again, after getting the damn movies off the stupid device, to my horror I discovered that while I was at it, iTunes had also updated my iPad with the last 16 GB of music I added to my iPod. And I walked away with 13 different apps for feeding digital dolphins and breeding tropical fish that my daughter had downloaded onto my iPhone, now duplicated and spread across several screens of the iPad. iTunes had synched everything to make my life so much easier.
Even when I do manage to find and make a connection, email is hell. Might I mention the complete oblivion my Telus wireless provider for the iPad and iPhone feels towards my Shaw mail account, requiring me to re-route my mail through Yahoo? Great for receiving mail, but if I answer you from my iPad or iPhone I’ll never get your next email on my desktop. I won’t ever know you tried to contact me again! Which is probably just as well, because I’m going to get really nasty trying to write an email on my iPad where all the numbers and symbols are located on a different screen from the alphabet letters.
Thomas Beller writes that Apple is “a pane of glass through which we see the world, ubiquitous, a utility”. Nicely put! But you know what, I don’t want to see the world through the iPad! I have my own ideas and I want to be able to implement them myself. I’m accustomed to using technology to facilitate my life, not having technology impose its own life on me!
I don’t want to be limited by the screen-by-screen myopia of the iPad. I don’t want to use half-baked and ill-conceived fake software to do some writing or text editing. I DEFINITELY do not want to have to use a backspace key to delete something. (Even if I could get the cursor to insert itself between letters instead of before or after a word, since there is no such thing as a mouse or an arrow key: just my finger trying to poke an infinitely small pixel on the touch screen.)
The most infuriating aspect of the iPad (and iPhone) however must be the way it always knows better than I do what I want to be typing. Just try to do creative writing with an iPad! Just try to type the name of a friend whose mother bestowed them with a slightly more eccentric version of the normal spelling. iPad knows best what your friends Jorgie (George) and Abegayle (Abigail) are really called.
But today, dear Reader, was the last straw. All I wanted to do was move some photos of Hawaii onto the iPad so I could show them to my cousin over lunch on Sunday. Being a bit older, she just isn’t going to see those tiny little thumbnails very well. It seemed like such a good idea – the iPad has the most amazing screen resolution and colour. Finally I’d found an ideal use of the iPad, besides watching Netflix in bed. That is, when the iPad can actually make the wireless connection from one side of the house to the other.
So how to transfer the photos from my PC desktop? My natural instinct would be to simply drag the folder off the PC desktop onto a USB device and plug it into the iPad. 60 seconds tops. But there is no USB port. Another quick check – nope, there is no SD card slot either. No, no DVD drive. So an app, there must be an app. Sure enough, I quickly discover a “transfer” app described as completely intuitive and seamless. All I have to do is download it – I can do that – then type a certain IP address into the browser of my desk top and… no wireless connection. Test the router? Yes. All connections working? Yes. Read the instructions again, try the help manual, go through the steps over and over… it’s two hours later and I still haven’t managed to get a single thing to work.
I am now online. On my desktop computer. Where I can make and correct my own spelling and I don’t have to switch to a different screen when I need a bit of punctuation. Where I can open several windows at once if I feel like it, and go backwards and forwards in my tabbed browser, and trace my steps as far back as I want – without the pages I previously visited re-inventing themselves as icons on yet another screen I can’t see at the same time.
I’ve had it, I’m done, I am not amused anymore! I’m online, and I’m searching for a netbook running Windows.