First thoughts about iPad: heavy, keyboard woes, web image rendering

Apr 04, 2010

I wasn’t really going to buy an iPad until the wifi+3G+gps version becomes available later in April. But then, someone asked me to pick up the wifi device and let me play with it for a few hours until I ship it to them. What a nice idea :)

Buying experience

I was expecting much worse, but I could just walk in to NYC SOHO Apple store and buy it. I had no reservation, no registration, no nothing. There was no line, no hassle, even though there were lots of people buying the device or just playing with the demo units.

I can only conclude that the store was massively stocked, and perhaps Apple has really learned from the iPhone supply shortages.

Unboxing

The device was heavier than I expected, and the 3G version will be even heavier. The size is very nice, but I wish it was lighter. Yes, it’s smaller than a magazine, but weighs as much as a respectable hadcover book.

Keyboard

I’m typing on the iPad right now, and it is somewhat bearable. Sound feedback and autocorrect helps a lot.

There is one thing I don’t like, and where iPhone does a better job. On iPhone, the “go”/”return”/”join”/”search”/etc action button is the bottom rightmost one and has a different color, so it is very easy to find and use. On iPad, this button is in the middle right of the keyboard and has same color as other buttons, so much harder to use. I really like the iPhone action button and I hope they fix it on iPad.

Web

iPad is the best web device ever, hands down. Fullscreen distraction-free chrome, fast loading, great rendering, direct manipulation… What more could you ask for?

There is one interesting thing happening, which web publishers will need to address somehow. As you browse the web, you end up double tapping to zoom a lot, like on iPhone. And text is then rendered beautifully, but images are a whole another story. A lot of images are pixel-doubled and iPad ends up interpolating them exactly as it pixel-doubles iPhone apps. And they look like crap.

The same effect was present in iPhone too, but it was not nearly as dramatic. On iPad, it is.

One outcome of this will be that TypeKit will get a lot of good business. Many images are used for rendering nice page headers or navigation elements with nice typography, and many of them can be converted into a TypeKit solution so they would maintain crispness on the iPad.

As for photos and infographics, I can see two things that will happen.

One, the image handling and/or zoom events in HTML will be enhanced such that if a page is zoomed in, a new version of image/photo can be loaded with a higher DPI – perhaps by specifying multiple sources for image, or reacting to the resize events in Javascript. You could do the latter already today with Javascript if there were zoom events in the DOM, but I don’t think this is possible. There is a “resize” event in the DOM for window resizing, but according to Apple technical note:

In Safari on iPhone and iPad, the window size is set to the size of the screen (minus Safari user interface controls), and cannot be changed by the user. To move around a webpage, the user changes the zoom level and position of the viewport as they double tap or pinch to zoom in or out, or by touching and dragging to pan the page. As a user changes the zoom level and position of the viewport they are doing so within a viewable content area of fixed size (that is, the window).

Are there any events about such viewport changes? (And I don’t know what this means from DOM perspective, since currently there is no concept of multiple resolutions/pixeldensities for the same page, and you can’t load an image with higher resolution into the same element. But we’ll figure it out.)

Second, for things like info graphics, there will be some resolution-independent/vector publishing method that will become popular. I dont know if it will be svg or something else, but there is an obvious need now that someone better meet. (Flash would qualify for this, but Apple doesn’t want that.)

What I didn’t do

I didn’t buy any apps or games or view my photos or movies. I tried a few native free apps and they were awesome, but I just didn’t have enough time and this baby is shipping out shortly. I’m looking forward to buying my own device with 3g soon :) meanwhile, will let other people do a lot of mistakes in their apps which I could avoid.

Bye, laptop?

At this point, I’m quite convinced that I’ll get rid of my laptops when I buy my own iPad with 3g (need to ship this one away). I’ll instead have awesome desktops at home and work, and iPhone+iPad on the go. Don’t know how it works out, maybe I’ll still need a laptop, but I’ll give it a shot.