My iPad – 2 weeks in …


I have just returned from the US, when I was there I was lucky enough to purchase an iPad and give it a proper test drive on my travels. The iPad I purchased was the 32gig, 3G model – cost me $729 USD ex tax … worked out around $800 US, which is probably around $900 AUD at the end of the day.

Here’s some initial observations 2 weeks in.

Adoption is quick

In the US it’s very tough right now to score an ipad. I’d estimate most, if not all, stores are sold out and the wait list is significant. If you ask for the waiting period for an order the answer you get is basically ‘it will take as long as it takes’. Speaking to staff in the Apple stores, they say demand for the ipad is greater than they ever saw for the iphone or any other Apple device. This is significant considering the price of the device.

It passes the ‘normal person’ test …

Want to know if something is interesting to non digital, non advertising people … put it in the hands of someone who wouldn’t know what a “Social Media Strategist” is and could care less about a CMS … ie, 99.9% of the population. My barometer for this is my wife, who enjoys using the net but just views it as another media. She enjoyed the iPad – it allows her to do what she’d normally do on a desktop with relative ease – email, communicate, read, watch videos, look at photos.

The audience appears to be older

This is moreso based on my experience than anything scientific, but the people buying iPads appear to be white collar, 35-54, male skew. I got mine in Santa Barbara and 95% of the line fit this description. It’s not hip early 20 something’s, far from it. I guess that is to be expected considering the cost and the nature of the device (ie, a non-necessity, a luxury).  This was reinforced in San Francisco, most people who were publicly using the pad fit into this category was well. The weird thing about the device is that it’s far from a purchase you can rationalise. That said, most enjoyable purchases generally are.

You need a strong connection

My iPad has 3G capability but getting an account with ATT was difficult so I stuck to Wi-Fi. One thing I noticed is you need a fat connection – I was using T-Mobile and ATT subscription Wi-Fi hotspots and it was slow. Some apps require serious bandwidth – Vanity Fair especially (well, from reports it takes 15-20 mins to initially load. Don’t ask me – mine won’t work). I’ve had an iPhone on Vodafone for the last 2 years and the 3G coverage is routinely rubbish … what will be the options outside of Telstra’s network for AU iPad owners who want to see the device hum on a 3G connection outside of the home?

Battery life – the jury is still out

If you really hammer the device – with downloads etc the battery takes a pounding. Problem is a lot of the cool media apps require a robust net connection and are constantly refreshing … what will this do to battery life? It’s less hungry when playing music and looking at photos … but the wifi connection churns battery resources.

Advertising blitz around launch

Apple have gone out hard with advertising supporting the launch of the overall device. No ads I saw mentioned specifics … ie, HD size or 3G/Wifi etc … but they did all show people using the device to either read or watch content – ie, newspapers, books or TV primarily … or communicate – email was the focus here. The only ads I saw were outdoor – primarily large format or bus shelter executions. Right now, Apple is hitting TV hard with iPhone ads … which is to be expected. They seem to be selling the iPhone on versatile functionality and the iPad on a more ‘lean back’ sort of position that is less about utility and more about escape. Reportedly Apple is about to start TV ads for iPad … which I would correlate with more production and an ability within the next few weeks to fulfill walk in demand.

Google so far plays a minor role

Using the device, the role of search and search engines seems a lot less dominant than it does on the browser. Maps is interesting, especially with the 3G model (which has GPS), YouTube doesn’t seem as compelling when the likes of ABC and ESPN are chucking a lot of excellent, professional and new content up every hour, and the role of search to find info hasn’t really proven needed for me as yet. That said, it’s early, but it remains unclear what role Google will play on this device.

There are loads of little initial bugs

I dropped $4.95 on the Vanity Fair app … it doesn’t work for me. Have deleted and reinstalled and it still doesn’t work. The USA Today app is excellent but suddenly stopped working a few days back.  None of the apps seem watertight yet … most feel like they’re still in beta. The NBA Game Time app crashes often on video – but I will forgive it, the app is awesome!

Ads are interesting

Sometimes I feel the way many advertisers utilise banners is boring and incorrectly driven/advised by those measuring their impact who focus on the wrong things. I like the ad formats on iPad that I have seen … many appear to have the impact and flair of good magazine executions with the functionality of web. The ads feel like they have impact – but that is to be expected from a new device. With some creative thinking a lot of cool things are possible with this device – especially the 3G – which can bridge the best elements of print, digital and mobile into effective, engaging advertising

Old media are developing some killer apps

I hate the cliché ‘old media are idiots’ digital people who bang on about the death of traditional media. Right now, some of the best apps (in my opinion) on the iPad are from old media companies  – namely ABC, Time and WSJ. The ABC app is so simple and elegant – streaming full episodes of recent programming with really minimal fuss and effort. It just works. The Time downloadable (for $4.95 USD) magazine is brilliant – brings a lot of the content to life and demonstrates the potential of the format if editorial can continue to experiment and push the boundaries. WSJ – so far I’ve only tried the trial sub (which reduces functionality) but like Time it takes already excellent content and presents it in a way that is enjoyable and natural … which leads me to my last point …

The emphasis appears to be on curation …

One issue I have with the web and producers/editors of most sites is they don’t really curate … they throw EVERYTHING up regardless of merit/interest and hope something sticks. As a reader it often feels like you enter a site looking for something rather than hoping you find something … I enjoy finding things I wasn’t looking for and learning about stuff I didn’t previously know … hence why I love magazines. I also love how a magazine is presented – the font, the typesetting, the images, the stock, the layout and flow … all things that are crucial to great brands and great publications. Online – we don’t see that. Most sites use similar CMS, similar fonts, minimal images, loads of stock photography, loads of AP feeds, loads of stuff designed to minimise cost, maximise efficiency … but so often it makes things terribly boring. Flicking through some of the apps I’ve got so far, there seems to be a sense of occasion, a sense of excitement … flair and style finally appear important within digital media. Who’d have thought!

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6 responses to “My iPad – 2 weeks in …

  1. It passed another strange test like the ‘wife test’ you mentioned (and which I employ myself – though with my wife not yours).

    My sister, probably the uncoolest person I know (a description she would confess to on her way to a quilt-makers expo) is SUPER excited about being on the wait list for one. Maybe theres a quilt makers app I haven’t been privvy to who knows, but it means it’s selling to people who couldn’t give a cross-stitch for techno-gadgetry.

    I’ll fiddle with yours tomorrow Ben….. that’s your iPad not your sister or wife.

  2. Nice overview Ben. I was originally skeptical of an iPad replacing a netbook for things like email but after using one a week ago had my mind changed. The lag on typing input is barely noticable and is a pleasant experience.

    What did you make of screen brightness? Kindle still wins on making the reading experience relaxing (especially when I already spend over half of each dayin front of a PC).

  3. Brought one back for my mate from the US – non 3G. WiFi is definitely an issue, seems pretty sluggish. With WiFi and maps, it still has some sort of positioning system (not GPS) using something called skyhook. I don’t really understand how it works but it seems to be reasonably accurate.

    Would your apps not working have something to do with you no longer being in the states? My mate had to create a new iTunes account saying he was in the USA for him to be able to access most apps.

    I’m personally still not sold on the whole thing. It’s definitely cool and fun but pretty pricey for what it is.

  4. Good to see you back blogging shep. Insightful read as usual!

  5. Neil Ackland

    One key observation I’ve made (after Ben so kindly brought one home from the US for me) is that the web browsing experience is a real stand out. Websites really pop.

    This poses a real challenge for mag and newspaper publishers who are betting their future on the uptake of paid apps.

    When the web experience is so good, the app needs to be significantly better and come with heaps of exclusive app-only content to see people part with $.

  6. talkingdigital

    its interesting … so far the GQ app has (according to Mashable) sold under 500 copies in the US.

    I think the mag brands work well in app form, but it’s really uncertain whether people will pay.

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