Thursday, March 15, 2012

iPad 2 — A Year Later

With an imminent arrival of iPad 3 tomorrow (barring any FedEx screw ups) I decided to write down some of my thoughts on the past year of my “relationship” with iPad 2.

My iPad home screen.The most important thing that stands out is the fact that there really haven’t been a single day (with very rare exceptions) when I have not used it. I use it at work, I use it at home and I use it for travel. This last vacation was the first in 10 years when I finally felt brave enough to leave my laptop at home.

At this point I can state without any hesitation that it was money well spent and the only thing that can and did make me give this device up is the arrival of the new model of the same very thing. And I did stop using iPhone at home for anything but phone calls because it feels so tiny in comparison, but it still is the best on the go.


Obviously iPad is nothing without its software. Good, quality software is what makes this device so addictively useful. Below is a list of my favorite and most used applications.

Reeder for iPad.Reeder is my by far the most used application. I do a lot of reading on my iPad and most of it happens inside this app. Reeder is a great RSS client which actually made me love and use RSS. Beautiful and simple design makes it a pleasure to use. This is the best Google Reader client out there.

New York Times for iPad.New York Times is my favorite news source on iPad. I read it every morning before going to work. After their subscription wall went into effect the app has been very limited, but I’m happy to report that I have subscribed to a print version of the paper which comes with all digital access — much more economical way to go than their actual digital plans. As of today I have full access to all the sections.

Tweetbot for iPad.Tweetbot is my Twitter client of choice for both iPad and iPhone. I’m not a heavy Twitter user, but after the iPhone version of Tweetbot came out I just could no longer stand using the official app — it’s been getting progressively worse since it has been aquired by Twitter. I liked Tweetbot so much that I started using the iPhone version on my iPad. Needless to say I was very happy to learn that Tapbots came out with an iPad version of their Twitter client a couple of weeks ago. Beautiful UI and UX. Has everything that I want from a client and more.

Instapaper.Instapaper is another one of my favorite reading apps. I don’t often have need for it as I’m always on Wi-Fi, but for those times when I do not have Wi-Fi — planes, vacations — it’s amazing. Just find a bunch of articles that you’d like to read, hit Instapaper bookmarklet, sync Instapaper and go. Now you can read all those in a nice streamlined and cleaned up format offline.

Portfolio for iPad.Portfolio is the way to showcase one’s photography work. When I was buying an iPad having my photographic portfolio on it was one of the reasons. The app could use some polish around the corners, but it has a lot of functionality — it lets me create as many albums as I want, give those albums a cover and arrange the photos in any order I want among other things. Photos can be loaded from numerous sources — Dropbox being my preferred one. And then it just lets you let anybody browse your portfolio with photos showing up in full screen.

iA Writer.iA Writer is one of many minimalistic writing apps available for iPad, but iA Writer is an especially beautiful one. I do not use it very often, but it’s really nice to write in when on vacation. It also has Dropbox and iCloud support and it works especially well with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard which I plan to carry with me when I travel.

1Password Pro.1Password is an app that I bought to replace SplashData — an app I used to use during Palm days. Initially I was quite unimpressed with 1Password because at that point they just came out with an iPad version and it was full of bugs. It all got sorted out by now and I keep all my data that needs to be secured inside of it now. I also use an iPhone companion app with it. SplashData has been long retired — good riddance.

Calcbot.Calcbot is another beautifully designed app from Tapbots. Since iPad comes with no built-in calculator app I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Calcbot for iPhone that I already had turned out to be a universal app. It is convenient to do “math” on a large screen of iPad.

Prompt.Prompt is a really nice SSH client. I tried a good number of them and when Prompt came out I couldn’t resist. At first it had a few issues, but they all had been worked out a long time ago and rather quickly by Prompt’s creators. This one also works very well with a Bluetooth keyboard and some actual coding can be done pretty comfortably in Vim or Emacs. By now I have deleted all the rest of SSH clients I had and Prompt is my client of choice.

The apps that I didn’t list and still use pretty often are — Zagat, Dropbox, IMDb, Articles, OffMaps 2, Facebook, Skype, BeejiveIM, Magical Weather, 500px and many others.

I also have a couple of magazine subscriptions that I read primarily or only on iPad — Popular Photography, The New Yorker, Time Magazine and The Economist. I’ll probably add a couple more in a near future. But some of these guys have to figure out a better format for serving their content or the files will get extremely huge for retina display of iPad 3. And I wish they would all update their apps to support Newsstand too.

Some of my iPad games.I also play some games on my iPad sometimes. I actually have a whole bunch of them installed on it — taking up 2 full folders, but I usually get bored with them quickly and rarely revisit. They are just sitting there for the most part.

Well, there you have it. An amazing device and an amazing set of apps. Hopefully somebody will find this useful and discover a new good app or two for themselves. I certainly am a big fan of all of the apps featured above and am thankful to those developers for making iPad so useful and pleasant to use.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

iPad 2 — First Impressions

Black 32GB Wi-Fi only iPad 2.I’ve been an iPad owner for 2 full days now. I thought I would’ve posted something about getting an iPad on day one, but was completely unable to pull myself away from it. So here I am, writing this post on iPad1 at my parents’ house.

Which One?

As you know I wanted to get an iPad for quite some time now, however after the keynote on March 2nd my enthusiasm somehow went down. And it’s a good thing too for my sanity, since the release date was set to the next Friday. As the time went on and I kept reading the reviews of those who were present at the event and of those who got early review versions I got more and more anxious. I really wanted to get my hands on one as soon as possible.

iPad 2. 32GB. Back.I knew one thing for sure — I do not need a 3G version. $130 is too steep of a price for someone who will use this device in Wi-Fi zones most of the time. The fact that Wi-Fi version is missing a GPS chip is regrettable, but not a big deal in my case. Plus with the addition of Hotspot feature to iPhone I’ll be able to get it online while on vacation for an addition $20 a month if I want to. I also decided early on that I will get a black version even though a white one looks equally attractive. Since I was planning to carry my photographic portfolio on it a white border would just be too distracting.

As for the size I kept swaying back and forth between 16GB and 32GB version. In the end I figured that I might load several movies onto it, store a lot of my photographs in high resolution, upload pictures from my camera during vacations directly to iPad and I just don’t want to micromanage the free space. I’m glad I decided on 32GB version as in these couple of days I just put everything I wished on it without giving it a 2nd thought.

Release Day

Apple decided not to do online preordering this time around2 and the only way to get one on the very first day — March 11th — was to stand in line. I read that beside Apple stores Targets, Walmarts and Best Buys would get some stock on day one. Those reports however indicated that those stores would have very limited quantities — 10 of each model or so.

iPad 2 box. Getting ready to open.The best bet would be an Apple Store. There are 4 in Manhattan and 1 in Staten Island. Manhattan stores had lines from 10:30am (some earlier) for 5pm release. I decided to try my chances on Staten Island, but hearing how enormously long the lines were I thought my chances were pretty much non-existent. I can’t compete with people who got there in the morning.

I cut my work day short and got into to the car 10 minutes to 4. On my way to Staten Island I stopped by a local Best Buy just to see how things were. Around 200 people were already waiting. If they really did get 10 models of each my chances to get the one I wanted were zero. When I got to Staten Island mall where the Apple Store is located I decided to drive by another Best Buy located on the same very mall. I called Apple Store beforehand and was told that they had about 200 people waiting as well. But at least these guys should have decent stock I thought. Anyhow, Best Buy did have a line as well, but to my surprise there were only 30 people or so.

iPad 2 out of the box and cover next to it.I parked my car and got into the line. It was 4:40pm, 20 minutes before the release. I asked if the tickets3 were already given out. They were not. But 3 minutes later employees came out with stacks of paper. Soon after they got to me. I asked for Black 32GB Wi-Fi version and was given a ticket for exactly that model. I was also told that it guarantees that I will get it if I don’t leave the line. Needless to say I was ecstatic.

Less than an hour later I was inside the store looking at accessories and waiting for my turn to pay. They only had non-leather covers in blue, pink and green. When someone would ask for a leather one they were given some Griffin case and most people would buy it without realizing that it’s totally not what they really wanted. When I got out with my iPad in hand there was still a line of about the same size as when I joined it. People waited for a chance of others not using up their tickets and some leftover stock.

Smart Cover

Cream leather cover on iPad 2.I decided to go by the Apple Store and see how things were going there since I was on the same mall anyhow. I also wanted to try to get inside and see the covers in action and pick one up in a sane color. I figured I will try leather and polyurethane and grab the one I like. I was hoping for polyurethane to be nice enough as the leather version cost more than double.

I got to the store by about 6:30pm and the line was enormous. I only saw the portion that was inside the mall building, but some Apple employee told me that it was extending outside as well. And it seemed to be moving very very slowly. When I inquired if I could get inside the store in order to get something other than iPad itself I was directed to a different line. Luckily the line had 3 people and I was inside the store in no time.

Smart cover on iPad 2.To my surprise I was told that they do not have any open covers on display and I can only look at them inside boxes, but not touch them. Considering how much noise they made about it it was weird not to let people try it out for themselves. But after reading all the raving reviews I was pretty convinced that I’ll get one.

Anyhow after a close visual inspection of the textures I didn’t want to take a chance with polyurethane. I have no idea how it would feel in hand and with leather I had a good idea. Plus all the non-leather colors where quite bright and I wanted something calmer. I ended up buying a cream leather cover.

iPad propped up on Smart Cover. Cover view.I’m going to go ahead and say that I agree with all the raving reviews and I’m glad about buying one of these covers. I can’t say anything about polyurethane, but leather is very pleasant to the touch. The cover attaches perfectly every single time with no effort whatsoever. Removing it is even easier. Every time the cover attaches to the same very place and lines up perfectly with the screen.

iPad propped up on Smart Cover.I found it more pleasing to hold the iPad with leather on the back of iPad — the cover can be folded in half — instead of cold aluminum. I also used the cover as a mini-stand — it seems to make typing a lot easier than having it just lay flat on the table. And of course it’s much more pleasing to carry it with leather cover protecting the screen. I don’t think I’m going to buy any other cases for the iPad. I don’t really care much about the back of it getting scratched.

First Order of Business

After getting home and syncing my iPad, which by the way took no more than 5 minutes, I opened up our blog in Safari. There was a bit of misaligning and weird stretching going on. It also was using a low-resolution icon that I made for original iPhone on the home-screen.

iPhone 4 and iPad 2. Side by side.I created a new iPad specific icon and added two lines of code to let iPad know where to pick the right icon up and that the blog content is exactly 1024 pixels wide (as it was built to work on exactly that resolution) which made it look perfect on iPad screen. Exactly as it is intended to be seen.
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="72x72"
href="apple-touch-icon-ipad.png" />
<meta name="viewport" content="width=1024,
maximum-scale=1.0" />

Configuration and Customization

iPad is a very personal device. And as such I proceeded to create a pair of 1024×1024 wallpapers from my personal photographs to use on the home-screen and on the lock-screen instead of the default ones. I also loaded a small portfolio of photographs that I have prepared earlier. I plan on significantly expanding it. The photos look gorgeous on the screen of iPad.

iPad wallpaper.
I also proceeded to install my favorite iPhone applications — Reeder and Instapaper. The version of Instapaper that I bought earlier for iPhone was already a universal app, which means that a single binary works well on iPhone and on iPad. Reeder for iPad I had to buy, but I gladly paid $4.99 for my mostly used app.

iPad wallpaper.I will note that I tried installing a couple of iPhone apps that do not have iPad versions and the experience is pretty horrendous. You get stuck with an iPhone keyboard which even in double size doesn’t compare at all with iPad version. It’s way too clumsy and quite unusable.

The other apps that I installed that I either owned already that were universal apps or that are free — New York Times, Twitter, iBooks, Calcbot, WordPress, Dropbox and Gowalla among others. Although I don’t think I will get much use of the latter one for the fact that iPad is more home and office bound. Continue Reading

  1. Using Simplenote for iPad. []
  2. I got both iPhone 3GS and 4 online. I guess Apple wanted to ensure lines for iPad after Verizon iPhone release when everyone just bought one online and there were no lines. []
  3. Best Buy posted on their site that they will give out tickets to people in line at 4:30pm for the iPads that they had in stock. It was nice of them to let people know ahead of time if they will be waiting for a reason or just to take a chance. []

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