How useful is the iPad really?

Really? A plastic bag?
Really? A plastic bag?

Note: This post was written all the way back in January of 2014 about my iPad 3rd generation. Since I bought mine there have been 3 other generations and the iPad Pro, so this is considerably out of date and shouldn’t be taken as a review of any current iPad. That said, I got rid of mine eventually and haven’t replaced it yet.

I’ve written about this topic previously here, and I’ve written about my experience with  magazines here.

We’ve all seen the ads. Surgeons with iPads in theatre. Filmmakers with iPads on mountain tops. Whole classes full of kids with iPads in lessons.

Every time I see those ads, I ask myself, really? Isn’t an iPad in an operating theatre a vector for hospital superbugs? How many fingers touch that iPad? How often does it get a clean? Do Apple even sell an iPad disinfectant? And a mountaintop? Really? You lugged that great big thing all the way up there, with its not-very-good camera, instead of, you know, a camera?

I’ve gone through stages with it. At first I was excited just to have it, obviously. I edited my first video on it, and was enthused by Avid Studio, which was acquired almost immediately by Pinnacle, and then by Corel. My contract isn’t up yet, and that software has had three owners. I no longer trust it. Some new owner may arbitrarily just withdraw it from sale, just to clean up the competition. So I don’t edit video on the iPad. I tried iPhoto, too, but (just as on the iPhone), I just didn’t get on with it.

Photos on the iPad ought to be a thing, but I grew so frustrated with them that I just gave up. Problem number one for me was that I bought a 16GB model, and 16GB, while fine for an iPhone is hopeless on an iPad, for some reason. Storage is so constrained that I can’t keep music on it long-term; or videos; or photos. I found that Photostream kept spawning copies of photos, and iPhoto did too, so that the iPad (and my Mac) started to fill up with duplicate, triplicate, copies of photos. So I just deleted them all, switched of Photostream (and… breathe) and mentally crossed photos off the list.

A snapshot. My “16 GB” model has “1.9 GB Available” and “11.3 GB Used” at this very moment. That’s 13.2 GB. Oh. So 3GB is taken up with system files. We’ll come to that towards the end. I temporarily have music on it, because I recently took it to France, where it functions as a jukebox with a Bluetooth speaker. So I could free up 3GB by removing the music (which is compressed when I synch to 128kbps in order to save space). Beneath that, the Kindle is occupying 1.5GB. This is a problem. I can leave some stuff in the cloud, true, but I also have some periodical issues relating to subscriptions that I have since cancelled. If I delete the files, I will not be able to download them again, because I cancelled my subscription. Welcome to the future, in which you own nothing.

(As to magazines, well, they’re enormous files, so you can’t keep them, which makes them less useful than printed magazines.)

Pages is a huge app. It takes up 377 MB, and Numbers takes up 370MB. Now, I have used Pages on the iPad, but I generally don’t use it to compose. I use it to read documents created on my Mac. I use it, quite a lot of the time, to look at recipes that I’ve copy-pasted. As for Numbers, I find it more or less unusable on the iPad, but again, I use it to read spreadsheets created on my Mac. This can be useful on parents’ evenings to look at student data. Or I could just take my laptop with me, which is what I did last time. Because it’s easier, frankly, than using the iPad. So I know there are easier ways to keep things like recipes, but I hate using things like Evernote, because you have to create yet another log-in, and give your details to yet another bunch of strangers who might sell themselves to Facebook or give everything to the NSA, or whatever. I don’t want to use the same passwords over and over, and I know I’d never remember anything different. And, yeah, there’s keychain, but trust it long-term? I don’t think so.

As a previous post detailed, I did attempt to use the iPad productively, and even bought a bluetooth keyboard, but I never use it. In fact, I’ve used the keyboard more often with my Mac, especially when my neck is hurting, and I want to put the laptop up higher.

Which leaves the iPad for browsing and reading. Is it better than a Kindle for that? I’ve never liked the typography on the Kindle. In fact, unless the price differential is outrageous, I prefer to read in iBooks on the iPad, because you can turn off text justification. Why the Kindle app doesn’t let you do this, I don’t know. I’ve gone down the route of electronic books in the past couple of years, mainly because we don’t have the space in the house for more books. Also because the quality of many printed books is awful these days (horrible paper, badly printed, badly bound). But here’s the thing. I really don’t like reading on the iPad. Too many accidental taps and swipes, because my hands get restless. It’s also too heavy. An iPad mini would be better, and I know the iPad Air is lighter, but my iPad (3) is a rock. I accidentally highlight text, I accidentally go forwards or backwards, sometimes loads of pages at once. It’s too bright at night, and hopeless in sunlight.

Which leaves browsing, and here’s another thing. I fucking hate Safari on the iPad. Take the Guardian site. It loads once, you go to tap a link, but, oh, it hadn’t finished loading, because now it’s loading the ads, and they’re reflowing the page. But you’ve already tapped. What have you tapped? Something you didn’t mean to. Go back. Wait for the page to load properly: once, twice, three times, reflowing, reflowing, and finally you can tap what you mean to tap. Twice, because the first tap does nothing. And then you wait for it to load again. A good feature, to have to double tap a link, but then when you’re reading an article, and you scroll down the page, sometimes you can’t avoid an embedded link, and what do you know? It immediately starts loading the page you accidentally tapped.

Sure, I’m a pathetic, clumsy, old git, and I’m all fingers and thumbs and tapping accidental links and scrolling clumsily. But I’m spending so much time rectifying mistakes that, 18 months into ownership, I just don’t like it.

As for the system, with its 3 GB of space, christ. I think iOS 7 probably works okay on the latest iPhones, but it has made my 18 month old iPad laggy, which is probably why web sites like the Guardian take so long to load. And, as I tweeted yesterday, that’s the problem with the tech industry. They do this to us over and over again.  New software follows new hardware, the software does more, gets more bloated, and suddenly we’ve gone from iMovie 2 to iMovie as it currently is: a bloated, useless, pile of steaming turd.

My final point, this. I’ve started to resent the iPad for what it has done to software I absolutely rely on – on my Mac. Keynote is shittier. Pages is shittier. Numbers is shittier. iMovie is even shittier. Every time Pages fails to format a fucking list properly, or doesn’t let me do something basic like change a font size by just selecting a preset from the menu, I hate the iPad more.

3 responses to “How useful is the iPad really?”

  1. It was fun to read it and your content is matching the funny name of this web page.
    Yes, you can see the iPad in exactly that way and give it away to your kids.
    I am doing almost all on my iPad starting from Photo editing, House Energy tracking, Finance overview , mortgage tracking, reading our local newspaper, writing letters + emails and browsing! not to forget to play such nice games as “The Room”.
    The local newspaper has developed an own app and there is no changing advertisement to load all the time, but you have to pay for. Every Saturday I am getting a free paper copy, that is nice.
    I have bought a 64GB iPad version and understand that your 16GB is too tiny.
    Last year I have bought a Samsung Galaxy pad with 8GB and the system take 5GB. Have given it as a present to my niece.
    In my office Job I am working with Windows on a big big silver Engineering Notebook from Dell. Have put an Apple sticker on the back to prevent home sickness to my private iMac.
    With an iPad and the right app the a “average” user can do a lot more things, the same person could do on a PC.
    I am an expert and are able to create my own apps (iOS,OSX,Windows) , but I could not do my office job on an iPad/Android/Playbook/Surface pad.
    But all my private things can be done in a very elegant way.
    I hope you soon earn enough money with your blog, to afford a bigger iPad and the needed adapters, not to forget a better data plan.

    PS: you could try 1Password for your password management even on your Mac.
    But could be the NSA has access already. You never know.


  2. I’ve been using the iPad (mine’s a 64Gb) for work things again recently, one use is a special proprietary App and the other is experimenting with Notability for handwritten notes, instead of using a small notepad.

    Curiously, I’m actually thinking that the iPad is almost too big for the note taking, because I’ve been used to Moleskine sized notepads for several years.

    However, the Notability App is worth persisting with and I’m now at a stage where I can use it for many had written purposes.

    As for reading from Kindle. The iPad ‘too heavy’ thing still applies. The Kindle is better (I have a £69 Paperwhite which is fine). On the tube I use my iPhone in portrait to read. It takes a little while to adjust to the idea but actually works really well. I like that all the devices stay in sync with the page number I’ve reached.

    I think I’ve said before that I do still mostly consider the iPad as a consumption rather than a generation device.


  3. Have not mentioned that I have bought the new Kindle Paperwhite with back light.
    Look like we all agree that this is a great way to read black and white books.
    Rashbre mentioned a “special proprietary app” and that is the way you can work productive, like a sales person having an app which is in contact with the “mothership” and support him/her in a streamlined fashion.
    That is not limited to the iPad, but is perhaps the best choice.
    I would not do internet banking on an Android tablet.


%d bloggers like this: