As I commented in my introduction to the iPad, I completely failed to justify the purchase before parting with the cash. Please don't judge me, most of the time my money is spent sensibly and with much forethought. I was just so curious! So since then, the ipad has been a constant companion, both at home and at work and in that time it's become invaluable. So for those of you that are in a similar boat to me, you want one but just haven't worked out how you might need one - here's an account of a typical day in my ipad home life.
My alarm clock goes off at 06:30. Do I get up at that time? Not a chance! Snooze is well used in my house! One slightly surprising omission on the ipad is that it doesn't have an alarm clock built in. Certainly these can be downloaded from the "App Store" (the integrated online shop that you can buy extra functions in the form of 'apps' from), but odd that it's not there in the first place.
When I finally drag myself from my bed, I grab the ipad from the night stand where it has been left to charge and head down for breakfast. Breakfast ready, I take the ipad online and go to www.tvcatchup.com where I can watch all the main TV channels and a good selection of the ones from the Freeview range too! The ipad is a much nicer video watching experience compared to a laptop. For a start, you don't have to boot it up. It switches on and is ready to use as quickly as a real television. I can watch several live channels via TV catchup, or watch the BBC iPlayer if there is something I missed. The ipad can also store video and movies and TV shows are easily rented or purchased from iTunes right from the device. All have nice touchscreen interfaces and I can be sitting at the breakfast bar watching my chosen show within moments.
Washed and dressed, time to get some chores out of the way. Need some music to keep me entertained. There are lots of choices here. The iPad has all the functions of a standard Apple iPod, so putting my own music on it has been easy using iTunes. I also subscribe to Spotify - which means for £9.99 per month, I can listen to my choice of over 8 million songs over the internet, or keep some music playlists on the device to listen to away from an internet connection. Finally, I could use one of the many internet radio applications like "Pocket Tunes Radio" to listen from a selection of thousands of radio stations around the world. Believe me, you start to appreciate DJs in the UK a lot more after hearing some stations!
Time for a sit down with coffee and catch up on the news and my other favourite websites. Now this is where the ipad excels. Hit the power button and it's on straight away, ready to use. The Safari browser is fast, the screen is beautful and webpages like the BBC look fantastic. It really turns the internet into a glossy magazine experience! I can kick back on the sofa with my coffee and the ipad leaning against a raised knee and read in comfort. I don't miss the laptop warming up my legs one bit (although it is Summer at time of writing!). The internet experience is not without its failings however. A lot of fuss has been made that the ipad does not "do Flash". What does this mean to those of us who just want to enjoy surfing and not worry about the behind the scenes stuff? Well, without Flash, a lot of the more rich experiences of the internet disappear. Most of the time you won't notice - but I do miss two things. Firstly, no videos on the BBC News site. This is set to change later in the year, as the BBC plans to introduce support for non-Flash supporting devices. Secondly, sites that let you play simple games online - some of these are very good fun and perfect for a 5min coffee break. To have been able to access them on the ipad would have been wonderful - but Apple would rather sell you games via its 'App Store' and this is competition easily removed. This was never a dealbreaker for me, but you might want to look at your favourite sites and check that this won't be for you. One thing I will say, if it is a video you are after and it won't play on the website - look it up on YouTube using the app supplied. Youtube on the ipad is great fun and another way to easily lose hours!
Time for lunch. Using the 'Epicurious' app downloaded from the App Store, I can enter a selection of ingredients I have in the fridge and get a recipe for a nice light meal. The sad reality of this situation is that the fridge is completely empty and I have to dash to the SuperMarket - but it's nice when the situation presents itself! Once made, lunch is held at the breakfast bar with the ipad in 'Photo Frame' mode running through my pictures in its 'Origami' slideshow mode, which is strangely hypnotic! Whilst my food goes down, there are lots of games I can play, which also act as a great bordom killer wherever you happen to be. The iPad is capable of games that rival the experiences on modern consoles. Games where you see through into the world in a first person view (think of car games where you're positioned behind the wheel, or shooters where you are holding the gun out looking into your 3D world) are made even more compelling with the sharp colourful screen that is much closer to you than your TV. For me though, the simple ones work best. Angry Birds HD and Harbour Master HD are two very simple games that will steal hours from you, even computer games aren't generally for you!
Time to go out. May be to town, perhaps out into the countryside to go for a nice walk and explore - or into the city for some shopping and coffee shop relaxing. The ipad is a great travel partner. It'll slip into a bag almost unnoticed and the 3G version will give you internet access (subject to coverage) via your chosen mobile provider, wherever you happen to be. It's much easier to use on a cramped train than a laptop and that genuine 10 hour (plus!) battery life means you don't have to worry about being away from a power source. Games, books, websurfing, all on a nice big screen, wherever and whenever. Using the maps application is lovely! I use it even when I don't need to find anywhere! Pulling your finger round the screen to move the map about and pinching in or out two fingers to zoom is truly compelling and will have people looking over your shoulder in fascination every time. It also serves a very useful purpose when you're in a new area - it has full Google Maps search and you can even use Google Street view to have a proper look at your destination before you get there! The 3G version of the iPad has GPS built in, which basically means that when you're outside, you'll get very accurate location results when using maps and so on.
Back home again, it's pleasing to note that there is still plenty of battery left. Ahh lovely sofa, or duvet - the places where ipad really comes into its own. Fire up Skype and talk to my friends over the internet for free, go online and see what the latest comments are on Facebook, or download and read a book, either from Amazon using their Kindle software, or from Apples own iBooks store. Perhaps if I'm not tired, rent a movie from iTunes.
Of course, the ipad doesn't have to be the centre of attention to be a success. After all, if you're planning on sitting in front of it - you can easily do all this from your laptop and maybe that one minute or two start up time doesn't matter too much then (although who enjoys endless messages from antivirus software, or software update messages and all the other maintenance a typical computer needs). However, a laptop is not so good at that "I just need to see if that email arrived", or "I wonder who that is on TV, perhaps a quick Google search". Who wants to wait for a laptop to finish starting every time they want to do that? The ipad is on, message or website checked and off again in seconds.
So when it comes to the experience of using it at home, I would argue that where the ipad cannot match a laptop in sheer range of functionality, it does almost all the things we like to do with our computers, but the experience is pleasurable in the way that a favourite glossy magazine is. You can pick it up at any convenient moment, look up anything you like and put it down again. Charge that battery every night and you can use it all day. Wonderful :-)
Featured image used under 'Creative Commons' license. Thanks to xtanyves.