Real-world iPad annoyances: A timeline

A dozen days of use and the nits and niggles come out.

I shall call him, "Smudgy."

Everyone knows the first-gen iPad is lacking a camera and multitasking and that many of its apps are overpriced. Annoying. But those of us who bought iPads knew this going in, and we've found ways to work around or to justify to ourselves these omissions in the product. What we didn't know about on iPad Day, April 3, was all the little things that would drive us up a tree. These are the annoyances and roadblocks that makes this appliance, otherwise engaging and attractive, feel like it was rushed out the door. Or done on the cheap. Which, for a device that starts at $499, is just wrong.

Here's a brief calendar of my personal iPad let-downs.

April 3: No chamois
MacBooks and iPhones come with little screen-cleaning cloths, and they don't collect fingerprints in nearly as spectacular a fashion as the iPad. Come on, Apple, at this price you can afford two pennies of cloth.

April 4: A hobbled New York Times app
It's Sunday, and the New York Times is sitting on my kitchen table. Apple's ads have me thinking that I can read the whole thing on the iPad instead, and if so I'll happily cancel my paper subscription. But the current "Editor's Choice" NYT app gives me only a limited selection of stories. Cruelly, the iPhone version of the NYT app gives me everything in the paper. I didn't pay all this money only to choose between a tiny version of the Times and an abridged version at iPad size. Give me what you advertised, please, Apple.

The New York Times: Where's the rest of it?

April 6: Where's the kickstand?
If the iPad is meant as a media-consuming device, how exactly are you supposed to arrange it to watch said media? You can buy Apple's overpriced case ($39.95 for what appears to be a file folder made from recycled milk jugs), as I did, and that works pretty well, but the device should have some form of stand so you don't need to spend yet more money just so you can do with what it's sold for without generating chiropractic bills.

April 7: Missing apps
Waaaait a minute. Where's the clock? The calculator? Come on, Apple. These are freebies on the iPhone. The clock omission is particularly galling. The iPad is a good e-book reader and it's been spending nights on the table next to my bed, so why doesn't it have the one other app that would be useful there, an alarm clock? And without multitasking support (at least for now), third-party clocks don't even work. (Workaround: Set an appointment in the calendar, which has audible reminders. But see below.)

Entering calendar data takes a lot of twiddling.

April 8: A pretty-but-dumb calendar
The iPad's calendar app looks gorgeous, but data entry is a UI train wreck. Have you tried to enter appointments in it while alongside someone who's using paper and pencil, or a real computer? They'll have their calendar items entered in in seconds, while you're still flipping pretty sliders around. And why can't you move forward or back with swipe gestures, or change meeting times by dragging items?

April 9: No user accounts
My new-toy grip on the iPad is loosening, and the rest of the family wants to play with it. To be sure, the iPad makes a great leave-around-the-house computer for the whole family. It's a nice media-browsing device for the living room, it's good for recipes in the kitchen, and it's useful for catching up on e-mail anywhere. Anybody in a house should be able to pick it up and use it. But it's set up as a single-user, highly personal device, like a phone. If you make an iPad a family computer, you can't really set it up with your e-mail or store your Web app passwords in the browser, unless you're open to the possibility of everyone in your house being able to peek into your accounts. Some--not all--games understand this and have different score records and achievements for different players, but this should be an OS-level API feature. The iPad really needs a user login system.

Actually not bad for typing, but not good at all for editing.

April 12: No arrow keys on the keyboard
Back at work, I'm trying to get productive with the iPad. I'm taking it to meetings and taking my notes on it using Evernote (which I love and continue to use on my MacBook and my Windows machines). But try writing or editing anything other than a short e-mail or Tweet on the iPad's virtual keyboard. It has no arrow keys and obviously no mouse, which makes quick edits go slow. Selecting text by pointing and dragging over it works and looks cool but is just not efficient. It's an annoying roadblock. (The external keyboard accessory has arrow keys, but I'd rather carry my MacBook with me that schlep that thing around.)

April 13: Does not play nice with Google Docs
If the iPad is such a great Web app appliance, how come you can't use Google Docs on it, except to read documents that have already been written? Google Docs is not a Flash app, and it works fine in Safari on OS X. So why didn't Apple work with Google (or vice versa) to make this great Web app suite work for the iPad? What? iWork? No, Apple's productivity apps don't have Google's collaborative editing features, sorry. A potential workaround , the $7.99 Office2 Pro app, will read and edit Google Docs files, but also without the collaboration features (and the current version has a scary data corruption issue when dealing with Google Docs' word-processing files.)

April 14: Yes, I'm still using the iPad
I've been adapting to the iPad's niggles for two weeks and I will continue to. It's a fun and beautiful device, and it is actually useful both at work and at home. Although my affection for this device is tempered by the expanding list of annoyances, I'm hanging on to it in the hope, which I think is reasonable, that most of these issues will get fixed. That's the price you pay for drinking the Kool-Aid. I mean, being an early adopter.

 

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