Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The new iPad...an Author's First Impressions
Last Friday, being a dutiful Mac cultist, I drank my iCool aid and headed down to my local Mac store to buy the latest version of the iPad, creatively titled The new iPad. I already owned a first generation iPad (which I blogged about here) and had found it absolutely essential to my life as a writer. I waited for the 3rd generation because I was looking forward to the rumoured retina screen (a fancy way of saying a very high-def screen) and the camera (which was lacking from the 1st generation iPad). I bought the 32GB white wi-fi, because I thought that would be enough storage space for me and I don't need a G4 connection. Wireless is most everywhere (and I do have portable Mifi wireless when needed).
Let's start with the screen. It's amazing. There, we're done with the screen. Okay, I'll leave it to others to explain exactly how many pixels it takes to make your eyeballs vibrate with explosive colour. But side by side it's very clear how much more "high def" this screen is. The icons for the apps have no pixelation. Does that make them easier to tap on? Nah, but it somehow makes them see more real. Netflix looks clearer. Movies sparkle. Youtube is ... well, still full of freaky videos. But they're even clearer and grosser now.
I'm an ebook-a-holic (along with a paper-book-aholic and an audiobook-a-holic). My apps on my iPad for reading (and buying books) are as follows: Kindle app, Kobo app, iBooks, Nook, Nook for kids, Play Books, Stanza. These apps are pretty simple so I didn't notice a big difference in the speed in which they open. There is a difference in the fonts and how clear they are now to read. And I am especially impressed at how much more colourful the picture books that I have on my iPad look. Nothing replaces a "real" picture book, but the images on the iPad do leap off the page (Especially in Splat the Cat). I do have a few kids books apps that were designed for the iPod and I never noticed a big difference in clarity when they were on my old iPad, but now that I have The new Ipad, the blurred edges of the images becomes very obvious. So reading is even more of a pleasure on The new Ipad as long as what you're reading has been optimized for the iPad (though if I'm reading an ebook I often choose my Kindle because it's smaller and I'm not tempted to zoom around the internet). The new iPad is heavy enough that I usually have to prop it against my legs when I read.
Facetime and Skype
This machine is brilliant for using both these communication programs. The speaker on the back is able to put out more volume than the 1st generation iPad so it's easy to hear whoever you're Facetiming with and the mic seems to pick up fine. One could easily use this to Skype with a classroom just sitting in your reading chair or out in your back yard (assuming there wasn't much background noise). And, last night, my wife's bookclub was discussing Meg Wolitzer's latest novel and she was kind enough to do a Skype visit with the book club. It worked perfectly and in the hour and a half talk it burned 18% of the battery power. I set up a battery-powered speaker so that she could be heard clearly. I was tempted to set her up on a chair and put a coat around her, but decided that would be silly.
Social Networking/Web Browsing
There isn't much difference between the iPads. I still use Hootsuite for most of my social "outreach": twitter and Facebook, that is. Things are faster, of course. The biggest difference is that Google+ is more accessible on this machine. Again surfing around the net does appear to be a smoother experience. I don't know if it's the extra speed of the machine or that there are more and more websites optimized for the iPad now.
I still use Keynote for my school presentation. This is by far the best aspect of the iPad for me. I can carry all of my presentations with me, and all I need extra is the VGA connector. No power cords, at all. I connect my iPad to the projector and plug in the sound and the iPad does the rest. I'm very impressed at how it runs everything I can throw at it: book trailers, mp3s, and SFX all embedded in my slides. I use my iPod Touch to run the presentation from the front of the classroom. And I can do a whole day of school visits without having to charge up. I don't miss the days when I had to lug my laptop and my projector and, sometimes, even my screen. There isn't a big change in how Keynote runs on the new iPad. Which is good, because it was running fine before.
If I'm doing any writing on my iPad (and I do a little, usually with my wireless keyboard) I use Pages (which is my main word processor on my iMac, although I do all my first drafts in Scrivener). It's perfectly functional on the iPad, though obviously the screen is smaller. Apple's iCloud is effective, automatically updating documents between different iPods and iPads, but if I make a change on my computer it doesn't appear on my iPad. I have to upload it to icloud.com (simple drag and drop) and the new file appears on my iPad. I do hope someday there is full synchronization between all mac devices, of course. But this is workable.
I teach an online class through the New York Times Knowledge Network. One of the things I was curious about was whether or not I'd be able to mark papers while I was on the road with my iPad. It turns out I can. I download the document, convert it to a PDF using Pages, then use an app called iAnnotate PDF to do all my fancy mark ups. It has handy highlighting and note-making features. Plus you can circle words in red just using your finger. Such fun! Then I can email it to my student and hope they don't weep when they see all the marks.
So that's my first impressions of The new iPad, so far...