A year later, does the iPad still live up to the hype?

So, I’ve had the iPad for just over a year and change now. While I am not as enamored with it now like I was right after I purchased the device, the iPad has proven it’s worth time and again.  The question now is did it live up to the hype and what do I think of it now.

Well, yes, it did live up to the hype.  Mostly.  The biggest problem with it is that the web browsing experience is subpar.  Contrary to what Apple claims, it is not the whole web in your hands.  While Mobile Safari is a capable enough browser, the lack of Java, Silverlight and Adobe Flash really hinder the usability of the device for browsing, which is the number one function that people will use the iPad for and what the form factor is best at doing.  Add to that the finger unfriendly web and you get an experience that will be less than ideal and, seemingly, against what Apple claims they do best: providing the best user experience.

So, what do I mean by finger unfriendly?  Simply put, many web sites were designed with the keyboard and mouse in mind and not your fingers or other stylus like devices.  Some websites are nearly impossible to use effectively because they rely on mouse over or mouse button click events to occur.  Facebook is especially offensive in this area.  Scroll bars for many of the pop ups do not display or function correctively, if at all.  Other parts of Facebook simply don’t work because they use Flash.  iOS 5 may help with some of the shortcomings, but I doubt it.

Web browsing deficiencies aside, one other annoying aspect of the device is the video out functionality.  Apple made a big deal out of both AirPlay and the video out capabilities of the device.  Unfortunately, the reality is that neither quite live up to the hype set forth by Apple.  For example, HBO Go disables the video out function.  It will display the logo on the external screen, but the video from the programming only shows on the iPad itself.  AirPlay sends the audio, but not the video.  No matter which video dongle I used (for now, just the VGA and the composite video) neither allowed the video from the HBO Go app to display on the external monitor.    Really?  I pay for the privilege of watching the drivel on HBO and they won’t allow it to display on a bigger screen from the iPad?  Seriously?  iOS 5, again, MAY help with this issue.  Again, I doubt it.

Other shortcomings include the walled garden (the inability to add applications that are not sanctioned by Apple’s App Store) and the restrictions placed on those that are sanctioned by Apple’s App Store.  Those restrictions include the in-app purchases and subscriptions.  Apple’s new rules governing in app purchases pretty much guarantee that some apps will disappear from that App Store.

OK, so I’ve pointed out some major shortcomings, but what about what it is good for.  Well, web browsing for one.  Whoa, wait…didn’t I just knock it for that same reason?  Yes, yes I did. But, for many sites, it works just fine and as long as you can avoid sites that rely on Flash, Silverlight or Java, mobile Safari works very well.  One pleasant surprise was the use of HTML5 on NASCAR’s ‘Race Buddy’ feature that is part of TNT’s coverage of the sport.  Race Buddy’s primary feature is video. Specifically, a set of four video feeds that include two in-car cameras and two broadcast cameras of the race itself.  On the iPad, every feature of the desktop experience works using HTML5 instead of Flash.  And it works very well.

Photo Editing is another great use of the iPad. There are lots of useful apps for this purpose and the finger friendly nature of the device is a tremendous advantage for these apps.

The form factor is spot on.  Seven inches is usable, but the size of the iPad is perfect.  Usability is one area where Apple has excelled.  For the most part, the iPad is a very easy device to use.  Apple did it’s homework here.

Overall, I am still very pleased with the iPad but the shortcomings often get in the way.  I can usually work around them, but they would be so easy for Apple to correct, yet, they will not.  

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