Apple's Incredible iPad, One Year In

by | Apr 12, 2011

It hardly seems possible that it’s been a year since all the mystery surrounding Apple’s announcement of the iPad was finally made real, and troops of people began filing out of Apple stores everywhere carrying little white bags full of the tablets.

After just a few weeks it was apparent the iPad was a hit, and I went down myself and purchased my 16GB Wifi-only iPad. I’ve written a lot about the iPad over the year. After reading a retrospective on Joe Wikert’s iPad Hound Blog, I thought it would be interesting to give you my take on how it’s gone since then.

  • Consuming content It’s become more and more apparent that this is the strategic activity the iPad is designed for. Brilliant color, fast processing and mobile connectivity make this device perfect for virtually any kind of media consumption.
  • Creating content Apple has long been the champion and partner of creatives, but here the iPad is severely limited. With only the touchscreen interface, you can do some awesome watercolor drawings, but not much else.
  • Touchscreen interface The first consumer-level touchscreens I used were 20 years ago in the Citibank ATMs in Manhattan. They were way ahead of their times. An ATM is a perfect touchscreen experience, because the operations are programmed and repeatable. Poking your finger at the screen is intuitive but not precise and the number of pokes, prods, swipes and pinches you can perform do not create a command language of any kind.
  • Most natural activity Shopping. From browsing products to watching product videos to examining fabric and color swatches, this is the best e-retail portal ever invented. Smart online stores like Amazon have apps optimized for the iPad experience, and it makes a huge difference to the shopping experience.
  • Most-used app Still iA Writer, the stripped-down writing app from Information Architects. I wrote about it in my iA Writer Review.
  • Biggest frustration Why Apple crippled the command structure remains problematic. Touchscreen is the only interface allowed to issue commands, the keyboard is only for text entry and selection. Going back and forth from the keyboard to poking the screen gets old awfully fast.
  • Thought I would use it, didn’t Leading contender is Apple’s Pages. And not because it’s a bad program. If you use Pages on the Mac, the iPad app is a good extension. But the interface is so unappealing that I wouldn’t bother trying to create a Pages layout on the iPad.
  • Best content-delivered moment Probably the bursting animation of a vase of flowers on the cover of the Martha Stewart Living app. It took me by surprise and was delightful, almost springing to life infront of me.
  • Configuration I have the lowest-end iPad, 16 GB and Wifi only. Would I like to use my iPhone as a Wifi hotspot? Sure, but not for $30 a month. I really haven’t missed the cellular connection, since hotspots are pretty easy to come by these days, and the capacity is plenty. If you travel a lot and want to take movies, you’ll want as much capacity as you can get.
  • Most utilitarian app Would have to be Evernote This Apple “Hall of Fame” app is truly indispensable. Syncing between iPad, iPhone and iMac is seamless and life-saving.
  • App Store Mind boggling in the variety of apps that continue to roll into the app store, endlessly frustrating due to the horrible search tools and endless lists of apps you have to scroll through.
  • Ease of use and reliability From unpacking the iPad, which comes with no manual or instructions, to a year’s worth of daily use, the tablet is simple, intuitive, and has had no downtime at all.
  • App I’ve missed Instapaper is supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I will.
  • Newest app Just downloaded the intriguing Zite. From the iTunes description: “Zite is a personalized magazine for your iPad that automatically learns what you like and gets smarter as you use it. Zite gives you personalized news, articles, blogs, videos and other content from a variety of both mainstream and niche publications and sites. Zite can personalize by syncing with your Twitter or Google Reader account or on its own.” Doesn’t that sound cool?
  • Best secret moments with iPad If you plug in your earbuds you can watch movies in a size that’s just perfect for someone lying in bed trying to not wake up a spouse. Fantastic.
  • iPad 2? Nope. Lighter is better, but not enough. Cameras? Sure, someday the iPad or something like it would be a fantastic videophone, but right now there isn’t a big enough base of people who both own and can use the hardware.
  • Versus iPhone I’ll admit that I have yet to read a book in iBooks, although it’s gorgeous. I own more Kindle books than iBooks. Frankly, I find myself doing more reading on the phone simply because it’s so convenient, and the screen is so sharp.
  • Still waiting Publishers keep trying to come up with a subscription model that Apple will like, but the iPad seems a natural for magazine- or newspaper-style subscriptions. And I thought we would see more experimental “books” by now, but I’m sure they are coming.

  • Best thing I do every day Write. The setup I use, with the Apple Bluetooth keyboard (don’t even bother doing more than an email with the on-screen keyboard) and my Compass stand, I write about 1,000 words a day on the iPad, then just press the Sync button in iA Writer to back it all up to Dropbox. This is the sweet spot in my day.

There still isn’t much competition for the iPad, and Apple’s installed base continues to grow. Their iPad 2 has simply widened the gulf between Apple and the companies pursuing in the tablet field.

What about you, what do you think are the hits and misses on the iPad?

Photo by *yasuhiro

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Gilles

    Speaking of the iPad, I type or paste articles, short books, poetry, etc. in Pages and export them as ePub files so I can read those on my iBook. But Pages doesn’t recognize page breaks. Do you know of a solution to this problem? I use Pages 4.0.5.

    (Sorry to be off-topic but I tried every thing I read on the Net and nothing works.)

    • Joel Friedlander

      Gilles, thanks for your question. I’ll see what I can find out, since I don’t know the answer. Are you using the template that Apple provides for e-book formatting?

      • Gilles

        Since I asked this question I found a workaround to this page breaks problem. I impose the “Title” style from the template document offered by Apple on a blank line after the last line of the preceding page. (I’m sending you screen captures by Mail.)

  2. Pete Morin

    The Garage Band app for iPad is totally astonishing. The high-def graphics of the guitars, with strings you ACTUALLY PLUCK AND BEND, the drumset matrix with drag-and-drop… Arghhhh it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever used!

  3. Chuck Collins

    I like the article a lot, but disagree on several points. First, the touch screen keypad is very workable and in some ways easier to operate. It’s as close to touch typing as my wandering eyes will allow. I also like Pages, and find the floating format very friendly.
    As for the much touted upgrade; there I was sitting in a committee meeting with my two-week old ‘iPad 1’ when a lady leaned over and said, “I must have one of those.” I made the deal on the spot-selling her my 32gbt and going to the Apple store for an iPad 2. Basically getting a 16gbt iPad2 for about $45.
    I thought the iPad would not survive the decade. Clearly I was very wrong.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for the feedback, Chuck. I actually like Pages quite a bit, it’s a unique and useful program that’s also a lot of fun to use. My frustration is with the editing and formatting tools which are simply too much trouble and too awkward to use. If Apple would allow access to the program’s command structure through the keyboard, it would be much better, at least for me.

      I love the idea of getting an iPad2 for $45, though, that’s brilliant. Have to find someone to take this one off my hands.

  4. Derek Oscarson

    Evernote seems interesting but I’ve no idea how to use it yet. The App Store is terrible although not as bad if you go thru the browser. I haven’t downloaded the Instapaper app but have been using it through the browser and it works well. Haven’t tried Zite but I’ve been using Flipbook which so far I just love. If Zite is better I will be really impressed.

    And DropBox is definitely the highlight for me as I already had most of my digital and creative resources stashed there. I also got a stylus and I’m going to try out the Art Studio app to see if I can at least scribble useful comps and notes. I have a feeling down the road the stylus+ipad combo will improve greatly.

    Just got my iPad and so far so good!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Good luck, Derek, I think you’ll like it. Evernote will take whatever you throw at it including text, photos, audio files, web pages, and store it with keywords and tags for retrieval. Seamless syncronization through their cloud servers, and as a plus, Evernote scans the photos you drop in it to make the text searchable. Pretty cool.

  5. Tom Evans

    For me the killer apps for writing are Brushes (get the right brain active), followed by iThoughts for Mind Mapping (get both hemispheres on the case), followed by iaWriter as the best word processing app by far – ‘simples’ and does what it says on the tin AND offers a brilliant keyboard for word/character navigation to save all that poking around.

    More on iPadivity here –

    • Joel Friedlander

      Nice, Tom, thanks for that. Looks like a lot of roundups on the iPad anniversary. I’m getting intrigued about mindmapping and will have a look at iThoughts!

  6. Michael N. Marcus

    Joel, I bought my iPad shortly before you did, and could not imagine life without it. Nevertheless, there are times when I’d like to use it outside but the sun glare would blot out the beautiful display.

    Yesterday Amazon announced a new ad-subsidized Kindle which will sell for just $114 — and I’m definitely going to get one. It will be nice for alfresco reading, and also checking my own Kindle eBooks.

    More at

    To Christopher: I also have an HP laptop with a 17-inch screen which gets used much less than it used to, and I gave my netbook away two weeks after I bought my iPad.

  7. Christopher Wills

    I have not got an iPad. I am interested that many of the things you seem to value on your iPad are things that are perfectly capable of being done on a notebook or laptop. Given they have extra functionality and compatibility have you ever thought you made a mistake buying the iPad?

    • Joel Friedlander

      No, never. I don’t own a laptop and since I don’t travel that much, have little need for one. The iPad, which is not a replacement for a laptop, is more of an extension or accessory for whatever you use as your “main” PC. In many ways it’s more similar to an iPod or iPhone than it is similar to a full-function machine. In that role, it’s absolutely brilliant and getting better.



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