The iPad is not a big iPod Touch..
Sure, out of the box it is - it looks like one, and has the same apps as you'd expect on an iPod Touch. And at first, because you're used to your iPhone or iPod Touch... it feels like a big iPod Touch. But if you set down your iPad then and head back to your Twitter to bash all those iPad Lovers and explain to them how an iPad is a pointless machine with no niche - you've missed the point.
Where the iPad really shines is the apps being created for it. I'll go over a dozen or so of the ones you need on your iPad here, and get you a new bunch of reviews as the weeks go by and the iPad section of the AppStore fills up. I'll also list a few things I feel are missing in the AppStore.
The iPad is a media device. It shines in media consumption, and has already inspired a lot of innovation in the way media is being consumed. The future of periodical print publications is digital consumption - if not as a replacement, as a new method of viewing. Take a couple of the apps I recommend you pick up, Marvel Comics and Popular Science.
Popular Science + (iTunes Link) | $4.99 / In-App Purchasing for New Issues
Popular Science + is Popular Science on the iPad. But where it becomes "game-changing" and "revolutionary," if I may wax Jobsonian, is the method of delivery. The iPad screen is much more vivid than paper, and the depth of color and brightness "pop" well. The in-app/magazine layout is creatively unique. Swipe to the right to move to another story, swipe down to read the article, double-tap left to see the picture only, double-tap right to see the text over it again.
While the layout seemed a little light on the text for me (scrolling down wound up with an image still on the page, but the text column left me wishing it was a bit wider), there's no doubt this app shows what an iPad is for. Consumption of media, new formats of delivery and organization. As Mark Jannot, Popular Science editor put in this issue:
A magazine is a periodically delivered package of stories carefully curated, written, and designed by an expert editorial staff centered on a topic of passionate interest for a group of readers. Notice the absence of the word "paper" in there.
It's not in the AppStore yet, but we can be sure it will be soon. Time Magazine has an iPad app (iTunes Link) - although at the full $4.99 PER ISSUE I'm interested to see how it takes. Other magazines have apps as well, although some have simply... printed their pages onto the iPad essentially. Booooooooooooring.
Then we have Marvel Comics.
Marvel Comics (iTunes Link) | FREE / In-App Purchasing for New Comics, Some Free
I'll take a knock on my geek-cred and admit I haven't read comics in a while. But again, here we have a perfect example of the media consumption an iPad begs for. I dare you to try and get a decent comic viewing experience on a 3 and a half inch iPhone screen. Pinch and zoom all you want, you just don't get the experience of a comic. It's like grabbing McDonald's and trying to say it satisfies your In-N-Out craving.
Again here in-app purchasing is heavily leaned on, and is a very possible huge push to the publishing business. With newspapers shutting down, and publications receiving less sales as more and more people realize they can get all this info online, an in-your-hand device like the iPad becomes your new comic book or magazine. Except it's ALL your media. In one package. That's a heck of a lot easier to lug around on your road trip/hospital visit.
And of course one of Apple's huge pushes with the iPad - iBooks.
iBooks (iTunes Link) | FREE / various pricing on books
I don't own a Kindle, but I've used one often. It's definitely a great device... and you can actually get all your Kindle books on the iPad, through Amazon's Kindle.app (which has been ported to an iPad version as well by Amazon). I've never bought a Kindle, mostly because if I'm bringing around a device, I need the internet. I'd like my mail. Twitter... etc. Hello, iPad.
Reading books on the iPad is surprisingly nice. It feels about the same weight and size as if I was holding a good hardback, and I was able to read for hours last night without my eyes feeling in any way strained. You can adjust font, text size, and brightness easily from within the app, and the gentle book crease graphic in the middle actually did lend a more "bookish" feel to the app.
The store makes sense and is well laid out. The book selection definitely isn't what Kindle's is ("tens of thousands" vs nearly half a million with Kindle), hopefully that increases as time moves on.
Instapaper Pro (iTunes Link) | $4.99
If you're not familiar with Instapaper, get familiar. It's a wonderfully simple concept which has been done right. You know when you're on the web... you see an article you'd like to read... but you don't have time to? Sign up with Instapaper (free), and they get you a bookmarklet you drop in your bookmarks. Press it when you're on that article you want to read (also works from within NetNewsWire - which I like), and it takes just the text and images from the article and adds it to your Instapaper collection.
Then open up Instapaper on your iPad, iPhone, browser... wtvr, they support a lot of devices, and all your saved articles show up in an easy to read, easy to search format. Instapaper on the iPad actually made me wind up looking all over for more articles to add.
Reading and print media on the iPad is a treat. Now, let's not leave out video...
NetFlix (iTunes Link) | FREE / $8.99+/mo Subscription
I'm thinking NetFlix loves Apple. You're familiar with NetFlix of course, although you may not have known they also offer live streaming movies via your browser. Which gets really cool when you have an iPad - install the free NetFlix app, sign up for the $8.99/month plan (they have bigger ones if you want more DVDs shipped to your house - personally all I use it for is the streaming via PS3 to my TV and now iPad), and you're streaming movies on your iPad. The selection isn't as vast as their full library, but it is good. And the quality is absolutely decent.
No Hulu yet, although rumors are circulating (Hulu videos are already in an iPad-ready format, but their ad delivery system is Flash) - but ABC's player is beautiful.
ABC Player (iTunes Link) | FREE
ABC's player app is very well done. LOST is on tonight, so... ABC will be on in my house. This is my wife's favorite app. Watch LOST, Flash Forward, Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, and all your ABC favorites easily from your iPad. The layout is thought out and gorgeous, and works as you'd expect. Tap to view an episode, watch the commercial, watch your show. Turning the iPad landscape makes the image full screen.
No app from NBC or other networks yet.
IM+ (iTunes Link) | $9.99
IM+ weighs in at $9.99, like quite a few of these iPad apps do. We're all going to go broke getting used to the "meh, just buy it, it's $2!" attitude for the iPhone, then being in that habit with the iPad and realizing the apps are all 5x that.
IM+ is a full featured, multi-messenger client. At the moment they support MSN®, Yahoo!®, Google Talk™, AIM®, Jabber®, ICQ®, Facebook®, MySpace, Skype™ and Twitter. It's not perfect - I've had a good half dozen crashes of the app in the last few days, but when it's working it does it's job well. The format took me a few attempts to get used to, but I find now it works well. There's some slight annoyances - like why all my AIM contacts are arranged alphabetically, and so are my MSN... but UNDER the AIM ones. I don't care what messenger their on, alphabetize the *whole* list, please, IM+.
It supports offline message receiving, popup notifications, badges, and more. Good stuff. IM+ is the best messaging app for the iPad at the moment, but it isn't perfect - the UI still feels a little cumbersome, and the frequent crashing is annoying.
TweetDeck (iTunes Link) | FREE
Far and above my favorite Twitter client for the iPhone, the iPad version of TweetDeck doesn't disappoint. TweetDeck's column approach to Twitter is efficient and well ported to the new size device. I won't go into all it's details since TweetDeck has been around a while now for iPhone - just know it looks even better on iPad.
Again a couple small UI issues (which they seem to be aware of and are fixing) - mainly annoying is not being able to click a tweeted URL while in landscape mode. You have to go portrait, click the tweet to view it up top, THEN click the URL.
WORK / PRODUCTIVITY
Pages (iTunes Link) | $9.99
Apple's word processing app has been completely reworked for the iPad, and they are rightly proud. I was a bit leery of a full fledged word processor on what everyone was referring to as a big iPod Touch, but here again is where the iPad shows off it's usefulness - proving the combination of available apps and available screen real estate set this device in it's own spot.
Writing with Pages was easy, and formatting, templates, etc were also laid out well and after an hour of use I felt I had the app down. As far as typing goes - this being an iPad-wide thing, not just Pages - I find after 4 days of use, I am able to correctly type at over 50 wpm already. The first few days were frustrating searching for punctuation and auto-correcting wrong words - which is the same thing I experienced with the iPhone. Also like the iPhone, I now am quick and efficient with the iPad keyboard.
Pages has a ton of useful sharing features as well, like exporting to .doc or .pdf and emailing, as well as uploading to iWork.com. The documents are, annoyingly, stored in a CoverFlow manner in... no where. Or rather, only one place. You press documents, you scroll. No folders, no organization... just a list. Which is fine for me, I don't use word processing much. But that will definitely need to be tweaked in future revisions for anyone who uses those docs with any sort of regularity. Scrolling through 100 docs to find one would get annoying REAL fast.
Keynote is also in there at $9.99, although I chose not to cover it here.
Numbers (iTunes Link) | $9.99
Numbers, Apple's answer to Excel, works well on the iPad also. It takes a bit of getting used to formatting, and my Numbers docs from home had some strange margins (text that displayed fine at home was a bit chopped in this one from cell rows being too short) which I adjusted to look right again.
Using the app actually is fast and has all the same features you like in Numbers and use. Charts, graphs, functions, and templates are all included, and once again Apple allows to easily upload to iWork.com or export to .pdf, mail, etc. Strangely, exporting to .xls is nowhere to be found, although you are able to open .xls files still.
Tapping away was much easier than I thought when working with spreadsheets, and I don't think I'd mind at all using an iPad to do moderate spreadsheet work. Anything heavy, at this point I still feel I'd be way more efficient using a mouse and keyboard. I don't have the keyboard dock for the iPad yet, which may be all I'd need to be 100% comfortable on the iPad with spreadsheets. An arrow key would be nice.
NetNewsWire (iTunes Link) | $9.99
NetNewsWire is the most popular OS X RSS reader, and syncs with Google Reader as well. So no matter where you read your RSS - Google, your laptop, home Mac, iPhone, or iPad, everything is synced up correctly. It also syncs with Instapaper. Gee, thanks, NetNewsWire.
Photogene (iTunes Link) | $3.99
Look! A decent-priced app! For iPad! I was worried they were renaming the AppStore to the $10Store for a bit there while getting stuff ready for this article. But Photogene comes in at $3.99, and works wonders as a light photo editor. The main reason I bought it actually was to rotate photos - the iPad has some glitch where if you take a screenshot while in landscape, it thinks its a portrait photo. Open it in Photos and its sideways.
Photogene has a bunch of handy photo editing tools like crop, straighten, a full set of color adjustments, many artistic filters, frames, text bubbles, effect, and even uploading your edited photos directly to Twitter or Facebook. Until Adobe gets me Elements on iPad, Photogene is lovely.
The Elements: A Visual Exploration (iTunes Link) | $13.99
This app is awesome. Another perfect example of the iPad's usefulness, Theodore Gray's popular and frickin awesome looking [ame="http://www.amazon.com/Elements-Visual-Exploration-Every-Universe/dp/1579128149/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270572097&sr=8-1"]book[/ame] becomes an app. With animations, information, and all around cool visuals for the periodic table of elements... this is a must-have regardless of whether you care about science or the periodic table of elements. It just shows the iPad's power well. Imagine kids all having an iPad at school with all their books on it, and animated visuals, etc. Very cool stuff.
Studio Track (iTunes Link) | $39.99
Studio Track is full featured multi-track recording on the iPad. It has 8 tracks (plus bounce), and works with the iPad's built-in microphone. Obviously you're not going to be running these tracks to be mastered in LA and pushed out to satellites, but for the musician on the road or out and about who wants to put down their idea, this is great.
I've been using the iPhone's built in mic and voice recorder app for over a year now to remember simple melodies with just a guitar and vocal part, to track and build out later. The mic is actually decent quality, and even when I pipe the recordings through my home or car speakers, quality is decent enough to use as reference tracks.
The features on Studio Track work well, and include FX Bypass, Reverb, Pan, Mute, Solo, Bounce, Mix, built-in Metronome, and more. You can import tracks from other AudioCopy compatible apps in the AppStore like Instant Drummer, and can push your tracks via WiFi sync to any computer with a browser. Nifty stuff. High price tag.
WHAT'S MISSING (APPS-WISE)
The iPad could /almost/ be my daily driver on mobile stuff (well, probably the 3G version, although I am around WiFi a lot). I spend a lot of time out and about, and almost everything I need to do can be done from the iPad. What's sorely missing for me is a good web development app. Stuff exists in the AppStore for FTP, SSH, text editing, syntax highlighting, preview, etc... but it's all really poorly done. Or doesn't do all of the above. Or is ugly. There's just no good way to do web development on an iPad. And it NEVER would have worked on the comparably tiny iPhone screen, which is why devs never got around to making one. Hopefully now that a platform exists where it's actually a viable and not laughable option, the guys at Panic will get crackin. Or a competitor... but Coda is my fav.
I emailed Panic a bit ago asking if they had any plans for Coda on the iPad, and got this:
It's impossible not to think about it. Whether or not we'll actually do it... we tend to not publicly talk about that.
Come on, guys, ditch the Flash advertising module, develop something to work with HTML5, and come to iPadland.
I know, I know, not a huge deal, there is a Facebook app for iPhone which works at iPhone res... and Facebook.com looks decent in Safari.app on the iPad (until you try to upload a photo), and I'm quite sure the guys over at Facebook are hard at work getting their iPad version of Facebook.app ready... but as of now, it's missing.
Give me a nice IRC client on the iPad. Linkinus doesn't count.
So there it is. The iPad in apps. We'll post more reviews of apps you should have as the AppStore invariably floods with more, but these are our initial thoughts.