What is the iPad, in 5 words or less? It’s a really big iPhone.
It would have taken me 6 words to describe it based on what I’d seen before acquiring and using one daily. I’d have said it’s just a really big iPhone. And while that’s true, it isn’t accurate if you’re really trying to describe the device.
Let me frame this accurately. I have about an average amount of techno-gadget-lust. A pretty UI/UX makes me want to use a device. I camped stores for an XBox 360 (which I still use the crap out of) and a Wii (which I think I powered on… sometime this year? Maybe…). I have an Android phone, but I JUST got a truly modern phone, and I’d been successfully using a lowly Blackberry Pearl until then. I’ve been a huge proponent of two attitudes all year. 1, Android phones are for nerds. 2, Of course the iPad isn’t revolutionary, it’s just a big iPhone. After moving to an Android phone, I find that I really like the platform, and now that I’m in the “fully wired, all my email and tweets and everything else is delivered straight to my pocket” modern relatively-rude-but-now-I’m-addicted mode, I’m prepared to admit I was wrong about that one.
And then a couple of weeks ago, I acquired a 64GB WiFi iPad. A friend of mine describes it perfectly: “Nobody needs an iPad. But I love mine.”
It’s easy to point to the fun apps. Casual games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja absorb those brief times when you just need a few minutes of knocking things down, blowing stuff up, or slicing fruit into small pieces with your sword-fingers. Godfinger is a surprisingly fun standalone social game, for when you have that “appointment-keeping” kind of gameplay urge. Netflix and Kindle easily fill a “mobile conventional entertainment” niche. And I just can’t put down Civilization Revolution.
Beyond that, though, I’m starting to find that the “mobile device that’s small and light and convenient but fullscreen and I can type on it” niche is changing how I work and do stuff. I’m using Todo to manage my tasklist. I use Evernote to cloud-sync notes, documents, and sketches between PCs, iPad, and phone. The way I work is changing, and that was the biggest surprise for me. I’ve purchased all sorts of gadgetry hoping for vast improvements, and generally been left with “ho-hum, it’s really more of a hassle than a help.” Until the iPad, my “PAA” was a pen-and-paper Franklin-Covey day planner. I had a brief fling with a Palm Pilot back in the day, but when that job ended and I had to return it, I went back to analog. But the iPad goes to every meeting and discussion with me, and notes are taken, and they live in the Cloud and end up on all of my other devices. And unlike my older attempts at this, it “just works.” I could go on — Dropbox and other filesharing, remote desktop, monitor extension, Twitter and RSS clients, Office documents, and of course ubiquitous email.
So in conclusion, I was wrong. It may not just be the iPad, but the iPad in conjunction with the expansion of connectivity at all levels — mobile with phones, deep connectivity to wifi or local PCs, and ever-present Cloud data — genuinely feels like another evolution in computing and technology. Sure, I want Flash and/or IOS 4. I can’t wait for my Android 2.2 “froyo” update so I can STICK IT TO THE MAN (I’m my own WiFi hotspot, yippee) for truly mobile data. I’m certain iPad 2.0 will bring a lot to the table. I bet the upcoming waves of Android tablets will be awesome, too. But smaller-than-notebook, larger-than-phone devices feel like a little glimpse of the future. It’s not the Star Trek PADD yet, and maybe I do feel a little like I’m toting around a scepter, but it’ll do for now.