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iPad week in reviews – Part 2: Needs Improvement

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Continuing iPad week in reviews

Needs improvement:

The Web

Apple claimed the iPad would be the best web browsing experience you’ve ever had.  Intimate and up close.  Not so far.

It’s not a terrible experience, but I still find myself zooming in on things to make them larger so I don’t click on the wrong thing. 

Facebook in particular has very compact boxes with links so close to each other my finger obscures the target and I often hit the wrong one.  Also some of the text boxes on that site fail to invoke the keyboard, so whatever advanced html/css magic Facebook is using seems to fool this browser. 

It’s ok for casual surfing to look something up or as a type of eReading, but serious surfing mode brings me back to my hard keyboard and mouse in the lean forward environment.

I want a real mouse, sorry, I just do.  I’ll be the old fogey yelling at the kids to get off my lawn and demanding a right-click button until I die.

Netflix

NetflixIt’s great that Netflix is now in the mobile device game, they’re on just about every other connected device out there (Roku, game consoles, blu-ray players, and all the new TV’s) and they’ve done nearly everything right so far.  (Supposedly an iPhone and iPod Touch version is coming next)

In a rare stumble, their iPad app feels like a rush job (which is understandable) so I hope a revision is on the way.

They did little more than push their browser site out in an app, so it suffers from the same issues the browser does:  Text is too small, hitting the wrong link is too easy, and there are no rollover states… which would be ok if the site is designed for that, but Netflix requires rollover states for adding titles to your instant queue.  Without them you have to either play it directly and bypass the queue, or add it to your DVD queue and enjoy the side effect that it is also added to the instant queue.  (then you want to delete if from your DVD queue because you don’t want the DVD)

Also there’s no drag and drop in the queue manager, you still have to hit a small target then type in a number and submit.  Trying to drag like you can on the (real) web instead invokes the select/copy/paste mechanic, so it’s actually a worse experience than the web.

Finally the movement into and out of the full screen video is awkward.  Sometimes the audio continues playing in the background when you return and the screen you return to has an option to return to browsing but none to return to the video… then after a timeout it returns to browsing anyway.  The video player seems to display a “return to embedded mode” icon (two arrows pointing at each other) but that’s not the mode you return to, so it’s basically a mislabeled “exit” button.  It seems like they meant for the return screen to have an embedded video state, but then punted that and didn’t rework the UI after that decision.

What I want from Netflix is a wicked Instant Queue manager that gives me search and browse capabilities better than I can get with a remote control, with slick swipe and drag reordering.  I would use this from my sofa to manage content before I watch it on my internet connected TV.

This app is not that.

Typing

The keyboard is inherently limited, that’s a given, but there are behaviors within it that can be improved.

There are no arrow keys for one, and since there’s no mouse there’s only a pretty awkward magnifying glass tools that comes over from the iPhone.  It’s frequently inaccurate in my experience, I’d rather have cursor keys.

I tend to just delete backwards rather than struggle with the cursor, but then I found if you hold the backspace key down it shifts from deleting one letter at a time to one word at a time and almost instantly you can delete much more than you wanted to.

That’s when you need to “undo” and the undo is a very non-obvious shake of the device itself.

Seems like a lot to go through. This will keep me on my pc or netbook for writing.

Here’s a quick test I did, if you can make sense of it tell me in the comment section below:

I’m writing th is arti le using the ipad keyboard.  I will make no attempt to corre t my. Istakes. The autocorrect feature does some of the work, but obviously there are somoe oases.  Overall thourhg I’m getting better at it. Im ty ping as fast now as I would on a normal keyboard.  I hated it at first. Ut hVe gotten used it to after a week
S practice. It you type slower you’ll Get fewer mistakes, Nd the lact of some keys li ke aqhotes and a Ostrophes can be a problem,  also the shift keys and capitalization are often tricky.

Overall i think the theory of flat glass panels as in Ut devices may Abe flawed.  Its one of the star trek inventions that xpeople are trying to make come to Life. On st The next generation you often saw to ouch screen devices as keyboards and displays and I’m sure that influenced the growth of such devices in reality. But the fact that you need to loom at theta keys and not the words seriously ham Ers sth is. Y ou need to feel the key board with your fingers without Looking.

Until they can make these screen grow bumps you can feel blinding, they’ll be severly limIted.

IMDB

Meh.  Flatten the hierarchy — didn’t you read the designer spec?  Also it doesn’t resume at your prior state when task switching.   I try to like it, but I prefer the website to their app.

The Built-In Apps

The photo app is nice to use, but a hassle to sync.  Every single image needs to be “optimized” which takes a loonnnnngggg time. 

Mail is very basic and it doesn’t handle attachments well.  There’s no file system to save things to so you can only open them from the mail program itself.  (I would rather move pdfs into GoodReader, for instance, but you have to rely on GoodReader’s built in email client to do that)  And when you send a photo as an attachment, it renames it “photo.jpg”.  Why?  What if I’m trying to select from a hundred photos and send the best take to a collaborator?  Having the original name presevered would be helpful.

Memo is fine, though typing is what it is.

Contacts and Calendar seem to lack the magical page flipping animation everything was supposed to have according to Apple, but that doesn’t bother me that much.

What did bother me is that the calendar is just not as robust as you’d expect from a good calendar client.  I couldn’t set up an event to start on Tuesday and recur every day until Sunday.  It could only recur forever.  I can hear the Apple guys now, “just drag and pinch and swipe and create an event on each day, it’s fun!”.

I’ll never get tired of The Onion’s brilliant MacBook Wheel concept.  “Everything is just a few hundred clicks away.”

My iPad email signature reads “Sent from my MacBook Wheel” in homage.

It’s the Walled-Off Astoria

Not having a file system is a big annoyance.  I’ve heard Apple say in effect, “people are confused by file systems, they don’t want to create or worry about files, they just want to do stuff.”   I reject this.  Kids are savvy and get smarter all the time.  The world does not need to be led to the utopian Apple universe where files don’t exist.

There’s room for a simpler file system, sure.  I don’t need access to program executables or OS files, but a “My Documents” or desktop metaphor with folders that all apps can access would be perfectly comprehendable. 

Being forced to use iTunes to manage documents is an insulting hassle.  I’m a grown up, let me plug the device in via USB and mount it as a drive that I can drag files in and out of, from any computer, not just the one with my iTunes. 

Next up: There’s a charge for that? 

I’m looking at you Major League Baseball…

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