The thing about the iPad.

Published on 05/30/10

Ten years ago, I was an avid user of a Palm V pda (personal digital assistant). I would try to get as many real work items on my Palm as I could so that I could be productive anywhere I wanted to be. Sometime later I got a data cable so I could connect my Palm to my cell phone and have “internet access” anywhere I wanted. And this wasn’t just playing around, I was doing real work on my Palm.

The promise of what the future could hold for this device was very alluring to me. Imagine a small device that you always had with you that would let you read, write, play, communicate. This would let me use my time however I saw fit, wherever I would happen to be (full disclosure—I am sure I spent as much time playing as I did working).

A year and a half ago I got my first iPhone, and for me the future had finally arrived. It was everything I wanted my Palm V to be—small, powerful, and connected. It was, and is, great.

Two weeks ago, however, I got an iPad, and I now realize realize just how restrictive the small screen of the iPhone is. I was reading, writing, and playing on the phone, but the productivity of these (the reading and writing anyway) was severely hampered by the size of the devise. I didn’t realize it at the time because the ability to have the device with me wherever I was seemed to make up for the fact that my activities were held back by the size.

Nowadays, my iPad is my constant companion, much the same way that an artist might carry a sketchbook everywhere to sketch in, or a writer might carry a notepad to write in. I carry the iPad around to live my digital life in. I can read, write, and play, unrestricted by a small screen. If I want to view a webpage, I don’t tag it for viewing later on my laptop, I read it. If I want to draw something just for the fun of it, I do it on the iPad. If I want to write a blog post about how the device is changing how I do things, I write on the iPad.

You might be asking if the size of the device, compared to the iPhone, hinders it’s utility. Since it is bigger, I don’t have it constantly with me in my pocket. I have to consciously decide to carry it, and I don’t carry it somewhere when I think that carrying something might not work (like a long walk on the beach). This fact, however, is more than compensated by the fact that it is big enough I can do actual work on it.

Yesterday I was asked by a young man what the iPad was like. I said it is a big iPod touch; this answer seemed to disappoint him. This criticism has come up in many places since the release of the iPad, but if you think about the promise of a device like the iPhone or iPod touch, the iPad fulfills on this promise in a way that those smaller devices never could. It is a gloriously large iPod Touch. It’s size has relegated the iPhone to listening to music, making calls, and playing games. Oh, and in a pinch, I can read and write on it.

[Update] I’m now using Reeder for iPad and it is the best thing since on the iPhone. I highly recommend it.

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