Apple iPad Reviews: Is it as magical as Apple promised?

The iPad reviews are still flowing out of the blogosphere with plenty of fresh and interesting commentary and analysis.

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It was back in January that Steve Jobs took the stage at a San Francisco event and told hundreds of excited Apple enthusiasts to hold the Internet in their hands.

After a three-month wait, on April 3rd, Apple fans were finally able to not only hold the Internet, but also the future of computing in their hands. 

Ever since rumors of the launch of Apple's tablet computer started circulating across the Internet, opinions regarding the device have been divided. While some observers have not been optimistic as to what the iPad may mean for the future of media, some media pundits have gone so far as to call it the messiah of print media, hoping it will become a significant source of revenue for newspapers in the near future. 

Want to know more about the iPad? We've written an Top 20 best free apps for the iPad that'll help you find some useful iPad apps. Also check out our guide to The 10 iPad features you must know and Top 10 worst things about the iPad.

Apple iPad Reviews from Aneesoft

iPad Reviews: iPad is extremely well-suited for reading, surfing the Internet

What does the iPad offer in terms of user experience? The iPad was most suitable for web readers and light writers. Without a mouse and a comfortable and easy-to-use keyboard, the iPad will mean much media-consumption, but little media-production.

In terms of battery life, the iPad runs for more 11 hours, even on battery-consuming options like film-watching and internet-browsing. On the App front, nearly all of the 150,000 apps developed for the iPhone will work on the iPad, but will probably run in small sizes. At launch, 1,000 iPad apps were on offer between $3.99 and $49.99 in the U.S. 

E-reading is much better on the iPad than on the Kindle. This is good news for all of those hoping to get some use out of the iPad's e-reader capabilities. The iPad may be heavier than the Kindle, but what it lacks in lightness, it makes up in a color screen and no eye strain. The Kindle; however, still has a far bigger bookshelf however with 400,000 titles compared to 60,000 for the iPad. This is probably set to change as Apple negotiates with other book publishers, or if it reaches an aggrement with Random House, the world's biggest trade publisher, who previously declined Apple's revenue-sharing agreement .

iPad Reviews: Operating system / User interface

By now you should know that the iPad's interface is nearly identical in every way to the iPhone or iPod touch UI. The reason for that is obvious: it's built on the same operating system, a derivation of OS X for mobile devices. As far as actual navigation on the device goes, it really is exactly like the iPhone.

Before we talk about the overall feel of using this device, we wanted to break down those new elements:

  • Split screens: Exactly what it sounds like. Apple is using all that big real estate to break up what would have been multiple pages on an iPhone, dividing up the content into segments of the same screen. In the mail app, that means you can look at the list of your emails while keeping a message in view, or keep your multi-page work in Keynote available to you even when editing (think how Preview handles a folder of images).
  • Toolbar drop-downs: Apple hammered on toolbar items with previous iterations of the iPhone OS, but on the iPad, toolbars aren't just links to deeper pages -- they're self-contained menus, often with lots of levels and options for tweaking the work you're doing. They are literally all over the iPad.
  • Tabs (or Cover Flow) everywhere: You know how Safari handles multiple pages? Well that behavior is used throughout the iPad to navigate through files or lists of options. In Safari, as in other apps, the content is presented as a grid, while elsewhere it's a scrollable list akin to Mobile Safari's present use (or webOS cards).
  • Nearly full-sized virtual keyboards: In portrait mode, we were able to tap out some messages using our thumbs, but we mostly did single finger typing. On the other hand, the landscape keyboard is big and totally usable. In fact, we were surprised at how quickly and accurately we could bang out emails on it.

iPad Reviews: Included applications

We're not going to go super deep into all of the bundled applications, but we feel quite a few deserve special mention. There are brand new applications that are hugely important to what the iPad is and does, and we wanted to take a moment to give an overview and opinion on what we felt really stood out.

Mobile Safari for iPad
Apple promises that web browsing on the iPad will be, to quote Steve Jobs, "The best browsing experience you've ever had." Let's just go over that one more time -- Steve Jobs says that the browsing experience will be the best you've ever had. So, is it? Well, we can tell you this: the browsing experience on the iPad is amazing. It is smooth, fast, and fluid. The screen displays beautifully in landscape or portrait, the scrolling is buttery, touch response is out of this world, and you can easily pinch-to-zoom all over the place with nary a hiccup. The finger-based navigation really is kind of spectacular, and it makes browsing weirdly like rediscovering an old friend. Other additions to the app like a proper bookmarks bar, use of toolbar drop downs, and an improved tab grid make it a pleasure to use. It is without question one of the best browsing experiences we've encountered. 

iBooks for iPad
To say Apple is about to put a major dent in Kindleworld is an understatement. The iBooks app is one of the most beautiful and thoughtful uses of the iPad screen real estate on the device. It would be easy to rattle off a thousand words alone on how good of an e-book experience this is, but we'll try to keep it brief considering how much there is to say about the iPad. Simply put, it's a great e-reader with enough options to please even the most strident critic. The layout is quite simple; along the top of the page in portrait mode you have a button to flip to your library (a very slick hidden room kind of effect), a chapter button, brightness control, font size and face options, and a search drop down.

Calendar / Contacts for iPad
The calendar and contacts apps on the device aren't exactly groundbreaking, but they are far more usable and information heavy on the iPad. Both utilize -- at different intervals -- split screen, book-like displays. The calendar app actually gives you a proper full month view and lets you interact with your schedule much like the iCal application for OS X does.

Mail for iPad
This is a biggie for Engadget. Much of our time is spent dealing with email, and it hasn't always been a pleasure on the iPhone. Has that changed on the iPad? Not quite. As Gmail enthusiasts, we're sort of locked into the label / archiving / conversation scheme the big G has worked up. Honestly, we think it's a smarter, faster way to handle lots of email from lots of places. On Mail for OS X, Apple at least adopts threaded messages to keep your conversations under control, but no such luck here.

iTunes / iBookstore / App Store for iPad
All three of these money-shredding stores on the iPad hew much more closely to the desktop version of iTunes, which is a really good thing. Finding, previewing, and buying titles is super simple due to the vast amount of data you get in a single view, and the modals which Apple uses to perfect effect here to pop over info about the content as you're checking it out. The iBookstore is a perfect companion to the reader, but we did find the current selection lacking. Downloading was clear and simple, and there are free samples to pick up if you just want to test the waters.

Video / iPod / YouTube for iPad
The entertainment portions of the iPad aren't going to blow anyone away, but they all do an admirable job. The iPod app is actually much, much better than its smaller cousin, though we're surprised that Apple hasn't leveraged its new-ish iTunes LP content here. The iPad is the perfect place to view all that rich media, yet it's nowhere to be found on the tablet.

iPhone apps on the iPad
Yes -- the iPad can run almost all 150,000 of the iPhone and iPod touch apps you know and love (not every one is compatible, but the vast majority). It does this in two modes, the first is a scaled down version in the middle of your giant screen, while the other is a pixel doubled iteration. Both of these leave something to be desired, and we can't say that anything besides gaming really ends up looking okay.

iPad Reviews: Battery life

It's almost impossible to believe, but during our initial tests, using the iPad pretty heavily, downloading and using lots of new apps, doing some 3D gaming, watching HD video, all the while getting email downloaded in the background, we got just about what Apple claims this device will do. In fact, it went a little better -- we managed to get 10 hours and 43 minutes of life out of the iPad before we had to plug it in again in our first run through. That's pretty crazy endurance considering what we were doing with it. Now, we were not watching HD video the whole time, or running the music player in the background while streaming Netflix movies, so we can't promise this will be the case in every situation. Still, it did a pretty amazing job of matching up to Apple's numbers, and you may color us impressed.

We're going to be doing further battery testing once some other team members get their devices, so hopefully we'll be able to report back with a more well-rounded assessment of what this thing is capable of.

The Bottom Line

The buyer of an iPad is one of two people, the first is someone who sees not just the present, but the potential of a product like the iPad... and believes in and is excited about that potential. This is also a person who can afford what amounts to a luxury item. The second is an individual who simply doesn't need to get that much work done, and would prefer their computing experience to be easier, faster, and simpler. Does that sound like anyone you know?

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