iPad Tips & Tricks: My First 36 Hours

Around 11am on Saturday morning, I purchased one of the first iPads from the Apple Store in Palo Alto.  Yes, that one.  (I missed Steve Jobs by about 20 minutes).  I thought it might be useful to readers if I captured my initial thoughts, tips, tricks and gotchas from my first weekend with the device.

What I bought & why

I decided to purchase the 64GB Wi-Fi only model.  Rationale:

  • Wi-Fi is everywhere I’m going to use this device.  I don’t travel very much, so this device will be used mostly at home, relatives houses, work, and the occasional Starbucks.  When I travel, I tend to fly Virgin America and stay at hotels with Wi-Fi.  Paying the $130 premium for the 3G model, plus the $30/mo. data plan seemed unnecessary.  Besides, if I need it in a year, will be cheaper to sell this one and buy a new one than to pay all that money just for the “option” of using 3G.
  • I realized that storing a dozen movies and few TV show seasons is pretty likely.  Movies are 1.5GB each typically, so not hard to see using 30-40GB for video on the device.  So yes, I’m one of the suckers that paid $200 for 48GB of flash.  Rip-off, yes.  Pay-to-play, I guess.

Initial thoughts with the physical device

  • It is much thinner than I expected. I realize this is an illusion based on the increased screen size, since it’s not thinner than an iPhone.  But it’s surprisingly thin to look at and hold.  Still feels sturdy, though.
  • Orientation. Despite the natural orientation vertically, it really wants to be held horizontally.
  • Surprisingly, it feels safe to “let go”.  When I’m sitting down, I find myself letting go of the device in my lap, and using two hands.  Not to touch type, mind you, but to hit different areas of the screen with different hands.  For the first few minutes, I used it like an iPhone, but once I let go, I got much faster with the device
  • The touch is addictive. The combination of the speed of the device and the touch interface makes it incredibly engaging.  You just want to interact with it.  Everyone who has played with it has said the same thing – there is something about this form factor that demands engagement beyond the iPhone or iPod Touch.
  • iBooks is gorgeous. If Apple worked a deal where you got the physical book and the iBook for one price, I’d be on this train immediately.
  • The new Video Player is great. I was confused at first, because I expected the video in the “iPod” application.  But once discovered, the new Video app is excellent.


  • iPad native applications are an order of magnitude more interesting than iPhone apps.  While a few iPhone apps are enjoyable on the device, the full native applications are phenomenally better.  I didn’t realize this until I had the device.  The native interface controls, larger real estate, and the design of the native iPad apps (both Apple & 3rd Party) are phenomenally better.  So much so that I think the iPhone apps are just a numbers game for marketing purposes.
  • The pricing for iPad apps is higher.  Almost all the games cost money, versus the plethora of free games on the iPhone.

Gotchas / Minor Problems

  • It was not obvious to me at all why I couldn’t rotate the display.  Turns out, the hardware switch on the device is not a vibrate/mute switch like it is on the iPhone.  It’s a “rotation lock”.  I spent at least a few minutes looking through every setting on the device to figure out why it wouldn’t rotate.  This is a place where a simple contextual help bubble when you click the lock icon would have helped.  This is a UI blunder.  Let me put it this way, if you wanted to confuse the maximum number of users, you would design a device that looks exactly like an iPhone, use a control exactly like the iPhone, and then change it’s function.  I think they should have left the mute button the way it was, and added a rotation lock separately.
  • Some MP4s won’t play. Still trying to figure this out.  Some of my older Handbrake generated MP4s won’t play on the device, even though they play on the AppleTV.  This seems foolish – all these devices are powerful enough now to deal with the files that play on Mac Minis.  They should make them more tolerant of all MP4s.
  • Storage is stingy for video. As predicted, I quickly filled up the device with photos & video.  Let’s hope they take these to 128GB and 256GB soon.
  • Volume & Rotation Lock on the right, not the left. Why did they change this from the iPhone?
  • Adding Apps from the App Store is a pain on the device. They should make this easy.  Instead, every time you click install, it boots you out of the App Store, and puts the icon on a new page.  Why?  Did they really want to torture iPad users?
  • Get Ready to Spend Some Time on Configuration. My goodness, Apple.  Did you really need to make it so that by default, all my iPhone apps move to the iPad as well?  What a mess.  I had to uncheck all of them, and manually check the ones I wanted.  I could have really used some intelligent defaults, like initially only installing apps that were suitable for the iPad.  This was a miss for the iTunes team.

Final Assessment: Is it worth getting the iPad 1.0?

Absolutely.  Believe the hype.  This is a transformative device.  The engagement of the native iPad applications tells me two things:

  1. Native > Web.  Look, I love HTML 5.  I love web development and web apps.  But the seamless touch interface, animation, and graphical richness of the iPad native applications has raised the bar again.  HTML 5 may help web apps catch up to the dated, stale interfaces of Windows and Mac applications.  But the iPad is something different.  The story on the iPad will be native apps for the next 2-3 years, minimum.
  2. Touch is for real. Watching my 5 year old with the device, I realize that touch is the 80 in the 80/20 of future device interactions.  I’m realizing how many things I don’t really need a physical keyboard for.   And the mouse?  Except for detailed graphic design, I don’t need it at all.  I’m not saying keyboard/mouse is going away anytime in the next decade.  But I am saying that an increasing number of use cases may not need it.  I can already see how photo viewing via touch will give way quickly to photo editing via touch.

9 thoughts on “iPad Tips & Tricks: My First 36 Hours

  1. I’m glad you’re enjoying it! Regarding the MP4s, don’t ascribe to foolishness what may just be a bug. 🙂 If you can get me a copy of one or more of the problematic MP4s, I can see if there’s anything which can be fixed to get them to play.

  2. Nice article,

    I came to the same conclusion about the 3g option. Everywhere I usually go has wifi. It will stink the few times I’d like to have it, but not enough to justify the extra $$, and besides 4g is here 🙂

    I too wish there was a 128/256 option, I like to put all my music and things on it, I hate the constant syncing just to switch things up.

  3. Thanks for the post. I especially appreciated hearing your rationale about which model you picked.

  4. I am using a MiFi with Verizon. Helps since we also travel with laptops that need 3G access to the Internet when WiFi is not available.

  5. The video problem is almost certainly due to the wrong profile used for encoding.

    The iPad currently supports

    -Main Profile level 3.1
    -Simple Profile
    -Motion JPEG (M-JPEG)

    There’s a little more to it than that, but the bottom line is that probably some of your videos are encoded in a different profile.

  6. Thank you for your post. I’ve been trying to figure out why my iPad would not rotate – I thought the button on the side was a mute button but your post helped me figure all that out. Thank you!!!

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