Apple – I am no longer a fan boy

I recently undertook an experiment.

I was curious to see if my iPad (32GB 3G model) could replace my laptop for a 2 week holiday. On paper it was promising. The device is light, portable and packed full of apps. Compared to a clunky  laptop – I was hoping it would give me access to everything I needed , from content to cloud data. I was wrong. Very wrong.

On a positive note, the iPad was portable. I did not need to carry my regular ruck-sack. Instead opting for a small ‘man bag’, which the iPad neatly sat in. This made traveling a lot easier and moving around airports was liberating. But that was it. The rest of the experience was frustrating. Here’s why:

1) Typing

I was on holiday and did not need to type many emails etc… However, when I did I found the virtual keyboard clunky and awkward. It was not neccessarily the UI that was the problem. Rather the size of the iPad made any extended use of the keyboard uncomfortable. Positioning of the iPad was  a challenge. Should I rest it on my lap? Or stand it up in the case and type? Either way did not work.

I gave up – and resorted to using my iPhone to respond to emails etc..

2) Multi-tasking

When I’m on a laptop, like most people (or perhaps just geeks), I cycle through several applications without even thinking. I often have several applications open such as an email client , an RSS reader and media etc… I found myself having to ‘think’ when on my iPad. Switching applications , put simply hampered my productivity . Listening to the radio and responding to an email……the most basic of tasks. Forget it.

I switched to my iPhone.

3) Music

I picked up a music CD and wanted to listen to it. Impossible. Absolutely no chance  of getting it onto my iPad (unless I docked it with my laptop).

4) Flash

I wanted to access a website with flash video. No chance. I gave up and used the wife’s laptop.

5) Safari

My cousin wanted to access a finance website. Sorry – not compatible with the browser. Do I get a choice of browser on my iPad – no chance.

6) Podcasts

Despite my travels – I still keep in touch with my regular list of podcasts. It is perhaps one of the most frustrating features of iOS 3 / 4 that there is no way of automatically downloading podcast feeds. I had to manually download each of my 7 favourite weekly shows…..

7) Photographs

I had taken well over 100 photographs. Sure I could import them into my iPad (thanks to the Apple USB adaptor I bought) , but I couldn’t easily upload them all into the cloud. To make matters worse, I simply wanted to upload them to my Mobile Me account . (How ironic given that Mobile Me is an Apple service).

In short I was beyond disappointed. I was bloody frustrated. Essentially, the iPad was useless. I do not think that any of the above activities are unusally geeky. They are all pretty standard for any user. There was nothing I could do on my iPad that that I couldn’t do on my iPhone 3GS. In fact, I could do more on my iPhone thanks to iOS 4 and the multi-tasking.

It was a rude awakening. It also got me thinking about the future of Apple. Patents for touch screen iMacs, rumours of an iTV running iOS apps …..There’s a trend and it’s pointing towards their version of the internet. I feel more than uncomfortable by this.

I admit I was an Apple fan. They make outstanding products. But my admiration came off the back of OS X and the fact that it is UNIX based and still (just about) the best OS out there. But all the signs are pointing towards a shift to iOS devices. They are simply toys which water down the open internet and cripple functionality for ‘user experience’ and form factor. The iPad is a shinning example of this.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not switching to a new platform in some form of protest. That would be pointless and expensive. Besides,  my iPhone 3Gs is an essential tool for me right now. (Especially as I am based overseas and have come to rely on Skype and other killer apps such as Evernote and What’s App). But I am certainly no longer blinded by Apple as I once was. On the mobile front, I wait patiently for Android Market Place to have Skype available – then I can ditch the iPhone and switch to a decent Android handset……

But for now I will resort  to travelling with my £200 Dell 9 Hackintosh. My iPad has become relegated to the sofa. In fact I am considering ditching it all together and sticking it on eBay…..