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David Zax

A View from David Zax

My First Week as an iPad User

After a brief addiction, a milder affection.

  • September 13, 2012

Followers of “Hello World” may know that while I cover tablet computing often, I don’t actually own a tablet. Or rather, I didn’t–until now.

I’ve long stated my next computing purchase would likely be a replacement for my four-and-half-year-old MacBook, the reason being that I see tablets as media consumption devices rather than productivity devices, and I’d rather be productive than consumptive. But when my father swung through New York last week and offered me an old iPad on “indefinite loan” (translation: he’s getting a newer one) who was I to say no?

Here I was, a longstanding holdout against the trend of tablets, face-to-screen with my first tablet. And I was quickly hooked. Hardly an hour went by the first couple days without me fiddling around on the iPad. I rushed to set up my email and register my magazine subscriptions through Newsstand. I downloaded the HBO Go apps and Netflix apps and linked my accounts, testing out both. Soon, I found the most natural place in my room to stash my new iPad–atop the dresser across the room, near my speaker system (I downloaded Pandora and Spotify, too). Twitter, Facebook, the Kindle app–within hours, or minutes really, I had customized my new iPad into a larger version of my iPhone, plus added a few new apps (the Onion’s TV Club, for instance, and Flipboard).

The next thing I felt was a sort of confusion. For the first time in my life, I had three personal computers–my MacBook, my iPhone, and my iPad. When would I use each, exactly? Suddenly I began to feel much more vividly the importance of syncing documents on the cloud, to avoid disorientation. It rapidly became clear, as I’d long suspected, that typing anything at length on the iPad would be irritating; anything requiring more than a few sentences would cause me to crack open the MacBook. What I hadn’t expected though, was a growing feeling that I would only use my MacBook for being productive. Casual web browsing, streaming video, and so forth–all of this began to feel more natural on the iPad. The screen was crisper, if smaller. And the heat of my MacBook on my lap began to seem irritating, now that I had this lighter, less power-hungry device to stream with. Ironically, my iPad was now my go-to lap-top device, in the literal sense. My MacBook would live on my desk.

And yet, just as I began to see my attachment to my laptop slipping away, the honeymoon with the iPad wore off. Streaming “Breaking Bad” in bed on my iPad with my noise cancellation headphones was great. But what if I wanted to watch with a friend? The iPad’s built-in speakers were insufficient for the task, and the extra screen real estate of my MacBook was suddenly greatly appreciated. I suppose I could try out a Y-adapter with dual headphones, but that seems like it might kill the spirit of communal viewing. Even Barack Obama, it seems, has found the iPad to be an essentially lonesome device; he surfs his after Michelle goes to sleep.

I’m still feeling out my iPad, and am sure my reactions in large measure recapitulate those of others who are new to tablet computing. I’m tempted to see whether owning an iPad might someday liberate me from my iPhone (see “Is It Time to Go Back to My Flip Phone?”), and whether getting an external keyboard–and perhaps a good stylus?–might allow me to contemplate having my iPad supplant my MacBook (see “Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Might Be A Real Productivity Tablet”). Overall though, one week in, my predictions of how I’d use and not use a tablet have mostly been borne out.

Do you remember your first week as a tablet user? What surprised you about the ways you used it–and how did your usage mature over time?

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