Revisiting my Original iPad Review »

Seven years ago, I published my original iPad review. I thought it would be fun to revisit it today.

I really had no intention of buying an iPad on launch day, but I was very curious about it. About an hour before the local Apple Store closed, I called a friend of mine to see if he wanted to go with me to check out the demo models. I figured I was safe from an impulsive decision, but they still had models in stock:

As the release day drew to an end and I read more reviews of the device I caved, drove to the Apple Store and plunked down some money for the 16GB Wi-Fi model. 

That original hardware was very much of its time:

The iPhone and the Mid–2007 iMac kicked off Apple’s current love affair with smooth, slick aluminum coupled with glass-covered panels with thick black borders. The design language they introduced with those products can now be found on Apple’s notebooks, and it’s embodied in the iPad. In many ways, the iPad reminds me of an iMac — both machines are defined by their large glass-covered displays. What lives behind the screen is easily forgotten.

This iPad is from the time before Apple put an oleophobic coating on their devices, and it showed. After getting my new device setup, I was shocked at how gross it looked. This wasn’t helped by the chunky black bezels.

Right off the bat, the iPad felt like a product from the future. The screen was just a giant window into apps and content; the hardware yielded its ground to the software unlike any other device. Best of all, it was silent:

After playing a racing game for 30 minutes, it was barely warm. It’s pretty incredible. I’d almost like my iPad to get warm more often so I know it’s actually working. That, coupled with the complete lack of noise or humming, makes the iPad seem even more futuristic. Like most groundbreaking Apple products, it doesn’t have a fan — think of how magical the G4 Cube and the iMac G3 still seem.

I did have some complaints about the hardware; I really wanted to see an SD card slot on the original iPad. I’ve since bought SD card adaptors for my iOS devices, and I think I’ve used them maybe three or four times.

As I read through my old review, I came across something that still drives me crazy:

A huge complaint of mine is that the icons on the home screen shift when the iPad changes orientation. It really screws with muscle memory, and makes me hunt down icons when I’m in portrait mode, since I use mine in landscape most of the time. Apple needs to fix it.

Maybe this is the year the iPad homescreen becomes more useful.1

Thankfully this complaint has been taken care as of iOS 7:

A lot of third-party apps (and apps like Contacts and Calendars) are designed to look like the real objects they replace. It’s an odd trend, and I’m not sure I am in love with it. Virtual bookcases and sticky notes just aren’t as effective as their physical inspirations.

Younger-Stephen was unaware of the painful nerve damage in his future, and could still use an Apple Extended II keyboard. His taste in keyboards clearly didn’t affect how he used his iPad:

I haven’t paired my iPad to a bluetooth keyboard, but it seems like a good solution for long typing sessions. I just don’t see the need at this point. Even typing this review on the iPad wasn’t bad enough for me to go grab a keyboard. Granted, I’ve been working on over the course of a week, not all at once.

I’m writing this on my 9.7″ iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard attached. I much prefer it to the software keyboard these days, even if the Smart Keyboard is a little cramped at this smaller size.

I ended my review by pontificating on the iPad’s role in the world:

The biggest question of all when it comes to the iPad is this — can it revolutionize the computer industry? I’m not sure it can.

I think it can replace the desktop for some users who just surf, email and look at photos, the iPad is a compelling alternative.

Of course, since the iPad is dependent on iTunes, it makes it more difficult to think of it as a stand-alone machine.

For another class of users, the desktop computer cannot be replaced at this point. People who use computers to create will see their iPads as secondary devices for light tasks, note taking and media playback. That’s where I am with it. All in all, it’s a great device with lots of promise, but it’s far from being as revolutionary as the Macintosh was in 1984. No matter what Apple says.

iTunes dependency may be a thing of the past, but this conflict is still at the heart of any conversation about the iPad. Many people can – and do — use the tablet as their primary computing device. The software and hardware advancements of the last seven years have made the iPad more powerful and flexible, but it’s not enough for everyone.

I’m somewhere in the middle. Some of my work has to be done on a Mac, but a bunch of it can be done on my iPad. I often choose my Mac over my iPad for those tasks out of habit, but that isn’t the iPad’s fault.

It’s clear Apple needs to do more to push the iPad further down the road to general computing. As much as Steve Jobs disliked it, most users need access to some sort of file system. Multitasking should be native, not bolted-on through the use of a weird sidebar app drawer. Some of us need access to more powerful applications and utilities to complete our workdays on an iPad.

I think Apple is hard at work on these things, but looking back, it’s pretty incredible how far this device has come. This iPad Pro I’m typing on now may have the same screen size as the original iPad, but they are worlds apart in terms of capability.

  1. Maybe it’s the year of Linux on the desktop.