WE’RE NOT GETTING AN IPAD. OK, MAYBE WE ARE.

ipad_hero_20100403The iPad  is being treated like a galactic event. Well, we have nothing against Apple, it’s great, but we’re not getting an iPad.

We love our desktop computers, which are comfortable and powerful, and our little laptops  that can be plugged into a TV when we want to surf the web or play games on the big screen. Why do we need a giant iPhone without the phone?  It  has only a virtual keyboard, no USB ports, no GPS, no webcam, no browser tabs, no multi-tasking, yada yada yada.

It’s not a Kindle killer. It’s more expensive than  Amazon’s popular e-reader, and a lot heavier. Where the Kindle weighs 10 ounces, the iPad is a pound and a half. You need two hands to hold it.

For Joy, who is a rabid multi-tasker, the iPad is a no-go. She typically has four or five programs open at once, something you can’t do on the iPad. You can queue up several apps at once for download. You’ll see one downloading and the others say “waiting.” But if you switch to web browsing, you can’t look at more than one site at once, say to listen to Pandora music while you surf the web. You can however, listen to your iTunes collection and surf.

We don’t need to carry one more thing around. When we’re home, it’s just as easy to use our desktop or laptop with a wireless connection to the Internet. We’d take the iPad to our apartment gym to use on the stairmaster, except that there’s no Wi-Fi. We could connect with 3G instead, but the 3G/Wi-Fi  iPads won’t be out for a month, and we’d have to pay extra, unlike on the Kindle, where 3G is free.

SO WE BOUGHT ONE ANYWAY

overview_safari_20100225 By 4 pm. the crowds were thinning at the Apple store. After three tries, Joy got her hands on one of the test machines. They were cabled to a table and she had to elbow in. The most enthusiastic users were kids. They were playing a Simpson game where Homer fights passersby. Adults were doing boring things like word processing, though we did see one guy building his dream house.

Joy started playing with it. And playing with it. And playing with it. She watched a Milton Friedman video. She looked at recipes. She played with the “iBook” app, and saw the pages flip as in a real book, with full-color illustrations. She surfed the web, listened to music, looked at movie trailers. Bob stayed outside to enjoy the Spring sunshine and get away from the computer which for him is on 24 hours a day, every day.

The amazing thing was how fast it all was. No booting up. It’s immediately on. Tap an app and it launched. The Wall Street Journal app, tailored just for the iPad, is fantastic. It looks like a real newspaper in digital form. When you tap it to open, you can go immediately to saved articles, your “watch list” of stocks, saved sections,  a current or past edition. You can read offline. The New York Times has a full-screen “Editor’s Choice” iPad app that gives you the top news and business stories. The Zinio Reader app shows magazines.

Battery life is fantastic. You can use it for more than 11 hours before it needs a recharge. Since it has no hard drive, videos don’t consume any more power than other activities.

So the third time Joy came out of the Apple store, Bob said “Get one.” And so we did.

We played with it most of the evening, listening to NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” We installed the Skype app and sent a few chats off. (We don’t usually use a webcam when we make Skype calls anyway, so this isn’t missed.) Joy enjoyed reading it in bed with the lights off, something she can’t do with the Kindle, which isn’t back-lit. She got up early this morning to install the ABC-TV player, and watched part of an “Ugly Betty” episode. Using the apps led her to things on the web that she never would have seen otherwise. By the way, “install” just means point to something. Everything is automatic.

Doing stuff on the iPad, whether work or play, feels like a break from the computer. It’s a completely different device.

THE JURY IS STILL OUT

photos_perfect_20100225Still, this is an expensive toy. It’s basically a giant iPhone or iPod Touch. We may still return it and go back to our laptops, which in a way, are slower iPads in clamshells.

There are 150,000 iPhone apps and over 3,000 iPad apps as of today (20 percent are free). You can view iPhone apps on the iPad, but they either take up a tiny window in the center of the screen, or they fill the screen, as Skype does, and the text is pixelated.

Email works fine, unless you prefer Microsoft Outlook. We tried it with Gmail. You can point to a folder on the left and the message pops right in. Or touch the tiny trash can to delete.

Whether you should get an iPad depends a lot on how you feel about touch screens. With a touch screen instead of a mouse, the computer seems a lot more fun.

It’s so  easy that babies can use it. Still, we were glad we tried it in the store first, because some things are not immediately obvious, like how to go back to the home screen. We finally found the online manual when we looked at the default bookmarks in the Safari web browser.

Prices start at $499 for 16 gigabytes. Add $100 for 32 gigabytes. Add $39 more for a case. Add more for a camera card adapter, if you don’t want to have to sync your photo collection from your computer. Perhaps it’s better to wait until more apps are out and further reviews are in.

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