Tag Archives: iPad

A lovely piece of UI design

One of the ways you can tell that a piece of UI design really works is when you start trying to use it in other apps. A great example of this: Mr. Reader’s navigation buttons:

Those up, down and close buttons at the side aren’t there all the time. In fact, you have to slide your finger in from the edge of the screen to show it, and it’s your finger is positioned automatically over the “down” button. You have to hold and slide up or down to use one of the other buttons: if you lift your finger, the buttons disappear.

The nice thing is that you can do this from any part of the screen edge, so it doesn’t matter where your finger starts. I usually use my thumb, as I’m holding the iPad in portrait orientation.

It’s a lovely user interface device: hidden, yet easy to find and simple to understand. And it’s one of the things that makes Mr. Reader my favourite news reader on the iPad.

Still getting it wrong about the iPad

Dick Pountain for PC Pro:

Apple is currently having a rather good war, having ruthlessly preserved a proprietary grip on its own hardware ecosystem, and exploited this to make users pay for apps and content through online stores. Its carpet bombing of Adobe Flash – by excluding it from the iPad – is a tactical victory, damming off one whole stream of free content from the internet.

Because there are no free apps on the App Store, and no way to get content on to the iPad other than to buy it from Apple’s stores. These CDs I’ve bought? No way can I rip them and put them on an iPad. That DVD? No chance of ever getting a digital copy from it on to the iPad.

Why comfort and familiarity are features

Techpinions – It’s Good to be Back on the iPhone:

Often I heard the battle cry from the Android community complaining that the iPhone 5 was just not innovative enough and lacked many of the cutting edge features common on Android smartphones. Many with that sentiment miss an important perspective, one that I truly didn’t fully grasp before using Android for a length of time. This perspective is that comfort and familiarity are actually features. And I would argue that for many consumers comfort and familiarity are just as valuable as a cutting edge spec is to others.

Newness for newness’ sake isn’t innovative – it’s destructive to value, because it places the user in unfamiliar territory. And when you force users to make a big leap by learning large changes to the user interface in one go, inevitably some of them will look at the new interface you’re trying to adopt and wonder why, if they’re going to have to relearn a load of stuff anyway, they shouldn’t just jump to another platform.

What I find interesting, too, is that its the same people who are currently slamming Microsoft for abandoning (effectively) the Windows 7 interface with Metro who are also slamming Apple for not abandoning the familiar, well-worn app launcher interface on iOS.

The putative 7in iPad versus the Nexus 7

I'm not one for comparing products which don't exist yet to products which are already on the market, but James Kendrick has written what I think are a good set of reasons why he'll be first in line for a 7in iPad, despite liking the Nexus 7:

Using an iPad is so much more pleasant compared to the Nexus 7 that I am confident that the rumored iPad Mini (or as I prefer to call it the iBook) will capture the small tablet market and quickly. The pricing Apple puts on the smaller tablet will certainly be a factor, but knowing the company I believe they will get it right.

James is right. I own both the N7 and the latest iPad, and while I like both a lot there's a big difference between the two in terms of experience. Even though the N7 is much smoother than previous Android devices (thanks to Jelly Bean) it's still not as responsive as the iPad.

More importantly Android's still lacking in quality applications built for tablet sized screens. There's still no killer Twitter client, although a couple come close. There's a few decent games, but not many. There's no writing app as good as Pages, or presentation app as good as Keynote. Android has occasional quality tablet apps; iOS has depth in quality.

Will the iPad 3 use LTE?

Almost everyone seems to believe that the next iPad, rumoured to be being launched in early March, will have 4G connectivity, in the shape of LTE. When the Wall Street Journal is reporting it, that usually means it’s pretty likely.

However, I actually have my doubts. To my mind, there’s more than a few reasons why Apple is unlikely to make the leap to LTE for this iPad, and will hold off until the next one. I have no inside info, and don’t normally make predictions, but something about this rumour doesn’t quite make sense given the way that Apple tends to work.

In favour of LTE

Of course, LTE offers significantly higher speeds than 3G. But the big drawback is battery life: almost everyone who has an LTE phone ends up charging it multiple times a day.

However, the iPad is not a phone. Not only does it have a bigger battery, but its use of data over mobile networks is different. Most iPads spend much of their time tethered to WiFi networks, rather than being used when out and about on mobile. With smart software, you could probably build an LTE-equipped tablet of iPad size without getting hit hard on battery life.

Against LTE

Implementing LTE now would, though, would be something of a departure for Apple, for several reasons. First is that LTE chipsets remain expensive compared to those for 3G. Although Apple doesn’t scrimp on the quality of its components, they don’t waste money. Given that its price points tend to be fixed, it builds to a strict budget which forces designers and engineers to balance technology with cost.

Second, though, is the spread of LTE. At present, there are 31 countries with LTE deployed. In many of these countries, that deployment is either experimental or extremely limited, which means it’s only available in large, major cities.

Compare that with GSM. Apple currently ships the GSM iPhone in more than 70 countries, with more in the pipeline.

Of course, Apple could simply ship an LTE iPad which then stepped down to 3G when LTE wasn’t available. And, if LTE were widespread in the largest markets, Apple might do that.

But it’s not. Even within the US, LTE coverage is patchy – something that you’d probably not get if you only read journalists based in the Bay Area. Some major markets, such as the UK and France (combined population: 127 million affluent consumers) have no LTE available at all. And remember that 62% of Apple’s sales are “international” (ie not in the US) now, and the company clearly aims to grow that percentage over time. China, the biggest potential market for iPads of the lot, has no LTE.

Apple doesn’t do promises. Shipping an LTE iPad to consumers who can’t make use of that feature, on the promise that when (if) their local phone company turns on LTE they’ll get super-fast speed doesn’t sound like an Apple-ish thing to do.

The only way I’d see that happening would be if they knew that LTE was a handful of months away from widespread adoption, and that’s not happening. Otherwise, you’re giving the majority of your customers a feature that they can’t use yet, but which will magically turn on for them down the line. And when that feature does turn on, in six months or two years, it’ll be like they’ve got an upgraded iPad – something that’s bound to be a disincentive to them actually buying a new, upgraded iPad.

Of course, come 2013, when LTE is likely to be more widely available in the US and be in place across phone networks worldwide, an LTE iPad makes complete sense. And I have little doubt that the iPad 4, which will probably hit the market in the first half of next year, will have LTE: the timing will just be right.

But until then, I’d bet against LTE. While other companies would certainly rush an LTE tablet to market (and have), based on its history it’s just not the kind of move that Apple would make.

Three things Google needs to do to kickstart Android tablets

I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 for a while, in addition to the iPad 2 that I regularly use. It’s a nice little piece of hardware – lighter than the iPad (as you’d expect from the smaller size), and with enough battery life and power to do plenty of stuff.

In common with almost all Android tablets, it runs Honeycomb rather than the latest Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) version of Android. And, although Samsung have stated that it will be getting an update, it’s likely to be later rather than sooner – perhaps a few months. Of course, Android being Android, a bunch of hackers have already started on an “unofficial” port, and the beta of that has been enough to persuade me that ICS, while still behind iOS 5 in many ways, is a big step forward.

But the fact remains that Android tablets remain a long way behind the iPad in many other ways. There’s a lack of “showcase” applications, for one thing: the likes of GarageBand, which can sell an iPad in five minutes, simply don’t exist for Android. Then there’s the failure of tablet vendors to actually use ICS – amazingly, there are tablets which are still shipping using Android 2.3, which is as absurd an idea as Apple shipping a tablet with iOS 3.0.

So what should Google do? I have three suggestions.

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A 7in tablet is not just a smaller 10.1in tablet

I’ve recently been using a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, one of the newest generation of Android tablets running Honeycomb (an Ice Cream Sandwich update is in the pipeline. Even though it’s not significantly cheaper than the 10.1in Tab, I got it because of the different form factor: it’s significantly lighter and easier to carry around than the iPad I already use, and makes a nice contrast to the bigger tablets.

However, it also illustrates the issues with using an interface which is designed for larger screens on a smaller touch screen. Some of the applications which are designed specifically for Honeycomb have controls and buttons which are perfect for touching on a 10.1in screen, but which are just a shade too small to accurately hit on something a couple of inches smaller.

This is a point that Harry McCracken makes very well in his post on how it must be possible to build a good 7in tablet. As Harry puts it:

No, the reason that a 7″ iPad seems unlikely in the short term is because it would only have a shot at greatness if it had an interface and apps designed with a 7″ display in mind. A 7″ tablet isn’t just a big smartphone, and it’s not a tinier 9.7″ tablet. Building a 7″ iPad by essentially making the iPhone’s pixels larger or the iPad’s pixels smaller would be the wrong way to go about it.

Part of the problem that Android tablets face is that the free-form nature of Android development means that any vendor can decide on sizes and simply hack its own version of the operating system on to the tablet. If Android applications then don’t fit properly, it’s not the vendor’s problem. It’s just the user’s

Everything looks obvious in hindsight

Jim Dalrymple:

Technology companies these days are scared to death to make a product that varies too far from Apple does because they fear being left behind. Some companies even go so far as to say that Apple’s inventions were inevitable — if that’s the case why weren’t they done before?

Indeed. Everything looks obvious in hindsight. And it’s fear that makes companies copy, rather than laziness or stupidity. It’s not that companies like Samsung are bad (I love Samsung TVs, for example), it’s simply that when you’re playing catch-up, sometimes the best first step simply to stay in the game is to copy what other people are doing, and rely on customers who want options. In the long run, it will hurt you: but when a company launches a product that creates or redefines an entire category, it’s better to stay in the game with a me-too product in the short term.

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Kensington KeyFolio Pro review

There are, littering my house, more than a few different iPad keyboards. You see, I’m someone who spends a rather large amount of his time writing. That means I’m picky about the tools that I use to lay down pixels on screen.  

There’s the Logitech Keyboard Case for iPad 2, which I reviewed both on here and for MacUser. There is, of course, an Apple keyboard which I use in collaboration with the marvellous InCase Origami – a case for the keyboard which is light, durable, and folds up into a stand for the iPad.

And there’s the most recent addition, the Kensington KeyFolio Pro.

First, the reason why the Kensington earns the “Pro” monicker: the keyboard itself. It’s not full size, as the Apple one is, but it’s pretty close. The spaces between the keys are good, the travel is a little clunky and shallow but overall pretty good. Apart from Apple’s keyboard, it’s one of the best ones you’ll find for the iPad.

It’s not, though, perfect. The enter key isn’t quite there you think it should be, which means that I find myself hitting the backslash key rather than enter every now and then.

But the worst problem is the angle that the iPad is held in. In the default position, it’s far, far too shallow, which means the iPad is tilted almost towards you rather than back at an angle you can read. The only way to push the angle back to something that’s more comfortable is to rest the edge of the iPad on the deep plastic bezel which surrounds the top of the keyboard. In fact, my optimum angle was only hit when the edge of the iPad was resting almost on the top row of keys. That is, to say the least, sub-optimal.

This is a real shame, as the Kensington showed a lot of promise. Alas, though, it means that one of the nicest keyboards for the iPad is housed in a case which renders it almost unusable.