The iPad according to Steve Jobs:

Is there room for a third category of device in the middle? The bar is pretty high, in order to create a new category of devices, those devices should be far better than doing a few key things.

And he’s right, of course. The iPhone came out and introduce multi-touch capability, making it far better to surf the web on a mobile phone, but not superior to a desktop computer: the lack of Flash, small screen, and inability to see “a lot at once” is hindering. While the iPhone does have the best web browser on a phone, it does not really compare to a desktop class web browser. The iPhone also did a great job with listening to music, storing a lot of photos, being a gaming device, and handling multiple email accounts.

The iPad, however, is a curious beast: It does what the iPhone does, but better. With browsing the web, you can actually see the entire web and touch it. This sounds cliché, but it really is a great way to experience the internet. Email looks much better with two-pane navigation and seeing rich HTML messages on that screen is a great experience. Photos are bigger and easier to display (there is even an on desk picture frame feature on the lock screen). Videos look better and do not suck so much better life out of the device. Games are a must when on the iPad — the bigger screen and accelerometer controls make for great casual and even hard core gaming. The iPad also kills many eReaders — the color screen and multi touch controls let you have the sensation of reading an illustrated book while having everything else you would want included.

I have been using the iPad 3G for four months, so I feel it is about time I share my experience after heavy use. I have a 13” Macbook (Unibody) and it sits as a desktop computer at home. I have taken the iPad everywhere and used it to take class notes, browse the web on campus, and play games occasionally.

The iPhone reflex

It is reflexive to pull out your phone when you want information. My phone has a bumper on it with no case. I can flick it on, hit safari, and search. My phone also has SMS ability and emailing someone quickly doesn’t take much effort. While I enjoy having the iPad with me when I need to type a longer email message, I usually would much rather type a business-related email on a computer. The multi-touch keyboard is only good for quick bursts of typing, and long bouts of typing without tactile feedback becomes cumbersome and can even wear on my fingers with the angle that I type with on the iPad.

Typing

Typing with the iPad is something I still don’t get — finger peck or home-row style? Either method has its issues. With finger pecking, the distance between keys is longer and I feel like I’m punching glass because of how “hard” I type. Home row style leads me to lose my spot since I don’t have the raised F and J keys. Also, my large hands make it tougher to keep my hands locked in a position to type a long document. I pull out my iPhone when I need to type because thumb typing does not hurt as much and I am faster with it than both methods above.

In regards to typing, note taking is even more curious. I do not want to spend $10 on Pages, Apple’s word publishing application, because I want something lightweight that syncs with Dropbox right out of the box. Elements does a great job with this, but the app is not rich text capable, so my notes on Dropbox look awful. In addition to the app problems, the typing problems above make me wish for my laptop instead. I like to be able to look up a white board while typing, rather than continue to have to glance up and down to make notes.

Music

Why would anyone want to listen to music on their iPad? It is a big device to carry around for just music, and finding songs from a list on a big screen is difficult. Yes there is a search feature, but I like to browse my songs more. I also want to be able to carry my music around in my pocket, so carrying a larger device is cumbersome.

Once a laptop guy, always a laptop guy

I think if I had been born into the “tablet” generation to come, I may find it useful to only have a tablet. Apple is going to want to continue to flesh out this product so it becomes a stand-alone device that doesn’t require tethering to a computer — something that the rumored cloud service should help with. Having used physical keyboards my whole life, there are certain comforts I am missing with the iPad. Having had a screen up in front of me (and not looking up at me) is something I will always cling to, it seems. In all, the iPad seems to be great at a few things, but it does not want to replace my phone when it comes to most other things.