Category Archives: iPad

Will iOS 7 have more consistent media controls?

One thing that I hope Jony Ive and his team of Human Interface designers fix in iOS 7 is the playback controls used across their apps. The style, icons, and placement of controls are inconsistent across the Music, Podcasts, and Remote apps. And sometimes there are inconsistencies within the same app.

The Music app controls.

The Music app controls are not bad when compared to the overly precious design of the entire app. There is a seam that visually separates the buttons and the icons appear to be etched into their surface.

The Music app full-screen controls.

The quirky full-screen mode of the Music app loses the precious textures of the normal mode but retains the overall design with clear visual separation of the buttons. The icons appear as if printed on the surface of the buttons.

The Remote app controls.

The buttons of the Remote app are of a clean design with slight texturing to separate the elements rather than an explicit visual separator.

The Podcasts app controls.

There are no button separators in the Podcasts app and the icons appear on the surface with a gradient. You can also see that the icons for next and previous are different from those used in the other apps.

It gets even worse once we look at the full toolbars of the same apps. Check out the three different progress indicators for the three apps.

The Music app toolbar.

This is one of Apple’s worst designs. Those wooden sides! The inset control surfaces. The vizard appearance of the display. And orange highlights! Blue is the typical highlight color in iOS and this is the case in the Podcast and Remote apps as well. The highlight color isn’t even consistent within this one app–both the AirPlay and Replay icons are highlighted here.

The Music app full-screen toolbar.

Some improvements are made with the odd full-screen mode of the Music app. The highlight color is consistently orange and the wood is gone. The display still looks odd.

The Remote app toolbar

The Remote app toolbar is clean and has enough visual distinction between elements.

The Podcasts app toolbar.

Now you can see how the placement of the media playback controls are inconsistent across these Apple apps. Unlike the rest of them, the playback buttons are not at the top with the rest of the playback controls.

iPad Mini

In retrospect, it is now obvious that Apple didn’t name the latest iPad the iPad 3 because they were already working on an 8-inch iPad. They couldn’t come out with the iPad 3 and then name its diminutive sibling the iPad 4. It also would not do to bring an iPad 3 Mini to market a few months before introducing the new 10-inch iPad 4.

It’s a content creation device

“It’s a content creation device.”
Leo Laporte talking about the new iPad.

It’s amazing to me that only now after Apple releases iPhoto for iOS do people see the iPad as a content creation device. It’s as if fantastic creation apps such as Bamboo Paper, Keynote, Brushes, OmniGraffle, and Korg’s iElectribe haven’t been on the iPad until now. In fact, Apple released Pages, Numbers, and Keynote alongside the original iPad and they are the sort of apps people generally think of when they talk about productivity apps.

The new iPad and iPhoto have apparently killed the perception by some people that the iPad is a content consumption device. People that have in the past appeared willfully ignorant of what makes the iPad so popular for so many different uses and the pundits and analysts that come up with convoluted terms like “media tablet” to discuss the iPad and clones of it. Welcome to the future.

Grading myself on iPad predictions

The speculation is all over now. We now know what the next iPad is going to be when it’s available in a few short days on Friday, March 16. Let’s see how I did with my predictions.

Retina Display

“The iPad is going to have its resolution doubled… It will be a revolutionary display.”

Ding! We have a winner. I get a star for this one. But, to be honest, a lot of people got this right. Pay attention to people that didn’t think this would happen and take whatever they say with lots of salt.

The name

“There are some rumors swirling about that Apple will name it the iPad HD. They won’t. In doing so, Apple would be under-playing their hand. The iPad has always been capable of displaying the 1280×720 variation of High Definition and HD video maxes out at 1920×1080. The Retina Display of the next iPad will pump out 2048×1536 pixels.”

Another winner. Not only did I call that it would not be named the iPad HD as many of the rumors were reporting and people were talking about on Twitter (I’m looking at you, Gizmodo) but I also telegraphed what Apple’s talking points would be during the event regarding the Retina Display iPad and HD. Apple had slides and video demonstrating how the iPad’s resolution is superior to 1080p HD.

A new app

“Along with an insanely high resolution display comes an app for organizing and editing photos and that means Aperture for the iPad. This puts me against John Gruber and agreeing with most of Gabe Glick’s points in a MacStories piece.”

OK, I got this one wrong. I thought the new app would be Aperture instead of iPhoto. Gruber was right. In retrospect, it makes sense that Apple would want to complete the iLife suite of apps on iOS by adding iPhoto to GarageBand and iMovie. I’d like to give myself half a star for knowing that Apple would release a new photo editing app, but that doesn’t seem right. No star!

LTE

“The Wall Street Journal published an article stating that the next iPad will have support for the faster LTE cellular networks. Their sources have been very good lately with respect to Apple. That combined with the timing on this one makes it a good bet.”

I got this one right too. I don’t think there is much too say about this one. But, it is a good sign that the next iPhone will have LTE. Notice how I didn’t call it the iPhone 5?

Messages

“To go along with Apple’s merging of iChat on the Mac with Messages from iOS, Apple will bring video conferencing from the Mac to the iPad.”

Totally wrong! Well, maybe this will be part of iOS 6.

iOS

“Like the original iPad, the next iPad will be released with a bespoke version of iOS that enables features that are unique to the iPad. Unique, at least, until Apple merges them with the rest of iOS later this year.”

It looks like I got this one wrong too. If so, Apple has improved their process for integrating changes specific to a new product into their main line of iOS. This is one that I am glad I got wrong.

It’s a given

“It’ll also have improved cameras front and back with the front facing camera being upgraded to FaceTime HD.”

Wow. I can’t believe I got part of this wrong. Apple put all of their effort into improving the rear camera which can now shoot 1080p video and 5 megapixel photos.

One last thing

“Oh, and they’ll continue selling the iPad 2 of the 16 GB variety starting at $349.”

Partially right. It’s actually $399 so all of the cheap tablets aren’t putting as much pressure on Apple as people think.

Siri

“I’m probably in the minority on this, but I hope that Apple doesn’t include Siri on the next iPad. That’s not because I don’t think it has a place on the iPad – I do. But, Siri is still in beta and appears to be overloaded at times. Including it on new iPads will be even more stress for Siri. Let’s wait until it’s ready before spreading it out to other Apple devices.”

I’m not going to grade myself on my other hopes because they were just that – and sadly weren’t fulfilled. But, I am going to give myself a bonus point for getting this right. Apple left Siri off of the new iPad for now since it is still in beta and they still have some issues to work out. Instead the new iPad will get a voice dictation key on the keyboard like the one the iPhone 4S has.

How did I do? Out of eight predictions, I got three right, and two half right. When you include bonus points for getting one of my hopes right, that is five stars.

Predictions and hopes for the next iPad

Apple has scheduled a show and tell event about the next iPad for tomorrow on March 7, 2012. Here’s what I think Apple will announce at the event followed by some things that probably won’t happen, but would make me very happy if they did.

Predictions

Retina Display

This one seems a bit obvious. MacRumors and iFixit have even published some evidence that the next iPad will have a Retina Display. But, the writing has been on the wall ever since the iPhone 4 was released with its Retina Display. The iPad is going to have its resolution doubled – it is just a matter of when. Right now still feels like a bit of a push to sell a device so densly packed with pixels for about $500. It will be a revolutionary display.

The name

There are some rumors swirling about that Apple will name it the iPad HD. They won’t. In doing so, Apple would be under-playing their hand. The iPad has always been capable of displaying the 1280×720 variation of High Definition and HD video maxes out at 1920×1080. The Retina Display of the next iPad will pump out 2048×1536 pixels. That’s like… ultra definition. I don’t know what Apple will name it, but I do know that on the back of the actually iPad it will simply read “iPad”. It’ll be interesting when (or if) the iPad goes to the “Early 2012″ style naming convention that Macs have but is really only mentioned in support documentation.

A new app

Along with an insanely high resolution display comes an app for organizing and editing photos and that means Aperture for the iPad. This puts me against John Gruber and agreeing with most of Gabe Glick’s points in a MacStories piece. The iPad already has many of iPhoto’s features with the new organizing and editing features of iOS 5. Aperture’s time is now on iOS. Advanced editing of photos through touch combined with non-destructive editing and Aperture’s flare for supporting the profesional photographer’s workflow will be a force to be reckoned with.

LTE

The Wall Street Journal published an article stating that the next iPad will have support for the faster LTE cellular networks. Their sources have been very good lately with respect to Apple. That combined with the timing on this one makes it a good bet. It’s all a matter of how much current LTE components affect battery life. If Apple can’t meet or beat the iPad 2′s outstanding battery life, LTE will be tossed out.

Messages

To go along with Apple’s merging of iChat on the Mac with Messages from iOS, Apple will bring video conferencing from the Mac to the iPad. This new feature will most likely require the new iPad or a Mac to be the device hosting the conference since extra processing power will be needed. iPhones and iPod touches will be able to join the conference. And the future versions of those devices will be able to start them as well.

iOS

Like the original iPad, the next iPad will be released with a bespoke version of iOS that enables features that are unique to the iPad. Unique, at least, until Apple merges them with the rest of iOS later this year.

It’s a given

We know, of course, that it’s going to be the fastest iPad Apple has ever made. It’ll have improved central and graphics processors. Apple will speak about how much better this makes playing games, watching movies, and using power-hungry apps. It’ll also have improved cameras front and back with the front facing camera being upgraded to FaceTime HD.

One last thing

Oh, and they’ll continue selling the iPad 2 of the 16 GB variety starting at $349.

Hopes

Shape

I bought both an original iPad and the iPad 2 as soon as each was released. I love the speed of the iPad 2 and being able to use some of the things that require its extra power like iMovie and AirPlay Mirroring. But every time I pick up the original iPad, it feels wonderful in my hands in comparison. I mostly chalk this up to the thick side edges on the original iPad that are similar to those on the iPhone 4 and 4S. The very thin, tapered edges on the iPad 2 just aren’t comfortable. Some of the original iPad’s great feel could also come from the slightly curved back – a feature that also makes it much easier to spin around to share something with people sitting at the same table. I really hope that the shape of the next iPad is more like the original for a better feel while retaining the light weight of the iPad 2.

iPen

“If you see a stylus, they blew it.” I think what Steve Jobs really meant is that if you have to use a stylus, they blew it. But, that doesn’t mean a stylus cannot be optional. Apple could release an iPen that gives pressure sensitivity to the iPad through sensors in the pen itself and a Bluetooth connection to the iPad. It’d be even better if they provided an API that would allow other companies like Wacom or Ten One Design to release their own styluses for the iPad that work with all apps. This would be a boon to artists using apps like Brushes and could also be a tool for advanced editing of photos with Aperture for the iPad.

Siri

I’m probably in the minority on this, but I hope that Apple doesn’t include Siri on the next iPad. That’s not because I don’t think it has a place on the iPad – I do. But, Siri is still in beta and appears to be overloaded at times. Including it on new iPads will be even more stress for Siri. Let’s wait until it’s ready before spreading it out to other Apple devices.

Tweetbot now available for iPad

Tapbots released Tweetbot for the iPad today. It’s a great release of their existing Tweetbot app reimagined for the larger iPad screen. It has the same rich design but makes use of the additional space to fit more tweets on the screen at once and to provide clarifying elements to the user interface. As I type this, Tweetbot for iPad is currently the second app on iTunes’ Top Paid Apps chart. My only complaint is that it isn’t a universal app. You’ll need to buy (and manage) it separately, but it’s well worth it if you like using Twitter on your iPad.

Its immediate popularity was probably assisted by the 2.0 release of Tweetbot for iPhone earlier the same day. Tweetbot 2.0 is better looking, faster, and even easier to use. The iPad version debuts with the same refinements.

An iPad as your only computer

Note: This article was originally written on March 31, 2010 before the original iPad was released. It has since been updated with new information following the announcement of iOS 5 and iCloud.

Is it possible for someone to use an iPad as their only computer? The short answer is “yes.” The longer answer is that all of the information we have about the iPad right now is still preliminary. Based on my current analysis I cannot see any reason that someone couldn’t use an iPad as their only computer.

But would you want to? Like any computer, it depends on what you’re going to do with it. Are you the type of person that mainly checks email and browses the web? The iPad is probably the best computer for you – I can’t imagine a better browsing experience on any other computer that is currently available. And, of course, you can download music, TV shows, movies, books, apps, and more directly from the iPad.

Likewise, people that are roadwarriors would also be well suited with the iPad. They get great browsing and email plus a very nice way to manage their contacts and what looks like the best user experience ever for keeping a calendar on a PC. Roadwarriors will also benefit from great prices on 3G cellular data service for the iPad and a computer that is always connected.

Of course there are people that can’t use an iPad as their only computer – for now. Some tasks people use their computers for are currently too complex for the iPad. For instance, graphic designers that use applications like Photoshop need to also have a Mac. Software developers need to stick with a PC that runs their developer tools. People with large music or photo libraries need more storage than the iPad currently allows. And people that edit photos or videos on their computer can’t make the switch. But, a lot of people don’t use their computers for any of that. And for those people, the iPad may be the perfect computer.

You’re probably thinking to yourself “why would anyone want to use an iPad as their only PC?” Because it’s better for them. It’s easier to use. They’re directly manipulating the interfaces instead of through two layers of abstraction – the mouse and the pointer. The screen is filled with the activity they want to focus on. They don’t need to bother with where to store files or how to install or remove applications. As easy as that is on a Mac, it’s easier on the iPhone and iPad. And they absolutely do not need to worry about any sort of system maintenance for the iPad like they do with their PC regardless of whether it is a Mac or runs Windows.

That said, there are a few questions that I have about the iPad when it comes to trying to use it as your only computer. I’m going to leave them in this article as open questions about the iPad and as I gather the answers I will write them up here.

Can it print?

Yes. Apple introduced AirPrint as part of the iOS 4 update.

No. According to Andy Ihnatko during his appearance on a special edition of MacBreak Weekly, the iPad does not support printing at a system level. So, you cannot print directly from Pages or any of the iWork apps. He did mention that there are apps for the iPhone that will allow you to print wirelessly and he expects to see updated versions of those for the iPad.

I’m surprised that it can’t. Hopefully this is something that Apple is working on for iPhone OS 4.0. The new printing features that Apple added to the latest version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, seem like they were created for the iPhone OS and the iPad. Snow Leopard will download and install printer drivers as needed. So, you can install Snow Leopard on your Mac without any printer drivers. The first time you try to print, the Mac will look for nearby printers and will download & install the appropriate drivers for you. It’s a seamless process and would work very well on the iPad.

Can it update its own OS without being connected to another computer?

When iOS 5 comes out in the autumn, it will be able to download iOS updates directlywithout connecting to another computer.

No. See the answer to the next question.

Is there a way to backup the iPad other than syncing with iTunes? Will a Time Capsule work?

Yes, iOS 5 will support backup to iCloud for free up to the first 5 Gigabytes. Additional capacity will be available for a currently unannounced fee.

No. Andy Ihnatko comments in his article Sure, the iPad is cool – but is it a real computer? on the Chicago Sun-Times that syncing with iTunes is “the only way to backup the device and the only way to apply a system update.”

How well does the photos app work at cataloging photos imported directly into the iPad from a camera or SD card using the Camera Connection Kit? Can you touch-up your photos?

The iPad and the Photos app do a good job of importing directly from a camera or SD card. And retouching photos is something that can be easily added by a third party app since they all have access to the photo library.

Plus, iOS 5 will build some basic photo editing tools into the Photos app and will enable organizing photos into albums directly on the iPad.

Can you initially setup an iPad based with content and settings from your previous computer as you can with a Mac?

You’ll be able to do this from an iCloud backup once iOS 5 arrives.

At this point the only way you can do this is by using iTunes on your previous computer to sync everything to the iPad.

Can it sync with an iPhone or iPod?

The release of iOS 5 and iCloud will keep iPads and iPhones in sync without a computer as an intermediary.

No. Only information that syncs over the air using MobileMe would sync between an iPad and an iPhone or iPod touch.

As you can see, Apple has addressed everyone of the issues I identified when the iPad first came out with features added in iOS 4 and to be added soon in iOS 5. The answer this autumn to the question “Can I use an iPad as my only computer?” will be a resounding “Yes!”

The iPad is for consumption not creation, right?

I truly don’t understand where it comes from, but a lot of people have in their heads that the iPad is only for consuming media. In TWiT 259, Leo Laporte says that the iPad is “regressive” because “it is for consuming, not for creating.” Mike Melanson wrote a piece for ReadWriteWeb called iPad SchmiPad in which he says that the iPad is for “couch sitters” and it isn’t useful for the “content creator type of user.” And Paul Thurrott says that “when you use an iPad, you’re typically not contributing to anything … you’re simply consuming” in his Understanding iPad piece (via John Gruber). Other people that have made similar statements include Dave Winer and Jeff Jarvis. It’s almost as if they were handed talking points.

This is plainly not the case. While the iPad is fantastic at consuming media, it’s also uniquely suited to foster creation in ways that a standard PC isn’t. Being able to sense the touch of every finger on both of someone’s hands lends itself to many forms of art. The additional user interface elements offered on an iPad (absent from smaller iOS devices) give it even more power for creative endeavors. The iPad is a wonderful device for all kinds of creation and this will only become more obvious in the coming months and years.

Brushes

Brushes is an amazing painting app for the iPad. Yes, it was developed for the iPhone first and some amazing work has originated there. Jorge Colombo is an artist that has created covers for The New Yorker on the iPhone!

But, the iPad can take this even further. The larger canvas of the iPad is an obvious benefit. Not so obvious is how much more fluidly someone can work with the pop-overs that are available on the iPad. It sure beats switching the entire screen between the canvas and tools as Brushes has to do on the iPhone. Another great thing about the iPad version is that you can easily hold the iPad in different positions as you paint. Holding the iPad “sideways” is just as natural as holding it the other way — and with Brushes you can turn the canvas but the tools rotate to always face the artist.

Here is some great art people have done with Brushes on the iPad.

iElectribe

I’ve always wanted a drum machine. But I could never justify paying several hundred dollars for one since I’m not a musician and I’d just be toying with it. Shortly after getting the iPad, I saw the guys from Area 5 record a demo of them making some beats on theirs with iElectribe. It was only $10 when I bought it, so it was a no brainer. It’s still a great deal at $20.

This app does almost everything I could do with a large hardware drum machine for a fraction of the price. And I don’t need to worry about finding space for it in the house! The large screen of the iPad gives enough space for all of the knobs and buttons you’d find on the hardware equivalent. And multi-touch means that you can twiddle multiple knobs at once to alter the sound. I’d like to point out that this is something you simply couldn’t do on a computer with a mouse and a keyboard.

Watch these videos showing iElectibe in action. They’re pretty amazing.

Pages

I have to mention Pages for two reasons. First, it along with Numbers and Keynote are what first signaled to me that the iPad is intended for more than just media consumption. I watched the event where Steve Jobs announced the iPad and I thought it was pretty cool. But the iPad had to be “The Future” before I was going to spend anything over a few hundred on it. And to me “The Future” meant it had to be a new way to do many of the tasks people rely on personal computers for. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote led the way and other fantastic productivity apps have followed (e.g. OmniGraffle, Things, Adobe Ideas).

The other reason I had to include Pages is because this article was written with it on my iPad.

Bebot

The best way for me to describe Bebot is to say that it transforms the iPad into a musical instrument. The entire screen becomes a surface that responds to your touch with sound. Each finger on the screen will play a different note depending on where you place it. And as far as I can tell from listening, it will play 11 different sounds from 11 different touches. This syncs up with some experimentation Matt Gemmell did with multi-touch on the iPad as well.

So, that’s how the iPad is uniquely suited to this application, but what are people doing with it? Well, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and his wife Mariqueen Maandig Reznor used Bebot on their latest album released under the band name How To Destroy Angels. You can hear Bebot played on “The Believers” and it sounds great. I may be cheating a little bit here, because Mariqueen actually played Bebot on an iPhone, but I’m sure she wishes she had the larger surface of the iPad at the time of the recording.

Create Different

These are but a few creative uses for the iPad, but it only takes a glance at the iPad section of the App Store to see many other ways to create with it. And the examples above show how the iPad is uniquely suited to creative endeavors. The iPad is no less creative than a PC, it’s just different. And over time it will most likely prove itself to be better suited to creation as Apple expands on the hardware line and adds new features to iOS.

10 things that suck about the iPad

I love the iPad. It’s a great new way for people to compute. And I think that within 5 to 10 years, the majority of computers will resemble the iPad more than today’s standard desktop or notebook computer. But, there are a few things that are wrong with it.

It can’t print

I know. The iPad is supposed to be another straw on the camel’s back as far as paper is concerned. But, it still needs to print for the time being. We’re not yet that interconnected. Providing some relief for the situation, HP is coming out with a line of printers that will print documents that are e-mailed to them. That assumes you have a way to get the printer on the Internet, though.

Something that a lot of people have mentioned is how many senior citizens are drawn to the iPad. There is even an 99-year-old woman in Portland that uses the large type capabilities of the iPad to overcome difficulties reading due to glaucoma. She also uses the Pages app to write limericks. Wouldn’t it be nice if she could print out some of her work to share with peers that don’t have an iPad?

And what about students that need to turn in papers they’ve written?

The puzzling thing about this is that most of the technology already exists to enable printing from an iPad.

Can’t shuffle by album

One of the reasons that I bought my very first iPod was because it could shuffle by album. I’d investigated CD jukeboxes at the time (this was in 2001) and couldn’t find one that would select a disc and then play all the way through it before selecting another at random — something you’d think was an obvious feature for a CD jukebox. Yet, here was this new portable music player thing called an iPod that did just that.

So, why can’t the most advanced devices from Apple today do that? iTunes does it. The iPod classic and iPod nano do it. Even the iPod shuffle can do it! But not the iPod touch, iPhone, or the iPad. I really thought this feature would make a comeback on the iPad. The only reason I can fathom it’s missing from the iPhone and iPod touch is because Apple couldn’t find a way to include it on a small touch screen that they’re happy with. But that’s no excuse on the iPad!

I can’t imagine that Steve Jobs doesn’t listen to albums anymore.

Icon shuffle

This is where I’d like to see Apple drop one of the iPad’s shuffle “features.” The icons on the home screen of the iPad are in a four by five grid. When you hold the iPad in portrait orientation there are four icons across and five down. In landscape, they are arranged to be five across and four down. The app in the top left is always in the top left, but the app that is top right in portrait becomes the first on the second row in landscape. This obviously leads to spatial confusion when trying to find the app you want to use.

What Apple should do is reorient the icons instead of rearranging the grid. The icons should just rotate 90 degrees to the left or to the right depending on which way the iPad is turned. The top left icon in portrait mode would change to be the bottom left icon in landscape mode, but it would retain it’s spatial location on the screen of the iPad. The end result would be much less disorienting because every icon stays in its right place no matter which way you hold the iPad. Gravity would appear to weigh the icon down by it’s label so that the icons and text would always be upright.

Get on it, Apple.

Has to sync with iTunes before it’ll do anything

It’s just disappointing to un-box your new iPad, turn it on, and find out that you need to connect it to iTunes before the iPad can do anything. And this really hampers someone’s ability to use an iPad as a stand-alone device or as their only computer.

Imagine buying an iPad from Best Buy while you’re on your way to your summer vacation destination. If you don’t know about this requirement and didn’t bring a computer with you, you’d be out of luck. I can’t think of a single reason why this is Apple’s out of the box experience with the iPad.

Separate iPod and iTunes apps

The iPod app on the iPad looks a lot like iTunes for the Mac, doesn’t it? So, why is there still a separate iTunes app? If you tap on the Get More Episodes button for one of your podcasts, the iPod app closes and the iTunes app opens. It’s a bit jarring.

This seems especially odd when you look at how nicely the iBooks app handles it. The store is integrated into the iBooks app. Tapping on a button transforms the app between the store and your library. It’s almost like how the newer versions of iTunes on the computer treat the iTunes Store. The Store can take over the entire window except for the playback controls along the top.

Was this a rush job or a conscious design decision?

Auto-brightness isn’t dynamic enough

The iPad is a device that is used in many different locations. It may be used in a living room with soft lighting, in a car on road trips, while dining at a restaurant, outside on a patio, in an office with harsh florescent lights, and in bed at night.

The current auto-brightness feature does not work well in all of these conditions. It needs to be more dynamic. If I’m outside in bright light, I need the brightness really cranked up. If I’m in bed without any lights on, I need it to drop down to a comfortable reading brightness. Admittedly, the brightness control in the iBooks app helps with this. But isn’t this device supposed to be magical?

Apple could provide a few options for the dynamic range of auto-brightness instead of the current on-off switch. Or, the iPad could learn from how the user manually adjusts brightness in specific conditions and match that.

Dealing with files is hard

The good news is that the version of iOS on the iPad is the first version that had any support for handling files. With it, you can use files across different apps and copy them between the iPad and a computer using iTunes. That is a huge step forward for iOS and one of the key ingredients that makes the iPad more useful when it comes to being productive.

The bad news is that it’s still hard to deal with files. If you copy a file to the iPad through iTunes, any changes that you make to it aren’t synchronized back to the original file. One would think the new iDisk app would help solve some of this. But it doesn’t. If you open a file from the iDisk with another app, it is imported into the other app much like when you copy a file using iTunes. Again, you now have two different versions of the same file.

Apple needs to fix this. It needs to be easier to synchronize files on the iPad with those elsewhere.

No unmetered Internet

The iPad was announced with an unlimited data plan from AT&T for $30 a month. That was a great way for people to get on the Internet that aren’t already. But AT&T changed their smartphone data plans shortly thereafter and the iPad now falls under those. An unlimited data plan is no longer offered.

Using 3G is a great way for people that are less technically inclined to get Internet service. They don’t need to buy a modem or a Wi-Fi base station. Just get the 3G iPad and the unlimited data packages and they’re set. Now they’ll have to get the 2 GB per month package and limit the amount of videos they watch. No so great for people that want to watch videos of family members on MobileMe or YouTube. And even worse if you buy or rent movies or TV shows from iTunes, Netflix, or Hulu.

Since the iPad isn’t locked to AT&T, this is an opportunity for another carrier to replace the plan AT&T abandoned.

No front facing camera

By now you’ve probably seen Apple’s FaceTime ads for the iPhone 4. Wouldn’t it be nice to do that on an iPad? Going along with the idea that the iPad is a great computer for people that aren’t comfortable with computers, it’s also a great way for these people to stay in touch over long distances. And with the extra screen real estate on the iPad, video chats with multiple people could be supported like iChat does on the Mac — assuming the iPad’s A4 processor is up to the task.

A lot of people think this will be one of the new features in the second generation iPad. But it sure would be nice to have now to get some FaceTime with iPhone 4 owners and other iPad people.

It doesn’t have a Retina Display

When I got my iPhone 4, I didn’t use my iPad at all for a couple of weeks because the iPhone 4 display is so good. It’s like looking at an exceptionally well printed glossy magazine page. When I finally did pick up the iPad, it felt good to use it again. I really do like the application designs that are possible with the larger screen and the extra controls that Apple provides for the iPad. But, the display does look a little fuzzy in comparison to the Retina Display on the iPhone.

Again, a lot of people assume that the next version of the iPad will come with a Retina Display and I hope they’re right. But, I worry that may be pushing it. I’m not sure Apple will be able to get a display that large at that high of a resolution without raising prices significantly.

Wireless printing coming to iOS 4

Apple has invited members of the press to an event tomorrow showcasing iPhone OS 4. One of the things I expect to hear about is system-wide support for printing. There are already a few apps that provide printing capability for the iPhone, iPod touch, and now the iPad. But, Apple hasn’t provided the a common printing capability that all apps could use.

When I was watching Steve Jobs’ announcement of the iPad, I thought it would be a neat device but wasn’t convinced that I needed one. That is, until the end of his presentation when he announced iWork for the iPad. On seeing those apps demoed, I was immediately struck with the idea that the iPad represents the future of personal computing. But I also assumed that I’d be able to print from those apps — so that I could still share with people living in the past.

It isn’t just iWork that made me think we would be able to print from our iPads. It’s also taking a look back at Snow Leopard through the lens of the iPad. The improvements to printing in that update to Mac OS X now seem as though they were driven by the need to bring printing to the iPad (iOS and Mac OS share a foundation). They solve the problem of identifying and installing the appropriate printer driver for the printer you want to use on a device that has no slot for a disc containing printer drivers. It’s a very slick and seamless process on the Mac that makes finding and setting up printers so much easier. But these improvements are an absolute requirement to print from the iPad. I have to think this was part of Apple’s long term plan for the iPad and the new user interface for printing simply didn’t make the cut for the iPad’s April 3 release — even though the foundation was already laid.

Lending further support to my speculation that we’ll see printing as part of Apple’s announcement about iPhone OS 4 tomorrow are some iPad support documents that were discovered. Those documents state that “printing directly from iPad is not currently available.” The wording is the key here and it’s Apple’s use of currently that implies that this problem is only temporary.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s announcement. If I am right about this, it is one more step towards the iPad being able to function as someone’s only computer.

Update: Wireless printing is coming in iOS 4.2 which is the first version of iOS 4 to run on the iPad. According to Apple, iOS 4.2 will be available in November 2010 for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.