Two Weeks with the iPad 2

When you break down our interactions with computing devices, they really fall into one of three core categories, which I'm conveniently labeling the "3 Cs of Computing":
  • Creating
  • Communicating
  • Consuming
Writing code, developing programs, editing video... hell, even blogging (at least long-form blogging)... these are all things that fall into the category of "creating". These are the things that require an actual computer, one that has a large monitor, full-sized keyboard and true multi-window multi-tasking. 

However, more and more, communicating and consuming can be done on a smaller-scale device, and I've found that the iPad 2 really meets my needs for those categories. 

Flash back to a year ago when the original iPad came out. I decided to pass on it for a few reasons, but primarily because everything I could do with an iPad I could also do with my perfectly good MacBook Pro. Sure, I had other reasons, but that was the big one. However, over the last year, I've come to realize that my 15-inch MacBook Pro is NOT an ideal consumption device. It's too large to reasonably use on an airplane, too hot to use in bed and too bulky to use on the couch. The iPad is the solution for all of these things. 

When I returned from Miami with my iPad last week, the first thing I did was consolidate all my household computing to my docked MacBook Pro, because within two days of ownership, I realized that the iPad would supplant it when it came to in-home portability. I'm using a computer on my couch or in my kitchen or in my bed, it's really for small-scale communicating (Twitter, Facebook, quick e-mails, etc.) or consuming -- browsing websites, reading comics, watching movies, listening to music, and so on. And the iPad has been PERFECT at doing that. 
I've reached the point where I'm comfortable leaving my personal computer at home on a day-to-day basis and just bringing my iPad with me for e-mail, video, music and other similar purposes. I'm even considering leaving the MacBook Pro at home when I go to San Diego this summer, especially now that I've got it working as the centerpiece of an incredibly convoluted desktop solution (external monitor, multiple external hard drives, multiple media serving apps, etc.).

As I mentioned in my iPad purchasing post, I got the 32 GB iPad with Verizon 3G data. I haven't actually activated a data plan yet on it, so I couldn't tell you how good Verizon's service is -- I mainly got the 3G version instead of Wi-Fi only as a protection against obsolescence and a backup data option for when I travel. I haven't had any of the Wi-Fi problems that some people have been complaining about, and the iPad has been more than sufficiently fast when browsing and streaming.

Of course, the iPad is really only as good as the applications on it, since any piece of hardware without apps is useless, and here are the ones that have made my iPad fit my needs, not including the obvious bundled apps (Mail, Safari, Video, Photos, iPod, etc.):
  • Twitter: when I signed up for a Twitter account about 18 months ago, I had no idea how important it would become in my life. I tried out a couple third-party apps, but I'm really impressed with Twitter's own iPad app. It's leaps and bounds better than the one for the iPhone. Sometimes it's a little wonky when choosing the "copy link to tweet" option, and it crashes a little too frequently right now, but I like it enough to stick with it.
  • AirVideo: until I got my iPad, I'd been using Orb as my iTunes-to-iDevice streaming solution, since Orb also does computer-to-computer streaming. However, with my MacBook Pro now serving as the iTunes server, rather than a device I'm streaming TO, AirVideo meets my needs, and has proven to be much more reliable on both ends (server and player)
  • OPlayerHD: speaking of video playback, I digitally record all the TV I watch, and eventually re-encode it for iTunes. But I generally only do that encoding once a week, so OPlayer has been a Godsend for handling non-iPad compatible video in the interim (note: AirVideo also handles it pretty well, but OPlayer allows me to load it to the iPad and take streaming out of the equation). 
  • Stanza: it's not a flashy app by any means, but it allows me to read all sorts of digital book file types I throw at it. I'm mostly using it for comics right now (along with the official Marvel app), but it handles regular books too. 
  • Cinq Photo: I haven't seen a lot written about this app out there, but it's basically like AirVideo for iPhoto. I didn't want to take up too much of my 32 GB on synced photos, so this works nicely. It's not the fastest app in the world, but given the size of some of my events, I wouldn't expect it to be either. It also doesn't seem to play videos stored in iPhoto, but that's a very minor complaint for what I'm using it for.
Also, I've been very impressed with the NBA Gametime app, but I honestly don't spend too much time in it, since I'm usually tweeting when I'm watching NBA action. The NCAA's official March Madness app is really impressive too, but it's only useful for another week. 

As for apps that are missing? Well, I'd really like an official Facebook app. The site doesn't work flawlessly on the iPad, and the iPhone app is a poor substitute, given the screen size. I'd also kill for a Quicken app -- one that syncs with Quicken Essentials for the Mac -- since I like to keep track of my finances throughout the day, and that's the one thing I can't really do without my computer (I've tried using -- I don't like it). 

While some people may be able to use the iPad as a total computer replacement, I can't. However, I didn't expect the device to do that. What I did expect it to do was allow me to treat my computer more like a centralized hub, while using the iPad as a consumption node, and that's exactly what it's done for me so far.