iPad Wallpaper

One of the easiest ways to customise your iPad is to change the background wallpaper. It comes with a number of wallpapers but you really want to add your own. Already there’s a few sites that have sprung up that makes it easy to find and download great walls sized perfectly for the iPad.

InterfaceLIFT

InterfaceLIFT has offered great wallpapers for years so it’s no surprise that they have stepped up and built a category specifically for iPad. Already offering more than 250 walls there’s a great variety on offer.

iPad Walls

A new site, iPad Walls offer a large number of perfectly sized walls that are split into a number of categories.

iPad Wallpapers That Don’t Suck

This site is probably my favourite of the three as it pulls together the best of the walls out there on a great tumblr site.

So there you have it – three sites with more than enough walls to suit everyone’s tastes.

iPad – Future of Digital Magazines?

The iPad will save journalism, the newspaper and magazine industry. That’s been the cry since before the iPad was announced but now that the iPad is out, is the hyperbole justified?

The magazine that got the most attention prior to iPad launch was Wired. They had partnered with Adobe and developed a Adobe Air based magazine format that could be exported and ran on the iPad. Apple’s developer rule changes in April that banned cross-compilers from being used to create app’s meant that a rethink on that approach had to be done. Wired still made the iPad launch and there’s no doubting it’s an impressive app but is it the future of publishing?

When the iPad app store opened this was my first download. It was also one of the longest – just one issue of Wired is over 500mb in size. Wow. That helped me make the jump from an iPad of 32GB to 64GB. I’ll cover more of why the app is so large later on. The app launches quickly and takes you straight to the cover page of Wired. One of the main advantages of the digital edition is the addition of audio, video, photo’s and other interactive elements. Take the cover – How Pixar Works which is an article on Toy Story 3. The bottom left of the cover has a little black button which once pressed launches a clip from Toy Story 3 – very nice. Not obvious at first but the story headings on the right hand side of the cover jump to the article in the magazine. The jump is quick and the page renders smoothly. Great – I want to jump back. Grrrrr – no back button. If Wired learn one thing, please add a back button as it really hampers navigation.
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Recommended iPad App’s

It’s only been out in the UK for a few days but there is already a great range of software available for the iPad. Here’s our top picks from the app store.

Air Video

Air Video is an app for viewing video content stored on your local Mac. Once the helper app is installed on your Mac you setup shares to your video folders, in my case movies and tv. Via the iPad app you can then browse to the folder and select a video to watch. Playback is crisp and it makes for a great viewing platform. The real magic is that Air Display will do queued conversions of video files including mkv’s. If that wasn’t enough it also does live conversions. Pick an mkv, wait a few seconds and playback begins. The quality is excellent and again playback is smooth. If you have any video content stored on a Mac this really is an essential iPad app especially considering the price is £1.59. Bargain.
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iPad Review

It’s one week since I got my grubby little paws on the iPad. So whats the verdict? How does it feel? Is it worth it? As usual with Apple the packaging is excellent and without much fuss you’ve got the iPad out of the box and switched on. It comes pre-charged (around 85%) so you can switch on and use the iPad straight away.

It feels great in the hand but heavier than I expected, although considering it’s metal and glass with two large batteries in it thats no real surprise. The screen is clear and has a great viewing angle. Photo’s really pop on the screen – it’s a great device for viewing and sharing photo’s with. However it’s very reflective – I’ve not had a problem in finding a position for me to view the screen but it can be difficult when demoing to others. It’s also a fingerprint magnet. You really do need to carry around a small screen cloth for when it gets gunked up especially when everyone wants a shot of your iPad. I’ve not had another device that so many people want to touch and play with. Almost all walk away with an envious grin.

Anyway, back to the review. The first launch will allow you to play with the default app’s. Straight away you notice how fast this is – web pages load quickly but pinch to zoom on a web page, photo’s etc is instantly responsive. Everything on the iPad feels so much quicker compared to the 3GS. Using a touch screen of this size also makes certain tasks easier/quicker. Browsing, viewing photo’s, video scrubbing is a very intuitive action on the iPad. It doesn’t take to long though before you want to put your content on it – your videos, music and most importantly, your app’s. Enter the iPad’s achilles heel – iTunes.

Plugging the iPad into iTunes for the first time was painful. Not only is the first sync slow as it transfers over selected music, video’s etc but unless you uncheck app’s it will transfer over every iPad AND iPhone app in your library. For me that was a lot of app’s. It also meant a lot of app’s to remove as I don’t really want many of the iPhone app’s on the iPad. After around an hour of syncing I’d realised the error of my ways. Two options to remove the app’s. I could remove the app’s one at a time on the iPad but surely there was an easier way in iTunes – filter by iPad or iPhone for example? No. I had to check each app individually that I wanted to remove. iPad and iPhone app’s were grouped together in one list. Uggghhhh – nasty. After I’d re-synced I was up and running.

With the app’s installed the iPad was transformed. I think it’s a great device for consuming content – video’s look great and books, magazines and comics are very readable. After using the iPad it’s even more of a surprise that the iPad launch didn’t come with some magazine content software like iBooks for books and iTunes for music and video. I’ve mentioned that iTunes word again. Another -ve is the file management that Apple have introduced for the iPad. In the App’s section of your device within iTunes there is now a File Sharing option. Select the app in the left hand box and either upload content or save content from the iPad.

This is only available when the iPad is hooked up to your machine. It’s a clunky solution to file management and one that I hope is addressed soon. You can’t create folders of content, it’s not browsable from Finder and it screams out for something new. I can’t believe that the Apple iPad apps (Keynote, Numbers and Pages) don’t have some built in synchronisation to Mobile Me, never mind to something like DropBox. GoodReader allows you to connect wirelessly to a PC or Mac and content can then be uploaded with ease – why can’t Apple offer that as a default option for all app’s? In fact, where is wireless sync?

This is even more frustrating as my iMac won’t charge the iPad. It turns out that you need quite a lot of current to charge the iPad so there area lot of devices that won’t charge the iPad via USB. So when I’m connecting to sync data the iPad isn’t being charged! I only hope that Apple, maybe even on June 7th, will announce some serious improvements to their cloud services. MobileMe doesn’t justify the yearly fee and beta offering iWork.com just doesn’t cut it. MobileMe/iDisk isn’t even available for the iPad as an app which is a serious omission or a sign that something new is coming soon. If they offered a service like DropBox, coupled with 20GB instead of 2GB, serious integration with iPad and iPhones and wireless sync, possibly to a cloud based iTunes then I’d be delighted. Without it, Google is in a really strong position as Android has caught up with iPhone OS.

Thankfully the battery life is excellent. The tech spec’s quoted 10 hours and it really is that good. I’ve used the iPad extensively over the last week and only had to charge it once. That partly explains the weight but it also means the iPad is a great replacement for a laptop for those frequent travellers. One hardware feature not yet mentioned is wi-fi or 3G? I spent a long time debating which iPad version to buy as the 3G version is £100 more expensive. One option was to go the mi-fi route but I eventually plumped for 3G and I’m glad I did. The iPad without connectivity is an empty experience and although the 3G route is more pricey, it’s far more convenient and makes it a take anywhere device. We’ll have a post up soon comparing the various 3G and wi-fi options but I’d really advise getting the 3G version or at least budgeting for a mi-fi.

The iPad comes with only a USB connector. No headphones, no dock and no case. Apple really likes to sting you with add-ons! The first thing I needed was a case. I would be travelling with the iPad and wanted to protect the screen. I picked up an Incase Convertible Book Jacket at launch but that was quickly returned. The iPad slips out slightly in this case and reviews from America show that this only gets worse with time. I plumped for the standard Apple case which is a lot better than it initially felt. It’s a snug fit, gives access to all ports and protects the iPad without adding much bulk which was another annoyance with the Incase. Connectivity is covered by picking up the Camera Connection Kit. This connects to the dock connector and gives you a USB or SD slot. I use it to download images from the Canon 550D – I can view images on the iPad and even do a first pass sort on images I want to delete before heading back home. More surprising is that there are a number of other USB devices it supports – headphones and mic’s for example are supported depending on how much power they require.

As for the dock, it’s pretty disappointing. Well, thats probably not fair. If you are using the iPad without a sleeve the dock is good. Stable and sturdy, about it’s only downside is that it forces you to use the iPad in portrait mode only. However with a sleeve fitted the dock is unusable and the Apple sleeve isn’t easy to remove. So I’ll be returning my dock. In it’s place I’ve been using the
BookArc for iPad from Twelve South. This allows the iPad to be stored in portrait or landscape with the dock cable attached. Also, the insert that holds the iPad can be changed to one that allows for an iPad with an Apple case to be held in position. This is great for watching video tutorials on the iPad while working on the iMac or for looking up manuals keeping the iMac screen clear. Using the iPad for creating content is actually very good. In landscape mode, the keyboard is almost the same size as a normal keyboard and I’ve created this post mostly on the iPad along with a few other posts recently. Sound is also a lot louder than iPhone’s/iPod’s. You can feel a slight vibration from the bass and it means around the house there are is no need for headphones. One little niggle – the home button is the same size as the home button on the iPhone. I find it’s easy to lose where it is – top or bottom, which side etc as you move from portrait to landscape to suit the app your using.

So, the final verdict. Can the iPad replace a computer? If not, what’s missing? The iPad needs a computer to work – thats the only way to get software updates and backup the device fully. It also can’t print although that allegedly is coming soon. While it’s not a computer replacement it’s a great computer supplement. If you’ve currently got a desktop and laptop then I can see the iPad acting as a laptop replacement for the majority of users. It’s a great couch device, perfect for use in front of the TV. Quiet, cool, long battery life and with a screen large enough to do around 80-90% of my laptop tasks. Surf, e-mail, game, watch videos, read books and magazines, look up IMDB, buy your shopping, listen to audio – the list goes on.

It’s been a great purchase for me and the surprising result is that the new iPhone isn’t the stick on it once was. If I’ve got some spare time it’s the iPad, not the iPhone I reach for. If I’m at the airport it’s the iPad not the iPhone I reach for. It’s not without shortcomings, especially around file management, but for a device only a week old it’s got a surprisingly large software library that makes great use of the platform. This will only get better with the upcoming iPhone OS4.0 release later this year and hopefully an improved cloud solution from Apple. So have you bought an iPad? What did you like/dislike – leave a comment and let us know.

This Is It

Friday May 28th. This was the day of the iPad launching internationally. Initially I wasn’t sure about picking up an iPad. Shakeel was even more doubtful. We’d seen the reviews but how useful would it be? Is it really that fast and usable? Then a couple of weeks ago at our talk at Glasgow MUG we finally saw an iPad in the flesh. That cemented it for me that the iPad was a buy I wanted to make. My MacBook Pro also broke which meant I had no portable device for the essential surfing and tweeting in front of the TV. So for the last few days we debated what size and whether it should be wifi only or 3G. Size was easily settled when I started downloading app’s on Wednesday evening – some were huge!

So it was a cold morning in Glasgow when we joined the queue at the Apple store. There looked to be around 50 odd people and this was around 06:30 which was more than I expected. It wasn’t long after that the Apple staff started walking around letting us know the first 50 would go into the store and they would be assigned a personal shopper who would help us to buy the iPad, accessories and sims. Say what you will about Apple but they definitely know how to launch a product.

With the help of a Starbucks or two the time passed quite quickly. With five minutes to go the Apple staff did a run around the block whooping and a cheering. Fair play – it did help to build a bit of excitement but rather them than me. Then at 08:00 the doors were opened and we trooped in. Thankfully we were in the first 50 so got some heat. I was surprised how quickly people were served and we were both out of the store by 08:30 with our 64GB 3G iPads. I should note that the buying experience was pretty unique. We were brought into the store and each customer got an individual personal shopper who introduced themselves, asked what we were looking for, ran around (literally) to pick up any accessories we may have wanted and them completed the purchase. No hard sell of insurances, add-ons etc. A big well done the the team at Glasgow Apple store as it looked to go incredibly smoothly.

Thinking back to the queue, one aspect that stood out was variety. If you’d ask me who’d be there on a crisp May morning I would have guessed male 20-30 year olds, not all wearing black turtlenecks, but not far off. The age range was massive and demonstrates why Apple is so successful. A computer and eco-system oft criticised as being closed and restrictive but to the majority of end users that doesn’t matter – the Apple platform is easy to use and the hardware is some of the best designed in the industry. Not only that, everyone knows someone that has an iPod. One chap that stood out was an elderly gent wearing a cap not disimilar to one that Shak frequently wears. We saw him pass by but it was only when we were inside the store that we realised he was queuing for an iPad. Maybe for a relative or grandchild?

No. It turns out the chap, William Boyd, was buying his first computer – an iPad. At the grand old age of 78 he wanted an iPad for internet, e-mails and things like that. Main reason for choosing the iPad – simplicity. Great story and one that sums up Apple’s popularity. There’s products aren’t for everyone but they appeal to a broader base than any other tech company.

Another aspect of the shopping experience – Apple store employees were more than happy to pass you on to an expert who would take you through the setup of your iPad, how to use it and how to get the best out of it. You don’t get that at PC World (although you could also buy the iPad on launch day from there if you wanted). I declined as I wouldn’t get to play with the iPad for another 12 hours or so due to a works outing. Thankfully we did take a holiday on Friday as our photo appeared in many papers on Friday and Saturday. Geek fame. By all accounts sales were pretty brisk in the UK which I didn’t really expect. Also surprised that 3G models seem to be most popular.

So after the queuing and waiting the big question – how good is the iPad? In the last 48 hours I’ve tried to do as much on it as possible, including crafting this blog post. It’s a remarkable device and those that say “it’s a big iPod touch” either haven’t used one or don’t get it. Speed, battery life and portability coupled with a great screen and a fantastic line up of app’s at launch make for a superb experience. There are many cons which we’ll cover in the next post but there are two thoughts that I have today which I didn’t expect. One is that the iPad and a desktop computer are a combination that works really well for me – no laptop required. Second – the next iPhone isn’t the guaranteed purchase that I’d originally budgeted for.