Top 10 Problems with the iPad

Posted by Minnaar Pieters 23 Aug 2010
For the last month my iPad has changed my computing patterns quite a bit – my Macbook Pro has been staying at home on most trips, which I did not really believe would happen. However, not all is great with the iPad. While Apple might sketch a very rosy picture, there is a few shortcomings which I believe should not have been there in the first place. 

 1)      Multitasking
This is my major hangup with the iPad – in fact I think its pretty silly of Apple to release the iPad without it. While everyone was clamouring for multitasking on the iPhone, I have to say that I realised later that it wasn’t something that I used all that much. Sure, its nice to have, but it was not really such a big deal (except maybe for navigation apps). But on the iPad it’s a necessity. Having to exit out of an app to go copy something from another app is getting old mighty quick.

2)      Improved Notifications
Apple’s current notification method is pretty sucky. The whole idea where my notifications are static on screen is tired. Android’s implementation is much more slick – the pull down tray from the top of the screen is much better. On a device like the iPad where a multitude of apps might be wanting to notify me, a proper notification scheme is needed. All that screen real estate and all I get is little popups and badges on icons?

3)      Folders
One of the greatest parts of the iPad is the big bright screen – it is still better than just about any tablet PC on the market today. On the iPhone the cramped screen creates a necessity where screen icons need to be easy to touch, and therefore a typical user can browse through many pages of icons. On the iPad it gives the impression of an unfinished product – we need folders so that we arrange the icons. Frankly, this should have arrived on the iPad.

4)      A revised Universal App policy
So far the apps available for the iPad has slowly improved, with most of the apps focussing on rewriting of existing iPhone apps, with next to no additional functionality. The worst part is that some developers have the odacity to simply slap “HD” at the end of the title, and asking double the price. I am pretty sure that a large percentage of the iPad user base is iPhone users as well – therefore people who would prefer to have universal apps that run on both platforms, but most importantly, carry a one time cost. Now many apps have done the right thing and made their apps universal, but I believe Apple should insist apps be made universal if they do not improve on the iPhone version. A good example is Beejive. I paid $10 for it on iPhone, now I have to pay $10 for the iPad version? Please.

5)      An improved App Store interface
Currently the iPad Appstore is not really logically arranged. Instead of following the tried and tested iPhone formula where top selling apps bubble to the top. On the iPad it takes a few clicks to see the top selling apps of a certain category. Small thing, but irritating nonetheless.

6)      Wireless Sync
I was never one of those people that did not like iTunes – I liked its organization of my music library and its reasonably simple, no drills interface. But over time it has become quite a pig – while the interface has remained quite similar, Apple had to make it compatible with its ever increasing range of iDevices, and the result is its current overweight self. Even the name iTunes is misnomer – its not like playing music is the only thing it does. iHub might be more apt, with it becoming the center of your digital entertainment. But problem number one is that devices like the iPad need iTunes just to activate. And then it needs to be plugged into iTunes just to do a music sync. With the iPad’s large battery and fast wireless N networking, why cant it do it without a cable? The iPad should move away from relying on your computer just to switch on.

7)      Printing
At present this is non-existant on the iPad. If you want to print something with the iPad, you need to send the file to a computer, and print it from there. Again, the iPad relies on your computer. This should be built into iPad, and I am sure Apple can figure out a way to handle the mess of printer drivers. In fact, if there is one area of computing that I think most people agree is still terrible, its printers. Im not asking for iPrinter, the driver and setup method must be universally refreshed. (Getting off the point here, I know.)

8)      A file structure
Now I know many people will say that this goes against the very simplicity that makes the iPhone/iPad successful. But at present, iTunes’s file syncing is a very poorly implemented solution. At the very least, Apple should allow me to sync file structures and folders between my PC and the iPad. Why must I manually choose which files I want to send to my iPad? I have enough space on there – let me sync them all please. Also, the current API of opening a file in another app is a welcome change, but more apps need to use it.

9)      Improved iPhone app rendering
At present iPhone apps on the iPad look very bad. If Apple can make older low res iPhone apps render next to perfectly on the iPhone’s retina display, surely they can make the same effort on the iPad. Especially with the app updates now all addressing the Retina display, images, buttons and text should all look better on the iPad’s display as well right?

10)   More transparency on Software Updates
First off, I know Apple and “transparency” cannot really be mentioned in the same sentence. But with the iPad, Apple has a responsibility to improve on all these aspects, and quickly. The iPad should have arrived with iOS4 out of the box – and the current “Fall 2010” timeline is not really specific.

You will notice that most of my issues can be fixed with a software update – that because I believe the iPad hardware is pretty close to perfect. Sure, it can stand to lose a few grams, and it might be better with a SD card reader built in, but all in all I think the form factor is pretty perfect.

Not that its all bad news – I honestly believe that these “slimmed down” computers are the way forward, and that our general computing pattern will change in the future. I am on the fence whether people will prefer smartphones or tablet devices, but my first instinct tells me that smartphones will win the battle, but the iPad might be prefered by many people who don’t want to tinker with small touch screens.

What I do agree with however is Steve Jobs’s analogy of how our computing patterns might follow the way we use cars. Instead of everyone driving trucks (lets just call them big, tough vehicles), people have started shifting towards smaller, more focussed vehicles like cars. The typical user does not do any computationally intensive tasks on their computers anymore – our usage of computers have shifted towards web-browsing based scenarios completely. The upcoming release of Google’s Chrome OS is typical of this – why use a full operating system when our usage is primarily concerned with web platforms?

And that is why the iPad is doing so well at the moment – we have changed our entire computing pattern, and the iPad is the ideal machine for that. Now bring on the competition please. HP – I am looking at you.
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I am a R&D Analyst in Stellenbosch South Africa who has a immense passion for all things tech related. I embrace technology, open source and web standards, and I participate and contribute to the social web.