Article Date: 7/1/2010

First Impressions of the iPad
technology focus

First Impressions of the iPad

While not for everyone, this tablet computer offers impressive features.

JOHN WARREN, O.D.

With all the hype surrounding the iPad, it may be beneficial to begin with a definition: The iPad is a 1.5-lb. touchscreen tablet computer with a 9.7-inch display. Apple, Inc. — it's manufacturer — promotes the iPad as "the best way to experience the web, email, photos and video." It can run thousands of apps (applications), a growing handful of which are geared toward healthcare practices, such as optometry.

In this article, John Warren, O.D., offers his first impressions of the iPad.

I've had my iPad since April, and it's getting easier to use. Here are my very early impressions:

User interface

The device's user interface is very "Apple-like," or intuitive. All the apps are organized in a grid of icons. Tap an icon, and the app opens. A "home" button, located below the screen, takes users out of any app and back to the homepage. To access the iPad's search function, simply double tap on the home button.

Keyboard

The large, onscreen keyboard makes typing a relatively easy task — I'm writing this review on it actually. It's not something that you'll want to use for composing longer documents, but it works quite well for a few hundred words. If onscreen typing is too awkward, you can purchase an iPad Keyboard Dock, as an accessory, for $69.

Surfing the 'net

The iPad is a great device for web surfing — holding the browser in your hands is quite something. All iPads are equipped with Wi-Fi. The iPad is also available in Wi-Fi + 3G versions (starting at $629) for fast cellular network access. These 3G iPads require a service plan from AT&T.

iPad

HEIGHT: 9.56 inches
WIDTH: 7.47 inches
DEPTH: 0.5 inch (13.4 mm)
WEIGHT: 1.5 lbs., 1.6 lbs. with Wi-Fi + 3G configuration
CAPACITY: 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB flash drive
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Mac: Mac OS X v10.5.8 or later, USB 2.0 port, iTune 9.1 or later PC: Windows 7; Windows Vista; or Windows XP Home or Professional with Service Pack 3 or later; USB 2.0 port, iTunes 9.1 or later
PRICE: $499 to $829

There's an app for that?

One eyecare-specific app that I use frequently is the EyeDock app, a source of contact lens data. And while the iPad offers thousands of other apps, at the current time it doesn't offer many eyecare-specific apps, or any of the practice management software/electronic health records packages, as the device lacks Adobe Flash support. (This omission also hampers those who surf web pages that include streaming videos that were developed with Adobe Flash.) However, using remote access solutions, such as "Team Viewer," on the iPad will allow you to have a remote session on another computer, which is a work-around for access to data in programs that can't be run on the iPad.

Look for more healthcare-related apps for the iPad as time goes by.

Native application

The native application on the iPad will look very familiar to iPhone or iPod touch users, as all three run on the same operating software (iPhone OS). The difference: Apple, Inc. has enhanced many applications on the iPad to take advantage of the device's large screen size. Calendar, Contacts and Mail all have a similar look to their iPhone counterparts, but on the iPad, they appear larger and have enhanced features.

Applications that run on the iPhone all run on the iPad, and you can use the "2X" function on the iPad to double the size of the screen from that of the iPhone. This works fairly well, but does result in somewhat jagged images on some of the applications that were initially developed for use on the iPhone.

With prices starting at $499, the iPad fits a computing niche between laptops and smartphones.

For now, the iPad is a real hit, at least for me. It replaced my laptop on an overnight trip where I gave a presentation.

Using a $30 video graphics array (VGA) adapter, I was able to send the presentation from the iPad to the LCD projector flawlessly.

(While the device doesn't run PowerPoint, or any Microsoft Office applications, it can open and edit Office documents through Apple, Inc.'s iWork suite software.)

Having a 1.5-lb. device with me as my computing/e-mailing/web surfing device, with a screen several times as large as a smart phone, was refreshing for sure!

Filling a niche

The iPad isn't for everyone and every task. For example, retrieving files from an iPad is not as simple as plugging in a thumb drive. This is because the iPad contains no ports for external drives. You'll need to e-mail files or save them to a shared folder on the device, which can be accessed by another computer through iTunes.

The same goes for printing files. But for the price (iPads start at $499), it does a great job of fitting in the niche between laptops and smart phones. With software and hardware upgrades sure to come, I think that the personal digital device space has been changed, for the better and for good. OM


DR. WARREN IS IN PRIVATE PRACTICE IN RACINE, WISC. HE HAS NO FINANCIAL INTEREST IN THE IPAD. YOU CAN E-MAIL HIM AT JWARRENOD@GMAIL.COM.

Optometric Management, Issue: July 2010