iOS App Innovation and iPad 2 Design Lead to Magic

After my attempt to pick up iPad 2 on opening day failed miserably, I had to settle for ordering one online and waiting four weeks. On Wednesday, my wait ended. My initial iPad 2 thoughts focus on two themes; app innovation and iPad design. 

After connecting iPad to iTunes (using the iOS umbilical chord) and running through the obligatory setup process, I was ready to take my iPad 2 for a spin. My first stop; the app store.  Instead of searching for a specific app, I found myself scrolling through the Featured and Top Charts lists. After one hour, I had installed 15 apps, 14 of which were free*. 

Apps. Apps. Apps. Without apps, iPad 2 would feel empty. I’m intrigued by the ongoing debate as to how to judge an application ecosystem’s health and popularity. Does it mean anything if Android reports more apps than iOS? Should I look at the number of app developers, or the growth rate of application submissions? Can I go by how quick a developers conference sells out as some indication of ecosystem success?

The most critical aspect of an app ecosystem (iOS, Android, HP webOS, Windows Phone 7) is app innovation.  Every time I check the Featured app list, I want to see new apps. When I check the Top Charts list, I want to see new apps.  I want to see strong app circulation.  This type of app innovation stands at odds against those who argue as long as an app platform has the 10-15 apps that I use most often, then the platform is healthy and I should be happy. I strongly believe this type of settling for the bare minimal will lead to stagnant app buyers that become disenfranchised with routinely searching and paying for apps. 

With 15 apps downloaded and my iPad 2 in hand, I sat on my couch and it wasn’t long before I lost track of time. 

After a few minutes of using iPad 2, I found myself forgetting that I was using iPad 2. My entire thought process was given to the app that I was using.  While iPad looks and feels amazing, the iPad dissolves away when in use, exactly how Apple planned it. Remove the intermediary and let users interact directly with innovation.  I don’t care what’s inside or isn’t inside iPad 2, as long as iPad 2 has the ability to run the highest quality apps possible.  iPad 2 meets this goal. When I see iPad competitors spend precious commercial space discussing product specifications, similar to the laptop wars of the early 2000s, I can only laugh.  

Random bytes:  Although iPad 2’s Safari is adequate for web surfing, I’m having a much better experience using apps to access website content.  I always think back to a Wired article published a few months back, titled “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet”. While the author was somewhat off with the concept of “The Web” , I agree with some of his general ideas; primarily that Apps are changing the way we use the Web. I find myself turning to apps instead of surfing the Web through a search engine. 

Drawbacks: Overall, I did find it somewhat hard to type on iPad 2.  The onscreen keyboard is not wide enough for normal typing, even with iPad 2 turned horizontally on its side.  I also found having the onscreen keyboard displayed horizontally was subpar because of the amount of screen real estate that it took up. I’ve been finding myself using one finger to type (similar to the iPhone) and this can make certain tasks difficult.

I also have a number of questions on transporting iPad 2 safely. Should I put iPad 2 in a backpack, briefcase, or carry it in hand?  I don’t have a smart cover (yet), but what about the back of the iPad and possible scratches or scuffs?  I am leaning towards buying some type of pouch to put it in (which then can go in another bag), but it’s the first time that I actually felt the need to buy some type of protection for an iOS device, which I’m not thrilled about. I would hate to cover something up that was meant to be seen.

Overall, my iPad 2 has exceeded my lofty expectations.  Interestingly, I am finding specific and distinct uses for my three primary Apple products (Macbook - typing, iPhone 3GS - continuous communication,  iPad 2 - apps and entertainment).  I believe the iOS ecosystem has reached an inflection point where app innovation now has enough momentum to self-sustain itself (given continuous product innovation from Cupertino). In the coming weeks, I will lay out my argument for why I think the iOS ecosystem is in a solid position compared to other mobile platforms and how app innovation will ultimately decide the winners and losers in this ongoing technology revolution.  Stay tuned. 

*I am still hesitant to pay for applications without knowing how often I will utilize the app. As I have said for months, a better app store with the ability to preview and test drive paid apps would be beneficial.