iPad: The User Experience

With the imminent arrival of iPad 2 into our stores, the team here at Technology Voice began discussing what it is about the iPad that has made it such a success. Despite its perceived flaws (namely the lack of Adobe Flash or a USB port), Apple reports that it sold 7.33 million iPads in the last 3 months of 2010. Why?

In answering this question, the room was divided between those who regard it as merely a scaled up iPod Touch and those who view it as a can’t-live-without device. With this divergence in mind, we decided to investigate how iPad users interact with the tablet and what its true benefits are.

One of the main benefits appears to be the simple user interface which is quick to power up and allows instant access to items including emails, news, pictures or Facebook.

John Breslin sees the iPad as, “a casual device. If I really need to do something serious I’ll do it on the laptop. It’s more for casual browsing or for the kids for playing games. There are great things for kids on it, kind of educational games. My two-year old, you can see her doing puzzles on it that she would never be able to manage on a PC.

“It’s relaxed. When you’re sitting at a PC it’s not relaxed, you’re holding this thing like a book and it’s more casual. You’re not going to be in the same frame of mind doing stuff on a PC than you would be with this device.”

The question of style and marketing is never far from the discussion of an Apple device. Deborah Kemp, an avid Apple fan from Boston says, “There is this weird thing that happens with Apple devices where it’s hard not to want the latest/greatest version even if there’s nothing in the new package you really care that much about.”

Currently, Deborah owns the classic iPod, iPad 3G, MacBook Air, iPhone 4 and counting. Marketing appears to be a significant factor for why some users purchase this tablet device.

But there is more to the succes of the iPad than excellent branding. Lifehacker recently held an ad-hoc Facebook poll which revealed Evernote as a key app for users of the iPad. Evernote allows a user to save ideas, tasks, notes, webpages, photos, view PDFs and more. It can also be installed on other devices to sync content across a number of platforms.

For users who wish to obtain news and information, the iPad and other tablets have been attributed with the ability to provide news content in a more compelling format. It has even been noted that, “publishers hope that tablets will turn out to be the 21st-century equivalent of the printed page.”
  
Public consumption of news and media is expanding and the iPad offers a new platform for a consumer to digest it.

RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann), Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster, released a dedicated iPad application last month.

Executive Director of RTÉ Publishing, Múirne Laffan, explains why RTÉ chose to launch a dedicated iPad app, “It’s really not a case of one size fits all. The reason people are buying iPads is they can do something on them that they can’t do on an iPhone.”

“iPhone apps need to be simpler so that people can work their way around them. If you’re trying to touch something on a touch-screen that’s small — so many times you’ll end up hitting the wrong thing. You need something with less clutter. But with the iPad, given the size of the screen, you can get into more detail.”

Múirne believes that, “Media consumption isn’t declining, it’s actually growing whereby you were somewhat time-based or place-based with more traditional media in terms of; you read your paper in the morning, you watched television in the evening and you listened to the radio in your car. Now people are consuming media everywhere on the go all the time and that goes for TV, radio and print.”

“In terms of content, I think people are doing more with it, I think they’re engaging more, they’re sharing, they’re saying, ‘I like this article or feature’ and they’re pushing it out to their friends. I think that we’re becoming, not just content savvy, but I think were becoming bigger consumers of content.”

“With regard to how the iPad revolutionizes this, is that it makes up for the shortfalls in a smart phone and I think predominantly that’s size. It found a gap and the gap is that it’s bigger. But it’s still highly portable.”

On reflection, it seems that the success of the iPad is in its delivery of something extremely simple – a larger screen size while retaining portability – allowing for casual interaction with the device. Even if it is just a grander scale iPod Touch, this concept in itself has tapped into the needs of a network of users worldwide.

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One thought on “iPad: The User Experience

  1. I think what makes the iPad such an overwhelming win for me is that I can use it all day long without giving a thought to searching for a power point.On this most recent trip I have been seated in buses, trains, airplanes and obliged to hang out in in uncomfortable halls and station platforms. The iPad is much easier to use in cramped and otherwise awkward locations then either a laptop or a netbook.While I am not up to any kind of reasonable speed when it comes to typing on the device the iPad does score over the iPhone for being able to read longer, denser pieces of text either on the web or in PDFs.Since I can Skype on a wireless connection I think if I could only take one device out with me into the world it would be the iPad. It’s not perfect by any means but overall it would be more useful to me than either a laptop or an iPhone.

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