The Night Owl Chooses Between the iPhone and the iPad

May 13th, 2010

This may seem to be an odd comparison. The iPhone is what is commonly known as a smartphone, a mobile device that handles wireless phone calls, plus email, Web access and other functions. You might compare the iPad more to a netbook, essentially a shrunken portable PC or even a regular note-book in terms of its basic functionality.

But I’m not concerned so much whether I can toss my MacBook Pro overboard, or sell it off. I’m more interested in how the iPad compares to the iPhone for my specific purposes. That’s all!

It all goes back to shortly after the iPhone’s 2007 debut. I received a review sample from Apple and, on the day I was about to return the unit, decided to buy one for myself, without a moment’s hesitation.

That was then, this is now.

With the iPad, I find my impressions rather more mixed, on the day before I’m due to return the unit to Apple. I received the 64GB Wi-Fi version for review, but didn’t bother to consider the 3G model. If I need access outside of the range of a hotspot, the iPhone will do that job nicely.

Part of my difficulties with the iPad are due to the fact that it feels just plain awkward. With the iPhone, it fits comfortably at hand, even in my bed. But should I grab an iPad instead, I have to hold it in two hands, and, usually, prop myself up on my pillow to use it comfortably when I need to enter text. As a consumption device, particularly reading e-books and watching videos, it’s simply marvelous. But that virtual keyboard is positively awkward under those circumstances. Indeed, I never did become that comfortable with the setup. Should I actually acquire an iPad down the line, I would expect it to fulfill reading and watching functions, and email and other text-based chores won’t get priority.

I do agree with such commentators as Adam Engst, who regards the iPad as a blank slate. Depending on your needs, and the applications you plan to run, it feels reasonably adaptable. But it doesn’t serve as the device I prefer to grab late at night, when I need to check for an important email message. For that function, the iPhone takes first priority.

I’m also not enamored with the Mail for iPad setup. Putting account and mailbox info in a separate pop-up menu makes it more difficult to see a full hierarchy of waiting messages in the various accounts I regularly use when I click the Mail icon. Apple will be adding a global Inbox in the iPhone 4.0 update, which may address that limitation somewhat. Right now, I’m willing to sacrifice the larger screen size and snappier interface for the single-handed, single-screen convenience of the iPhone.

So does that mean I don’t plan to buy an iPad. Well, forgetting any financial considerations, I admire the way Apple figured out how to solve the tablet dilemma. For years, beginning with Microsoft’s initial demonstration, PC makers have struggled to make sense out of the concept. They best they’ve managed to deliver was a regular PC note-book with a movable screen that can be managed by both keyboard and stylus. These days, they are struggling to add touch-based interfaces, simply because of the unexpected success of Apple’s mobile platform. They’ve failed.

Indeed, two of the notable tablet prototypes demonstrated at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show ahead of Apple’s iPad launch may never see the light of day. One came from Microsoft, which has a nasty habit of demonstrating product concepts that seldom see the light of day, or end up late, crippled and overpriced. Another tablet contender came from HP, but that seems to have vanished as the tech media ponders the impact of the purchase of Palm.

Yes, Palm was once successful with handhelds and with the first smartphones, but they have no experience whatever scaling even their latest user interface, WebOS, to a larger screen. Even assuming HP can rescue a failing company, it remains to be seen if they can expand the platform.

There’s also a report that Google is working on a tablet employing the Chrome OS. But the company has absolutely no experience with such products. That highly-touted Nexus One smartphone was merely an HTC product utilizing Google’s Android OS, but it was also largely perceived as a big failure in the marketplace.

With Apple, they do have the tradition of the original Newton and the eMate 300, which I suspect you can consider a progenitor of the iPad. It can also be considered the original netbook, if you want to take it that far.

With the iPad, certainly sales are off the charts. But once the initial adopters have their fill, will it last? I honestly haven’t a clue, nor do I know, yet, whether I plan to buy one. Maybe I’ll miss it after the one I have is shipped back to Apple. We’ll see.

| Print This Article Print This Article

4 Responses to “The Night Owl Chooses Between the iPhone and the iPad”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gene Steinberg. Gene Steinberg said: Here's my latest Tech Night Owl commentary: : The Night Owl Pits the iPhone Versus the iPad […]

  2. rwahrens says:

    I use my iPad all the time. 32 gig wifi.

    I agree that the integrated inbox may be easier, we’ll see. Yes, it is bigger, heavier, and requires more balance to use, especially for typing – but since most of my typing on it is usually short and sweet, that’s rarely an inconvenience.

    For longer typing jobs, there IS my MacBook, though!

    But mainly, it is my go-to machine for information. Web, documents, recipes, dictionary, reference manual for just about anything I own or need information about. It’s like having a reference librarian following me around the house, ready to provide any information I need, when I need it.

    My iPhone provides all that out of the house, albeit in a smaller format.

    My life would be simpler, yes, but much poorer in information without these two devices.

  3. John says:

    I noticed that my teenager became quite adept at typing on the iPad. Later when he borrowed my MBP for some homework he complained about all the typos he made because it was so hard to press the keys. Maybe this is a generational thing.

    I see the iPad coexisting with laptops and desktops. Especially as we see versions 2 then 3 the iPad will succeed quite nicely. If I get one for myself I can see using quite often for those short trips where it will serve well enough compared to the laptop and will be much lighter to carry. Moreover, the iPad is much less intrusive than a laptop. The laptop screen has to rise vertically in front of me acting as a barrier. The iPad lays flat in front of me and does not act as a barrier.

  4. Richard says:

    I think that the comparison of the iPad to a smartphone (whether iPhone or not) is the “correct” one. The same is true of netbooks. Neither is, or is intended to be, a replacement for a full featured laptop. You can’t do Photoshop on either of these devices, for example. It has been amusing to listen to complaints about the netbooks’ screens being small…just compare them to the screen of a smartphone and see what you think.

    I have stopped in at the Apple store on several times to check out the iPad. It seems that I find something else annoying about it every time I try it. I find that there is no chance of doing touch typing which would mean that I would have to carry a separate keyboard if I wanted to do that. I am sure that one of the third party vendors will probably come up with a better solution than the current options, but still…. It seems that people either believe Steve or not when it comes to Flash, but it is reality, even if Steve denies it. Not only that but it appears that Apple have chosen to return bogus “Safari can’t find (name of web site)” messages whenever the web site in question has ANY Flash content. It is not that it simply does not display the Flash content, it will not acknowledge that the web site exists. I would have expected something akin to viewing the web site with a Flash blocker.

    Frankly, the shape of the thing is odd and there is a lot of wasted space around the outside of the viewable surface of the screen. You would think that Apple could have made the device more compact for the given size of the screen or put a larger screen on the form factor. (It is a bit smaller than an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper.

    One of the positive comments that has been consistently made about netbooks is the ability to touch type. (They typically have a 92-93% keyboard.) They also typically weigh about a kilo. The iPad has that weight beat handily, but has no keyboard so add in the weight of one if you want a direct comparison.

    There are a lot of other restrictions on the iPad. No mini-USB or USB plug, not SD card slot, no HDMI out and so on. OK, what does the competition have? At the moment Apple is the first to market with the iPad, but there appear to be any number of vendors which will bring similar products to market before long based on the NVidia Tegra 2 ARM Soc. Early indications are that the Tegra 2 will outperform the Apple A4 in many respects and will have Mobile Flash implementation included in any of several OS configurations. NVidia have announced support for the Android OS which could mean an iPhone like migration of applications to the tablets.

    Steve has engaged in a rare public argument over the iPad “throwing stones” at a critic asking what has he ever created. The more interesting question to me is whether Steve is listening to anybody about the development of the iPhone/iPad platforms. They seem to fall short of what they could be and should have been.

    In between the iPad and iPhone sizes are the, as yet, missing Mobile Internet Devices (MID) which were supposed to balance screen size for legibility against overall size for convenience. Intel seems to be the odd man out in any of these product lines and they had hoped to gain processor sales for these devices. Battey life may well be king in these products which gives the ARM SoC solutions quite an advantage at the present time.

    Anyway, it is good to see comparisons of the iPhone and iPad rather than the iPad and laptops.

    P.S. GIZMODO had an interesting news item about iPad users in Spain being given a (mini) SIM card to use on the same data plan as their iPhone. That would be something which would greatly encourage the sales of the 3G iPads in the U.S. If something like this is not done I suspect that the Wi-Fi only iPad models will be chosen by most purchasers, if they get an iPad at all. If one is to restrict themselves to Wi-Fi use, there is no real reason not to use some device other than an iPad.

Leave Your Comment