My iPad has arrived – now I’m iHappy

At last, four long weeks after placing my pre-order and 12 days after the official UK launch, my iPad was finally delivered this afternoon.

The Apple iPad

Waiting, waiting, waiting …

It’s my own fault I had to wait nearly two extra weeks for mine to arrive, having hesitated for two days before placing my order, by which time the initial batch of stock had already been allocated. Since then it has felt a bit like Chinese water torture as the timeline slowly unfolded:

  • May 28th: Launch date. A few friends managed to secure their iPads that day, all of them subsequently raving about the device. I wasn’t jealous – yeah, right.
  • May 31st: My originally scheduled delivery date of June 7th is changed to “June”, causing much cynicism and depression at the thought of this being late June. This is subsequently revised back to the 7th, lowering my blood pressure and sense of self-loathing to safe levels once more.
  • June 3rd: Confirmation of shipping from the plant in China, with a revised delivery date of today (the 9th).
  • June 7th: Obsessive hourly checking of the TNT website for news of progress begins.

Which brings us to today. I drove into the office for my one meeting of the day, then drove straight back home again. Cue several hours of bouncing off the walls like a five-year old on Christmas morning who has just drunk a double espresso and followed it up with a giant bag of pick and mix. My ears pricked up every time I heard a vehicle turning into our cul-de-sac. And the TNT website was open on my work laptop all day, with me stabbing refresh every 15-20 minutes to see if I could glean any more information than the not-overly-helpful ‘out for delivery’ message. (What does that mean? Still 100 miles away? The driver’s stopped for a leisurely lunch? Just round the corner?!?)

And then, at last, shortly before 3pm, it arrived. I could have hugged the delivery driver as he walked up our driveway carrying my little package. (I suspect it wasn’t the first time in recent days he had been greeted by someone flinging open the front door with a huge grin on their face.) And then there it was, in my hands at last.

First impressions

I opted for the mid-range (32GB) wi-fi only model, primarily because I expect to be using it exclusively at home or in places where there are wi-fi networks or hotspots available (hotels, airports etc), and also because I couldn’t justify paying a second lot of 3G tariffs on top of what I already pay for my iPhone.

Having played with the iPad for just a couple of hours so far, I have to say it’s brilliant.

As an existing iPhone and iPod Touch owner, the screen layout and the way you use gestures (primarily taps and sweeps) to operate the touch-screen interface are very much second-nature to me, and pretty intuitive even to a new user. The quality of the display is outstanding: clear, crisp and bright, although I understand it’s not so great in bright outdoor light. Compared to my now slightly creaky iPhone 3G, it’s blisteringly fast too, thanks to the dedicated A4 processor. And the fact that it’s ‘always on’ is a massive plus – no more having to wait for a laptop to finish booting up before you can start using it.

As a media consumption device it simply invites you in with its user-friendliness. I’ve already downloaded The Times newspaper app (£9.99 for 28 days), which has been formatted specifically for the iPad and is great – I will be cancelling my daily deliveries of the paper-based version asap. As a photo and video viewer it is every bit as good as a high-end laptop – as well as downloading content from iTunes, I can sync it automatically with selected albums in Photoshop (brilliant!) and watch programmes on BBC iPlayer. And e-books look equally good, although as many reviewers have pointed out the iPad is a bit heavy to hand-hold for long periods. I haven’t tried any games yet, but I expect to be impressed.

And as a content generation device the iPad is surprisingly good too. Its virtual keyboard has had mixed reviews, but I’ve found it to be absolutely fine – I’ve typed a couple of emails, some Facebook and Twitter updates and about a third of the text for this post on the iPad without any real problems. Yes, of course, it’s not as good as a laptop or desktop with a proper keyboard, but it’s perfectly useable for light to medium word processing and is a million times better than trying to type on a smartphone.

So, yes, overall my first impressions of my iPad are hugely positive, and any reservations I had about spending £499 on “a netbook with no lid”, as a friend (not wholly inaccurately) described it, have rapidly melted away.

In fact, I would go so far as to say – and I do not do this lightly – that the iPad is quite possibly the best, most useful and most beautiful gadget I have ever owned. I’m already finding lots of ways it will make my life easier, and I’m sure I will discover plenty more in the weeks and months to come.

iHappy, indeed.