iPad Annoyances

In my previous post, I described my appreciation for the Apple iPad. In this post I’ll address the top ten things that annoy me about the iPad. And there are a large number of things that annoy me about this darned device (on which I am writing this blog entry).

1. Safari is Horribly Stunted. For those not familiar with Apple, Safari is the name of Apple’s own web browser. While Safari on a Macintosh computer or Windows-based PC is a fully loaded web browser, the version on the iPad is a pale image of itself for at least four reasons.

First, it does not support Flash. Flash allows web site developers to implement greater interactivity in their web sites, and without Flash support, the iPad’s web browser is unable to present these web sites properly, thus rendering them inaccessible.

Second, you cannot upload files from the iPad from Safari. That makes it really tough to use web sites like Flickr, discussion boards where you want to upload images and attachments, and countless other sites that require uploads for interactivity. Some sites offer their own iPad or iPod Touch apps to perform uploads, but they are typically limited in functionality, and only a tiny fraction of web sites offer such apps.

Third, downloads are mostly non-functional. You can download files via Safari for which you have applications capable of using such files, but it’s awkward. And once you have files downloaded, you can’t edit them and upload them again.

And finally, you cannot easily transmit a web page in Safari to any other application (such as a printing app) – you either have to select the whole page, copy it to the clipboard, and then paste it into an e-mail which you then mail to yourself so you can print it from an e-mail enabled printing app like PrintBureau, or you use such an app with its own built-in web browser to browse to the same page and print it that way.

2. Lack of Real Multi-Tasking. Multi-tasking in computing refers to the ability of a computer to run multiple tasks (e.g. programs or apps) at the same time (or at least appear to do so). While most modern operating systems offer multi-tasking (even Android does), the iPad’s operating systm does now. More specifically, the iPad does not allow you to switch between applications and have the applications maintain their state and continue operating in the background. There are some exceptions to this (mostly with Apple’s own apps), but they are negligible. Rumors suggest that the next major release of iOS, the operating system on the iPad, will implement real multi-tasking. We’ll see.

3. No Real File System. If you only use the iPad to watch video, play music, and surf the web, you might not care about this. But if, like me, you’re trying to use the iPad as a real business tool, you want to be able to easily move files between applications as well as perform standard actions on files you are working on. For example, I want to be able to print from any app, or be able to use a file transfer app to transfer any files I’ve been working on in whatever application to a particular destination – web site, PC, or server. However that’s not possible on the iPad.

Some enlightened applications allow you to open a current file in a different program, but Apple’s own productivity (hah!) suite, iWork, and its individual applications, such as the word processing program Pages, are decidedly unenlightened. However, even when the passing of files from one application to another works, you end up with multiple copies of the file – one for each application, and that can be a nuisance too. If Apple wants to see the iPad become a business tool, this needs to be fixed.

4. No Try-Before-You-Buy. In the quest for applications that do what I need to get done, I’ve spent over a hundred dollars on applications I will likely never use because they did not fulfill my expectations and needs. Apple’s Pages program is right at the top of that list, incidentally. There’s $9.99 out the window. There should be some sort of way to be able to check out an application for a couple of hours or even a day and be able to “return” it without being charged if it doesn’t meet one’s requirements. I guess I’ve at least enriched the pockets of a few developers out there without the benefit of really using their programs.

5. No VPN Support. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it’s a way that business people as well as security minded folks set up encrypted tunnels from their computers to remote servers. For people dealing with sensitive data on their company’s system while they travel or are just outside the office, VPN support is vital. This is another thing that Apple has to enable in order to make the iPad a viable business computer device, but my guess is that this would require multi-tasking support before it’s possible to implement, since it requires the ability to run any of a number of VPN client programs on the iPad.

6. 3G Support is Crippled. This only applies to iPads that come with 3G connectivity, of course. While I laud Apple and AT&T for coming up with a monthly, no-long-term commitment plan, I am thoroughly annoyed by the fact that I cannot download any application larger than 20MB, even if I am fully cognizant of the number of bytes my 3G plan includes and willing to pay for more. You have to use WiFi on the iPad or connect to a PC with iTunes running for downloads of that size. The download limitation also applies to other content, not just apps. For example, I couldn’t download the maps for the National Geographic World Atlas HD app over the 3G connection.

7. E-mail Software Limitations. For folks with a single e-mail account, the e-mail client built into the iPad is pretty decent. However, again, for people running a small business, where they might have a single mailbox but need to use different sender addresses (e.g. info@, jake@, sales@, support@some domain.com), it’s not easy to set that up with iPad e-mail.

E-mail clients like Thunderbird, Eudora, SquirrelMail, Outlook, etc. all let you set up multiple identities for a single mailbox, but with iPad’s e-mail software you need to have separate mailboxes for each identity. Not easy unless you manage your own server and can set up dummy mailboxes just so you can define the extra accounts in iPad e-mail. I had to set up about a dozen such mailboxes, and now the iPad e-mail client needs to check each of the mailboxes for new mail (of which there will never be any, since they are dummy mailboxes) every time mail is checked – a total waste of bandwidth. At least once you do set this up, you can then select any of the defined mail accounts as the sender for your e-mail messages.

8. Plug-in Keyboard Doesn’t Work with iPad Case. So, the sales guy at the Apple Store sold me this great iPad case which folds over to present the iPad at a good working angle and it protects the iPad from some wear and tear too. I really like the case.

I find the on-screen touch keyboard on the iPad functional enough for short messages, but not for serious typing (like these blog entries), so I decide I want a keyboard too.

The Apple guy sells me a wireless Bluetooth keyboard (which works great – I’m using that now). For use on airplanes (where they frown on wireless peripherals during flight), he offers a plug-in keyboard.

However, I soon discover that the plug-in keyboard is bulky (it has a stand for the iPad built in) and worse yet, it will not work while the iPad is in its snug case I just bought. So you have to remove the snug case (not easy) in order to plug it into the keyboard. Lame. And lamer yet is that you can only use the plug-in keyboard with the iPad in portrait mode. If they got rid of the stand and just provided a short cable it would be so much better.

I understand you might be able to use a USB keyboard via the optional iPad Camera Connection Kit, but the small USB keyboard I found at Amazon.com apparently drained too much power for that to work, and I don’t want to lug a full size keyboard with me.

9. Lack of Interaction Between Applications. Okay, so I already ranted about the lack of a file system above, which I see as a major contributor to the issue of painfully difficult (if not impossible) application interaction, but I really find the whole isolated application model of the iPad highly irksome and frustrating to deal with.

10. The iPad is Just a Giant iPod Touch. I’ve heard a number of people describe the iPad as a giant iPod Touch. And yes, in many ways it is. But it is much more, and it could be even more than that, if only Apple opened it up for better business use and greater compatibility with the world.

Regardless of the above annoyances, or perhaps in spite of them, I have found ways to get the iPad to do most of what I need. It’s not been easy or cheap to do so, but now that I’ve reached equilibrium, life is good and I’m content with my iPad.

Next up will be a list of my most useful and favorite iPad applications.

 

Tags: , , ,

3 Responses to “iPad Annoyances”

  1. Martyn day says:

    I agree with most of your points but a number will be fixed in the next OS update.

    Am interested in your work arounds?

  2. Jake Richter says:

    Hi Martyn,

    I’ve not found a work around for the Flash problem, nor the upload issue with Safari (I don’t think anyone has).

    I have found copy and paste to be a passable, albeit time wasting, solution to printing from Safari. I select the whole page, paste into into an e-mail document, then e-mail it to myself, and then use the e-mail client in Print Bureau to print the message. Way too many steps, but it works. Would be nice if Safari at least allowed you to generate a PDF from a displayed page.

    I’ve also found that most of the apps I’m using (you’ll see the list tomorrow here on my blog) work with Dropbox as a file repository. That’s been very handy.

    Jake

  3. Forget Safari, dude. Go get yourself Atomic Web browser. It’s well worth the money.

    Dropbox is great, but eats up your 3G allotment on large docs. I think not having proper LOCAL file system support is a huge fail.

    gb