Entries in iPod (5)
Part Two in My Technorati Series - First Published May 11, 2010
The current iPhone 3G and 3Gs are just on the edge of being too large to be comfortable devices to use with just one hand. Of course, it is impossible to hold the iPad and use it with just a single set of digits.
The iPad has some challenging ergonomics, defined by the freedictionary.com as "the applied science of equipment design,intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort." It's also not always as intuitive as you might think.
Can I Just Lean Here For A Minute?
If the soft touch and grip-ability were the only reasons you needed a case, then a silicon rubber condom would be enough. But the fact is, the little angle that the Apple case provides makes a huge ergonomic difference when the device is set on any flat surface.
To view videos, or use two hands to type, you have to lean it against something, and the darn thing just slips and slides constantly when propped up. I have a case that converts to a stand for my iPod Touch, and there is no way around it - you need the same thing for an iPad. It's simply not a one handed device, and holding and poking at the keypad is just no fun.
That's An Accelerometer Lock, Not A Mute Button
It seems iPads have a tendency to be confused when it comes to recognizing their orientation. Maybe it is a commitment thing. Apple added a new lock button where the ring mute was on the iPhone. I had not realized mine was engaged, and that resulted in some strange behavior.
I purchased Apple's Pages software, but had not realized the accelerometer lock was there, or that it was engaged. (It was easy to toggle it accidentally because of its proximity to the volume control, and my fingers inadvertently must have engaged it).
When I opened Pages the device launched the program with no application menus visible. The keypad was the only thing besides the Getting Started page I saw. For the life of me, I had no clue how to open or create a new document. Later, a friend showed me the purpose of the lock button, which I had thought was a mute key similar to my iPhone.
Even after the lock was dis-engaged, I found I was opening Pages in landscape mode wanting the largest keypad to type on. Unfortunately, Pages never displays the application menu when the iPad is in landscape mode, whether the accelerometer is locked or not. It never occurred to me that there'd be no way to invoke the menu, only the keypad, when the device was most comfortably positioned in the horizontal layout for typing. It takes a sharp move from horizontal to vertical in order to reveal the difference in the UI.
Skip The Apple Dock
This bias towards resting the device in the portrait, or vertical, mode is a flaw in the iPad's design thinking that continues with the dock.
The dock only allows the iPad to rest in the groove in portrait mode, because it must use the connector at the smaller end of the tablet. If you want to keep your iPad on your nightstand sitting in a dock to charge it while falling asleep to movies you will have to watch them play in the wrong aspect ratio.
And don't think you can leave it in landscape mode as a picture frame while giving it the juice, either. It makes for a compelling reason to get the Apple case, which biases towards landscape mode, making it great for typing and watching movies. It also lets you use the charging connector with the USB cable and power adapter.
A number of folks who read this blog or follow me on Twitter have commented that they expected I would already be cuddling my iPad, glowing in assurance I am a true early adopter of technology from having pre-ordered or waited in line at an Apple store. I actually did neither and each time I got close to placing a pre-order, I relented and abandoned my purchase.
So why don't I already have my iPad? The main reason is that I am waiting for the 3G version. When I have asked why other folks aren't waiting, I have often heard that people believe they will just use their iPad at home. These people maintain that wifi in their home is readily available without an additional monthly fee to access it. To them 3G, and a 3G data plan, is superfluous. I am just not convinced that's true. I want coverage, and 3G helps ensure coverage when i am mobile. On a long road trip, a larger screen and a connection that lets me surf the web could be just the ticket out of boredom. (And no, I won't be tricking out my SUV like the Sound Man has, but it illustrates my use case effectively.)
I also use my iPod Touch in addition to my iPhone 3Gs, and I find that when I travel the iPod Touch is the go-to entertainment device to ensure I can extend my iPhone battery life. And entertainment for me isn't just downloaded content I remembered to stock up on before leaving the house. Streamed content, online games on Facebook, and catching up on my friends feeds are all forms of entertainment that I enjoy when I am mobile, but which suck the life out of my iPhone when I may need to make or receive a call.
Like most consumers, I tend to overbuy on hardware, hoping to extend the lifecycle of my purchase. That tends to be especially true for products i am not sure how I am going to use. Megapixels, memory, and now radios. More always feels better, giving me greater comfort that I won't outgrow the product, even if I never use all of what I buy. It's the movie popcorn theory, which maintains that consumers perceive there is a better value in the mega-bucket, even though they can't finish the contents of the bucket.
Waiting for 3G also has the added benefit of not being part of the first batch of hadrware assembly. If any parts or processes have created defects, I have the opportunity to let the real early adopters alert me.
For advertisers, the Super Bowl is as much the “big game” as it is for sports enthusiasts. This year that was more true than ever before, because the televised broadcast brought a record 106.5 Million viewers. In the post Internet bubble, fewer new technology companies are using the expensive, broad-reaching television broadcast to build brand awareness, opting instead to make their dollars work harder at measurable activities that convert to sales. That leaves the door wide open for established brands like Budweiser, Coca Cola and Doritos - the ones that can afford the lofty ad rates - to use the time to create entertaining, “talked about” vignettes that enforce the meaning and positioning of their products.
Despite the Super Bowl being a mecca for established consumer brands, Sunday’s game was the first one to include an advertisement for Google’s dominant product, search. Many have commented on why the company chose now to run the ad, and whether the company’s virgin effort at broadcast advertising was meant to prove a bigger business agenda in the advertising community. For me, the ad was most notable because of its use of the product to tell a brand story. Among a sea of ads that used slapstick, animals, and underwear, the Google commercial seemed to take a strategy right from Apple’s advertising playbook for its initial foray into television.
Five plays I saw called:
1. Use the product to tell a story. In the Apple spots, a friendly narrator tells the story of a customer journey, ending with the line “there’s an app for that.” The Google ad tells the story of adventure, discovery, love and family through searches. Each step in the journey has a solution in the Google results set that advances the customer’s story.
2. The product is the hero. People are a distraction in Apple ads, and while iPods used to feature silhouetted dancers, most Apple commercials now are about the apps. Except for the disembodied finger, for the iPhone, it’s all about the software. Google’s spot starts with its iconic home page filling the screen, which is only replaced by its familiar results pages. The television stands in for the PC, and the audience looks right over the shoulder of the searcher entering terms and phrases, just as I peek into the iPhone the finger points to and swipes.
3. Be gender neutral. Although the Super Bowl tends to attract advertisers with a propensity for frat humor and belly scratching, Google, like Apple has, tried hard not to offend men or women. The story in the ad is universal, and while it is clear a man is entering the searches, women in the audience can appreciate the romance of Paris, and the happy ending of beginning a family.
4. Lather, rinse, repeat. The world believes all touch screens use the gestures that Apple’s iPhone does. The constant repetition of the gestures within the commercials, played in frequent rotation during popular television programs, trained the audience even before they purchased the device. Within the Google ad, the searcher performs the same activities several times over – enter search term, then click on results.
5. Don’t go for the cheap joke. It was an ad about romance, and the cursor skated across - but never clicked on - the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. Sure Apple has done its share of cheap jokes in the Mac versus PC story arc, but, in the categories Apple dominates, iPod & iPhone, Apple doesn’t disrespect their leadership position with skeezy parents or slapstick jokes.
I still love my Kindle, although it now already feels like an 8 track stereo compared to the iPad. I am certain the bright color screen and page flipping will be more compelling than having the physical keyboard, although I can buy a keyboard dock for the iPad to compensate for any challenges I have with its onscreen multi-touch keypad. However, there is one thing I don’t think the iPad will do better than my Kindle and that is seamlessly connect me to wireless networks. With my Kindle, I never have to log in to a wireless hotspot, know an SSID or worry about proxy servers and sign in pages.
The nookTM, which also uses AT&T hotspots, has a post on its help board online helps me clarify this point:
nook is programmed to automatically connect to the free AT&T Wi-Fi in any Barnes & Noble store...We see there are lingering questions about Wi-Fi ... So, for a point of clarity, you can connect on any 802.11b/g Wi-Fi hotspot, or wherever you have the SSID password. The exception to thie is Wi-Fi hotspots that use proxy settings (like you typically see in a hotel), where you have to enter a password or some other information before you can connect.
The truth is, for most consumers, even though free wifi is all around us it can still be somewhat confounding to connect to a hotspot with an iPod Touch, nook with a wireless-enabled device. Interstitial pages sometimes don't require logging in with credentials, but do require a web page to be clicked on. Occasionally, the iPod Touch is connected to the wireless network, but there is no Internet connection, making it unclear what state the device is in, until a browser is launched.
I never have to ask someone for their network password to access wifi on a Kindle, and it doesn't ask me for a log in password to use my Amazon account when I lose connectivity and then re-connect. Every time my iPod Touch falls out of range of a wifi network, it seems to ask me for my iTunes login credentials when it discovers the wifi again. Once authenticated to the Amazon store, it sends me what I need as long as my Amazon account has a current credit card.
The frictionless access connectivity and consumption have spoiled me on my Kindle. I'm hoping Apple has fixed the machine to machine connectivity to be more seamless on an iPad than it has been on my iPod Touch. If so, somewhere during the 60 days till I can get my hands on an iPad, my Kindle and I will have the "it's not you, it's me" break up conversation.