After several failures in my hunt to find a decent, cheap case for the iPad, I believe we finally have a winner! The ZooGue Smart Case was on sale recently at buy.com, and the features seemed to align with what I was looking for: multiple horizontal viewing angles, comfortable to use in landscape (which is how I prefer to read), clean look, easy in and out, and finally, durable (read: two year old proof). The case doesn’t have the most refined of looks to it because the mechanism for holding it up at any angle you’d like is Velcro, but it’s all black, so it’s not too obnoxious. The case has a strap for use holding the iPad on the back of headrest and despite never having used it for that I both like having the option, and have found that it’s great for holding a small notepad (explanatory picture in the gallery). The case allows for access to all the ports and switches on the iPad, but if you find you need to, there’s an easy to release strap and button on one side. The stitching on the case is holding up well after a few weeks of use and although over a long period of time that the Velcro will likely start to show some signs of wear, I still think it s a good buy and would recommend this case.
Still in the hunt for a decent cheap iPad case, I decided to give a folio-style case a chance, and purchased the AcaseLeather Flip Book Jacket/folio. My biggest reason for trying a case this style is because whenever you’re sitting somewhere you have to put the iPad down on a flat surface, you need to find something to prop up one side. So, I was in the hunt for a decent looking case that had a variety of ways to prop it up, without sacrificing the ability to use it flat. I chose the a case because it was low priced, but had a nice black leather look to it (it’s not real leather, though, despite the name). Functionally, I’ve enjoyed the case, One of the ways you can flip the end around makes a great position for typing, it’s easy to just flip the cover behind and use the iPad vertically (that’s how I’ve found I prefer to use the device as an e-reader) and there are multiple angles you can stand the iPad up when you’re demonstrating or watching something on it. Additionally, if you need to pull the iPad out, the system for holding it in place (elastic bands on the side and two corners) makes it easy to pop it in and out. Having read all that, you’d probably think I’d recommend the case, and I would with one major caveat: it is not kid-proof. Unfortunately, this is also a requirement for me and sadly, I left the iPad with my 2 year old for a few minutes, looked over, and in an attempt to remove the iPad from the case, she pulled one side of the side strap out, and it’s now broken. It seems to me that you shouldn’t have been able to do that so easily, so my guess it that the craftsmanship of the straps is shoddy (the other side is about 1/2 way off as well), and sadly, Ill be looking for yet another case.
Time for a few more quick iPad thoughts, this time in regard to one of the major things it was intended to be: an eBook reader. As a test, and also because I was encouraged to read it, I bought The Checklist Manifesto from the new Apple iBooks app. The purchase was easy enough, no different then buying an app in the app store: press buy, type password, done.
I found that reading the book on the iPad, at the default font size, in portrait mode, was no easier or harder on the eyes for me then picking up the paperback would have been. I read on the train, on the couch at home, and even for a while in the car while my wife was fabric shopping (I prefer to stay in the car for that one, too many questions I’m not capable of answering). The screen definitely has some limitations in high light situations, but there was no where that I wasn’t able to find an angle that worked, and was comfortable to maintain. If you have an iPhone, you know exactly what the issues are already (mostly fluorescent lights). I think some of these issues could be mitigated if you could find a good anti-glare screen protector, which I am currently hunting for.
As for the reading software itself, the iBooks app is very natural. You can tap the side of the screen to turn the page, or swipe it. It puts font size, face, and brightness controls all at you fingertips, and even gives you little hints like how many pages are left in the chapter you’re reading. The biggest issue I have is not actually with the reader itself, but the lack of a desktop client that I can use when I’m not on the iPad (that I am aware of). Although it’s pretty basic, there is a Kindle reader for the Mac, which is why if I purchased any technical books, I would buy the Kindle version. This way I could pull it up as a reference while working, which is nice.
The other software I have been trying out for eBook reading is GoodReader, a $0.99 app. There is a wealth of information out there for free in PDF, and I wanted a way to store and read them beyond what the build it PDF viewer is capable of. Besides the lack of easy storage, the built in reader is terrible unless you want to scroll your whole document by hand. Have to jump to page 125? Better get scrolling. GoodReader provides a lot of nice options for retrieving documents from the web as well as hooks into the OS to allow it to open PDFs from other apps on the device. It also supports a lot of other file formats, but with the exception of an Excel file, I didn’t test that function extensively. Overall, my experience with the software has been good, and I’m a little over halfway through Mr. Neighborly’s Humble Little Ruby Book, which is a free book on Ruby I found online. It can even connect to your DropBox account, which is fantastic. I do, however, have one major gripe with GoodReader, which is that it doesn’t support the very natural tapping of the sides of the screen to turn the page. Instead, you have to press a little spot at the top or bottom of the page, or swipe up or down. I believe this is something that will be added in their next release, and once it is, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to spend the dollar on it.
Regardless of software, I will say that the initial effect the iPad has had on me is that I’m reading more then I have been, which can only be a a good thing. Granted, it could be the newness of the toy, but it could also be that I never remember to grab the books I intend to read on my way out the door in the morning, but the iPad lives in my backpack. I guess that’s another one of those items I’ll have to revisit in a while, and see if it’s had any longer term effects on my reading volume or habits.
I guess now that the iPad has arrived, I should probably blog some initial impressions, having used it sporadically throughout the day, and now writing from the train. Speaking of which, kudos to the WordPress iPhone app devs for already having a nice app out. On to the impressions:
- The screen is really nice, exactly what you would expect from apple hardware, and so far quite viewable in the light situations I’ve encountered so far. Note: this does not include middle of the day outside, although I’m sure I’ll give it a shot soon enough.
- I’m already a lot faster typing on this screen then I though I would be. It may have to do with the way i sit on the train with one knee up, which is a pretty ideal position for using the device. May also have to do with being an iPhone user already.
- Nicest app so far: the weather channels weather app. Nice use of the screen real estate
- The kindle app has a LOT more books the the Apple book store. Not surprising, really. At a glance, reading a book would be a pretty similar experience in both apps. Obviously, the Apple reader has cooler animations
- Its heavy. I think it would be tough on the wrists if you held it awkwardly for too long
- the lack of multitasking was already irritating as i was trying to take notes, and just wanted to check my email periodically
- works great on the train with my Verizon MiFi.
That’s it for my quick thoughts!