I have two iOS devices, an iPod Touch (which I bought for professional development) and an iPad (which I bought because the iPod Touch was so cool but too tiny to be useful). I have the least expensive version of the iPad: wifi-only and 16GB of memory (which seems like enough so far).
People think of an iPod touch as a music player, but I previously explained that it’s a crappy music player, and certainly way overpriced as a music player.
As an iPhone for people too cheap to buy an iPhone, the Touch is potentially useful for doing all sorts of stuff like reading the newspaper, watching movies, playing games, or using any other app in the App Store.
I still have a Sony eReader, and I think it’s a better device for reading novels. But for reading non-sequential stuff, which includes newspapers, magazines, and reference books, the iPad is a far better experience, because it’s easy and quick to flip pages, or to click into the document via the table of contents. Even the iPod Touch is pretty useful for reading the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. The NY Times charges an extortionate amount of money for full access in the iPhone/iPod Touch app. It’s half the price for the iPad version of the app. But the good news is the NY Times lets you read the top news stories with no subscription required, which is enough to keep you entertained for a short subway ride or while waiting in line. The iPod Touch is better for this than the iPad because the iPad is too big and bulky for reading while you are waiting in line, but you can just whip the iPod Touch out of your pocket.
An iPad is a more enjoyable device for reading a newspaper than the web browser on your computer. The WSJ app loads the entire paper when you open it, so then you don’t need to have to be connected to read it later, and this means that flipping pages is instantaneous and you don’t have to wait for the pages to load like you do when using the website. The NY Times is even better, it seems to download the news automatically without you having to do anything.
I’ve watched video files of TV shows, and Netflix streaming, on both devices. They both work great for these purposes, but the iPod Touch screen is tiny while the iPad screen is a perfect size for individual viewing. They only play mp4 files, which is kind of bogus. If you have a video file in some other format, you need to find some program that will convert them to mp4 before you can transfer the file to the iOS device. But at least they do let you watch your own videos if you convert them to the correct format (I used Any Video Converter freeware); you are not restricted to buying stuff in the iTunes store.
They can both be used as a devices to store and view your photos, and they can store a massively large number of photos if you put in the work to resize the photos to match the screen size. If you take photos with a 15 MP camera, you can squeeze them down to one-fifth the storage requirements if you resize them for the 3.15 MP iPad display. The iPad Retina screen is beautiful for viewing photos, it’s almost like looking at a huge slide from an 8 x 10” view camera on a light table.
There’s an iOS Kindle App, so you can buy books from Amazon.com and read them on the iPad. No need to buy a Kindle. Why buy from Amazon instead of the iTunes bookstore? The iTunes site sucks, Amazon’s website is ten times easier to navigate and use and includes useful user reviews of the books. Amazon will send you the first few pages of most books for free so you can try before you buy.
I was thinking about whether it’s a good idea for Amazon to support the iPad so well when Amazon is competing against iPad with its Kindle. However, Amazon’s model was always to sell the Kindles cheap and make the big money selling books, so I guess they still make money as long as you are buying books from their site.
The iPad can be used for playing games, but I don’t think there are any games for iPad as good as Civ4 BTS (and I play that with the K-Mod mod). I played a little with Great Big War Game, and it’s definitely worth $2.99. It has honest scam-free pricing. The computer AI is only so-so, but that’s not surprising. Beware of scam games that goad you into buying virtual currency for real money in order to advance in the game.
A lot of people buy these devices to surf the web. This is actually where I think they are weak. I prefer the experience of web surfing on a computer monitor with a real keyboard. Of course, tablets are bad devices for people who like to blog while they surf the web, because there is no keyboard except for the virtual touch screen keyboard.
There’s also a third iOS device you might be interested in which I don’t own, the iPad Mini. Technologically, it’s a shrunken iPad 2. It has gotten great reviews for its form factor, because it’s thinner and much lighter than the full-sized iPad, and there’s less border around the LCD panel so it’s more efficient for its size. The mini has a slower microprocessor (I think the same as in the iPod Touch which seems fast enough) and a 1024 x 768 resolution (like the old iPad 2) instead of 2048 x 1536. Many are hoping that the next iPad Mini will have higher resolution, but I don’t know if that’s really Apple’s strategy because (1) they want to give you a reason to buy the bigger iPad; and (2) creating some intermediary resolution higher than the Mini but less than the full-sized iPad Retina means creating a third resolution which app developers will have to support. Also, the lower resolution is contributing to the Mini being small and light but still having long battery life.
The iPod touch can be used as a camera. It’s only a just-OK camera, but it’s a lot better than no camera, and the iPad is ridiculously oversized to use as a camera so the Touch is a much more practical camera than an iPad.