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April 6, 2010

BP Unfiltered

iPad: Home Run or Home Plate?

by Will Carroll

Magical? That's the adjective being used by many people - especially Steve Jobs - when describing the iPad. For baseball fans, the idea of a new, bigger yet still small screen holds magical possibilities. After a few days with the device and some apps, I have a pretty good handle on how the iPad fits in for baseball fans. This isn't to say it's for everyone. Flat out, it's not. But if it is, from the time you first hold it and see the bright screen, the interaction you'll have with it, and then, just a bit down the line, you'll forget it's there. That's the point where you'll say to yourself that yes, it is magic.
 
The first thing you notice about the iPad is that it fits in the hands well. Even at four times the size of the seemingly perfectly sized iPhone (which was copied by the Nexus One and Blackberry Storm), it's not as awkward as I'd expected. It finds a place in both hands, in one hand, or on your lap. The screen is amazing - perhaps more amazing that any screen I've seen. While it's not "Full HD", you're going to have to be a real stickler if this 720p capable screen isn't enough. Using an app like "The Elements" is like seeing a book out of Harry Potter. It doesn't take much to imagine a future BP in this format, if the rights issues weren't in place. (I'm sure MLBAM has something in the works.) Then again, BP works almost perfectly in the Browser. The new unified cards seem purpose built for the iPad. 
 
Battery life is nothing short of astounding. Early reviews have the battery showing video for longer than the rated 12 hours. I used the iPad heavily on opening day and during the National Championship game Monday night, yet still had better than a 50% charge on Tuesday morning. My guess is that for everything but video, most people will get two days out of a full charge. (Note that the iPad is a major drain and that it needs certain power output in order to charge. If you have a USB hub or an older or non-Apple computer, check on this before buying - or there is an included wall charger that works as well.)
 
Jason Snell of Macworld (and a BP reader - hi Jason!) said in his comprehensive iPad review that it "felt like holding a web page in your hands." While that sounds odd, it's very true. There's a level of interaction in the browser that's better experienced than described, but simply works better. It's so natural that when I sat down at my laptop after an extended iPad session, I reached up for the screen as if to touch the link. John Doerr, the legendary venture capitalist, recently said that we're moving not only from "the mouse to multitouch" but that we're entering an era where we're shifting from "WYSIWIG to WYSIWI (what you see, is what is.)" In the show-off app "The Elements", there's definitely a degree of Minority Report in how you feel you're actually interacting with objects. The sense of possibility is, well, magical. I do wonder if we're also shifting from a web-based world to an app-based world.
 
On the app front, the most noted is of course the new purpose built version of MLB At Bat 2010. While some will grumble that they have to buy a new $15 app after having purchased the iPhone app and MLB.tv's package, the total re-write for the iPad adds some functionality. Full screen video is amazing, while the integrated elements like pop-up lineups, pop-up video highlights, and near-instant pitch by pitch tracking all make for a great experience. It's not perfect, though. Streaming video is, well, streaming video and it's not as clear as an HD tv or even most computers where people usually watch MLB.tv. It also lacks the PitchFX inputs that we've come to know and love. As with the iPhone app this year, there's integrated home and road video, plus Gameday Audio of home and road feeds that can be shifted to the background. Here's a gallery of screenshots from the iPad At Bat 2010 app, taken during ESPN's Sunday Night opener. It gives you some idea of the quality of the video and the layout. The captions should be pretty self-explanatory
 
There are other apps for baseball fans - ESPN and others have score/news apps, there are some baseball specific drawing apps, and a scorebook app. Twitter and email integration also allow the social baseball fan to share the experience, tho the lack of multitasking support makes this a back and forth endeavor. Rumors that OS 4, scheduled to be introduced on Thursday, may correct this. Overall, the universe of apps already in place for iPhone make the "there's an app for that" almost as true for iPad as it is for iPhone. While not all iPhone apps work or look as good on iPad, the pace of switching to a purpose-built iPad app for most popular apps is astounding.
 
The browser is where the iPad shines. Interacting with the elements by touch is intuitive and fun. The design work that Apple has done is nothing short of astounding. You'll also likely be stunned by the speed. It renders pages quickly and sharply. Zooming in and out works well. It's the smallest details that you'll notice. While the iPad does not have Adobe's Flash plug in, I personally never missed it. The web sites that I go to regularly worked well for the most part, though I'm sure each of our experiences will be different. I do believe that as Android and Chrome OS grow, the multitouch interface will quickly become the dominant metaphor. That mouse sitting next to you probably has about a five year life span.
 
There are some other downsides to the iPad that have been noted across the tech sites - the iPad is a bit heavier than you expect on first touch, but any less heft and it would feel even more fragile. It's not great in direct sun, with both a reflective screen and a tough time finding the proper viewing angle. It shows fingerprints significantly more than an iPhone, despite a coating on the screen that's supposed to help with this. (On the iPhone 3G S, the coating works well, but even on the 1G or 3G, it wasn't as noticeable. I'm not sure why.) This is to say nothing of the cost. When the cell-enabled version comes out later this month, the costs go up even more. I went with the wi-fi version because I couldn't come up with a use case where I couldn't just pull the iPhone out of my pocket and use it in situations where there's no wi-fi. (One note: There have been some issues with wifi. Most of them seem related to signal strength and the type of routers used. I had that issue with an older router after unboxing the iPad. Very frustrating, but a new router fixed the issue.) 
 
And if you were wondering about the ability to type or write on the iPad, this review was done entirely on one. Where the iPad falls on this use is that the document syncing in Pages seems less than ideal, requiring the use of the iTunes sync and a USB wire. In addition, Google Docs does not (yet) work on iPad, though I can't tell why. I've used GMail as a "scratch pad" instead - it has autosave, spellcheck, and works great in the iPad's version of Safari. I'm sure there will be scads of "apps for that" issue soon, so I'm not too troubled by having to kludge through for a while with GMail. (Also, GMail's iPad iteration is better than the one they currently have on the "standard web." It's flat out awesome and feels as much like an app as a real app. I haven't even set up the installed Mail app since GMail on the web works so well.)
 
The onscreen keyboard works better than I thought as well. It uses the same autocorrect as the iPhone, a big help I could probably use on my real computer, and while it's not as easy as on normal keyboard, I also don't have decades of practice using it. It wouldn't surprise me if in six months, I'm as fast on the iPad as I am on a MacBook. The only quirk I have is that when set flat, the angle - while viewable - seems a bit off, so that I'm not touching it exactly where I think I'm touching it. It happens mostly on the letter "T" for some reason. Still, the keyboard is not only usable, it's ability to change based on the use is a big plus. Having a ".com" button when I'm typing in a URL is awesome and having the "return key" switch from "search" to "go" to return based on what I'm doing is going to be a big help to many.
 
Is the iPad for every baseball fan? No. In its first incarnation, the iPad actually lives up to the hype and promise, but the existence of the device itself will lead to innovations that we haven't even thought of yet. Others will have issues with cost, the closed system that Apple has built with the App Store, and I'm sure there will be viable competitors soon. My verdict: It's the Jason Heyward of the tech world - not perfect, but man, you have to love both the potential and the early performance.
Related Content:  A's

33 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Jason Snell

Hey Will, thanks for the link to my review!

I was impressed yesterday about how iPad + MLB At Bat + MLB.TV = Wireless TV set for watching live baseball. Pretty amazing.

Apr 06, 2010 11:58 AM
rating: 1
 
mhawkins

Blackout rules still apply for the MLBAM apps, right? I had dreams of using my netbook in just that way. However, regardless of the fact that I live in N. Mississippi is bad enough, but they also blackout three different MLB teams here, all in the NL. Consequently, as an NL fan - a 100 dollar + service is rendered useless.

Apr 06, 2010 12:57 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Yes. It uses the normal MLB.tv blackouts. Which sucks but is not the ipads issue.

Apr 06, 2010 14:09 PM
 
mhawkins

I understand that's not the iPad's fault, but keep in mind this is the sort of thing that can really hamstring what could be a wonderful product. Also, it's hard to see it (MLBAM apps) touted so highly, when the actual usefulness is so limited.

Apr 07, 2010 12:41 PM
rating: 1
 
preams

Thanks for the review, Will. I think that I'm waiting for the iPad v2, but I am excited to play with one at the local Apple store this week.

Apr 06, 2010 12:08 PM
rating: 0
 
Greg Ioannou

There must be some fanboy gene that I'm totally lacking. I'm going to shell out hundreds of bucks for something that doesn't stream video as well as my laptop does? That can only run one program at a time? Where I can only buy additional applications from one monopoly seller? And so on. I really don't get the appeal of this thing at all.

Apr 06, 2010 12:08 PM
rating: 2
 
Jason Snell

+1 point for asking legitimate critical questions about why you'd want to buy one.

-1 point for saying that people who see the upside of a product like this must be "fanboys."

Apr 06, 2010 12:13 PM
rating: 1
 
Greg Ioannou

Fair enough. Part of it is an emotional reaction to a lot of publicity for a product that I really can't see any use for whatever. It genuinely has me totally befuddled. I read something like Will's article and what jumps out are the ways in which the iPad would drive me totally crazy. I'm clearly not part of the intended market -- which is odd, because I love gadget.

Apr 06, 2010 12:22 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

The "monopoly seller" one is specious. Where do you buy your software for your laptop? I remember going to the mall and buying things at Babbage's or Circuit City. Is there an open market for the XBox or Wii? Yes, there's an approval process, but it seems that Apple's concept is being copied by everyone and that they've approved over 100k apps tells me it's pretty darned open.

Apr 06, 2010 12:19 PM
 
cordially
(917)

Then you're not informed. I'm an iphone developer and I and many in the community are throwing up their hands and saying screw it we're just gonna develop for Android since Apple are such dicks. Typically if you have a bug fix, it's pretty easy to just push a new update. Not with Apple. You have to go through the whole damn approval process. And I'm not going to put in 160 hours on some app, just to be told by some dork at apple that I can't have it on the store for some random reason. And the BS with Adobe and Flash? Please.

Apr 06, 2010 12:57 PM
rating: 7
 
Marc Normandin

This.

Apr 06, 2010 13:08 PM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

Really? Someone rated down someone who knows how the industry works due to, you know, working in it? I mean, there's no way that Mr. RobDeerCoverCred, iPhone dev, would have any insight to provide as to the development process for iPhones.

Apr 06, 2010 13:21 PM
rating: 0
 
Jason Snell

I know how the industry works and work in it, too, and actually have apps on the App Store. I think Mr. RobDerCoverCred is making arguments I've heard from many iPhone developers over the past few years. But his arguments are far from the only ones out there. "We're just going to developer for Android" is one I keep hearing, but of course developing for Android has huge challenges of its own, and so far hasn't proven to be as successful commercially. Also, most of the talk about lags for bug-fixes and approval have actually been addressed by Apple recently -- the horror stories of the early App Store have been draining away in the past six months or so, although Apple refuses to say anything about what's going on.

So what I'm saying, Marc, is that just because Murray Chass--a Taylor Spink award winner who has written for the New York Times!--says that people who follow newfangled stats are a bunch of ingrates, doesn't mean that it's true. It means he's someone with a track record, yes, but he's got his own biases and his own axes to grind. In fact, perhaps even more than the average person out on the street.

Apr 06, 2010 15:59 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

This.

Apr 06, 2010 16:45 PM
 
cordially
(917)

Fair enough. However, Marc's point still stands. It's reeks of fanboyism to actually down vote my response - especially when it's in response to Will's ridiculous reasoning that since Apple has approved 100k apps, well, then they must be open (whatever that means.) Sure, Will can opine on the device and tell us how much he likes it, but he simply has no authority when it comes to talking about the development platform. I may in fact be Murray Chass, but in this context Will is Martha Coakley. And flawed as it might be I'd prefer to get my knowledge about baseball from Murray.

And, yeah, I've definitely got biases and strong opinions, but, jeez, given his posts over the years I would not be at all surprised if Will's got a little turtlenecked Steve Jobs tattooed on his junk.

Apr 06, 2010 17:02 PM
rating: 1
 
Sean

Wow, you come off as though everyone -- fanboys and all -- is out to get you. I think we appreciate your perspective as a developer who has had bad experiences, but there are many of us who also like how the app store runs for end users. And we're willing to pay for that experience.

Some of the safeguards and approvals might be inconsistent, illogical or overkill, but the successes do carry significant weight.

Apr 06, 2010 18:55 PM
rating: 0
 
cordially
(917)

"out to get you". Where on earth do you get that? I specifically said "Sure, Will can opine on the device and tell us how much he likes it..." That is, I made of point of saying that talking about how things run for end users is great for end users to talk about. I only objected to Will's silly comment that since the app store approved approved over 100k it's somehow "open".

I really don't care what you think of the apple or the app store or whatever. I'm just saying that Will doesn't really know what he talking about when it comes to it being "open".

Apr 06, 2010 19:48 PM
rating: 1
 
Sean

It's just that you seem to have a lot of anger toward dorks at Apple, Apple itself, fanboys, Will and people who disagree with you.

Apr 06, 2010 20:04 PM
rating: 1
 
dannimal

This is pretty much what I've seen, and indicative of how Apple treats the entities that make it possible for them to generate profit (I work for an educational store, and the crap they force on us has driven me to the edge of quitting more than once).

They can also treat their most loyal customers like crap at times (remember the initial iPhone launch, and the big price drop 30-days later? The early adopters got the shaft)

Even as an outsider, it's pretty easy to see that the App Store approval process and how Apps are treated is inscrutable, and borders on random. "Hot Girl" apps getting pulled by the truckload, but SI's Swimsuit app gets to stay. They won't approve an app that meets all the rules, but DO approve an app that doesn't and then have to yank it back.

Apr 06, 2010 14:13 PM
rating: 4
 
Richard Bergstrom

In fairness, Apple did offer a rebate to original purchasers after the price drop.

I remember about a decade ago when another computer company was being charged with monopolies that killed off competitors, forced customers to buy only that company's products and monitored how their computers were used. Will Flash go the way of Netscape? Is the iTunes Store the new version of PC Windows-only products? Do our iPhone calls get traced just like our iTunes store purchases? Have things really changed...???

Ok, it sounds conspiracy theory-ish and I don't believe all of it myself. Still, it is funny that Apple is now the "bad guy" and Microsoft is the "good guy".

Apr 06, 2010 15:43 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Then those developers like you will vote with your feet. And then we'll have competition and it will be good for everyone. In the meantime, the fundamentalist Cory Doctorow-style arguments will be countered with things like this (http://al3x.net/2010/04/05/ipad-openness-moderates.html). For me as a consumer, it's not an issue.

Apr 06, 2010 14:18 PM
 
BP staff member Ben Murphy
BP staff

Agreed with Will here--I hope developers punish Apple for shenanigans and respond appropriately. So far, it hasn't altered my consumption decisions, and I hope Apple rectifies things before it gets to that point.

Apr 06, 2010 16:34 PM
 
Greg Ioannou

My son has a Wii, and I buy him stuff for it quite often. Some of the games are from Nintendo, but many of them aren't. I buy them from online stores, from a variety of bricks and mortar stores -- or used on eBay. I can shop for the best deal on each game. He can (and does) trade them with his friends.

Apr 06, 2010 12:25 PM
rating: 1
 
Marc Normandin

Just for fun, here's my favorite iPad related item thus far. I'm not invested heavily for or against the iPad (though, writing about games as well as baseball, I am sick of the news cycle), but still, good for a laugh:

The Real Cost of Scrabble for iPad

Apr 06, 2010 13:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Have you had problems hooking up to Wi-Fi? My understanding is there have been a ton of complaints for the Wi-Fi version that doesn't hook up into AT&T.

I commented elsewhere that since the iPad doesn't allow multitasking, that meant you couldn't use iPad Wi-Fi and look at the iPad at the same time.

Apr 06, 2010 13:20 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Murphy
BP staff

I haven't had any issues at all, and been using various secured and unsecured base stations across my home, airports, airplanes, hotels, and restaurants.

Apr 06, 2010 16:35 PM
 
CRP13

I'll wait for the Google version :) Likely cheaper, likely with more memory, and likely much more flexible and plenty secure. Also likely with a screen that's .0000000001 inches wider, a fact of which they will market the hell out of.

Count on it.

Apr 06, 2010 13:39 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ben Murphy
BP staff

I picked one up on Saturday and I've enjoyed playing with it so far. I also have an iPhone and like Will, went with the WiFi version under similar reasoning (if I *really* need connectivity, the iPhone will work and I'm not likely to pay all the costs associated with 3G service).

Here are some of my initial thoughts, some compare favorably to Will and others here, some in contrast:

1) it's hard to understate the impact of the battery life improvement compared to an iPhone and an iPod Touch--4 hours of consistent usage, including watching a 2 hour movie and 2 hours of web browsing and chatting, and I was at 72% battery remaining

2) the extra screen real estate makes a huge difference over the iPhone--whether watching a video, reading a book, viewing a web page, or playing a game, the experience is much more immersive and enjoyable

3) the use case isn't hard to make--whether I've been watching TV and wanted to look something up online, chat with friends, or send off a quick email; or in a meeting and wanting to quickly pull up a document and show it to the room, or take notes on people's thoughts, or record a presentation; it's a dynamic and readily available device for many tasks, almost like a netbook with a better interface and a snappier response time (I've got a Dell Mini9 and it was easier to type on the iPad out of the box than that thing, the screen is nicer, and I can get everything done that I want to get done just as quickly, i.e. multi-tasking isn't an issue so far)

4) the demographics concerns may not apply--I bought it because I love technology and gadgets and am fascinated by the movement that Will describes toward the touch capacitive web and having things migrate to a fully portable sort of extensible social network of apps and information; I'm also an Apple fanboy as much as such a thing exists, as I've loved almost every Apple product I've ever owned (Apple TV being the lone distinction, even after hacking it)


I'm anticipating and I'm excited to see the improvements that come in the next model. Until then, I'll enjoy traveling with my iPad (and possibly my bluetooth keyboard) instead of a laptop because the experience is more enjoyable, the battery life is better, and it does everything I need it to do.

Apr 06, 2010 16:23 PM
 
frampton
(870)

I've been a PC guy for over 25 years now, no iPhone (though I do have a fifth-generation iPod), and I've really been jazzed by my iPad. The web browsing is fabulous, like the folks above I spent opening day surfing while watching the games and was blown away by how easy and beautiful it was. The battery life is obviously a big deal as well. Ben has a great point, no reason to take my laptop on vacation when the iPad can do just about everything I need.

I bought the at bat 2010 app, and can't complain as far as it goes, but am I missing something about mlb.tv? It is a flash app, isn't it, and so unavailable to the iPad? Thanks for helping out an apple newbie . . .

Apr 06, 2010 18:32 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

MLB.tv is Flash, but if you have a subscription to it, the password will get you all available games on iPad/iPhone's At Bat app. Those are delivered like the free game of the day, which I think is some sort of h.264 format.

At Bat = some video, all audio
At Bat + MLB.tv = almost all video, all audio

Apr 06, 2010 19:55 PM
 
bowerpower

First off, thanks Will for putting this exhaustive review together that has baseball fans in mind. That's exactly what I was looking for in deciding whether or not to pick one up.

Do you know if At Bat and MLB.tv are mutually exclusive? In other words, if I have a subscription to MLB.tv already, does that mean I can watch games without any additional apps? Or do I have to buy At Bat, which then allows me to use the MLB.tv video that I have already subscribed to?

Apr 06, 2010 22:06 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

The latter. If you have an MLB.tv subscription, you can watch many more games in the At Bat app.

Apr 07, 2010 08:10 AM
 
Greg Ioannou

Interesting that most of the iPads for sale on eBay this morning are listed by individuals, not stores. http://computers.shop.ebay.com/Tablets-/171485/i.html?_nkw=ipad&_catref=1&_fln=1&_trksid=p3286.c0.m282 There are oceans of them on Craigslist, too.

Apr 07, 2010 07:06 AM
rating: -1
 
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