A lot of people are ambivalent about the iPad. They read about it and say, "Why would I need one of these?" But the funny thing is, when they get the chance to play with one, many of them buy it. My experience was similar to this. I've had an iPhone for a while, and because it can do most of the things that an iPad can, and a few things it can't, I didn't really think I needed the new tablet. But the moment I got to try one out, I fell in love with it. It felt like I'd found something I'd been seeking for a long time—I had to have an iPad of my own!
The iPad's larger touch screen makes the device a lot more accessible. It's not only easier to see things; you have a larger touch area to interact with and control the device. To use an iPhone, I hold it up to my face and tap on the screen with my finger. To use an iPad, I hold it comfortably in my lap and control it with more sweeping hand gestures. I feel separated from the iPhone when I use it. I feel more connected with the iPad; it's more natural to use.
All of this really hit home the second day that I had my iPad. I was sprawled on my couch playing with it and decided to try Google Earth. It was an astonishing experience—spinning the globe with my fingers, soaring around the earth, zooming in on locations of interest. It felt a lot more natural than the iPhone; it was a joy to use.
Video podcasts for your iPad
One of the first things I did when I got my iPad was to subscribe to some free video podcasts available in the iTunes Store, including NBC Nightly News and Cult of UHF (Cult of UHF offers classic B movies). It's very useful and convenient to have the Nightly News available to watch when I have spare time. It's a lot of fun to watch Cult of UHF movies. And video podcasts are a great way to show off the capabilities of your iPad. No matter where I go, people always want to see my iPad—and the quality of the Nightly News video always wows them.
To see the amazing variety of available video podcasts, go to Podcasts in the iTunes Store menu bar, click on the small triangle to display the dropdown menu, and click on Video Podcasts. To subscribe, click on the "Subscribe" button next to the desired podcast. Once you do this, the podcasts are automatically downloaded to your computer and are synced to your iPad the next time you connect it to your computer.
Since video takes up a lot of space, you can configure the settings so that the ones you've watched are automatically deleted after you watch them. If unwatched podcasts start to pile up, you can also set it so that it only keeps a specific number of the most recent ones and deletes the rest.
Configuring podcast settings can be a little confusing because there are two different places you need to go to:
First, you need to configure the general podcast settings in iTunes. Click on Podcasts in the left menu in the iTunes application. This displays a screen showing the podcasts you've downloaded. At the bottom of this screen you'll see a button labeled "Settings." Click on that button to display the "Podcast Settings" dialog box, which allows you to set how often iTunes will check for new podcasts, whether it downloads all new episodes or only the most recent one, and what episodes to keep (all episodes, all un-played episodes, most recent episode, etc.).
Second, adjust the iTunes podcast settings specific to your iPad. To do this, connect your iPad to your computer, open iTunes, and select your iPad from the Devices list in the left column. Then go to the "Podcasts" tab in the main part of the iTunes display. This screen shows you the podcasts and episodes you've downloaded (video and audio). Make sure the "Sync Podcasts" box is checked. Then select the podcasts you want to be downloaded. You have two options here: You can check the "Automatically include" box and select the podcasts and episodes you want to be automatically downloaded when you connect your device. Or you can uncheck that box and manually select the individual episodes you want to be synced.
If you aren't already taking advantage of this extraordinary resource, I encourage you to give podcasts a try.
iPad sites of note
If you are an iPad fanatic, you'll want to check out some of the websites devoted to the iPad. Even if you're not a fanatic, these websites are good places to learn how to do new things with your iPad, find new apps for it, and have your questions about it answered. The first three sites mentioned here belong to Apple.
Apple's iPad site (apple.com/ipad) is primarily for those interested in buying an iPad and/or wanting to learn more it. The site includes video guided tours of the iPad's built-in apps as well as Apple's downloadable iWork apps (Keynote, Pages, and Numbers). Since the latter cost $9.99 each, you might want to visit this site and see how they work before you buy them.
Apple iPad Support (apple.com/support/ipad) walks you through the basics of using your iPad and its features. It will help you get started using Wi-Fi, setting up 3G service with AT&T, syncing info with your computer, sending and receiving e-mail, using the built-in apps, and much more.
The Apple iPad Forums (discussions.apple.com/category.jspa?categoryID=267) are the best place to get your questions answered. These are very active forums that have a lot of expert users standing by to answer basic or advanced questions you might have.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog (tuaw.com/category/ipad) is one of the better sites for daily iPad news.
Just Another iPad Blog (justanotheripadblog.com) is a fairly active blog with at least a couple posts each day. The iPad Tips & Tricks section has some very helpful information, including articles on basic tips, saving images in Safari and Mail, taking screen shots, and using the iPad Camera Connection Kit. The site also includes app reviews.
iPad.net (ipad.net) is a particularly rich site with frequent blog postings and an amazing array of FAQs (frequently asked questions). You can learn how to connect your iPad to a 52-in TV, use iWork and iBooks, how to use your iPad for messaging, and more. The site also has a Tips & Tricks section, wallpapers for downloading, and a wide range of forums where you can ask questions and get them answered. You'll also find a lot of app reviews, including a special game reviews section.
Macworld (macworld.com/browse.html?tag=iPad) posts a lot of iPad related news as well as app and accessory reviews.
CNET.com (cnet.com/apple-ipad) has solid news coverage of the iPad as well as a small number of in-depth reviews. You'll also find iPad-related videos and photos on the site.
EverythingiCafé iPad forum (everythingicafe.com/forum/ipad) is one of the more helpful forums I've found. It's quite active, but is more intimate than Apple's site, which can be overwhelming. Most posts receive multiple replies.
iPad Case Finder (ipadcasefinder.com) helps you find the right case for your iPad. You can view the cases by brand, color, features, material, and type. The site is a directory of cases from a variety of vendors. It doesn't sell cases itself, but does provide links to vendors' websites.
iLounge iPad Accessory Gallery (ilounge.com/index.php/accessories/ipad) is a helpful collection of iPad accessories. It's also a good source for general iPhone/iPod/iPad news and has user forums for a variety of Apple products.
iPadWallpaper.org offers free iPad wallpapers organized in 20 categories. Not all categories had content when I wrote this article in early June, but the scenery category is definitely worth checking out.
There are a number of other sites worth looking at. Most are iPad specific while others are more general but have decent iPad sections. They include Naked iPad (nakedipad.com), iPad Buzz Blog (ipadbuzzblog.com), iPads.fm (ipads.fm), iPad Daily.com (ipaddaily.com), CrunchGear (crunchgear.com/tag/ipad), and TiPb (tipb.com/ipad).
iPad Best Sites directory
Of course, our own iPhone Life magazine website (iphonelife.com) has a considerable amount of coverage of the iPad.
All of the sites mentioned above, and more, can be found on our iPad Best Sites directory iphonelife.com/bestsites/ipad.