The iPad: Just A Big iPhone?

by Patrick Kammermeyer on May 12, 2010

Is the iPad just a big iPhone? (image 1)

“It’s just a big, overpriced iPhone,” she said.

Those words, about Apple’s new iPad, from my dear cousin were not surprising. She has worked for Microsoft for several years and we’ve often disagreed about technological innovations and directions. At our family gatherings she and I often manage to find the time to corner each other for a little good-natured sparring about the hardware and software we each champion. So when I heard these words from her, I felt the need to respond. After all, a cursory glance at the physical appearance of the iPad does suggest a larger iPhone.

I’ve been exploring the iPad for over a month. It turns out that the greater screen real estate does make a significant difference in the experience. The smaller iPhone lends itself more to quick viewing of content, while the iPad’s more luxurious screen size makes prolonged interaction with content much more comfortable. For example, although it’s currently possible to read an eBook on the iPhone, anyone who’s tried it realizes that it’s not a particularly comfortable way to read. Conversely, reading an eBook on the iPad is an almost joyous occasion. I enjoy the multi-sensory experience of reading a traditional paper book, so I’ll never be an advocate of doing away with them altogether, but reading an eBook on the iPad is perhaps the next best thing. And from an educational perspective, there are some real advantages to having technologies like an embedded dictionary, search capability, and the multimedia presentation options with an eBook.

I’m convinced that the iPad marks a milestone in our relationship to personal computer technology. Although it’s only at the beginning of its evolution as a mobile technology device, the iPad already represents a reorientation of how we discover, interact with, and create content and information. The iPad strips away the traditional hassles of laptop computing, and boils the experience down to a direct relationship to the applications that get things done for us. For most people, this will be a welcome shift. For those of us who like to meddle in file systems and device drivers and have the ability to tweak configurations, this is a more difficult shift.

This first version of the iPad has a clear emphasis on the acquisition and presentation of content, rather than the creation of content. However, I expect that emphasis to change somewhat when the next major release of the OS is introduced, and applications begin to evolve.

Anyone who spends even a little time with the iPad will quickly realize that it’s not just a bigger, more expensive iPhone. My cousin’s observation is valid, but perhaps a bit too simplistic. I can’t wait for our next family gathering to share my observations with her.

Image 1: The iPhad

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