Three things on the iPad that feel rushed

Posted on Apr 19, 2010 in iPad, Opinions, UI Design

Most people would agree that the iPad is a fantastic 1.0 device. This is of course partly due to the shared iPhone OS heritage, but the overall experience is nonetheless is extremely well-rounded and polished.

But there are a few areas that feel a bit crummy, when compared with the rest of the experience. Considering how many apps Apple had to completely overhaul for the iPad’s presentation in January, it’s no surprise to find a few rough edges, on the otherwise fantastic device.

File syncing

I understand why Apple is hesitant to add any kind of file system to the iPhone OS, but considering how much emphasis was placed on the iPad apps at launch, you would think that they would have come up with an elegant way to get documents on and off your iPad.

Unfortunately, in reality it’s a huge pain. Ted Landau took the time to document all the steps it takes to actually get a document into iWork on your iPad, none of which are particularly intuitive. Plus you then have the hassle of managing revisions and tracking multiple copies of the same file.

The iPhone app SimpleNote and Notational Velocity on the mac show how document sync can be done right. Some apps are also adding Dropbox support, which gives you an idea how file sync in general could be improved. Given the fact that Apple has already done a lot of the hard work by creating the MobileMe and iWork online services, one can only hope that we’ll see seamless, cloud-based file syncing added sooner rather than later.

Safari caching

If you open multiple tabs in safari on your Mac, switching between them is instantaneous. In mobile safari, you can never be sure whether the tab will open immediately, or whether it will need to be reloaded over your wifi or 3G connection. On the wifi-only iPad, where users can’t be sure they’ll always have access to an internet connection, webpage persistance is particularly an issue. The fact that Offline Pages (iTunes link) is currently one of the top free iPad apps in the App Store would seem to underline this point.

Mobile Safari’s limiting caching abilities are most likely due to the limited amount of RAM in the iPad, which has just 256MB, however as Rentzsch has pointed out, it should be possible to offload pages to the solid state drive as a workaround, although it’s not a trivial problem.

Calendar event creation

Making event creation in calendars difficult seems to be one of Apple’s favorite UI slip-ups. The calendar app on the iPad is gorgeously designed and it makes browsing through calendar entries a visual pleasure.

But the interface for adding entries seems to have been cut & paste directly from the iPhone version and doesn’t make any use of the additional screen real estate the iPad offers. You get the impression the designers spent all their time working on the rest of the UI and simply stuck the editing controls in there at the last minute.

Consistency between the two platforms is of course a good thing, provided it doesn’t slow the user down unnecessarily. I would argue that you could better use the iPad’s screen real estate to make a much more efficient and intuitive event creation UI.

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