March 22, 2010
iPad: Pixel-doubling? How about app-quadrupling?
Among the greatest criticisms of the upcoming iPad, forgetting for a moment the 800-pound gorilla issue of Flash, are a) no multitasking and b) the lameness of pixel-doubled iPhone apps. Pixel-doubling, of course, refers to Apple's plan on allowing iPad users to run iPad apps, which are designed for the iPad's 320 x 480 pixel screen, on the iPad's much larger 768 x 1024 pixel display by doubling every iPhone app pixel in both directions so that the resulting app now measures 640 x 960. That's a clever idea, but an app that looks crisp and sharp on the iPhone may look lost and clumsy in pixel-doubled mode on the iPad. How about app-quadrupling instead?
What do I mean by app-quadrupling? Well, allowing the user to selectively call up four 320 x 480 pixel iPhone apps and display them in a grid. This way, the user could have their four favorite apps open and simply tap one to make it "active." This still would not technically qualify as multi-tasking, but it would approximate it nicely. In essence, the OS would call up an app, display it in one of the quadrants, then either "freeze" it when the user taps on another app, or, if a limited degree of multi-tasking is available, the app may even update itself.
Since a block of four iPhone apps only takes up 640 x 960 pixel on the 768 x 1024 pixel iPad display, there'd be 128 pixel left over on the side, and 64 pixel on the top or bottom, enough to have a horizontal menu and a verical scroll bar for other apps (see mock-up iPad screen). Apps could be selectively opened and closed, and also rearranged. There might even be a way to call up frequently used "quads" of apps.
I don't know if app-quadrupling would be doable under the current constraints of the iPhone/iPad OS, or if something like this is already in the works. If it is doable, I think it would instantly turn one of the iPad's perceived weaknesses (only one app at a time) into a definite strength (quick and easy access to multiple apps or app groups).
March 07, 2010
Will the iPad replace my iPhone?
This week I will order my iPad. Though I know it'll take a bit longer, I am aiming for the 3G model with 32GB of storage. When I get it, I will sign up for the unlimited data plan, forking over an even larger part of my disposable income to AT&T every month. What I do wonder is whether the iPad will replace my iPhone.
Silly question you may say. The iPad is not a phone, so how could it replace the iPhone? True, but I really don't consider my iPhone as primarily a phone. It is, in fact, a pretty crappy phone, with voice quality worse than virtually any cellphone I've ever had, going back to the original Motorola "brick." But I do need a phone for the few calls I make, and it doesn't make sense to carry a much more convenient little fliphone in addition to the iPhone, and so, yes, the iPhone is my phone, too. But if I checked the number of minutes I use my iPhone as a phone versus for everything else, everything else would account for about 95%, at least.
That's because the iPhone has pretty much become my information and entertainment device of choice. Before I leave the house I check the weather and temperature on the iPhone so I know what to wear. I get my news from the iPhone's USA Today and CNN apps (and even a couple of local and foreign newspapers), and more detailed news from the NY Times on the iPhone. I keep in touch with my Facebook friends on my iPhone. I read e-books on it. I play games on it. I use it when I go running and want to keep track of my time. I use it to check prices and read reviews while shopping. I check sports scores, the load on my servers, new messages on websites I post on. I do all that on my iPhone because it's so darn handy and convenient, and because it is good enough to do all those things. Had anyone told me a few years ago that, yes, it WILL be possible to use the web on a tiny device not as just a technology demonstration, but because it really works, I probably would not have believed it. After all, everyone had tried and it just didn't work. Until the iPhone.
So now the iPad will do everything the iPhone can, but on a much bigger screen. No more squinting, no more screen rotating to make columns more easily readable, no more constant pinching to zoom in and out. That will all be a thing of the past as what we have all been waiting for is now here with the iPad, the book/magazine reading experience in an electronic device. Because that is the one remaining hang-up that keeps print newspapers and mags in business; they are more convenient than reading on a laptop computer.
But now I wonder if the iPad will do everything the iPhone can, and do it better. Will I appreciate the much larger screen, or will it simply make the iPhone experience big and unwieldy? Will I have much higher expectations from a "real" computer like the iPad than I have of the little iPhone? For example, will I still tolerate the lack of Flash on the iPad? Will iPhone apps still look so terrific and clever on a much bigger screen, or will I expect real computer functionality? Will I start whining about the lack of "real" software? But most importantly, will I be able to use the iPad like I use the iPhone, just whipping it out wherever I am? Because if not, it may not work, and the new big iPhone will be something else that'll have to fly, or fail, on its own merits.