I took me a long while until I finally went to buy an iPad last week. I spent the first few days trying to find proper iPad apps, and organize them into something useful. As I only got the wifi version, I don't really use it as a portable computer, but as a content reader, and I update the content when I get a wifi signal.
There are a few thoughts, in addition to the current comments on the iPad magazines being wall gardened and the new form of interactive CDROMs. I tested the device in various environments, including a couple of hours outdoors in the park, in my bed (20% of the time spent it seems), sitting in a couch at my club, etc.
- the iPad (with the Apple cover folded) is rather comfortable to read, at least for 2 hours. I lay it on my lap while reading, so I'm not holding it up high
- battery life is a non issue, it just lasts for the day no problem
- the screen is bright enough for reading outside, and colors are crisp; the size is slightly too small for a magazine, but the zooming is OK. However when you display 2 pages (as when you open a magazine), then the screen is too small.
- donwloading of a new issue of a magazine does take a while (300MB to 2GB !!!), and connecting it to iTunes should only be done at night as the backup takes forever; prices of magazines is about what you'd pay at a newstand, so I guess it's a non issue. However there seems to be subscription services to magazines that offer a whole year subscription price (and you get a PDF) for less than the single issue price for a magazine).
A few comments on the apps:
- yes, it's a bore to have so many different apps, which means you have to learn how to use each app; actually each one of them has a tutorial at the beginning; there should be some standardization on movements such as
- double tap for zoom / unzoom
- swipe left or right to navigate between articles
- swipe up or down to navigate between pages of the article
- double swipe up for menu (not standard)
- pinch for zoom
- navigation between thumbnails at the bottom of the page
- smart apps even display an arrow on each page to tell you which way to swipe. it should be subtle but present.
- nevertheless many of the apps bring different interactive experiences to the reader, and I'd hate a standardized app for all magazines; that would hinder innovation. I'd rather have standardized navigation with a few extras on other apps. Besides I like having an icon for each title; with folders coming up, I can even bundle them together. Or they could just go on the shelves of iBooks (or iMagazines ;)
- I like the idea to get either a free issue or a preview with several pages for each magazine ; then in-app purchase is indeed the way to go. The smart apps even use notifications to tell you there's a new issue out. That might wear me off if I start tracking several titles. There should be a unification for that (iMagazines ?)
- I really like the double layout (horizontal and vertical) for most magazines. Nevertheless it's a bit annoying when you get more content (larger picture) on oen direction without warning. I just don't want to be moving my iPad sideways all the time. There should be a notification somewhere.
- Apps that are mere PDFs on the iPad represent little interest (OK, it's great to have them), but addition of interactive stuff makes them great: videos, choices, etc. Wired does a good job at that with multiple selections on one page (yes it feels a bit like interactive CD-ROMs). The New Yorker for example has a section called "this just in" that updates automatically like a twitter feed. Smart.
- I couldn't find a way to annotate articles ; it should be synced with something else that unifies all magazines and books ? (maybe evernote ?)
- social media: I have yet to see an app that adds a twitter / facebook / addthis button to EACH article, or even to Instapaper. This should not only make the app as social as a website today, but also drive sales up for people not reading that app.
- web sites use technology to speak articles aloud. I have yet to see this on the iPad. Wired has some voice interviews (dull).
- I don't like videos that open up separately and not in context within the page. Magazines that add video to their pages (excerpts of theatre, examples) are real winners. kudos. The Javier Bardem mini video intro is fun on Esquire
- Gourmet is testing a reather interesting idea : you can unlock content (just like in games) by gaining "experience points" (just like in games) by reading more articles, and interacting with it. I like the idea, but I'm not sure it will hold, unless the issues is free or very cheap. Ad supported b-model is fine for this (watch an add, grab XP...).
- Many of the ads I read, have little interactivity (a few extra pictures, a video). Some don't even include a link to their own website. There's a huge opportunity here to create "ad mini-sites", with videos, 3D models, a configurators (for cars), links to local retailers (based on GPS), best prices (in the neighborhood), etc. The iPad is a really very high engagement device, and advertisers are just plain dumb not to use it. Any product advertised or displayed should have a link to a whole range of ecommerce options such as what gdgt.com is trying to do for tech (price comparison, forums, reviews), including secondary transactions. For example, Food & Wine talk about recipes : it's a great way to sell a whole shopping basket in one go (a bit like what macperformanceguide.com does over and over again for spare parts on Mac).
- I don't see any forum like interaction on articles. it should be a great way to discuss with readers, add new information on the article, create a community (like a blog post)
- There's also an issue with DRM : when I buy a print magazine, I can share it with my family and friends at home, as it sits on the coffee table. Eventually my family will probably have several iPads. I need to be able to declare a group of "iPads" (up to 5 is probably fine) so that I can share an issue with a member of the family (OK if only one of us can read it at a time), and a mechanism to give the digital copy to someone as I would with a paper magazine.
- finally, there's an issue with the file sizes of magazines : after a while, they'll fill up my iPad, so I'll have to start deleting them. At a minimum, I need to be able to redownload them for free if I ever want to read them again (since I've already paid for them). Maybe however the future is an HTML5 version that offers full interactivity in a browser (for online viewing) instead of downloading it (offline)
- In terms of opportunities : it seems to me that most magazines are outsourced to creative agencies so far; why not. But with the advent of connected TVs (and the existance of web and mobile sites), there is definitively a need for a full suite of authoring tools including touch devices that will make an iPad just one of the screens of a digital strategy, from the same original content. I don't believe there's such a tool available yet, but it would definitively help keep the skills required for digital magazines inhouse.
Opportunities for e-commerce : buy a whole basket of products
Turning magazine reading into a game : the more you read, the more content you unlock and experience points you gain
Updating content after an issue has been published (just like the web ;)
More intuitive navigation between articles
Opportunities for ecommerce (on this watch for example)