Note: See my latest post on the iPad here
A break in the weather for several days saw my work schedule increase dramatically and I wasn't even home yesterday when my wife signed for my iPad shipment. I had been checking the UPS tracking status every day since I received the tracking number, but interestingly after an origin scan for Shenzhen and then an origin and departure scan for Guangzhou, China, there were no updates to the status until Saturday morning when I saw the package had arrived in Louisville just after midnight on Saturday. I don't know if the lack of tracking information was part of some secrecy arrangement between Apple and UPS or if it was a result of the sheer number of packages that were handled. An estimated 600,000 to 700,000 iPads were sold on Saturday, though it's not clear how many of those were shipped via UPS and how many were in-store purchases.
When I arrived home yesterday afternoon, there was barely time to unpack the iPad, turn it on, and play with it a bit before leaving for a dinner engagement. But there are some first impressions to pass on to my readers.
Fit and Finish
The quality of construction, specifically it's case and screen are quite good. The iPad weighs in a bit heavier at 24 ounces versus the 10 or so ounces for a Kindle DX, but it seems like the form factor and weight are just fine for my purposes.
The software is what I would expect as a long-time Apple user: Turn the device on and it displays graphics that tell you to sync with iTunes. I plugged it in to my Macbook Pro, launched iTunes, followed the prompt and was in business with in just a few minutes. Short, sweet, and simple. If you know how to use an iPhone or iPod Touch, you'll be right at home with the iPad.
I find the display to be very readable and clear, even in bright sunlight. I want to to test it out in flight, but I'll have to wait for some flyable weather. The screen does show lots of smudges and fingerprints, but these aren't noticeable until you turn the display off. Once you do you realize how dirty the thing has gotten!
My choice was a mid-range, WiFi version and several people have asked me why not wait for the 3G version that includes a GPS receiver. First, there are so many GPS receivers and screens in the aircraft I fly that the last thing I need is another GPS. Secondly, I envision the iPad primarily as a chart viewing device: I think I can figure out rough location using my noggin! Besides, pilots need to keep up their pilotage and map reading skills, right?
iPad EFB Apps
I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the apps installed on my iPhone were available on the iPad on launch day. Specifically, Foreflight Mobile for the iPad is available at no charge to current subscribers. Sweet!
Skycharts Pro is available for a mere $19.99. For that price you get all the US VFR, IFR and terminal charts that you want. An excellent deal considering how the new NACO chart distribution scheme can and has resulted in occasional chart shortages in my local area.
GoodReader has an iPad version that works great if you choose to use terminal procedures from NACOMatic or PDFPlates. And the GoodReader price is still just $0.99.
What's Not to Like?
I'll post some more impressions once I've had some time to use the device in flight, but at first blush the iPad seems to be just the sort of display I was hoping to use as a reliable and affordable electronic flight bag. There are some missing pieces that I hope will fall into place over time. More on that in a future post.