How I’d improve the iPad

As I approach six months of living with the iPad, it seems a good time to think about how it could be better. After all, we’re about to see a deluge of cheaper (or perhaps less obviously expensive) knock offs, and it’s worth reminding myself just how good this “1.0” product is.

I was not an iPhone early adopter. I didn’t have the bandwidth to learn to develop software for it, and while it was a very impressive device, I was working from home and don’t use the phone very often. Most importantly, however, we were in the middle of a two year verizon contract. I think it’s safe to say that was the clincher, and it says a good deal about the anti-competitive nature of the US cellphone market.

The iPad doesn’t require a contract (even for the 3G version, which is something Apple hasn’t done a great job of communicating), which is one reason for its instant success.

Anyway, what’s wrong with the iPad?

Well, it’s going to need more memory. A lot of very nice iPad apps are clearly limited by available memory (e.g. the various excellent image apps, such as Sketchbook Pro and Art Studio have fairly harsh layer limits) and I often crash my browser (iCab) by having too many tabs going.

It’s going to need a camera — preferably two. Facetime is seriously awesome on the iPhone 4, but even more useful for me is the ability to use it’s camera as a rather high quality scanner. This lets me sketch something, photograph it, email it to myself, and then work on it with my iPad. But it would be nice to reduce this convoluted workflow to, e.g., “new layer from camera” right inside Art Studio, say.

I can understand Apple’s reluctance to put an SD card slot in the iPhone — e.g. one major source of problems in the iPhone is pocket lint being forced into the works of the iPhone through the earphone socket (seriously), and an SD card slot is going to make this problem much worse (although a plastic blank that can fill the slot when not in use would help). But, iPads don’t live in pockets, and the advantages of being able to work with images straight out of a camera would be huge.

Autocorrection needs a lot of love. To begin with, the widgets are just too small. It’s hard to press the “x” or the word precisely, and why can’t we have more than one suggestion? It’s also high time the correction code recognized things like “e.g.” and stopped trying to start new sentences.

While we’re on the topic, I think that the keyboard could probably use some tweaking. I wouldn’t mind a landscape keyboard with smaller keys and more of them (I have no problems typing on the portrait keyboard, so use keys that size and give me punctuation and numbers instead of bigger keys).

Standardized hard game controls are something Apple needs to start thinking about now, across all its products (including “iTV” if the rumors are true). I get that Apple is cleaning the rest of the game industry’s clock now despite having no capable middleware and treating game developers like second class citizens, but gaming made DOS and Windows successful and eventually folks will catch up close enough to Apple that not having a decent joystick is going to matter.

Heck, don’t build the damn things in, but just bless some kind of standard. Please.

The industrial design of the iPad is very much the ultimate expression of the iPhone design language. It’s nicer than any iPhone prior to the iPhone 4 (about even with the super slim iPod Touch) but next to the iPhone 4 it just looks old. I’d love to see the iPad redone in the new design language.

And that’s about it. Obviously doubling screen resolution (a la the iPhone 4) would be great when the cost benefit makes sense and we can always use more of everything, but really the iPad is pretty darn close to perfect. At 1.0.