There's plenty to like about the Apple iPad (see my business review of the iPad), but there are also some serious annoyances that hinder the overall product experience. Here are my top five.
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5. The impractical screen
I'll admit up front that I hate Apple's glossy displays. The MacBook Pro that I use has the antiglare coating, even though it's ridiculously overpriced as a $150 add-on. However, the glossy screen is one thing on a laptop, it's another thing entirely on a touchscreen device that you are constantly putting your fingers on.
Within a few minutes of use, the iPad's glass display gets fingerprints all over it and the screen is hideous to look it. Combine that with the fact that the glossy display has a wicked glare problem that makes it difficult to use outdoors and in office buildings with overhead florescent lights and it makes the iPad a much less enjoyable device to use if you don't have a screen protector. I bought the Power Support Anti-Glare Film ($25), and it made a huge difference. This needs to be built into the iPad (and the iPhone, too, for that matter).
4. Docking in portrait mode
If you want to use the iPad as a laptop replacement, Apple offers a Keyboard Dock ($70) that allows you to sit at a desk and type out some serious documents and emails. However, the keyboard stand only works in portrait mode because the iPad only has a doc connector on the bottom.
This is a serious nuisance for a couple reasons. First, we're all trained to work in landscape mode when we sit at a desktop or a laptop. And second, most apps that you'll want to use when docked—email and productivity apps—are faster to navigate in landscape mode. Heck, Apple's own Keynote app doesn't even work in Portrait mode. It refuses to shift.
The best workaround for this is to buy an iPad stand like Griffin's A-Frame ($50) or JaDu's Skadoosh ($58) and place the iPad in it in landscape mode, and then use Apple's Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard ($70) instead of the Keyboard Dock.
3. It's awkward to hold
The first time you hold the iPad in your hands and quickly flip through some full-sized Web pages with a few flicks of your fingers, it feels great. It's an especially liberating experience when you're sitting on the couch or in bed at night.
The problem is that once you get past about 30 minutes, the device gets pretty heavy and then it gets awkward to try to prop it up against your legs or lean it against something or find a place to set it where you can comfortably get a good viewing angle (especially if you don't have an antiglare film).
Then, it gets really awkward once you try to type on it. Holding it with two hands in portrait mode, it's almost small enough to type on it with your thumbs like a smartphone. Holding it with two hands and trying to type in landscape mode won't work because your thumbs won't reach the middle of the keyboard (unless you have really big hands). In landscape mode you could hold it with one hand and hunt-and-peck with the other hand, but that's too slow.
So, what most people seem to do is to put the iPad on a lap or a flat surface and then type like they would on a normal keyboard. At that point, you're basically emulating a laptop, but the experience you get is not nearly as fast or natural. Apple's official iPad Case ($40) helps a little bit since it folds into a stand, but it doesn't take away all of the awkwardness.
2. Lack of Adobe Flash
Apple's overzealous crusade against Adobe Flash (and Adobe's whiny responses) are annoying enough. However, that soap opera has gotten so intense that it has almost begun to cloud the issue that a lot of very good Web sites have been rendered useless because of this little showdown.
The Flash issue is bad enough on iPhone, but most of users rely on apps more than the open Web on iPhone. The iPad is much more of a Web browsing device and the lack of Flash breaks a lot of sites with Web video, animations, analytics and reports, and creative designs.
It is a massive annoyance to try to do some work, browsing, or reading on the iPad, only to find out that one of the sites you need to access uses Flash, so you're forced to put down the iPad and go sit at a desktop or fire up a laptop.
1. The PC umbilical cord
To do everything you need to do on the iPad, you still need to connect it regularly to a PC or a Mac. You have to connect in order to sync up your latest podcasts and media files. You need to sync to get OS updates. You need to sync in order to get your latest business documents on the iPad.
So what happens if you only want to carry the iPad—and no laptop—on a business trip? You'll have to sync all of your files before you go. What if you want to download a podcast or a video while you're on the road? You'll have to do it manually through the iTunes app and hope you can catch a decent Wi-Fi or 3G connection. It would also be nice if there was an Ethernet dongle for the iPad, for when you're in the office or at a hotel without in-room Wi-Fi.
However, for corporate users, the biggest problem with the iPad's PC umbilical cord is syncing business documents. The iPad can be a great device for reading PDFs and long documents, but there needs to be better ways to transfer those documents to the iPad.
I've been using the third-party app GoodReader ($1), which lets you sync files through iTunes and it can even recognize, save, and view some files from the Web. But, it would be much better to have functionality built into the OS to let you save files from the browser or email to the device's local storage or to a cloud service.
Photos of the iPad annoyances
To see photos of many of these annoyances—and a few more not listed here—click the image below to view entire photo gallery of iPad annoyances.
The iPad on the right is a standard model with fingerprints all over the screen, while the one on the left has an antiglare screen film. Photo credit: Jason Hiner
Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about how technology is changing the way we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.