Sponsors
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsors

Friday Fun: The iPad Typewriter

Got an old dust covered typewriter in the loft that you thought you would never use again? Well, dig it out, we've got something cool for you!

Give it enough time and there is no end to the creativity of some people as far as re-purposing old things as a dock for their iPad. We have covered a few of them recently. If they get it right, they might even create a little cottage industry around these devices, just like Jack Zylkin is beginning to.

Jack has devised a clever way to reuse old typewriters to act as a dock for your iPad, especially for those with a hankering after the old analogue way of life in this digitally swamped age. Jack gives you the option to buy a complete vintage typewriter set up and ready to go with your iPad (for around $300), or you can get the soldering iron out and buy just the kit itself (at $75) and try following the instructions to turn your own typewriter into an iPad dock. There is another option, send off the old typewriter and let Jack install the kit for you, which will cost $200 plus shipping.

We have looked through the instructions and it looks do-able, with some care and a day without any distractions. We are off to search through our Parents' lofts for old typewriters. If you try this, let us know how it goes, and in the meantime enjoy your weekend.

99 iPad artists lead the way

The iPad Creative, Art and Design Flickr group is growing rapidly, we already have 99 iPad artists that regularly contribute to the group, 'Tera. Santorini' is la legra negra's very first iPad painting and what a stunning painting it is. Just 1 more member and we'll hit the impressive 100 member threshold. Will it be you?

Once the group expands to contain 1000 paintings we'll begin the iPad Creative Art and Design awards. We can't wait!

Further reading: Art at iPad Creative

iPad Wi-fi Problems? This might help.

170px-Apple_Newton.jpg

We don't do very many 'techtip' type of posts here, but we thought this might help some of you if you have been getting wi-fi issues with the iPad, plus it is weird!

If you are having problems connecting to your wi-fi network, take a moment and check your brightness level. Is it all the way to the left? This might be your problem.

Apparently, a number of people have been having issues when the screen is dimmed, especially if you are trying to use the iPad in a darkened room without waking/disturbing your partner, as did Scott from the PadCast show, which is a great podcast all about the iPad, and also where this tip comes from (Episode 12 at 48:21).

Scott recalls that his old Newton MessagePad 2000 would make an audible hum when used with a dimmed screen, and it seems that a similar thing might be happening with the iPad when the screen is dimmed. It is this electrical hum that is creating interference and preventing a good wi-fi connection.

It sounds a bit strange, but Scott says in the podcast that he and others have seen an immediate improvement in signal strength on the iPad as soon as they turned the brightness back up.

Apple have even cited this as one of the reasons that you may experience wi-fi issues in their support article, so it is official.

We hope this helps someone (plus it gave us a chance to include a picture of the classic Newton and plug a good iPad podcast). However, we cannot be held responsible for the consequences of flood-lighting your darkened bedroom while your other-half is trying to sleep, you're on your own with that one!

If you have tried this and it helps, or even if it doesn't work for you, let us know in the comments.

Want to dock your iPad in style? (Creative iPad Docks)

Recently there seem to have been a number of unique, home-made iPad docks springing up, some of them re-purposing old Macs. Three of the most creative ones that have caught our attention in the last few days are below:

Gamer Arcade Cabinet

We want! Based on ThinkGeek's April Fool's iPad joke dock, this cardboard but fully functioning mock-up has us very excited (we really wanted one of the ThinkGeek ones and tried to find out how to order it, hoping that it was real, but were very disappointed). Read more about how they did it at TUAW's site.

iPad Arcade Accessory from hm0429 on Vimeo.

Classic iBook Clamshell Dock

ipad_ibook7.jpg

Ingenious and very creative, our next DIY iPad dock is built into a clamshell iBook. Although called 'Fisher Price' and otherwise mocked when it came out, we have a soft spot for this little iBook, having owned several versions, the latest one being very similar to the iBook used for this case mod.

The original post (in Japanese) does have a lot of photos showing how the iBook case mod was done, but we heard about it over at the MacStories site, where they have a description and links to the original, as well as a translated (not at all well) site.

Suffice to say, we love this.

Mac Classic dock

This one has been around for a little while on several big blogs, so forgive us if you have seen this one before, but it is creative simply for nothing other than recognising that the screen size is perfect and attacking a Mac Classic with a dremel. Although there is no access to the Home button or other buttons, or a dock connector at the moment, we think that is easy to remedy given the iBook solution above.

Check out Wired's article for more details and see the video below for what it looks like in practice, and the project creators Site Hirac even have another video on YouTube of the iPad working with a USB keyboard.

Color Splash by Pocket Pixels Inc.

Color Splash by Pocket Pixels Inc. is fun little app that every creative iPad owner needs. In essence it enables you to paint in total colour (or 'color' in the U.S.) saturation or desaturation. With multi levels of undo and ability to save multiple sessions Color Splash is simple yet powerful. There's a very good reason why Color Splash has maintained a 5 star rating, we thoroughly recommend it.

Just a quick reminder, once you've created your lovely art with Colour Splash be sure to add it to the iPad Creative, Art and Design group over at Flickr. We are about to hit the 1000th painting threshold!

iMovie for iPad

We aim to take a closer look at Reel Director for iPad next week, but first impressions are good. Of course, since the iPhone 4 announcement which included the unveiling of iMovie for iPhone we can't help but get excited about the prospect of iMovie for iPad.

iMovie for iPhone 4 looks quite stunning! It's was only a few years ago when the ability to edit 720p video with live previewing was only available on Macs with the very latest video cards, but on 24th June 2010 that lofty ability will be available to all iPhone 4 owners. How crazy is that?!

We are fully supportive of ability to edit your HD video on the iPhone itself, but we would love to see Apple bring their best of class video editing app to the iPad. The larger, higher resolution screen would make for a more relaxed editing and viewing experience. It would be a real shame if the iPad missed out on what looks to be a classic version of Apple's classic video editing app.

As an aside, we would like to point out that Nokia have been offering movie editing features on their high-end smartphones since the Nokia N93 way back in 2006, but for some reason they axed this feature. 2010 sees the return of video editing with the rather marvellous Nokia N8. Summer 2010 is going to be very interesting indeed for amateur video producers - we can't wait!

Friday Fun: iPad Guitar DJ Frame

Fancy performing live with some of the fancy iPad Synth and audio apps?  VJ Frank Z has you covered. He is taking pre-orders for a custom guitar-like frame which mounts your iPad and controllers on what looks like a snowboard for your very own live performance. Whilst some are scoffing at this idea, we happen to think it is very creative!

Check out the video evidence below, and extra kudos points to the person who leaves a comment naming all of the iPad music apps VJ Frank uses in his video:

iPhone 4. The shape of things to come?

Any new device that runs iOS 4 is worth discussion here at iPad Creative. Though I certainly don't hold the view that the iPad is 'nothing more than a big iPhone', there are certainly overlaps in the design, both hardware and software. With that in mind what can the newly announced iPhone 4 tell us about the future of the iPad.

Retina Display

One of the biggest features, if not the biggest, is the new iPhone display, Apple call it the Retina Display. The idea is that the pixel density — a staggering 326ppi — is so great that the human retina cannot resolve the pixels at normal viewing distance. Some have rightful disputed Apple's claim, but in reality most people will never see the pixels due to having slightly lower than 20/20 vision, or simply because the screen will be covered in finger smudges the minute it's unboxed.

Will the iPad get a Retina Display anytime soon? No. For Apple to fit the iPad with an IPS display that equals the pixel density of the iPhone 4 would mean packing it with at least 2445 pixels across its length. What I believe is far more likely is that Apple will double the current resolution to 2048 x 1526 (or there abouts) at some point within the next 18 months. This will bring the pixel density up much closer to that of the Retina Display but not across the 300ppi threshold necessary for Apple to label it as a Retina Display.

Glass front and back

Personally I don't think the iPad will have the glass sandwich treatment anytime soon, the rigidity of the unibody design is perfect for the larger body of the iPad.

The new camera with HD video capture

I'm not saying that the iPad with never be equipped with a camera that has the same spec as the new iPhone 4 module, but it's probably 5 years away at least. There really isn't much point, the iPad isn't a pocket device. However…

FaceTime

Now here is a camera that would be totally at home in the iPad. The VGA front facing camera used by FaceTime, Apple's new video conferencing app, will most likely make it into the very next iteration of the iPad as will FaceTime. I actually think that FaceTime started out life as an iPad app but got pushing down to the iPhone 4 early because of time constraints whilst pushing for the January announcement.

Gyroscopes

The addition of a gyroscope to the iPhone sensor array can only be a good thing. What this will mean for new iOS 4 apps can only really be hinted at right now. It will certainly make some interesting games, but also for a much more accurate sat nav solution. Look for a gyroscope in the next version of the iPad.

What do you make of the new iPhone 4, could you see yourself upgrading in a couple of weeks time? I'd love to hear from you in a comment below.

James Burland

Synth. One of our favourite apps gets a solid update

Synth from Retronyms is a superb synthesiser app for the iPad. It's one of the very first apps that we show to iPad objectors - just try replicating that on your £199 netbook! Our only grumble is that Synth is missing a few key features that make it an essential purchase. A recent update has gone someway towards bridging the gap between fun and essential.

Version 2 new offers a Pitch-Bend wheel, and an in-app purchased upgrade path that provides much deeper control over the sounds of the instruments, in fact you can pretty much create your own instruments from scratch.

We'd like to see Retronyms add basic recording features before we wholeheartedly recommend the in-app upgraded version, but it's a great little app even in its current incarnation.

WWDC Keynote Address now available for download

The WWDC Keynote Address is now available for download via iTunes. The streaming version that we linked to in a previous article is fine, but surely you'll want to see that stunning 'Retina Display' in all it's goodness!

iPad news from the WWDC 2010 keynote

 

We will come back later with our initial thoughts on the iPhone 4 and iOS 4 and what it means for iPad owners, but in the meantime here is a quick recap of some of the iPad related announcements from last night's WWDC keynote address.

Steve Jobs presented a video reel featuring news clips from America, parts of Europe and Japan. Most of the clips were from the launch of the iPad in each territory with lots of smiling faces and excited punters. People really do love the iPad it seems.

Steve then mentioned some quite astonishing figures. 1 iPad sold every 3 seconds on average, 17 apps per iPad downloaded, 5 million eBooks downloaded via the iBooks store, many of which were probably free, 22% of all eBook sales are purchased on the iPad. That's some impressive stats.

Steve didn't dwell on the iPad too much, this event was focusing squarely on the new iPhone. However, he did have one piece of important iPad news, something which will please anyone who like us have been itching for Apple to open up iBooks to include more published material.

The next version of iBooks, due at any time, includes full support for the popular PDF format. It's too early to tell just how well iBooks will display complex PDF files, but if the experience when viewing PDFs is similar to when viewing ePUB files, this could be quite a game changer.

The ePUB format is limited in scope by its basic nature. Font formatting, for example, is very limited. The PDF format supports just about every typographic and image control available. In short, it forms the basis of almost all printed publications in existence.

We can't wait to see how this develops.

Is this why there are no Professional Photography apps on the iPad yet?

Although the iPad has been out for two months now we are still waiting for a full-on professional photographer's workflow tool, something that can quickly allow the photographer to import a bunch of photos, tag them, sort them, rate them and reject the duffers, something like Photo Mechanic.

If you are not familiar with Photo Mechanic, this is essentially what it does, but its real strength lies in adding the essential IPTC meta information to photos that stock and other 'bureau' type of photographers need to include. It performs this key role very quickly once set up, and it does it well, without doing much else. So it seems a 'given' that the iPad could do this relatively simple task for the photographer in the field.  Or can it?

A lot of photographers have obviously been asking this question, seeing the iPad as an obvious enhancement to their creative workflow, because the makers of the Photo Mechanic software Camera Bits, in fact the Founder and President of the company, Dennis Walker, has written an 'Open letter regarding iPad development'.  The whole letter is here if you want to read it.

The tone of the letter is a little bit dismissive of the iPad, and of Apple's control over developer access to the iPhone OS that the iPad uses, but that aside, there are some interesting points made as to why Camera Bits, at least, will not be bringing a Professional photographer's app to the iPad any time soon.

Here are a few of the key points Dennis Walker made about his perception of the iPad's limitations for development, in his open letter:

RAM limitations

Photo Mechanic running on a MacBook Pro can have as much as 4 GB of RAM available to it.  The amount of RAM is key since that is what software relies upon to do its work.  A 20 megapixel camera requires 60 MB of RAM, or about HALF of the RAM available to an iPad app, to hold a single uncompressed image in working memory.  Therefore it is clear that a full version of the Photo Mechanic "application" simply isn't possible for these devices.

Accessing images from the Camera

On the iPad the photos must first be imported into the "photo library" using the built-in "Photos" app.  Then you could presumably switch to a third-party app to browse your photo library and do your work.  But right now it is impossible to create an app that works directly with the original photos (or movies etc) on a flash card.  Everything must start and go through the built-in "Photos" app.

Unfortunately if you have actually used the iPad Photos app you will know this isn't a very friendly process if you take a lot of photos, are on deadline, and need to choose and ingest only a few photos for timely posting....The Photos app doesn't even show the filenames, eliminating a possible workaround....

Now that a photo is in YOUR library, you would think an app could read the photo in its original state – in other words, be able to treat the photo as a file that you can read and write to, just as if it were on the flash card you read it from.  But that is not the case since all you get from the "image picker" are the PIXELS at full resolution....all of your Exif metadata from the camera, even the FILE NAME is gone: its only pixels.

Camera Connection Kit

We were able to connect a few different USB compact flash readers to the USB adapter of the CCK, but they only worked on some CF cards.  Other CF cards would produce an "accessory uses too much power" error message when the card was inserted into the same reader.  Also, when using the CCK part with the USB port and a cable to a camera or card reader, it is very easy to accidentally disconnect the CCK part from the iPad's dock connector since the CCK connector doesn't lock and it doesn't take much sideways force to break the connection...

And then...

The bottom line is that the requirement to use the iPad Photos app to access your photos on a flash card, plus the connectivity issues, means the iPad is not something that a professional would likely tolerate.

Towards the end of the open letter Dennis gets a bit more negative about Apple and the iPad and the tone sharpens a little. He goes on to suggest, for now, you get a NetBook running Windows and install their Windows version of Photo Mechanic, or wait for an Android based tablet with direct access to the memory card, but he does also put out a rally call to all photographers who want this functionality to request it of Apple.

Why we mention this?

Why are we, on a blog which is concerned with using the iPad creatively, covering a developer who says the iPad isn't worth developing for as it is?

Well, for a start, we are not blindly stating that the iPad is perfect at launch. We must remember though that it is a) only two months old, and b) a first generation device.

We also like to consider both sides of the issue and bring a bit of balance to the table to keep things interesting.

Any device this new to the market and with such a unique placement will take time to find its feet, that is only to be expected. We acknowledge that the iPad as it is will not meet everyone's requirements or wants for now, but future iterations probably will. We have already said what the vision for the future may be now that we have the iPad and dozens of me-too devices to follow. If you didn't catch it, take the time to read this post from a few days ago.

The spirit is willing...

The desire to use the iPad for these kinds of purposes is unquestionably present, from the users and potential purchasers through to the software companies and individual developers themselves, as evidenced by Dennis Walker feeling the need to address in his letter these questions and calls from his customers for app development. Dennis didn't end up saying 'never', he basically said 'not yet'.

There are obviously real and specific reasons why Apple have restricted third party access to the photos on the iPhone OS devices, whether this is for security, to ensure OS stability, or for some other reason, we simply do not know at the moment.

We might even have to accept the fact that the iPad simply was not made to do this kind of thing (especially processing massive RAW files), no matter how much we really want it to.

There is hope

What we are encouraged and impressed by is the creative uses many have put their iPads too already, and it has only been out in the wild for the last 60 days or so. There have already been developed many fantastic creative apps, optimising every ounce of power and ability from the iPad.  We invite you to take some time to look around this blog and you will see many examples of apps and created content that show the potential of the iPad even as it stands today.

It can only get better in the future, maybe even enough to run Camera Bits' professional level app that is keenly anticipated by many, if they haven't been beaten to it by another developer already (see below).

Sort Shots offers an alternative 

If you found your way here because you were looking for a Photo Mechanic alternative on the iPad, or if you do want to use the iPad for some of the functionality that Photo Mechanic seems to offer, you could try Sort Shots for the iPad.  This app allows you to use the photos already in your photo library and create Tags, Ratings, Favourites and sort on any or all of these criteria.

Then you can quickly find the good ones, or all photos of your trip to Paris that are more than three stars with the colour Red in them, for example.

You can also upload selected photos to Flickr, Facebook, Picassa & Twitter for sharing with others or as part of your workflow.

If you try Sort Shots out and want to let us know what you think of it, please do so in the comments.

Sheet Music on Steroids now on your iPad - Etude for iPad released

We let you know back in mid-March that Wonder Warp Software were planning to release an iPad specific version of their brilliant piano tutor software Etude.  Well yesterday the Etude app was updated to a Universal app that will support both the iPhone/iPod Touch and your iPad, with device specific user interface and features.  

The iPad version looks really nice and they have maximised the use of the screen space to show much more of the score at the same time.

Even better, if you already own the Etude iPhone version, your iPad version is free! Otherwise, the app will only cost you $4.99 (£2.99), which is a very good price when you consider that you can download all of the sheet music and songs to play for free, with premium, artist licensed songs coming soon.

Etude can be downloaded from the app store now, or you can see more information about the app and a video demo here.

There's more - Free Mac software 

If you are on a Mac and want something to help create chord progressions or use as a teaching aid, you can get a free copy of Wonder Warp's SimpleChord desktop app.  This software lets you look up piano chords and create chord progressions of your own, and supports an external midi keyboard too.

It also includes a midi export option for the chord progressions that you create in SimpleChord, and these midi files can then be used in Garageband very simply as a new track, ready for you to add the rest of your masterpiece, or just use it to practice with.

SimpleChord would normally cost you $12.95, so it is worth a tweet to spread the word. Details are here.

And slowly the penny starts to drop

Just this last week it seems that the idea of the iPad as a device for creating content, something that we've been saying since the start, is slowly starting to sink in. Numerous reviews that were published in the run up to the worldwide launch last Friday cited painting and music creation as primary iPad activities alongside web browsing, book reading and gaming.

Robert Scoble recently published an article entitled, 'How the iPad is changing art and music'. Leading the article is a brief video interview (see above) with David Newman an artist who has taken to the iPad in a big way. David's art can be found on his personal Flickr page as well as on the iPad Creative, Art and Design Flickr group.

We would like to take this moment to thank David and the other 77 artists that have already added their artwork to the group. It is your skill and imagination that is slowly starting to turn the tide of thought.

If you are fortunate enough to be among the 2 million iPad owners but haven't yet used Apple's 'latest creation' to do something creative of your own what's holding you back? You have the device, you have the apps, you have the means to share your art, go for it! Oh, and while you're at it why not add iPad Creative as a permanent link to you iPad home screen. Or if you prefer a more social way of interacting with the team be sure to follow us on Twitter (@ipadcreative)

The iPad, Mac killer

The Mac platform isn't going to be around forever, in fact, it may not even by around 5 years from now. No, the Mac will not be marginalised by Microsoft and its Windows homogeny, nor will it be thrown against the rocks by Google as it pushes Chrome and/or Android into every digital nook and cranny. The fate of the Mac rests in the hands of iPhone OS, more specifically the iPad.

There was a time when people assumed that the Apple II would always be around, many assumed that the Mac was a toy not a proper computer, an expensive gadget for Apple nuts and early adopters. It wasn't long however until it become clear that the Macintosh (as it was then called) was to become the very core of Apple.

The unveiling of the iPhone in January 2007 made the 23 year old Mac look old, in 2010 the iPad makes it look positively last century.

Going back to the Mac after prolonged time with the iPad is comforting, but it does leave you asking questions such as, "Why doesn't my £1000 Mac play back HD video as efficiently as my £429 iPad?", "Why don't Mac applications restart in exactly the same state like most iPad apps do?", "Where are push notifications?", the questions keep on coming...

If you doubt that Apple believe that the Mac has had its day, then I suggest you download a few Mac apps from the App Store... Of course, there are no Mac applications in the App Store. I would also refer you to the sneak peak headline on the Apple website shortly before the launch of the iPhone in 2007 which read, "The first 30 years were just the beginning". The transition will take a while — perhaps 5 years is a little too optimistic — but it will happen eventually and it will become quite clear to everyone that the transition is taking place once Mac sales start to drop off at the end of 2011.

It seems almost certain that monthly iPad sales will surpass monthly Mac sales from this point on. It will be interesting to see how Apple handles this. It is in Apple's best interests to make the transition as smooth and as profitable as possible, if buyers get even the slightest whiff of the notion that Apple is actively planning to put the Mac out to pasture then sales will dry up too quickly. There is another path that Apple could take...

Welcome to the iPad Pro

An iPad with a much larger screen and a significantly increased resolution — let's guess at 2048 x 1536 for the sake of existing iPad app doubling — with a industrial design that is specifically designed to reside on a desk, could command a higher price tag, enabling Apple to benefit from Mac sized profits. Battery life wouldn't be so much of an issue, so the iPad Pro could be packed with much more horsepower than the standard iPad. The App Store could include a section specifically for iPad Pro apps which would combine the ease of iPhone OS apps with the power and depth of today's Mac applications.

We appreciate that what we have outlined above is not the commonly held view, we would be interested in reading your thoughts on the future of the Mac and iPad, please be sure to leave a comment below.

iPad Case Roundup - The other ones

In this the final instalment of our iPad case roundup we take a look at those cases which did not fit any of the other categories or that we felt we could not include in the previous posts. So far we have looked at Portfolio style cases, leave-on Skin or slim cases, slip cases/sleeves and more spacious Bags or Carry Cases.

Today's cases are more for fun really, although we would like a few of them for real. There are a few oddities, including a Do-it-yourself option for those on a really tight budget.

So we will kick off this final part of the series with:

Substrata iPad Box

FPWoodenboxhingelid.jpg

It might seem a bit strange to want to wrap natural wood around a chunk of silicone and glass from Apple, but we like the idea a lot.  And these cases look gorgeous.

If you have seen Substrata's wooden iPhone cases, you will know what to expect from this innovative custom woodworking shop from the Portland, Oregon area.  The iPad cases are in prototype still, but the release date is slated for June, so surely not long to wait now. There are two models, the Sliding lid model and the Hinged lid model, the one we are looking at is the hinged lid (Box) case, as it seems to offer more protection and also has a stand action by folding back the front cover.

We like the curve of the wood on the bottom lip that gives the case when closed a lovely, smooth, tablet shape, that should slip nicely into your laptop or carry bag.  You can sign up to receive news on the iPad case releases from Substrata on their site and you can also view a complete gallery of the prototype wooden cases here.

Book for iPad

Spot the iPad case in this picture

bookledge1a.jpg

Yep, it is the grey one in the middle that says simply 'Book' on the spine, but it is nicely camouflaged don't you think? Handmade by one guy in a studio in Minnesota, these 100% wool felt lined cases are made to look like an ordinary book from the outside.  We like these a lot too.

book725.jpg

The linen used on the cover provides an authentic book like appearance and the banding at the top of the spine, along with the realistic looking pages around the edge add to the authenticity of the camouflaging.  The case combines the aforementioned felt sleeve internally with hardback casing to offer a good deal of everyday protection for your precious iPad.

The price tag is $89 and you can get the spine printed with custom text for an extra $5.  Whilst not a bargain, the 'Book' is very unique and lovingly handmade with the best of materials.  For a quality product that not everyone will have, we could go for this case.

Do-it-yourself iPad Book Case

There are quite a few DIY iPad case projects around the web, some of them actually quite good and others, not so!  The idea of making your own iPad case appeals to us though, partly because of the challenge, but partly to save money if we're honest.  Having recently spent hundreds of pounds on your iPad you are probably quite keen to save a few pennies on your accessories.

If you cannot afford the 'Book' case mentioned above, you can create something like it yourself with quite a bit of time and a certain amount of effort.

This project does require hacking a big hole out of an existing paper book, which feels a bit wrong to be honest. We have trouble throwing any book away still, but if you take the writer's suggestion and get a cheap, secondhand book that someone else was going to throw away anyway, then perhaps it is permissible.

We like this DIY project for the stealth aspect and because it is a fun and unique approach. The video below is from Ben, the creator of this project and how-to article, have a look and if you try it let us know how it goes by commenting below.

We hope you have enjoyed our series of posts on some of the cases you can get for your iPad. Whatever you use to protect and carry your iPad we would love to hear from you about your experiences and any recommendations you have for our readers, just leave us a comment below.

Just in case you missed them, here are the other posts in this iPad Case Roundup series:

iPad Portfolio Style Cases

iPad Skins and Shields

iPad Slip Cases and Pouches

iPad Bags (to carry more of your stuff)

My MiFi experience

I've recently been test driving a 3 (UK network provider) Mobile WiFi unit in conjunction with my iPad 16GB non 3G. On the eve of the UK iPad launch I'd like to share my thoughts, what impressed me and what annoyed me.

The premise is simple. The MiFi unit — about half the size and weight of an iPhone — acts as a bridge between 3's high speed 3G mobile signal and the iPad's WiFi antenna, effectively giving you much of the benefit of the iPad 3G but with a little more flexibility.

In practice MiFi does exactly this. I experienced no problems connecting to the MiFi and only a few issues in getting the MiFi to connect to 3's network. It's certainly not as instant as having a 3G radio built right into the device — the MiFi takes quite a number of seconds to get going — but then most iPad users who are considering the MiFi are likely to be connecting in fairly large clumps of time, whilst travelling to work on the train for example.

The range, battery life and physical sturdiness of the MiFi are just about spot on. I managed to get a good 8 hours of usage out of the MiFi and I don't recall ever going out of range whilst using it around the house and in the office.

I do have one problem with the MiFi

The user interface with its four colour-coded indicators, and tiny side buttons is a horrid. The MiFi should have just two buttons, one large and one small. A press of the larger button would boot up the mobile and WiFi connections, a press of the smaller button would disconnect/connect the the mobile signal. Add in a couple of spot LED's to indicate battery and signal strength and you're good to go. Instead operating the MiFi is a combination of long hold buttons presses whilst squinting at the seemingly random flashing lights. Yeah, it's not great.

UI issues aside, I can recommend the MiFi to anyone looking to connect an iPad, the occasional iPod Touch and any other WiFi only devices to a fast, reliable and cost effective mobile network.

Monthly tariffs start at £9.50 per month for 1GB per month on an 18 month contract. PAYG is £49 for the MiFi unit plus top ups.

BBC iPlayer, first look

There's no BBC iPlayer iPad app just yet, but UK iPad owners now have access to the 'big screen' version of the iPlayer website, this provides very high quality video streams at a decent bit rate. We haven't really got too much to say at this early stage other than to congratulate the BBC on providing a service to iPad owners from day one. We expect an iPad specific version of the iPlayer site to go live sometime this Summer.

International iPad owners looking to view the iPlayer video streams will need to get themselves a quality VPN connection, or move to the UK. ^_^

Got an iPhone 3GS? You'll love the iPad

Okay, so perhaps you don't actually need an iPad, but honestly, once you've seen for yourself just how good your iPhone photos and videos look on that gorgeous IPS display you'll be dreaming of ways to fund your own an iPad, it's that good!

It's not rocket science, the iPhone 3GS captures photographs at resolutions that far exceed that of the iPad's display, hence even when your photographs are enlarged they still look sharp. Although the iPhone 3GS video capture resolution is less than the resolution of the iPad's display, the colour accuracy of the iPhone 3GS optics really come into their own, 3GS videos look vibrant and surprisingly sharp.

Where the iPad really shines is the style of playback.

When you decide to present a slideshow of all your favourite iPhone photos and videos the iPad takes everything in its stride and presents all the media in it's best possible format. For example, iPhone 3GS video captured is VGA, that's 640 x 480 pixels in a 4:3 format, the iPad display matches the 4:3 ratio of the iPhones video capture so it's a perfect fit! On the iPhone display you can either opt for black boarders on the left and right, or enlarge the video to fit the full width but sacrifice some pixels from the top and bottom. It works, but it not as pleasing as when viewed on the iPad. iPad hint: Do a reverse pinch to zoom in on any given part of your 3GS video full a closer look.

It's the little things...

Want to show a photo or video to someone sat opposite you? Simple, just flip the display and everything rotates to suit the new orientation. Worried that the sound on your iPhone video not being loud enough? Have no fear, even at full volume the iPad's twin speaker are surprisingly loud and clear.

In conclusion, if you have a large library of decent iPhone 3GS photos and videos, the iPad will allow you to share them with your friends and family in a quality and presentation style that was previously difficult to achieve. 

iPad Cases Roundup - iPad Bags

So far in this roundup series we have looked at cases that deal with your iPad, and your iPad alone, whether that be Portfolio style, a leave-on Skin or slim case, or even a slip case or sleeve.  Today we are going to consider cases which can carry your iPad along with all the kit that goes with it, and by this we mean the charger, connection cable, VGA cable, (your own) headphones or anything else you want to take along as well.

Even before the iPad was on everyone's radar, there were already a lot of bags around that could carry a netbook or other device with ~10" screens and, depending on your needs, you may find one of these perfectly suitable, but we have tried to concentrate our search on bags created specifically for the iPad.

So here we go, they are not all the same type of thing, but these are the top three carry bags that have caught our attention recently:

Cocoon Messenger Sling

This $29.99 (£21) bag from Cocoon is a ballistic nylon sling bag with the usual outside pocket and carry strap, but which has some interesting features. First, it includes an external pocket with a clear plastic section for your iPhone, iPod or other device which allows you to see the device's screen, but importantly even allows you to use the touchscreen without taking the device out of the pocket. This is really useful for operating the iPod controls without taking it out of the bag or, for example, taking a call on your iPhone and using the screen without having to fumble around in your bag for your phone.

Another unique feature is Cocoon's patented design for keeping your cables, connectors, and even other devices organised inside the case. If you haven't seen it before, this is the description from Cocoon's website:

  • GRID-IT!™ organization system – a rubberized woven elastic object retention system for gadget organization
  • Ideal for organizing MacBook accessories, iPod, iPhone, BlackBerry and other digital devices
  • Versatile Organization
  • Endless configurations
  • Designed to hold items firmly in place
  • Back of GRID-IT!™ doubles as a mouse pad

The Grid-it is a bit odd to look at first of all but when you see it in action it makes sense, so we have found this little review video on YouTube from supersonik90 who has lots of reviews on her YouTube channel, check it out:

 

Sena Collega

Sena case crocored.jpgWe like to recommend things sometimes that are a little less run-of-the-mill and, if you can bear the leather, the Collega can be used with handles like a mini-briefcase, or with the handles retracted like a 'clutch' bag.

We think that in Black and used with handles the case looks quite business-like, but Sena also supply the Collega in a Red Croc version too (pictured) which may appeal to a different type of user.

Looking very modern in styling, the Collega includes an outside snap-shut pocket which can carry your cables, charger, headphones, etc. and a very sturdy looking zipper around the main compartment.

Internally the Collega has a micro velvet lining for the main compartment which also includes a good dose of padding to protect your iPad in transit. We know it will not appeal to everyone, but if you fancy a more detailed look at the Collega have a look at Sena's site here

Loopbag Transit

Loopbag_12_laptop_case_cb0002_4-tm.jpgLoopbag_12_laptop_case_cb0002_6-tm.jpgOk, this one does say 'iPad' in its official title, but it does also say that it will fit all laptops up to 12.1 inch, so we cannot honestly say that it was made only for the iPad. What this case does have is an internal pocket to coset your iPad in 10mm thick padding, along with a lot of extra room to carry more of your stuff than the other two bags above.

It has a double zip design that allows you quick access to just the iPad pocket, or you can unzip both and completely open up the bag to have total access to the contents. The internal lining comes in a choice of contrasting Green, Coffee or Azure, depending on your model choice, and if you have ever tried to find a black cable inside of a black lined bag in a dimly lit room, then you will know how useful that can be!

When it comes to getting around with the Transit case, you have the option of using a shoulder strap or the carrying handle on the top. The material used in the construction of the outer case is waterproof, adding a bit of all-weather protection for your iPad and accessories.

Overall we think this is a nice looking bag, with enough storage space in addition to your iPad to satisfy most users wanting to take a number of additional components with them to work or on day trips. You can check the website for more pictures and press reviews too.

As always, we found it difficult to narrow this roundup down to just three bags, so if you have any experience with another bag, or even one of these three, and want to let us know, please leave your comment below.

Don't miss the other posts in this iPad Case Roundup series:

iPad Portfolio Style Cases

iPad Skins and Shields

iPad Slip Cases and Pouches

iPad Wooden case, Book style case and a DIY book option