Yesterday I received my 32GB HP Touchpad and after an hour or so, I wrote up my first impressions which were mostly good. The build quality was good and webOS had some very nice touches such as full multitasking and an intuitive way to browse open apps.
I spent a little more time on it last night and have some more observations.
Firstly, in use without a cover, it’s pretty slippery and quite hard to keep gripped when laying down or sitting up without propping it up. The back cover is made of high gloss plastic which flexes under pressure. The gloss surface makes it very slippery and I constantly felt my fingers slipping down in use. This is easy to fix with a case of course but compare that with the iPad and the iPad’s aluminium case is more tactile and easier to grip.
I like that the home button has a little light that throbs when you have new notifications even when the device is off. This reminds me of my old Blackberry Bold’s red LED and it’s very handy to see when there are new notifications without switching the device on. When you do have new notifications, they are listed on the home ‘lock’ screen.
In use, the OS is slick with the exception of odd periods of lag. I tried to link a few of my accounts to the device and it would just spin and spin for a few minutes before continuing. As mentioned yesterday, you get used to tapping and having no feedback while something loads a few seconds later.
I really like the task bar at the top of the device which is almost always available. From here you can quickly adjust screen brightness, view current notifications and toggle rotation lock and volume controls. Speaking of rotation, the Touchpad seems more sensitive to rotation than the iPad. Quite often I would move the touchpad a little while shifting seating position and have it rotate to portrait and I’d have to spin the touchpad manually to force it back.
I ran the system update application which happily told me there was a new version of webOS available (3.0.2 if you’re interested). It downloaded it over the air and then told me it needed at least 50% battery before it would even consider running the upgrade. When it had sufficient charge, it was a very quick process and much more enjoyable than the iOS updates which require a connection to iTunes and a goat sacrifice to prevent bricking (in my experience, anyway).
The HP App Catalog is very much modelled on the iOS app store and that’s no bad thing. It offers the usual tools; browsing via categories, recommendations or direct searching. As expected, it’s not as well stocked as the App Store but what is there worked well. I downloaded a Twitter client, charmingly called “Spaz HD” and the ever-present Angry Birds. For me, having a list of strangely named apps that are “exclusive” to webOS and a lack of familiar names further gives the impression that you’re using a second rate device.
I asked myself the golden question: If the Touchpad was available 18 months ago and I had to choose between the iPad and the Touchpad, which would I have purchased? Yeah. The iPad. But only because I have an iPhone and an iMac so it makes sense to go native. If I were to base it solely on the hardware and software and remove all other factors? It would be a close call.
If the same apps were available on both platforms then there really isn’t much in it. webOS gives a richer OS experience in that you’re aware that there is an operating system tying together the applications whereas iOS takes a back seat and is largely transparent. This is why iOS is such a success. It’s not the most technically advanced. It’s not the most attractive but it works well, it’s intuitive and it doesn’t get in the way. In webOS I’d find myself in a settings page with no way back to the application without hitting the home key, swiping the page away and reloading. It constantly reminds you that you’re using a computer.
In many ways, I’d love to see webOS mature and see how it looks in a few years because I think it could have been a serious contender to Apple or at the very least a pretty solid second. Alas, we’ll probably never know. It’s certainly too late to take any decent market share with Amazon about to enter the tablet market with a low cost device and Android maturing.
So what of my device? I’ll probably sell it on if my family don’t want it. There’s zero point in keeping it if you have another tablet already. It does what every other tablet does but with less available apps and that is why HP made the decision to pull it.