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iPad as an evening device

April 9, 2010

I’ve been using my iPad for nearly a week now. Overall I’m impressed; the quality of the design (both the hardware and the OS) is very high. And some of the 3rd party applications are just stunning. Developers are really taking advantage of the larger screen (compared to the iPhone) in cool ways.

In thinking about what role the iPad really plays, I’ve found myself considering temporal zones rather than particular tasks. Yes, you can surf the web on a smart phone, iPad, laptop, and desktop. But when do you choose to use those different devices? When thinking about how I use my devices, I think the categories that make the most sense are Morning, Day, and Evening.

Morning devices are devices that you use after you wake up and before you arrive at work. Interactions with these devices tended to be squeezed into our morning routines: exercising, showering, dressing, eating, dropping the kids off at school, commuting. All of these tasks tend to be completed under time pressure, so there isn’t a lot of time to spare sitting around waiting for Windows to boot. Instead interaction is crammed into those moments while you wait for the coffee to brew or your bread to toast. A smart phone fits this pattern perfectly: you can get at it quickly, start using it immediately, and easily interrupt what you’re doing and stuff it back in a pocket when your routine needs to move forward again.

Laptops and desktops are day devices: the always-on tool you spend most of your day sitting in front of or near. The large screen and full keyboard of these devices help accomplish your content creation tasks more quickly (you are creating content at work, right, not just passively consuming it?). The sustained interaction amortizes the pain of their slow boot times, and the fact that you can put them on your desk with a nearby power outlet means that weight and power consumption aren’t really issues.

Evening devices are the ones that you pull out and relax with once the kids are in bed. They’re for catching up on personal email, surfing the web, catching up on news, watching videos, reading books, and playing games as you kick back and relax from the busy day. And that’s what the iPad is perfect for. You can settle onto your couch or a comfy chair without the size and weight of a laptop (odds are you won’t be inputting much text), and it’s easy to position the iPad to comfortably consume content (I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to kick back and relax with a laptop – it makes me feel like I’m working).

Now obviously that’s somewhat of a simplification. Not everyone’s days match that model, and as we’ve learned from our smartphone studies device use can change drastically when people travel. And I didn’t say anything about use on weekends or when people are out and about during the day. But I think the notion of considering how our devices fit into our temporal zones may prove useful as we look at how to design user experiences for the increasingly heterogeneous collection of devices that users employ.

From → Hardware, Mobile, Musings

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