So, I bought an iPad.

For a long time, I had no interest in an iPad, especially for $500. Mostly I wanted a big screen for reading the newspaper, PDFs, and comic books. To solve this problem, over time, I ended up with two different devices: a Kindle DX and an HP TouchPad.

The Kindle DX was great. It was light, had a beautiful screen, and could hold a zillion books. I used the heck out of it, but it fell by the wayside when I got the TouchPad. The TouchPad could read everything the DX could, but also comic books (which looked gorgeous) and full-color PDFs. The problem was that while the Kindle DX felt quite nice to use, the TouchPad felt sort of unfinished. I liked using webOS quite a bit, actually. Its general UI made a lot of sense. The individual apps, though, were all sort of half-hearted. The PDF reader was slow and … well, just terrible. It worked, but not well. The Kindle reader worked, mostly, but not very well, and when I bought The Marvelous Land of Oz, trying to read it would crash the app reliably within about ten seconds. It was a mess. I really liked being able to read my color PDFs and comics, but I couldn’t bring myself to recommend the device to anybody who didn’t really, really understand the limitations. (I did convince Frew to buy two, though, and he seems pretty happy with that. Phew!)

The high-density display on the new iPad was really tempting me. I had a gander at Miyagawa’s in Paris, and spent some more time looking over the apps I’d plan to use. It seemed like things would be much better on iPad. (I also kept looking at replacing webOS with Android, but it looked like a big pain in the butt and I heard pretty bad things about Android on tablets in general.) I decided that if I sold my Kindle DX and HPTP for the going rate on eBay, I’d have reduced the price of an iPad to replace them to about a hundred bucks. I could live with that.

This morning, I listed my tablet and Kindle DX. (The Kindle DX sold almost immediately; maybe I should’ve asked for more!) On the bus to work, I placed an order for an iPad, and I was excited – not for the device, actually, but to try Apple’s newish buying experience. Instead of having the device shipped to me, I told them that I’d pick it up in the store. I picked the one near work and clicked “buy.” A little while later, I got an email that my order was ready for me. Great!

I had this image in my head: I’d get inside the Apple store geo-fence and my phone would bleep, telling me that I could tap a button to have someone bring me my device. I’d show them my phone, and I’d be on my way. Exciting! That’s how this sort of transaction should work.

Instead, my phone said “someone will be with you shortly.” I waited. I waited more. I waited a long time. Someone asked whether I was being helped. I said, “I’m here to pick something up that I ordered online, and I’m waiting for someone to get it for me.” The clerk said, “Oh, cool,” and wandered off. I double-checked my phone. I told me I was 7th in line.

I kept waiting and watching my slow progress up the line. I saw employees all over talking to each other. Why would I have to wait in line to be handed a box and leave? I kept waiting.

Eventually, my phone said, “Go talk to Nathan at the front of the store.” I went, but he was busy with someone else. I waited for several minutes before interrupting. “Hey, sorry to bother you, but my phone told me to find you, Nathan.” The other guy thanked him and left, and Nathan, who had seen and heard me, ignored me to do something on his phone. I interrupted him again. He looked at my order and went to get it. When he came back, he had an iPad. “There should be a cover, too,” I said.

“Oh,” he said. “That hasn’t shipped yet.”

I was perplexed, and pointed at the huge display of Smart Covers. “There’s like a million of them over there!”

“Yeah, but yours is being shipped to you.”

“Um. I don’t want to wait for the cover for my iPad. Why can’t I just have one of those?”

“Well, you can go over there and buy one, but you’ll have to call and cancel your order. It’s pretty annoying.”

I signed his phone and waited for him to go get me a bag. Then I had to go struggle to get the color I wanted from the top of the rack and use my iPhone to check myself out. Then I had to call the Apple Store 800 number, where they told me that my order was already packed, and I’d have to wait for it to arrive, then take it to the store to return it.

My experience wasn’t terrible. It’s just that Apple has done so much work to facilitate an amazingly seamless transaction that it was disappointing to see how thoroughly they blew it, here. I had to wait, I had to feel ignored, I had to call them on the phone, I had to make two trips to the store (one to purchase and one to return) and I had to go through checkout twice (once for my iPad, once for the cover).

The high-density display looks nice, though.

Written on April 9, 2012
apple   hardware