Long-term test: one month with the iPad

Day two

Like most parents, I was intrigued to see what my kids would make of the iPad, especially my three-year-old, Jacob. He was already used to an iPhone, so when he saw the larger iPad his face was a genuine picture of the child-like wonder that Apple products supposedly seek to instil in us all.

He had no problem turning the iPad on and navigating the different screens to find his favourite apps. There are plenty of great apps for kids to keep them entertained and learn as they have fun.

First Words proved to be a big hit with Jacob, as did the free drawing app Doodle Buddy, especially once he worked out that he could paint little cartoon dog poos, complete with sound effect, all over the screen. Kids, eh?

iPad and jacob

A word of warning for parents here: once you've let your child have a play with an iPad, there's no going back!

Later that week, when the device was being borrowed by Deputy Editor Chris Phin to review the iWork apps, Jacob sat on the sofa inconsolably wailing, "I want the iPad!". I did feel a bit concerned for the iPad's safety in the hands of a three-year-old, but provided you supervise your children when they use it, it shouldn't be an issue.

Apart from being dropped, the main danger comes in the form of scratches, so you're probably going to want to invest in a case of some kind. In fact, the biggest danger was accidentally sitting on it or knocking it off the coffee table. While a laptop can be stashed down the side of the sofa or behind a cushion, you're not going to want to risk the iPad in the same situation.

One solution is provided by the iPad's Picture Frame mode, in which you can have it cycle through pictures or albums in your photo gallery. So I sat it in a dock on the mantelpiece and had it function as a digital photo frame, showing off pictures of the kids.

Day five

By now I'd had time to see how the iPad functioned as a work machine – Apple has released Pages, Keynote and Numbers in its attempt to broaden the iPad's functionality.

We also picked up a few handy hardware additions from Apple: the iPad Dock, which enables it to stand up in portrait at a nice viewing angle so you can place it on a desk, and a wireless Apple keyboard that connects over Bluetooth.

iPad keyboard

The apps provide Apple's trademark ease of use and beauty, but are restricted in what they can do. Effectively the combination of Pages, a dock and keyboard turns the iPad into something similar to a MacBook, but it's not up to the same tasks.

In fact, I didn't really feel comfortable using the iPad with a keyboard at all – I kept reaching for a non-existent mouse, simply through force of habit. Maybe this would change with time, but I was almost one week in and the combination of typing on a real keyboard and touching the screen to reposition the cursor still felt alien to me.

Day eight

Most of the built-in applications are pretty much the same as their iPhone versions, just with slight makeovers.

Three that really caught my attention were Maps, YouTube and Calendar. With Maps, what worked really well on the iPad was Street View. By dropping a pin anywhere on the map to enter this mode, I could take a walk down the nation's highways and byways from the comfort of my sofa. It's amazing on a Mac, but it felt even more so when holding the screen in my hands.

The Calendar app was a standout simply because it looks gorgeous, while the YouTube app seemed to take on a whole new lease of life on the iPad. I hardly ever use the YouTube app on the iPhone, but the size of the iPad made the interface a lot more intuitive, so I started to make more use of it.

iPad outdoors

Which brings me nicely onto watching video on the iPad more generally. While the screen was gorgeous for displaying movies, being viewable at just about any angle, the glossy display made reflections a big issue. It was fine for one person watching a video, but when it came to people huddling around the iPad to view something, the reflections became a real problem.

Given the screen quality, many people will be looking at getting an iPad as an ebook reader. Since the iBooks Store hadn't yet been launched internationally, I had to log in using a US iTunes account to get access to it in the UK.

But I had a great time using the iBooks Store – it really is iTunes for books, full of the usual slick Apple touches. I was given access to such classics as Pride and Prejudice and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for free, while for the commercial store I could get a sample chapter of each book before purchasing.

The reading experience is pretty good, but there are issues to be aware of. Firstly, the formatting of the free books is a bit of a mess, especially when it comes to contents pages. Secondly, I couldn't read books outside in the sunshine on the iPad – something that doesn't pose a problem on e-Ink devices such as the Amazon Kindle.

On the whole though, the reading experience was good, and the fact that the screen is backlit did have advantages – I could read perfectly well at night without having to keep the bedside lamp on.