iPad usability: a tale of two apps

As the shift to working 100% with the iPad2 continues I've found that working with a set of productivity apps turns out to be fine. Although, in the post-workday period, when I'm browsing or researching or simply just looking for entertainment options, things get a little wonky.

Here's two 'TV and movies on the go' apps for example that are on polar ends of the UI/UX scale - Xfinity, aka Comcast, and HBO Go. Both are free and both work well. One of them requires a learning curve, one of them doesn't. For various reasons I decided to go back to having cable TV (the process of installation was a 10 day nightmare thanks to Comcast, but that's another story.) My decision was in part spurred by the availibity of apps that allow you to use the iPad to control how you record to a DVR and to watch programming on the iPad. So I got the two apps mentioned above.

Here's a couple of screenshots:

Xfinity iPad app

HBO Go iPad app

To be fair, that's not exactly an apples to apples comparison as the Xfinity app wants the user to be able to "do everything" therefore the app's developers have given us a menu overlay that shows what the buttons "do." Personally, whenever I'm confronted with that kind of 'welcome' screen I tend to sense disaster. If you have to show me how to use it..etc.

I dug in. The app let's you see the TV Guide just as it would appear on your TV (that's handy.) You can jump around in the channel lineup (ok but not totally necessary.) You can play TV shows from the channel lineup, I think..I couldn't get it to work. I selected a movie to watch. Oddly there's a 'play now' button in the bottom nav bar but tapping it doesn't start the movie, you have to tap on the movie to start play. I still have no idea what the bottom 'play now' button is for. (In the bottom right corner of the nav bar is a ? button, hitting that brings up the blue arrows of death as seen in the image above, but none point to the 'Play now' button. I'm sure there's a simple explanation.) Still, the movie played smoothly and the HDMI out to my monitor delivered a really crisp HD resolution on the external Apple Display.

It's going to take me some time to navigate this app, which is a shame as it could be really useful. Here's one thing it doesn't really need - the 'Manage your DVR' button as that just opens in Safari anyway. Simplifying this app could make it stellar.

The HBO Go app is a joy to use. Open it, select movie. Play. Simple. But....no HDMI out. Boo!

On the plus side, both these apps allow access to TV and movies anywhere that you have a good wireless connection.

Meanwhile, it's week 3 of the switch to iPad-only productivity and I can now say I'm at 98%. This is the first post that I've written entirely on the iPad2 in the browser, and also included modified images thanks to PhotoForge2. I find writing posts in the browser much easier than using the Wordpress app or Blogsy.

And here's my new "work station." iPad2, Bluetooth keyboard, Apple Display connected via a HDMI cable.

iPad Work Station

Week one of the iPad2 transition.
And Week 2.