Editorial: My love/hate relationship with my TouchPad | webOS Nation

Editorial: My love/hate relationship with my TouchPad

by Adam Marks Tue, 12 Jul 2011 5:36 pm EDT

Let me start off by saying that I love my HP TouchPad. I never felt that need to buy a tablet before now, but I took the plunge for webOS. And wow is there is a lot to like in webOS 3.0 and the TouchPad, starting with all the old webOS-staples of cards/stacks, Just Type, synergy, unobtrusive notifications, Touchstone/Exhibition, etc. Add to that the ability to take my phone calls (and eventually SMS) from my Pre2 on the TouchPad, chat/audio/video Skype integration, an amazing virtual keyboard, 50 GB of free lifetime storage at box.net, easy printing, Flash continuing to play in card-mode, and some solid hardware, and we have a tablet that should really be able compete in this space. And yes, I do like the hardware of the TouchPad. While I would absolutely love for it to be a little lighter and not have the glossy back, I really don’t mind the thickness or weight of the TouchPad. It feels solid and think it will hold up to regular usage. After less than two weeks with my TouchPad, I couldn't be happier with my purchase.

Actually, that is not true, I could be a lot happier. Despite all the great aspects of the TouchPad, it's not perfect. It still has a number of challenges that it needs to overcome before it can earn its way to be number two in the tablet market (and maybe even eventually "one plus"). This is where I want to focus in this editorial, because despite all the awesomeness that is the TouchPad, there are a lot of things I would like to see addressed. And we all know that the 800,000 pound gorilla in the room is apps. webOS needs more of them, and the bigger name developers/apps, too. We all know that, HP knows that, the market knows that. Now let's get beyond that and look at the little things that I would like to see HP do to make using the TouchPad a less frustrating and more feasible operating system.

First up are some tweaks that I would like have made to the OS that may be considered new functionality, but would be well worth the effort to implement. Forgive the stream-of-consciousness prose here, but I need to get a few things off my chest: Why do the pop-up menus only take up 1/4 of the screen (e.g. selecting a photo to attach) when you have a lot more screen real estate? The virtual keyboard was well thought-out and the inclusion of a numbers row is great, but I get way too many typos because my finger slides slightly onto a different letter when lifting it off the screen (e.g. press space, but get an "n" or "m"). Can we also please have some virtual arrow keys to move the cursor and select text? They are on the Bluetooth keyboard and you can press Shift+arrow keys to select text, so why can't the virtual keyboard? Copy and Paste is annoying and sometimes hard to actually execute. Auto-correct is much improved in 3.0, but I find that it auto-corrects to a word that I don't want, yet the word I do want is first in the suggestions list. Can I please have a way to sort my launcher icons, especially since my profile loaded up over 100 icons and rearranging takes forever to move them one at a time. The 50 GB of free online storage from box.net is almost useless when you have to pay $15/month for a box.net professional account for any kind of desktop sync that comes free with dropbox or zumo drive. And did you really demo the Airplane Fighter game since last February and provide the Kindle app to reviewers but not include those on the production devices, not to mention no document editing at launch? C'mon, where are those apps?

Next, I want to talk about the shared-profiles between the TouchPad and phones. When I first heard that you could share a profile, I was ecstatic. All my contacts, calendars, memos, apps, etc would all be shared and I would have one big happy webOS family of devices. Note that historically, I have preferred the Palm profile for contacts and calendars so I was not reliant on Google sync since I use Yahoo for my email, and Google calendar in webOS has some sync limits that prevent me from seeing all my events without patching my device. Unfortunately, the sync between profiles was a 1-time thing only. My data transferred, but any changes made on one device will not transfer to the other (except apps, which can be manually downloaded on the other device, if compatible). I would really like to see HP take advantage of what the cloud has to offer and develop a more complete sync-solution between devices, so I know that I am looking at the same data on all my devices. Apple just announced something similar with their iCloud service, but this should have been a natural extension of the existing Palm Profile. If HP can not offer a way to sync your data in your Profile across all of your devices, they shouldn't offer the service. And in the meantime, it would be nice for them to offer a way to extract your data from the Palm Profile in case you do want to transfer it to a different service!

Finally, I want to take a look at features that existed in webOS 1.0 or 2.0 that seem to be missing in 3.0, and I want them back! Bring back more gestures, please! The return of the up-swipe was a welcome announcement, but now we need more advantages gestures like quick app-switching. Also, how hard would it have been to include a virtual meta-key, so you can still do a Meta+C for copy or Meta+Z for Undo? Keyboard combinations work just fine on a multi-touch keyboard, so why not expand it and allow older Mojo apps and even newer Enyo apps access to these shortcuts? And speaking of Undo, why give it to us in 2.0 just to remove it in 3.0, just like the ability to add/remove/rename launcher pages was added in 2.0 but now we are forced to four pre-defined launcher pages. Also, while you can still swipe-to-delete in some lists in 3.0, it no longer auto-confirms the previous deletion? And let's not forget that the ability to set a wallpaper from the Photos app, format email text, sort your screenshots with the newest picture at the top, have copy/cut/paste in the drop-down menus, the ability to choose your icon picture when adding a website to your launcher, and just the simple act of rearranging list items are all gone in webOS 3.0. I understand HP needed to rewrite webOS 3.0 from the ground up for Enyo, but why remove functionality that was provided in previous versions that are useful and make sense?

I still love my TouchPad (really, I do!) and have no plans on returning it. But it's frustrating to see so much potential in a device and not see it implemented well. We all know the (somewhat valid) excuses that it took time to integrate HP and Palm, that the TouchPad and webOS 3.0 are the first iteration of their tablet, and that there are more updates right around the corner, but for a company that promised to only ship a perfect product, they failed in a number of areas. But all is not lost, as the TouchPad is still an amazing device and HP has lots of plans to make it (and webOS) even better. But in the meantime HP, please take a look at these issues and fix them ASAP!