It takes me, on average, 5.1 seconds to start and begin using my first-generation Apple iPad. This is how I spent those 5.1 seconds: opening the cover protector, pressing the power button in the top right corner of the device and then swiping my finger across the screen to unlock the iPad.
Sure 5.1 seconds might not sound like a long period of time, even in the age of Twitter and the real time Web. But if you use your iPad on a regular basis it can quickly add up. Let’s just say you pick up your iPad 10 times a day, that’s nearly 6 minutes a week wasted through the laborious action of pressing the power button and swiping your finger across a screen. It’s exhausting.
But Apple has a solution with the iPad 2 and its Smart Cover. These covers, which are designed to protect the iPad 2’s screen, use hidden magnets that act as a switch and detect when the cover is opened, automatically turning the device on. No buttons presses or swipes needed.
My colleague Miguel Helft has written about this phenomenon too, and although he managed to start up the original iPad a bit faster, he points out that the speed of opening the new iPad illustrates how in technology, we just want devices to get faster all the time.
To me, after using the iPad 2 for the past few days, the instantaneous start-up changes the game. And the main reason is that it makes using an iPad more like reading a book.
In many ways, the first generation iPad, along with every other e-reader and tablet available today, is trying to compete with the ancient technology of paper. People use these devices to read news, digital magazines, e-books and mail, all experiences that were once confined to the printed page.
Before the Smart Cover, getting to print-like content on an iPad took longer than it takes with its analog counterpart. You don’t have to press any buttons when opening a print book or magazine. You just pick it up, open it and begin reading.
The technology behind the Smart Cover enables the same swiftness as print, with the additional features of digital.
In the days of dial-up Internet connections, people had to log-in with a username and password and then wait for the modem to connect to the Internet. Sure, connecting to millions of fellow Web travelers felt special, but the hindrance associated with the time used to get there definitely took away from the magic of it all.
Arthur C. Clarke, the late science fiction writer and inventor, once wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” As the 5.1 seconds I once wasted turning on the iPad become shrouded by a Smart Cover, I’d say we’re pretty close to that point.