Why I Think Posture Makes the iPad Different

Of all the images to come out of the iPad announcement, the one struck me the most was less about the device and more about the experience of it:

iPad in Lounging Position
iPad in Lounging Position

Lying back on the sofa — isn’t that a nice way to be?

And sitting or lying on the sofa with a 9.7 inch screen means we’ll typically hold this about 2 feet (.6 meter) away from our eyes, versus 1 foot with an iPhone, which means you can rest it on your lap. While some may buy the dock, putting the iPad on a surface means having to uncomfortably lean over it. I think lounging will be much more common. We can do this with a laptop, but the separation of output (display) and input (keyboard and trackpad) is disjointed in comparison. And the iPad will be a little awkward and heavy to hold aloft like a phone.

Consequently the mood while interacting with an iPad may be more relaxed. The interaction has the potential to be more passive, though not necessarily. We’ll make bigger gestures and pivot at the elbow and shoulder rather than the wrist. We’ll scroll/size less than on a phone, using more eye movement to scan the screen. And while Apple has had to succumb to menus to make more functions available, we have the potential for powerful new forms of direct manipulation.

As a designer I’m tempted to display more, denser visual content at one time that a person can sit back and absorb, and offer control with fewer, grander gestures.

Given the physical similarity, it’s tempting to look at the iPad and call it a big iPhone. But I think the posture we adopt and interaction with the device will make it an experience unlike a phone or a laptop.

Aside: how long until someone designs a lounge chair specifically for optimal iPad use?!


  1. Aside: I bet someone repackages / rebrands some of those gaming chairs that already have speakers, etc. in them to do just that?

  2. Love the thinking behind this.

    There are a couple of challenges I see with for lounging:-

    1) it will require the use of one hand to hold the iPad (unlike a laptop where both hands are free). This feels quite awkward and restrictive – certainly not a lounging trait. If it had a rubber based back, it might be easier to simply rest it on your knees without it sliding around.

    2) I’m assuming the screen is as glossy as the iPhone/iTouch, which means glare for reading (unlike the Kindle & other eInk devices), so reading would not be any better than that on a laptop.

    For those reasons, I can’t see myself buying this device in addition to the MacBook and iPhone I already have: it simply doesn’t do anything different or better than what I’m able to get through one or the other of these devices.

    If they were to have a colour e-Ink screen on this, it would be a very different story, and I’d be queuing at the Apple store for one!

    Despite the issues I have with the iPad, I really did love the different angle behind your thinking / evaluation of it. V refreshing.


  3. I’m not convinced by this. The main use cases for the ipad appear to include slouching and slobbing. Haven’t seen people using it with a straight back in any footage. My understanding of human health is that lying around with a crick in your neck twiddling with a screen balanced on your knees is neither good for the back or any other part of the body.

  4. Thanks for an anthropometric view of the iPad. I’m busy trying to find ‘mobile anthropometric’ studies because the iPad changes the physical design problem from ‘Fitting People into Stuff’ to ‘Fitting Stuff into Personal Space’.

    “Slouching and slobbing” won’t be required for serious content creation on the iPhone. It’ll just be one of the off-hour perks. The dock+keyboard obviously is designed for serious typing, and the real keyboard snobs can use the non-keyboard dock and any of a number of Bluetooth keyboards.

    BTW, regarding design on the iPad, the good folks at OmniGroup have announced a crash program to get all of their apps on the ‘Pad. (http://blog.omnigroup.com/2010/01/29/ipad-or-bust/) I can’t wait to start laying out an OmniGraffle wireframe using my hands!

    Next questions:

    1. Will the BT-1 webcam work with the iPad?
    2. Will the Camera Kit USB port allow me to access the video files on my Flip Ultra camera?
    3. How long do we have to wait for iLife for iPad?

  5. Victor,

    I am also excited about exploring new interaction models for iPad instead of menus. One concept that I particularly find very interesting is an “endless space” idea, where the application becomes an endless work space and the segmented screens that we have with web apps that we support with tabs or other forms of navigatio can be reduced/done away with.

    It’s kind if real desktop, have segments of work areas for different needs and then just move across the space to access those.

    – AJ

  6. Well jeez if it’s too big and you have to put in on your lap anyways why wouldn’t you just get a laptop?

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