June 29, 2011, 4:58 PM

When the iPad just doesn’t cut it

Browsing the web on an iPad doesn’t compare to an app experience.

Lead Photo

Browsing on the tablet is no stand-in for a solid app.

After a few months of owning an iPad I’ve realized I’m not as fully pleased with it as I have been with other Apple Inc. products.

It’s not that the iPad isn’t a cool device or lacks great potential. It’s that the experience of using an app on the iPad is far better than using the device to browse the Internet with Safari, the built-in web browser. For me, an iPad app is far more engaging than using Safari.

And that is the downfall of the iPad. The browser only displays one site at a time. To go to another site, one has to tap the little icon at the top of the screen and look over a screen of thumbnail images of other open windows. It’s just a tedious step when so much of using an iPad is smooth. I’d rather use my desktop to browse at that point.

It’s not as if retailers don’t see value in apps. According to Forrester Research Inc., 35% of 62 online retailers surveyed for the “State of Retailing Online 2011” report having an iPhone app. But only 15% have an iPad app. Examples abound of noteworthy iPad apps. Amazon, QVC, Rue La La and Zappos are cited in Forrester’s research.

I’d prefer using an app to learn about a retailer’s products because the app has the ability to let me learn without having to switch between windows. Apps, in my experience, load pages faster than Safari does on my first-generation iPad. The apps make using the iPad, or any tablet, different from using a desktop computer.

That has me wondering why some retailers do not have an iPad app. The cost of developing one likely is a factor, as is knowing if enough customers use tablets to warrant the resource allocation. Perhaps others wonder how to take advantage of a tablet without just mirroring their web sites or mobile phone apps.

I wonder what retailers must think of Apple—the iPad creator known to have a lot of cash, a coveted group of customers and the savvy to understand consumers—not offering an iPad app for its own store. Apple must think that Safari on the iPad is good enough.

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