Last Saturday morning, I bought an iPad. I hadn’t planned on it, in fact quite the opposite. I had planned on trying it out to see how it felt and responded, how the screen looked and how the touch keyboard was to use. I like many Apple products but I’m not an all-out fanboy. I’m a fan of good solutions to my problems, and tools that help me be more productive.
Five minutes of using the iPad in the store and I was hooked.
I’ve been following a lot of tech blogs like gizmodo, engadget, and listening to people on TWiT talk about the difference between seeing and iPad and using an iPad. There are several apps I use on my phone and my desktop. Having them on the iPhone was good, but I’m even more productive using them on the iPad. I found that the iPad solves problems for me that just one other type of device wouldn’t be able to or in my opinion not as well. I did have some specific business and personal needs in mind, and had been thinking about getting an ebook reader or netbook for about a year. I’ve also had an iPhone for about a year and use it constantly (sometimes I even make phone calls with it.) Specifically, I read a lot of PDFs, RSS feeds, watch a lot of podcasts and take a lot of notes.
How I use the iPad to be More Productive
Below are some examples of how I use the iPad to be more productive.
I use Safari Books almost daily. Currently I access the content via the mobile interface or PDFs that I’ve downloaded. I found reading a lot on the iPhone to be a pain, and unless I sat in front of my desktop, reading on the desktop meant lugging a laptop somewhere to read. Being able to read content in essentially the same format and aspect ratio as print, and from wherever I can get WiFi, gives me that many more options and makes it easier for me.
Along with Safari content, I also read a lot of PDFs. This includes documentation, research papers, reports, and other content printed to PDF. The GoodReader app is $.99 and has a native version for the iPad. Go buy it, it’s absolutely worth every penny if you need to read a lot of PDF files.
I take a lot of notes with Evernote. I use it for collecting research information, to-do lists, and making simple notes. The native iPad version of Evernote addresses some frustrations I had with the iPhone version. The fact that it syncs between my phone, desktop, and iPad means I can work on content as I need to and with the tool that’s most efficient at the time.
I use the free version of Dropbox to make a small set of files available from anywhere, from multiple devices, and to share with others. While I can’t currently add content to my Dropbox from the iPad, it does make it easier to get content to it. I can take pictures with my iPhone, save them to my Dropbox folder, and they show up on my iPad. It also works to get certain types of content onto the iPad such as PDFs, text files, images, etc. Hopefully there will be a native iPad version soon and users will be able to save content locally directly from the iPad.
On the desktop I use Free Mind for mind mapping. I purchased Mind Node for the iPhone and it worked fairly well, and was able to export to Free Mind. The native iPad version for Mind Node is simple, fast, and intuitive. It doesn’t get in the way of the exercise. For me, being able to do brainstorming on a touch screen quickly and pinch to zoom in and out is just that much better. And there’s now apparently a relatively inexpensive desktop version of Mind Node as well. This makes it easier to work back and forth between devices.
Productivity and Utility
There is an iPhone app called MyKeePass that can import and use KeePass files. This means you can have your password database with you with the same level of encryption as you have on the desktop. If you have a long, ugly password for your safe, it’s easier to enter on the iPad keypad. Hopefully there will be a native iPad version soon for this app as well.
Reading RSS Feeds
Keeping Up with Social Networks
The same benefits of portability and data entry apply to keeping up with social networks as well. There’s a native iPad version of TweetDeck and Twitterriffic, and the iPhone versions of LinkedIn and Facebook work well enough, although it’s now just as easy to use the web interfaces to those sites as well.
Consuming Video Content
We have one TV in the house, and a projector for movies. The three small hairless chimps that live with my wife and I would much rather watch Sesame Street, Backyardigans, or Sponge Bob than Lost, Fringe, Cranky Geeks, or TWiT shows. A lot of what I watch is either podcasts, Hulu-ish, or Netflix streaming. The iPad works very well for watching video. The Netflix, ABC.com, and iTunes iPad apps are fantastic, and the portability of the iPad combined with WiFi means I can be wherever I want to at home and watch, and the battery lasts longer than my laptop would.
Rev3, Mevio, and the TWiT iPad App
I bought the $.99 iPad version of the TWiT network’s app. I watch or listen to a lot of Leo Laporte’s shows on the TWiT network. The app does a great job at bringing the content to you in a format that’s simple and effective, and integrates the chat features of the shows as well. I also watch a lot of Revision3 and Mevio content. Their shows look great on the iPad and I’m hoping they come out with similar native apps.
Things I Don’t Like About the iPad
- No multi-tasking makes it difficult when you have to use multiple applications to get things done. But based on Apple’s latest announcement, multi-tasking for iPhones will be available around June and on iPads in the Fall of 2010.
- The Flash wall – there are still times when pages or content require Flash. If I really want to use the site in question or look at the content, I have to go to a desktop.
- Still need a full computer for some things that could be done on the iPad. This really speaks to the two bullets above, but an example would be having to use an ssh client, refer to documentation on a wiki, and access a password safe, repeatedly. You can do it on the iPad, but not as effectively.
Would Be Nice, but We’re Still Good
- Didn’t wait for 3G – It’d be nice to be able to get online almost anywhere, but I already have an iPhone that has a data plan, the iPad with 3G costs more, and the current iPad solves about 90% of what I need. What would make me really happy? Let me tether my iPad to my iPhone. In fact, if I really need 3G, I’d rather get a MiFi so that other devices would be able to have access at the same time. GeekBrief recently posted a good overview of iPad 3G vs. MiFi pricing options, check it out.
- No camera. I do use Skype quite a bit, but the usability of a camera might be awkward unless you could pivot the camera separate from the body of the iPad. And taking pictures with it would be awkward (imagine pointing your iPad at things to take a picture.) What might be more interesting is integration between an iPhone and iPad for video, or other devices via bluetooth or USB.
- Not easy to get just any content onto it – same as an iPhone, you can’t just plug the iPad into your computer, have it seen as a drive, and dump content to it. So far that’s worked fine for me. Apps like Evernote, GoodReader, and Dropbox for the most part have solved my content issues. Music, audiobooks, ebooks, and video gets on the device via iTunes, and certain apps like Stanza and GoodReader have a file publishing mechanisms to get content onto the iPad in bulk easily.
- Still many apps I use that aren’t iPad native yet – this isn’t a fault of the iPad, but it is frustrating that some apps still are not yet native like Skype, Drobpox, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time.
You’re Dumb. It’s a big Touch, Fanboy.
Why buy an iPad when you can get an inexpensive laptop or net book for the same price? Aside from the fact that you might not want a laptop, it’s quite possible with a netbook or laptop that the battery will not last as long, the screen will not look as good, that there would be more upkeep, less portability, more weight, no touch interface, and the same productivity issues mentioned above. (Even if it was just a big iPod Touch, why would that be a bad thing?) I don’t however think the iPad is a panacea. Depending on how you currently work and the gadgets you already have, an iPad might be more of a luxury than an investment in productivity. For me though, it’s an investment in productivity.