I was asked a number of times recently to write about my experiences with the iPad. I set out to write a short something on what it has done for me since having one around and how that use has evolved over time but the writing sort of took off without me. For such a simple device it certainly took a fair amount of thought to focus in on what has made it great. I decided to also use this space to go ahead and talk some about the apps that see the most use.
There are many who still find the iPad to be relatively weak as far as it’s usefulness is concerned. I can admit that when the iPad was first introduced I was drawn to it not because it seemed like an important or useful device but because it looked like a wonderfully fun gadget to have around in my day to day life. By the time I actually ended up investing in one I had come to the conclusion that it would hopefully become a perfect way for me to have access to important information while traveling or simply away from home. I hoped to be able to leave my laptop behind and go about my day as usual with this new, lighter, easier to access device to help me continue to be functional at work as well have a quick way to stay connected to the never ending Internet.
A couple of months into this new foray into iPad living I fought myself still lugging around my laptop everyday as I always had before but not because the iPad was not as useful as I thought it would be but because I failed to realize just how much I rely on tools like Aperture, and other work related needs that simply didn’t really exist yet on touch screen devices. There Was a period of time that I found the iPad rarely seeing any action as my laptop was simply a more viable way to get done what I needed to get done through the day.
Then, I’m not sure what it was that triggered it exactly, but I discovered that I had the iPad out a lot more often than I once did. Somewhere along the line I realized that the applications built for the device were starting to aid the iPad in becoming a much more useful tool. I was able to print out PDF tech riders for concerts I was working as well as store them locally in iBooks. I found myself using the iPad more and more to write distraction free as I am right now using the great writing app iA Writer. More and more apps that I enjoyed but didn’t use often because it was such a pain to get information on and off the iPad were becoming useful as they started to use dropbox as an amazingly simple way to keep things in sync. Now I use it so much that I actually have days where I may find myself with a 30 percent battery life at the end of a busy day which is amazing considering the battery life really is as good as you hear it is.
I discovered I was replacing much of what I was doing with the laptop with my iPad and it feels good to finally feel as though it has caught up to my needs almost fully at this point. I have a simple Manhattan Portage messenger bag with a space that perfectly fits my iPad and it’s lovely cushy sleeve that I wrote about here before and it makes it so very easy to pull out my iPad and instantly be checking my mail, opening up a tech manual for a new piece of gear at work, catching up on the latest news, or sharing a few photos quickly and easily on the big screen. This kind of casual quick approach computing isn’t as accessible on a laptop. Well, maybe on one of those tiny little MacBook airs to an extent but not in the same way.
I think a big part of why I started using the iPad gradually more through the time I have owned it is not just because the apps have become more capable but also because I have grown accustomed to using the simplified approach of using a touch screen device to access and manipulate information. It is largely a single task device and while it really is quite simple to jump between apps I find it does take time to get used to using the iPad after coming off years of laptop and desktop use. It takes a slightly altered mindset to approach it and make it work for you in your own personal workflow from day to day but once its usefulness clicks you won’t look back. I was trying to think of a good real world example of a time when the iPad stood out as being extra ordinary and I think I have a perfect instance.
A few months ago I was hired to shoot individual portraits of a team of employees at an international company whose headquarters are located here in town and the client was willing to take the photos on the campus surrounding the buisness which is a beautiful area surrounded by woods. One by one a team member would come out to a predetermined location where I would have a few minutes with them to capture a handful of images. The iPad came into play when I finished each individual shoot. Using the camera connect kit I pulled off photos between sessions to double check results and gather them all into one place.
The best part of this came when the sessions were over and I could step back into the offices to share the images with those who I took photos of. The iPad excels at this because I am able to put the photos on this big wonderful screen and put them right in their hands. I could then easily transfer the images from the iPad into Aperture in full RAW resolutions.
While I am eagerly waiting for iPhoto to appear on the iPad to allow better on device organization of photos this was still an easy process that made for a great presentation tool while out shooting. Sure, I could have just as easily used a laptop but the personal touch of showing photos this way can add a lot of personality and intimacy to a presentation.
I do have a complaint to lodge as some of you may know already, connecting devices to the USB camera port is fairly limited because apple decided to limit the amount of power the dock connector is able to supply to a device. This really annoyed me when I discovered that I could not use my flash card reader any longer. While I have not tested this under the new iOS update I don’t doubt there is still this limitation in place and its something to be aware of. Connecting to a camera directly works like a charm but it’s a slower process.
Speaking of using the iPad for showing off photos, it makes for a wonderful place to keep a portfolio. I highly recommend an app called minimal folio for this. As soon as they added simple dropbox support it ended up being a fantastic way to showcase images on the iPad.
Of course showing off photos is not at all the core use for my iPad. There are a handful of other apps that see very regular use these days. The built in mail app, while not perfect, is certainly a great way to catch up with new mails and fire off simple replies. One thing that I wish it could do is easily re-size photos from my photo library but it’s not a pressing need, this and it would be nice to be able to flag emails. I know there are some power email users out there that have very strange and specific ways of working and may need something more powerful but for me it’s more than adequate.
Another app that is a daily fixture for me is what I consider to be the best RSS experience anywhere on any device and that is Reeder. Is a brilliantly simple approach and allows me to quickly navigate through my news feeds with ease through the day. If I had one request for this app to improve I would ask that feeds be manageable from within the application. I really hate having to use the web interface for google reader, it’s just a mess. I have tried a number of other RSS apps but they have always come up short of my expectations.
Next up is twitter. It is currently the only official twitter app that I like to use. While at first I didn’t really see the appeal it has since grown on me and I greatly appreciate it’s layered approach to seeking out content featured in any message as well as following conversations. It takes the mess that Twitter has become and turns it into something a bit more logical and easy to follow.
Then there is Instapaper. I think there is nothing but universal praise for the concept and I love it too, now with readability around as well feeding back to the content makers I can’t think of a reason not to use such a service. I tend to simply read a lot straight in reeder but Instapaper provides me with a great way to come back to articles I want to examine closer.
Last but not least in my short list of most used apps is iA Writer. I have had this for quite a while now but only just recently started to put it to good use. The last few things I have posted were written here in Writer synced over to my laptop with dropbox then formatted and posted with mars edit on my laptop. I tried pairing a bluetooth keyboard with this app and found it was a great environment to write in. It left me to focus on nothing more than the text. No casual trips to the dock to check my mail or twitter like on my Mac. My favorite things about the app are the additional typing tools above the keyboard letting you have access to arrows to skip through text and quick access to punctuation. This and the fact that hiding the keyboard turns what I have written into a book of sorts while in portrait view and makes for a great casual editing environment.
As for the subject of games on the iPad, I love a good game here and there and gaming on my iDevices has pretty much become my sole source for gaming outside of my Wii or old playstation 2 heh, maybe because I don’t own a TV anymore. So as for games on the ipad, I find ones that I enjoy most are ones who’s control structure works well on the iPad. Not all iPhone games work well on the iPad due to the size of the thing. I find that I usually have one game that I come back to for a few weeks and keep closer to the front page of my apps. At the moment that game is Land-a Panda and sometimes an old casual favorite, Sneezies. Simple but a good distraction here and there when I need a break.
All in all, the usefulness of the iPad, for me, has boiled down to the apps available for it. I think its a fairly obvious deduction if you follow the apple world at all but its true. I have written a couple of posts focusing on iPhone photo apps but I am considering starting these back up again with other types of apps as well in the future. A year after its introduction and I feel like the platform is just starting to take shape. There is still a lot of growth left to do. Just look at how the ipads smaller sibling started off. I remember seeing the iPhone rotating in a little glass tube in front of me at Macworld years ago when it was introduced with its meager built in app offerings. Who knew what kind of crazy revolution it would spark in our daily lives. Whether that is for better or for worse is up for interpretation and ill leave that for another day, the simple fact remains that the iPad has been a great addition to my daily life and at this point there is no turning back.