Real World Use
The iPad does many things very well. Its amazing display, battery life, and surprisingly good speaker make it very fun and easy to use. It has quickly become my favorite device for having fun, relaxing, and using with other people. I prefer the iPad over my iPhone and Mac for casual web browsing, viewing videos and photos, reading books and magazines, playing causal games, reading news and articles, and participating in social media. These are the things that the iPad really excels at. It does them better, or just as well and more conveniently, than any other device.
There are other things that the iPad can do well, but that I find myself using other devices for. The iPad is okay for things like email, serious web browsing, and writing, but not the best. For anything involving a lot of typing, I prefer a notebook. The built in keyboard is good, and AutoCorrect is smart, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get my typing speed on an iPad up to what it is on a big, chunky, tactile desktop keyboard. Voice dictation helps, but it requires an Internet connection and an environment where you can make noise. I could just get a Bluetooth keyboard, but I’m hesitant to do that. As soon as I have to carry a keyboard in addition to the iPad, it essentially becomes less portable than the a MacBook Air. I also prefer a notebook for anything that involves frequently switching between apps or tabs. The multitasking gestures are helpful, but still nowhere as fast as having two windows side by side (and nowhere near as fast as having two monitors). Something like Windows 8’s ability to pin a compact version of an app on screen with another app would be incredibly helpful.
Finally, there are a few things that an iPad simply can’t do. iPhoto and Snapseed for iPad are a start, but I still need Photoshop for anything serious. The same goes for video editing: iMovie is impressive, but it doesn’t come close to Premiere and After Effects. There are some awesome games available for iPad, but playing most serious games isn’t practical on a handheld 9″ touchscreen. An iPad also can’t do everything I need for school: it can’t upload files to the web or use Flash-based websites. I also find myself wishing for better file organization and management tools. Dropbox is great; it lets me store and access all the resources I need for working on an iPad. It is limited, though: files can’t be moved, copied, or renamed. I’m not saying that the iPad should be able to do all of these things. Pro production work doesn’t make sense to cram into an iPad; the screen is too small and the processor is too slow. Other things, though, seem entirely reasonable to expect. I find myself using the iPad mostly at home. It does a lot of things better than an iPhone or Mac, and I especially love using it while relaxing on the couch or in bed. On the go is a different story, though. The iPad is big and heavy enough that I don’t want to take it everywhere with me. Unlike an iPhone, that takes up no space at all, the iPad has to be a serious consideration when going out: are you going to bring a backpack or bag to big enough to carry it in, or just hold it in one hand? More often than not, I decide that it’s not worth it to carry the iPad with me for short trips. I stick to the iPhone when going to, for example, a restaurant or movie. Even though I would potentially like to use the iPad while I’m there, several minutes of getting to use it instead of the iPhone is nowhere near worth the trouble of carrying it. Additionally, I generally don’t bring the iPad to places I’m already bringing my MacBook and iPhone. Once again, being able to do some things better isn’t worth the extra weight and bulk.
Generally, I only use the iPad in a somewhat narrow set of circumstances. I have to be either at home or out without the MacBook for a long enough amount of time that carrying the iPad is worth it. I also have to be doing things that don’t involve a lot of typing, app switching, or using apps or functions not available on the iPad.
The iPad is only awesome for a specific set of things, but it does those things incredibly well. To me, it isn’t a complete computer replacement, but an extension. It allows me to do some of the things a computer does more flexibly, conveniently, and enjoyably.
Since an iPad isn’t a complete computer replacement, it needs to have apps that allow it to integrate with a computer so that it can extend rather than replace. Luckily, there are many awesome apps and services available to make the integration as seamless as possible. Here are a few of my favorites.
- For casual writing, I use Byword for iOS synced via Dropbox with Byword for Mac (as well as the iPhone version of the app).
- I use Tweetbot for Twitter, synchronized via the excellent Tweetmarker service with Osfoora for Mac and the iPhone version of Tweetbot.
- The Reeder family of apps (for Mac, iPad, and iPhone) is by far the best set of RSS apps available. They are synchronized via Google Reader and Readability.
The iPad is a beautiful, fun device. The incredible display, awesome battery life, and powerful processors mean that the user experience is enjoyable and worry-free, making the iPad the best device available for reading, viewing photos and videos, casual web browsing, playing games, and generally having fun. That said, anyone hoping to use the iPad to replace their phone and computer will be disappointed. It’s much bigger than a phone, big enough that it can be a burden to carry with you. Some things; like production, development, and serious gaming; are only possible on a full-fledged Mac. Other things; like writing, email, or anything that involves a lot of typing or switching between apps; are simply more enjoyable on a Mac. But, once you’ve gotten a feel for the things the iPad is good at, you’ll start doing them on the iPad over any other device– what it’s good at, it’s best at.
Filed under Hardware Reviews