The iPad Part 1 (of 2): To buy or not to buy

So you are on the fence about buying an iPad? I have started to use mine fairly regularly and people are constantly stopping me and asking questions like “Can this be my laptop at work?” “Should I buy one?” “What exactly does it do?” After about 4 weeks of these non stop questions, I’ve decided to post up some thoughts and ideas from my experience.

What the iPad lets you do:

The iPad is wonderful if you need to do some light computing on the go. By light I mean read some things, send an e-mail or two, browse the internet etc. Having a device with a 10+ battery life can really save you on those long car trips/plane rides. Personally I have always hated trying to type an e-mail on my phones miniature keyboard (if you know me you know I have sausage fingers) and the iPad is a great solution. You also get access to the app store where you can find programs that will expand your iPads capabilities. While I personally HATE paying for apps, there is still a fairly decent spread of free ones that can be fun.

The iPad also excels as a media consumption device as well. I can still remember the monumental task I had to undertake when I wanted to copy a movie file onto my phone, and I was still left looking at a 4 inch screen. Having a 10 inch screen to watch a movie on is simply amazing. Reading books via an e-reader (Kindle for iPad is an example) is also quite an enjoyable experience. Another must have if you are going to take the plunge is Netflix. The first week I had the iPad I had to sit on a 6 hour plane ride to Las Vegas. Being able to have 6 hours of non stop video entertainment without having the battery drop below 50% is really an incredible and enjoyable experience.

Lastly, I also have to say how much fun it is browsing the internet. Being able to use your hands to manipulate data rather than use an input device like a keyboard or mouse. Despite having to get used to pinch to zoom, it really is starting to become my preferred method of web browsing.

What the iPad is not:

I don’t care how much you want to argue, the iPad is not a computer replacement. First of all you have to connect it to a computer to sync it. Unless you have a Dropbox, Google Docs, or Mobile Me account you will not be able to get items onto your iPad. Furthermore people have to realize that there is not your typical file structure system on the iPad. You move a file into an app for that app to use the file, nothing else. There are very few apps that easily share documents.

Secondly, while the browsing options are great, typing on a virtual keyboard can leave things to be desired. I cannot imagine trying to type a paper for class on an iPad. Besides basic notes you are not going to really find an app that has the functionality of a full computer.

I am also not convinced that the iPad is really geared for teaching. One of the major complaints I have is that the iPad will not natively project when connected to a projector. An app must have the VGA output codes placed in its programming for it to work. It can be quite a pain to have to go through 20 steps just to project a document when a laptop can plug and go.

The iPad is also not cheap. Despite its pricing being below a laptop (not most netbooks), you also have to factor in the small “micro-transactions” you will need to pay for apps. The phrase “there’s an app for that” is 100% accurate. You must have an app to do anything on the iPad, and the majority of them are pay to get. While it may not seem like much believe me it can add up. Also there is no refunds currently from the store so if you buy, you are stuck with it no matter what.

What do I need to get the most out of an iPad:

First and foremost you really need to be willing and capable to work in the cloud. Without use of Dropbox or at least Google Docs you will be constantly frustrated when trying to do work on the iPad. While it is possible not to use them, the concept that you must connect and transfer files back and forth every day will get very old very quickly.

In my next post I will talk a bit about the apps I have found that are essential to get work done. Hopefully the guide will save you some money/time in the process.

OK so that’s the beginning part of this 2 part post. In the next one we will talk a bit about apps you will probably need/worth having.


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