Wednesday, August 11, 2010

iPad Review


I've had an iPad for a few weeks now, and I think the best way to review it is to tell you how it's been integrated into my life.

I'm currently preparing for my first PhD dissertation defense. That means reading over and taking notes on my written dissertation, rereading the articles I cite, and preparing a short presentation.

So for the last few days, I've left the house with only my iPad. I have Dropbox on my laptop computer1 (now my "home computer"), so before I leave I copy the files I'll need into my internet-situated Dropbox folder. When I get somewhere cool (literally cool, like an air conditioned coffee shop, or figuratively cool, like a park bench), then I whip out my iPad and start up the Dropbox application. From there I can open up files in whatever application supports them.

So I open up my thesis in Pages. I make minor corrections when I find them. When I see something that takes substantial effort, like rewriting a paragraph or looking up an article, I open up Evernote. Evernote is a simple application for taking notes that, like Dropbox, is in the cloud and can be accessed on any computer. I've set up notes there with a list of articles to look up later and a list of major corrections to be made.

When I get back to my home computer, I can easily access my notes, make corrections, and look up articles to read. I slap the PDFs of articles onto my iPad, then take it to the couch to sit back and read them (I use Goodreader for PDFs).

I'll inevitably get distracted and go catch up on my RSS feeds (Reeder) or Twitter (Twitteriffic). If I find a long article or blog entry I'd like to remember to read later, I'll hit the Instapaper button that's built into a lot of apps. This easily saves the link and text of an article, again in the cloud, to be read later on any device. If I'm still needing distraction, I can go play Words With Friends or Osmos or use Adobe Ideas to draw cocks all over my iPhoto library.


I've talked mostly about reading content on the iPad, rather than creating it. For reading, you will sometimes see people say things like "I can't imagine reading all day on a backlit screen." Note: you usually see this from people who have spent all day trolling technology forums on their netbooks. Enough said. But I do think that its primary use is taking in content, not pumping it out. I've gotten used to the touch keyboard and can type at maybe 70% of the speed I do on a physical keyboard, but it's still not quite fast or accurate enough for writing a whole paper or novel on. I may try preparing my defense presentation on it in Keynote and see how that goes.

I can't get enough of the internet-based storage that the iPad encourages. It's ideal to start reading something on the iPad (feeds, Twitter, even a book), then pick up where you left off on another device, like a desktop when you're sitting at home, or a phone when you're sitting on the toilet. All without having to physically plug anything into anything else. I think "cloud computing" is more than a fancy buzzword; it's the future of where our information will be stored and manipulated.

I could have done all these things without an iPad. It's just a lot more pleasant with one. Tablet computers are finally finding their niche; not one where they were absolutely needed, but one where certain tasks are just a bit easier than with a full computer or phone (e.g. attending London city council?). My life hasn't been drastically changed by the iPad, but the bottom line is that, for now, it's a luxury that makes some everyday activities just slightly better than they used to be.

1 If you don't have Dropbox, you totally should; it's like a free hard drive on the internet. If you sign up with this link, we both get an extra 250 MB for free. Woot.


Jeff Wiltzon said...

I'm just about to get an iPad so this was very fitting. I took your advice and signed up for dropbox using your link. Thank you and you're Welcome!

Phronk said...

You're welcome and thank you! The extra space will come in handy. Congrats on getting an iPad, and I'm glad my rambling was useful.

Anonymous said...

I would like an ipad but right now I'm totally in love with my iPhone4. It's a new relationship so I'm going wait a bit before I move on :)

Dead Robot said...

Once again you've trumped me on a post I wanted to write.

I've always said that the iPad was something I didn't need but really really wanted. Which is the definition of "luxury" I guess.

My only complaint so far is that I have to buy Angry Birds HD now.

Hey Lady! said...

I have what might seem like an obvious question, but doesn't the laptop and iphone you already own do the same thing? Why would you need to buy this additional piece of equipment?

Phronk said...

FF.C: Haha, strangely I understand. I had to choose between an iPhone 4 and an iPad. Even if I could afford both, I just don't feel, on an emotional level, like I could introduce an iPhone 4 to the family so soon.

DR: Yeah having to pay for the same app twice is horseshit. Same with Plants vs Zombies. They really could have just made a universal app like many others do.

HL!: Like I said, it's a luxury. I wouldn't need to buy it, and there are only a few minor things it can do that I couldn't already do. It just makes a lot of tasks more comfortable. It was a lot easier to go read articles under a tree with an iPad than it would be with a big hot laptop, or on a tiny phone screen.