Let’s start off with the obvious: the iPad isn’t the right fit for everyone. It isn’t a full blown computer and it isn’t a production machine, but it isn’t designed to be.
The most common response I’ve had since getting an iPad has been one of curiosity. People at coffee shops or at school or wherever I am want to “see what it can do” and I’ve attempted to demonstrate some of the features for the curious. The second most common response is, “So, it’s basically just a big iPod Touch or iPhone.”
Sure, there’s something to be said for that assessment. If you own an iPod or iPhone, you’ll appreciate that, yes, in many ways it is a similar device, with a larger screen, faster response time, and more impressive apps. But the reality is that, for some users, an iPad can accomplish 70% of their regular computer use on a portable, light-weight, easy to use interface.
When I started my Master’s program, I wanted two things: an eReader device and a netbook-style device that was super portable and would allow me to do basic word processing, social networking, and e-mail on the fly. The iPad allows me the flexibility and ease of use I was looking for. I need a portable option; I less and less find myself sitting at my desk computer…this helps.
eReader – Not only can the iPad easily adapt to being an eReader with Apple’s iBook store, it is integrated with several eReader services (Amazon’s Kindle application, B&N’s eReader ap, and many others) so that there is a wide range of books, magazines, and such that are available. Using an application called GoodReader I can transfer files to the iPad and read .pdf’s, Word documents, and many other files. The Zinio magazine application is a great way to enjoy magazines.
Social Networking, Blogging, Internet, and E-mail – This is a lot of what the iPad is built for. I can check Facebook, respond to emails, do research, and post to my blog, all on the fly and in a super-portable manner. Any iPhone owner who wished the screen was a little bigger or the keypad a little easier to use will appreciate the total amount of touch screen real estate available.
Basic Content Creation – You won’t be able to use robust video editing software or design whole magazines from the ground up. I’ll give you that. But for basic data entry and even presentations, the iPad can do a majority of what most casual users need, and it can do it on the fly. Using the iWork suite you can create word processing documents, spreadsheets, and nice Power Point type presentations. The applications are pared back versions of full-blown content creation programs, but they are feature-rich and quick. Using the built-in touch keyboard is an OK way to input info (and it works great for email and surfing and such), but for writing new stories or working on editing chapters of my novel in progress, I purchased the additional docking keyboard. The keyboard is easy to carry with me, and it allows me to type thousands of words without thinking about the fact I’m working on a “giant iPod Touch…” (I even wrote six pages, single spaced, of critiques and edits for my small group’s April submissions using the touch-pad keyboard. It was a little slow–more like the old-fashioned hunt-and-peck typing–but ultimately, it was very doable…) I’ve written close to 30,ooo words of fiction and critiques and I’ve found the whole system to be a great way for me to get work done.
The iPad has replaced a lot of my at-the-desk computing. My writing work-flow starts with pen on paper, and then I type up the first draft into a slightly expanded and embellished rough draft. The iPad allows me to do that step anywhere, and it allows me to do basic editing/clarifying/expanding/etc on the go. The weeks when I’m in a classroom four days and at the tutoring center four nights, this lets me take the time I can find to push forward with my writing. On top of that, I always have a shelf full of books and stories and magazines with me to read, several days worth of music to listen to, a couple of movies or TV shows to watch, and a nearly limitless supply of Big Bad Sudoku.
I haven’t experienced ANY of the WiFi connectivity problems that others have reported; and I’ve connected at a dozen different networks, by now. The WiFi is, actually, much less temperamental than Cami’s Gateway laptop, if you want to know the truth.
Yes, the Kindle and the Nook are better for the limited purpose of reading books. They use the eInk technology, and that DOES produce a superior reading experience, especially in bright light. But, having read four books on the iPad so far, I can say that I have not experienced any eye strain.
Do I recommend YOU buy an iPad? It all depends. I’m not an Apple fan-boy. I have found my iPhone to be a great tool for keeping up with email and other basics on the go, and it is a great way to have answers for just about anything right at my fingertips. The iPad has, so far, been a nearly-flawless tool for meeting several of my computer needs. You may find it works for you, or you may not. I do think you should go pick one up, play with it, and consider WHY you would want it and HOW you would use it.
For me, the iPad was a perfect fit.