Padding About

At home with my iPad

I love my iPad, which I purchased in early May. So what lessons have I learned after using the iPad for nine months?

  • Save money on memory. Unsure of how I would use this trend-setting device, I bought the top-of-the line model with 64 GB of storage and both WiFi and 3G connectivity. Looking at my iPad this morning, it shows I have used:
    • 42.2 GB for audio
    • 4.4 GB for applications
    • 4 GB for video
    • 0.47 GB for “other”
    • 0.13 GB for photos
    • 0.02 GB for books

    So at first glance it would appear I chose wisely on memory capacity. However, I almost never listen to audio on my iPad, instead relying upon my Apple TV at home and my iPhone 4 on the road. So I could have saved $200 and done just fine with 16 GB of memory on the iPad. I also rarely watch video on it, although sometimes I’ll have a video podcast running as I wander around the house. Things might be quite different if I did not have an original Apple TV, but I do, and music and video are far better on my big HDTV and surround sound system than on any portable device.

  • 3G is nice to have. I have gone back and forth on using the iPad’s 3G connection. You only have to sign up for 3G service on a monthly basis, although AT&T is greedy and automatically renews the service each month unless you remember to cancel it before the renewal date. I’ve gone without the 3G service a few times since I was just using the iPad around the house, where WiFi is available and faster. But on the road I find WiFi hot spots are too rare to be of much use. Few restaurants in Oklahoma have WiFi and hotels are very unreliable about extending WiFi beyond their lobbies. And it is most frustrating to use the iPad with no active internet connection – you can read a book just fine and view articles you’ve already saved in InstaPaper, but you miss the web right away. And while I can make do with the iPhone’s browser, the iPad is a far more comfortable read for a guy in his 40s. The iPhone 4 now has a HotSpot feature where you can tether it to your iPad or laptop and use the iPhone’s cellular data, so that is an option.
  • A hardware switch for screen orientation is preferred. In one of the iOS updates Steve Jobs decided to change the switch on the side of the iPad from locking the screen orientation (the iPad can switch from landscape to portrait mode by tilting it) into a useless mute switch. I never have to mute my iPad but am often annoyed by the screen rotating unexpectedly as I carry the iPad around the house. So I’m glad to hear that the next iOS update should give the option of making that switch lock the orientation again. Steve is brilliant, abrasive, and fallible.
  • Multi-tasking is a mixed blessing and the battery life is so-so. I’m spoiled by the long battery life of my iPhone 4 and my Kindle 3. I’m often surprised that in a session with the iPad I may use up 20% of its battery life. While I’ve never drained it dry in a single day of intermittent use, it has led me to become somewhat obsessive about shutting down apps that might be running in the background. Apple added multi-tasking in an iOS upgrade, but in the task manager you can’t tell which apps are really running in the background and draining your battery and which are just listed because they were used recently. So I’m going to try to modify my own behavior and pretend there is no multi-tasking manager. I’m going to just let everything run and get in the habit of plugging the iPad in for a recharge each night.
  • Photo editing doesn’t happen. The next iPad will likely get some sort of camera, but I can’t foresee using a bulky tablet to take photos. So I presume it will primarily be used for video chats, something that does not appeal to me in the slightest. I have a slew of photo editing apps on the iPad, but I never use them because it is far too difficult and clumsy to get photos on to the device from my iPhone 4 and I’d rather edit the nice photos from my superzoom camera using Aperture on my Macbook Air or Photoshop Elements and ThumbsPlus on my desktop PC than with the iPad’s apps. So the Camera Connection Kit dongle for the iPad was also a waste of money for me.

So what do I find myself using my iPad for?

  • Morning news. Each day I scan through headline stories from the Tulsa World (although I prefer to use its mobile news web page over its iPad app), the Bartlesville radio station, the New York Times, and the frequently disappointing USA Today. I’ve been trying out The Daily for over a week, but its stories, like those of USA Today, are too short and lack the kind of connectivity to deeper information which I would like. Its interface and layout are also more annoying than useful. I’d still subscribe to The Daily if it would have more in-depth news, but evidently that isn’t their business model. I’ve also tried using Flipboard to scan headlines from other sources, but while the interface is nice, I haven’t found compelling content to link to it.
  • Browsing, WikiPedia, and Facebook. The best thing about the iPad is surfing the net from the couch. I like Wikipanion for WikiPedia access, but Facebook’s own iPad app has odd failings and limitations. For a long time I just had the normal web page link saved as a shortcut on my iPad, but now I’ve discovered the Friendly Facebook for iPad app, and its interface works better for me, and it was well worth paying a buck to upgrade to Friendly Plus to get rids of the ads in the free version.
  • Kindle e-Books. I’d use the Kindle app on the iPad much more, of course, if I didn’t have a Kindle 3 with its easier-on-the-eyes and visible-in-sunlight display. But when I want to surf the web at a hotel or restaurant, the iPad wins hands down over the pitiful browser on the Kindle, so it is great to also be able to read my Kindle books on the iPad.

Given my past experience with the iPhone, I’ll probably skip a generation and do without the iPad 2, which everyone expects to be announced soon. I’d be wiser to just wait another year for the iPad 3. By then the battery in my iPad will be wearing out and I expect I’ll be ready for a more powerful, thinner, and lighter pad. But I do expect to use a pad like this for the rest of my days – the future is here and I like being in it.

UPDATE: I’m well on the way to Apple fanboy status. The iPad 2 was announced on 3/2/2011 as thinner, faster, and with a better cover design. So I promptly sold my 64 GB iPad WiFi+3G to Gazelle.com and will be ordering an iPad 2 on 3/11. But this time I’ll opt for only 16 GB of memory. And I think I may just order the WiFi model and use the new Hotspot feature on my iPhone 4 if I need cellular data for the iPad.

3/14/2011 UPDATE: I stood in line at my local Wal-Mart on the release day and snagged a 16 GB WiFi iPad 2. I love using Home Sharing to access my desktop’s iTunes library from the iPad, iPhone, MacBook Air, and new Apple TV. AirPlay is great for sending video and audio from my iPad to the Apple TV wirelessly. And while I like the new Smart Cover, it was only worthwhile upgrading to the iPad 2 because I could sell my old model for same price as the new one.

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife Wendy and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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