On Monday of this week we received our first iPad at LiveIntent. I had a two-day business trip starting later that day, so I decided to take it out on the road to answer the question: could I replace my laptop with a 3G iPad for short trips and the daily commute?
The answer is….that depends. First, a little about the device and my initial observations.
The iPad is solid. This thing is almost heavy. Like late model Macbooks, it’s made of aluminum and is very sturdy. If you take this with you, you’ll notice it.
The iPad is gorgeous. If there has ever been a ‘shiny object’ this is it. It makes your other gadgets jealous.
The iPad is closed. Unless you have MobileMe, there is no way you are getting your content on here without a fight. There is no USB port, only the apple connector that you use for iPhones and iPods to sync.
The iPad comes with the apps and layout you would expect if you already have an iPhone. So the first thing you are doing is adding apps to do ‘business stuff, and because there is no disk drive, you’re doing this via the AppStore. Oh, and one more thing – there’s no Microsoft Office, so if you’re going to need to do more than email and calendar (which means Mail and iCal) your going to have to go the iLife route. Luckily, that will work with all of your .xls, .doc and .ppt files, but to do that you’re out $27.99 – and $50 if you don’t already have MobileMe.
So now you’ve got the tent, sleeping bag, Coleman stove…what else do you need?
If you really plan on going it alone and roughing it without your laptop you’ll need a charger (the ipad battery is prodigious but 2 days max for business use) and if you plan to present to an audience, there’s another cable (iPad to VGA) that you’ll have to get. You can get any apps that you want for ‘productivity’ right from the app store (like WordPress for iPad which I *mostly* wrote this with).
Here’s what’s tough about traveling with the iPad. First, it’s not a real multitasking device, so if you are afflicted with ADD there is much to love with this platform, but you need to save your work. Second, it’s a closed device, so unless someone emails you a file or sends it via MobileMe you can’t share documents as easily as you might like. I’m sure there’s an easy way buried somewhere in the heart of this proprietary box, but I haven’t found it yet.
Ergonomically, it’s slightly awkward. Because the keyboard and screen are one and the same, it can be difficult to type for long periods. And when you have typed on it, you cover the screen with fingerprints. Lots of them. Carry some glasses cleaner with you and something non-abrasive to wipe.
On my trip, I had both my laptop and the iPad. I found myself using the iPad for simpler, more immediate tasks (email, specifically) and reverting to the laptop for spreadsheets and presentations. The iPad is somewhat handicapped when it comes to content *creation* but it’s great for presentation -mostly because there is no built in mouse. There are no scroll bars either. That’s a little bit odd to get used to.
Battery life is inspiring, especially if you’ve been living with an iPhone 3GS. I would be comfortable going on the road with an iPad for a day without a charger, not so for the iPhone.
There is no camera, front or back. You know that’s on its way. Add a camera plus phone capabilities and this is a real dick tracy/flash gordon future machine.
As you already know, the ipad is wireless dependent, and requires either wifi or 3G to bring it to life. AT&T’s 3G, while convenient mostly available everywhere, is just not that fast. You can’t, for example, download a movie from iTunes in the 10 minutes before your plane leaves, whether you use wifi or 3G. Wifi, if it’s an ‘n’ connection, is pretty fast. 3G is just adequate most of the time, but it consistently available and at $29 a month it’s cheaper than hotel wifi over the long run.
Summary: If you don’t need to work on complex spreadsheets, don’t want to use Skype, spend most of your time on email and the web, and don’t have to type very long documents or compile code/video or perform any disk or processor-intensive tasks (this means most everybody), AND you can learn how to type on a flat surface, than the iPad is a great laptop replacement for trips of a day or two. I know it worked pretty well for me.
If you can’t wait for the Apple store to get you a new 3G model, you can get one here: