Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog)
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What is the iPad good for?

April 23, 2012

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I asked my friend David Dantzler, who recently dazzled me with some photos he'd taken with his iPad, how he used it, so I could figure out if I wanted one. His response (from here on, it's a guest blog entry):

Well, at the moment it's resting on my lap as I recline in the "fainting couch" in the living room with George [his cat]. Otherwise, I would have to go downstairs, sit in a chair and use my desktop computer. Even when I had a laptop I never moved it around because it was tethered to so many things. With the iPad handy you can quickly look up definitions or look up a term or do a web search on a topic that springs suddenly to mind. It has been said that the iPad is better for content consumption than content creation and I have found that to be correct, though many people have workarounds for content creation as well, with 3rd party apps or hardware add-ons.

All the controls for simple things like the web, email, e-books, calendar are so much easier to use on the mobile operating system than on the regular one, and you can switch easily from one application to another without losing your place. Email and Calendar and iTunes, and podcasts, and maybe others sync automatically from one device to another through the Cloud. I think that is true even if you are not a Mac user for your main computer.

There are a multitude of apps you can get, many for free, that are interesting or fun or useful. There are a couple of magazine aggregator websites (Zite and Flipboard) that you can customize to your interests. You can add icons for your favorite websites to your home page, and get to them instantly with a finger-swipe. (There are potentially 11 home page screens, each able to hold 20 icons, and you can dedicate some of the pages to a specific topic, like photography or writer's tools or web sites relevant to a particular project or client.)

In some ways photography is the least of the tools as it is a clumsy way to take pictures, but it can be fun. The iPad can be set up like one of those electronic picture frames. There are some very good uses of the iPad like teaching aids or holding flight manuals for pilots instead of having to carry around twenty pounds of manuals, but for me I would have to say it's mostly a toy.

You should think carefully about how much you want to store to choose the memory size, and also whether you want the capability for 3G or 4G service in areas where you don't have Wi Fi. I have found that public Wi Fi is not as common as you might think. I got the model that has the capability but have not yet bought a data plan. The good news is you only have to buy data by the month for when you know you won't have Wi Fi -- for example, for traveling. The screen on the newest iPad is better than any TV HD and to me it is worth getting the new one for that reason alone. That said, many people are happy with their older versions and you can get the basic iPad 2 for $350 at some places. My new one with one notch up in memory and the 4G capability brought it to a pricy $729 before niceties like a cover and case.