Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tech Tuesday - How I Use My iPad

Apple iPad + Sprint Overdrive

I bought my iPad on launch day this past Easter weekend, only a couple of hours after finishing the Crescent City Classic 10K in New Orleans.  Standing in line at the Best Buy still sweaty from the run (and a little fuzzy from the free Abita Amber that flowed post-race), I wasn't entirely sure how the iPad would fit into my computing lifestyle.  Now that I've been using it for 4 months, let me describe the five areas where I find it most useful.


When I've talked to friends & family about the iPad since it was announced, I described it as the perfect couch computer.  With long battery life, an instant-on capability like a phone, and its light-weight form factor, I don't mind holding it in my lap for a long time.  I can't say the same about my MacBook Pro, which gets painfully hot on the lap.  When I'm on the couch, I'm interested in casual computing, which means light-weight browsing of articles and social networks.  As such, I mostly use Reeder for reading my Google Reader feeds, and Flipboard for browsing Facebook & Twitter.


My wife, Ashley, & I make a lot of road trips between Houston & New Orleans, to the tune of about once a month.  A week after I bought the iPad, I also purchased a Sprint Overdrive which sucks in a 4G/3G signal from Sprint's WiMAX & EvDO networks and spits out a Wi-Fi cloud within a 30 foot radius of the device.  This means I can connect our phones, laptops, and yes, iPad to Wi-Fi as we're cruising down I-10 at 70MPH.  Ashley & I usually split the drive in half between Texas & Louisiana, so one of us gets to surf the web on the iPad for 3 hours and then we switch.  Mobile Safari, Reeder, Flipboard, iBooks, and Kindle tend to be the most frequently used apps when we're in the car.


As I wrote about last month, Penultimate tends to be the iPad app I use most frequently at the office.  Aside from it, I've found that I'm listening to more podcasts on my iPad than on my iPod or iPhone, so the iPod app on the iPad gets used frequently.  Recently, my company also switched over to using Cisco's WebEx conference calling/screen sharing solution, so I'm now regularly using the WebEx iPad app for meetings.


While we've only taken two round trip flights since I bought the iPad (one to Paris & one to Denver), it's proven to be the focal point during our air travels.  I picked up a Belkin RockStar headphone splitter to provide audio to Ashley & my brother during flights, and then encoded my movies with HandBrake for iPad compatibility.  When we weren't watching Paris-themed movies or The Shining, I usually played Pinball HD by myself or Game Table Checkers against Ashley.


Bringing the iPad on vacation is perhaps the coolest use-case I've encountered yet.  While staying at our apartment in Paris, the iPad turned out to be the computer of choice for my family, being used for directions on Google Maps, checking e-mail, and sharing our digital photos from the day with each other every night.  Using the iPad Camera Connection Kit, we copied over the images from my digital camera to the iPad each evening, and then passed around the tablet in the living room so everyone could see our pictures on a large screen.

After vacationing in Colorado last weekend, I discovered that Ashley & I each had about 300 photographs taken between our iPhone 4s.  Conveniently, you can connect your iPhone directly to the iPad via the Camera Connection Kit, and copy over the photos from the iPhones to iPad.  This meant that I could compile all the photos from our point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot SD970IS and our two iPhone 4s directly on the iPad so we could view the images from three cameras all on one device.


The iPad isn't going to replace my desktop, laptop, or iPhone anytime soon.  My desktop has terabytes of storage, my MacBook Pro is beastly in terms of processing power & RAM, and my iPhone can't be beat in terms of portability or quick bursts of computing.  But for a gadget geek who loves being connected, the iPad definitely fills a gap where a big screen, portable device is likely to be used for an extended period of time.

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