Over the past few months I have found myself using my mobile devices more and more and my computer (A 2012 13″ MacBook Air) less and less. It’s not that I don’t like my MacBook Air (I still feel it’s the best computer I ever owned), it’s just that my iPad and smartphone are able to do more and more of the basic tasks that I require of a computer. The majority of times I need a computer, I am looking to do simple tasks such as checking my email, reading my Twitter feed, messaging friends of Facebook, or getting some very basic work done. All of these tasks are often more conveniently done with a smaller device that I have with me at all times and one that I can pull in and out of my pocket or use while lying on the couch or in bed. As a teacher, my work doesn’t call for heavy computing tasks or large computer projects that are better handled on a full fledged computer all that often. This has led me to only using my laptop computer for literally minutes a day or for bigger computing projects, while spending hours per day on my mobile devices. As smartphones and tablets become more powerful I think my experiences have become more and more the norm for people who own tablets or smartphones.
This being the case, I began to wonder why I have a thousand dollar machine sitting on my work desk basically going unused everyday. I began to think I could ditch the laptop all together and move solely onto my mobile devices for all my computing needs. The recent release of the 128GB iPad gave me the perfect excuse to give this idea a try. One of the last things holding me back from making the jump to going all mobile has always been the lack of storage space on my mobile devices. Yes, its true that there are solutions such as the cloud, disk drives that sync with mobile devices over Wi-Fi, memory cards, and other means of storing your data on a device with limited storage. However, all these solutions can be a hassle or require an internet connection at all times and are just not as downright convenient as having the space on your device to store everything you need. The 128GB iPad finally provided me with a mobile device with the storage to take on all my digital files without compromise.
I decided to give the 128GB iPad a week long trial as my main computer. I will attempt to go an entire week at home and work using solely the iPad. Every evening this week I will post an update on how well the experiment is going. I hope to find out and share what features of a full blown computer I miss, what solutions I discover to overcome the limitations of the iPad as a main computer, and what I like and don’t like about going solely mobile on the iPad.
Day 1 – The Honeymoon Stage
I refer to day one of my exclusively iPad week as the honeymoon stage because right now I view this whole experiment as a fun challenge. Can I really pull off only using an iPad for a week? As a gadget and technology fan, I love pushing devices to their limits and finding creative solutions to their limitations. As I run into roadblocks and challenges using the iPad, I am curious to see if my excitement wanes about using the iPad as my sole computing device. Will I bump into some unexpected limitations or lack of efficiency in getting certain computer tasks done that causes my excitement to change into frustration? Time will tell, but right now I am feeling fairly confident this experiment will be a big success as day one went rather well.
What I Like So Far
My Newfound Focus
I have to say that I am surprised to include this in my list of likes after day 1. I thought for sure I would be annoyed at the inability to have two apps or windows open at once on the iPad. To be honest, it is annoying sometimes to have to constantly flip back and forth between my web browser and my word processing apps, but I have been amazed at the improvement I have seen in my focus at work. I am someone who can be easily distracted by a tweet, email message, news story, or other distraction that pops up on my computer screen. I have to admit that I often catch myself wasting valuable work time after getting pulled away from my work by one of the previously mentioned distractions. All of this was a thing of the past today as I used my iPad on day 1. Having the ability to only have one window open at a time forced me to focus on the task at hand. I found myself spending far less time distracted. Yes, it does take longer to flip between apps and do certain tasks on the iPad, but I found that the less time I spend distracted more than made up for the slightly slower work speed that is a limitation of the way multitasking works on the iPad. Chalk this discovery up as the first pleasant surprise I had during day one of my exclusive iPad use. Will this feeling last or will I grow more and more annoyed with the hassle of switching between apps? I am intrigued to find out.
The Battery Life
Not even bothering to take a charger to work is something I could get used to. I use my computer, or iPad in this case, to show a lot of slideshow presentations, keep track of grades, share websites, and show videos at school. I easily top 4-5 hours of having my computer screen on and active while at school doing work, sharing presentations, and keeping track of student information. Usually, with my laptop, this results in me having to sprint for the nearest wall outlet at the end of the day or before the day is even over. With the iPad this daily routine looks like it will be a piece of cake. With 6 hours and 6 minutes of usage today my battery sits this evening still at 59% charge. I could do a whole second day like this without using the charger! Crazy! This is a big time plus.
The Ability to Still Type Quickly
A Bluetooth keyboard is a must for anyone trying to go solely iPad. Typing on the screen can become fairly efficient with practice, but will never compare in speed or accuracy to a real keyboard. I purchased Apple’s official Bluetooth keyboard and found that I could type documents just as quickly as I could on my laptop. The Bluetooth pairing with the iPad was very simple and worked flawlessly. So far my typing hasn’t missed a beat.
Finding a Workable Case
I went on to Amazon.com and purchased one of the highest rated iPad cases called the Snugg. I am so far thrilled with this choice. It offers great protection for my iPad as I lug it around and use it heavily all day, looks great, and holds the iPad at the perfect angle when it is folded up as a stand for typing at my desk. I was worried I would have neck strain if I couldn’t get the iPad at the right tilt as I worked at my desk. The Snugg case wiped away those concerns quite quickly.
Finding a Somewhat Workable File Management System
As a teacher who deals with countless worksheets, photos, video files, slideshow presentations, forms, and other digital “stuff”, I was worried about my ability to effectively find a way to neatly organize, keep track of, and find files I needed. Fortunately I stumbled across a fairly workable solution right off the bat. Today I used Dropbox to manage all of my files. Apples iWork apps, which I use heavily, allow you to open up any file you create in Dropbox. After making a document, I would open the document in Dropbox and save it there. The Dropbox app then allows me to reorganize any files into folders as I see fit. This is not a perfect solution and is a bit awkward, but it still allows me to keep track of and organize the many documents I will work with.
Another app that has made this experiment wildly successful so far is the App CloudMagic. This app catalogs all the files you have in various cloud services such as Evernote, Dropbox, Email Files, Box, Skydrive, etc…, and allows you to search all these services with a unified search box. Typing in a search term returns documents or files stored on all your cloud services. What an awesome find that makes file management via the iPad something tolerable!
My Early Dislikes
The Awkward Handling of My Photos by iOS
After loading my 7,000+ photos into the massive storage of my iPad, it became immediately apparent to me that iOS wasn’t meant to manage photograph collections like this. It was extremely awkward to navigate through a sea of that many photos and the iPad seemed to stutter a bit flicking through a collection that large. It literally would take me about 5 minutes to flick through my entire collection looking for a specific folder or photograph. This was a little more tolerable when organize my photos by albums as there was a bit less to scroll through. However, some new solutions are need in the next iOS update will be needed to deal with this many photos on an iPad efficiently.
One of the biggest downsides to going all touchscreen and no mouse is the fact that you always have to reach up to select anything on the screen when using the iPad on your desk with a keyboard. Any time I wanted to move the cursor or select a new program, I had to reach my arm up to the screen and press it. This inconvenience and the fatigue that may result from it has been referred to as “Gorilla Arm” by some tech circles. I have to say that by the end of the day I was somewhat annoyed by how much slower reaching to the screen to select something was rather than just clicking on it with a mouse. So far this annoyance level isn’t high enough for me to ditch wanting to go fully iPad, but if I could pick one reason that may cause me to eventually ditch the idea of going solely iPad, this may be it.
Awkward Text Editing
Selecting, copying, pasting, and moving around text on a touch screen is awkward. Replacing mouse clicks and drags with taps and finger holds on a glass screen will just never be as efficient as using a mouse. I did sense these tasks taking a bit more time than usual today on my iPad. However, at this point I would also categorize this annoyance as a minor one, especially with my discovery that the iPad helped save me time by keeping me more focused at work as mentioned earlier.
Extra Steps for Almost Every Task
By the end of the day I realized that doing things on an iPad requires an extra step for many tasks here or there versus a computer. Though the extra steps are small and minor (an extra menu, a long tap and hold to accomplish something that would normally be done with a quick right click of the mouse, extra switching between programs, etc…) they all add up to everything just taking a bit more time over the course of a day. The iPad definitely will not speed up my work, but right now my opinion is that it all turns out in a wash as I truly do feel I was more focused and, therefore, gained these seconds and minutes back elsewhere when the normal distractions of a full fledged computer isn’t there. Again, is this just my excitement talking or will this opinion hold? Ask me on Friday.
Well, that’s all of my musings and experiences from day 1. Check back tomorrow evening (February 12th) for day 2 of the iPad experiment.
Current Opinion on Sole iPad Computing – It Looks Promising