Just Enough of What You Need, Infinitely
More of What You Want
More of What You Want
I am writing this on the subway platform in Brooklyn. On my iPad. Which has been my constant companion for the last week.
The era of carrying a laptop to maintain productivity on the go is over. What’s more, this appealingly sleek, elegant device provides an exceptionally rich entertainment experience, whether your preference is TV shows, movies, books, apps, web browsing, or games—all on one device. Yes, there have been and will be other tablet computers, but no other has caused the rush of excitement and curiosity surrounding the iPad—in part due to Apple's unflappable buzz machine, but also because it's a powerful product so simple to use that it requires no instructions (even cats can figure it out). And the payoff is an incredibly pleasant, dynamic experience.
Anyone reading this blog agrees that vacation days are the reason why we work. They must be used wisely. When we go, we want to feel like we are disconnecting from the daily grind, yes, but the reality is that most of us don’t want to drop off the grid completely. We want to be able to check email, browse our favorite websites, and watch our TV shows, even if we aren’t anywhere near the living room DVR. Here’s what you can do—for work or play—with just 1.5 pounds tucked in
—By Mary Anne Potts; Photographs by Jonathan Forsythe
What You Want: Entertainment
Flights, layovers, long drives. If you are traveling, you are going to have chunks of idle time. With the iPad, your entertainment options are optimized.
You can watch your TV shows anytime, anywhere. I watched last week’s LOST while riding the subway. The picture was so vivid that I literally flinched Desmond attacked Charles Widmore. Whether through Netflix or iTunes, movies are just waiting to be watched. And unlike on my flight to Australia when I felt lucky to be able to watch the entire Batman series, twice, with this, you can watch whatever films you want to see. If you don’t finish, you can watch it later. Again, so pleasant. I also started up a movie while waiting for a friend at bar, just because I could. Movies and TV shows can be watched offline, but it did take three hours to download a 45-minute episode of LOST from the iTunes store. So plan a head.
With the iBooks app (free), you have access to more escapist reading than you
could ever conquer. Titles range from $9.99 to $12.99, on average. Apple also has thousands of works in the public domain that are
free. I downloaded Treasure Island (complete with illustrations)
and The Art of War on day one. Free. There’s also Shakespeare,
Jane Austen, and more. While reading, just tap on a word and you have a pop out window with a dictionary, copy, bookmark, and search options. A friend who never reads books finished two
novels in the first week of having his iPad. He was also flying from New
York to San Francisco and back. With the Kindle app (free), you can also read
Browsing the web is exquisite. Websites (without Flash, that is) just sing on the iPad. I’m not into games, but no doubt this venue is ideal for playing on the go.
iPad apps have the potential for real innovation on the larger screen. Some of my favorites so far are Epicurious (finally no laptop in the kitchen) and Netflix (providing a gateway to all their titles). The New York Times Editor's Choice apps provides just two screens of the top stories in news, business, tech, and opinion. The curated selection of articles is very digestible and it's perfect for the subway. National Geographic's World Atlas app is also available on the iPad. We can be sure there will be travel breakthroughs in the App Store soon.
With the Photos app, which comes on the iPad, your pictures with embedded GPS info (and most do these days) can be plotted to a map, showcasing your brag book of travel images. You can even set up slideshows to play to a track in your iTunes library. A good Mother's Day gift, perhaps? (Mom gets the sentimental slideshow; you get the iPad.)
All the while, a number at the top right corner tells you how much battery life you have left. The device gets a maximum of 10 to 11 hours of use in a full charge, long enough not to be a concern. I also carry the cord with me (it, too, is significantly lighter and smaller than my laptop charger, which I would never stash in my handbag).
What You Need: Work
Now let's say you are traveling for work. There's probably no
way you're not going to bring your laptop, as it is stocked with documents,
files, and programs. My guess is most business travelers will choose to bring
both (I plan to next week). Why? You can watch all your shows and the movies you
missed, making life on the road feel less like an interruption of your
"real" life. Yes, you could watch on your laptop, but the experience
is hassle-free on the iPad. No cranking open your laptop, waiting
for it to boot up, and dealing with glare issues in a
cramped airline seat.
Basic work needs are also covered. Pages ($9.99) works just like
Word (with a few extra bells and whistles). When done writing a document, you can email your work as a Word doc, for seamless
compatibility. Typing is weird at first, but soon it's easy, even with one hand while holding it. Keynote ($9.99), which has quietly been gaining on PowerPoint,
allows you to put together a presentation from the comforts of anywhere, such as a
bush flight from Johannesburg to the Zimbabwe outback, when I once saw a tour-operator friend pull out her laptop to work on a project. And Numbers ($9.99) works like Excel.
Is It Just a Giant iPhone?
Well, it sort of is a giant iPhone, in all the great backlit LED, multi-touch ways. But you would never make phone calls (OK, maybe
with iPhone headphones) or walk and read Facebook status updates on your iPad.
If you did, you would deserve the ensuing taunting. The iPad is about having a high
quality, highly personal media experience tucked into your bag to use anywhere.
So there's no camera. Is this really a problem? It would be a little strange to hold
this device, which is kind of like a hardcover book, up to friends posing for a
picture. A webcam, however, could be amazing for Skype and conference calls.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
After a week of using this, I'm find myself missing the 3G network for web on the go, though that feature will be available in a few weeks. But as an iPhone user, I'm a little hesitant to have yet
another data package fee in my life (yet there are no contracts and you can
start and stop, repeatedly, with the iPad). But it would be really awesome if Yelp, for example, could work anywhere, as it does with a 3G iphone. So if money is not an issue, you might as well take the 3G option.
When I first brought my iPad home, it initially would not connect to my home wireless network. I restarted the Wi-Fi system (which we keep unlocked). It did connect after a few minutes. Since then, it seems to connect pretty well. In a friend's office with a closed Wi-Fi signal, it ran HD YouTube videos best when we were close to the router. Otherwise it would get stuck, occasionally. Allowing the video to buffer solved the problem.
To sync to your computer, which is essential to keep track of your downloads, you need to have OS X version 5.5 or higher on a Mac. It does work with PCs, but it turns out my PC is also a little too old to sync.
The screen does get smudgy, which can be a little embarrassing at first. It's more noticeable than on the iPhone, since the screen is so big. It cleans up easily though with a soft fabric brushing over it. And, mind you, that grime is the grime you live in, whether you see it or not.
Do I Need This Device?
The answer to that depends on how much you value the aspects mentioned above. You certainly don't NEED it in a fundamental way. These toys are perfect for people who don't fret over paying $500-plus for convenience and quality. I do, however, feel like I have no need for cable TV, anymore. I keep returning to the word "pleasant," which is really what it is. It has also freed me from the back pain I had from lugging my laptop all over town. For that, alone, I am pretty grateful.