The iPad Got Serious

I held out on getting an iPad for as long as possible, but relented and picked one up a little while ago.   Due to travel, I try and carry as little as possible, so every new purchase has to be justified and somewhat “essential”.

Just a day after purchase, I will admit I was a little worried - had I just wasted $800?  Was this juts going to further way down my bag?   Would I regret travelling with this device?

This buyers remorse was brought on by my initial usage of the device.  See, instead of installing some useful apps, like most people, I went straight for the flashy games and “oh wow” applications.    Sure these were fun and did a great job of demonstrating the power of the ipad, yet after a few hours of slashing fruit, and procrastinating I was starting to get a little worried.

I needed to get serious and figure out exactly how this device was worth the $800.

Flipping Out (or Over)

I started off with a recommendation from Robert Scoble - Flipboard.  I had heard a lot of buzz about this app - some good, some bad.  Flipboard is an news reading application.  That didn’t excite me.  But after opening it for the first time and seeing my Twitter stream converted into the flipboard format, I was convinced.

I’m going to be honest here - I used to skip over 80% of your tweets.  Maybe its the way my brain is wired -  titles and links just don’t do it for me.  But now, I get my daily news via Twitter, on Flipboard.  I absolutely love reading your blogs and articles through Flipboard.  I wake up to Flipboard and its one of very few apps (the calculator on the iphone being one other) that I use daily.

So Flipboard has prompted me to be more engaged with your content.  I’ve been commenting more, learning more and the entire process feels very efficient.

After installing Flipboard, I started to believe that this could really be a “serious” gadget for me.  No longer was this a giant iPod touch.  I was now convinced that this was a great reading device so I moved onto another app for reading - Kindle.

Finally Using those Amazon Gift Cards

The only reason I don’t have a Kindle is travel.  I couldn’t justify the space it would take (I travel the world with just a carry on) and I liked travelling with a book, and leaving it along the road for others to pickup (something ill-advised to do with an expensive electronic device).

But the Kindle app is different on the iPad, as it won’t add any extra weight or take up space in a bag.  Even if you’re not nomadic, less gadgets means less waste and power - so definitely give it a go.

So I decided to give it an install.

I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to go digital, bookwise, but then I realized I had a stack of Amazon Gift Vouchers I had forgotten about.  Being an Aussie, there is no Australian Amazon store (for some unknown, and probably very silly reason).  This means in order to buy a physical book I have to pay outrageous shipping costs - I’m talking way more than the actual book.   There is no reason for me to buy a book from Amazon, until now.

Thanks to the Kindle app, I can get digital books, avoid the hefty shipping fees and use up the Gift Vouchers I had been neglecting (I get a monthly gift card from Amazon Associate Program).

I’ve now started doing all my reading on the iPad and I’m loving it.  The Kindle app works just as expected and reading on this device feels natural for someone who has grown up looking at a screen.

Mocking Up

So now I had two serious apps and the iPad was looking like a great purchase.  I wondered how far my luck would go and I ventured further into the app store to find another “serious” app.

I do a lot of mockups for website designs and application interfaces.  My process usually involves a grid based notepad as a starting point and for more complex apps I use iPlotz.  A mockup application has to have a killer interface.  Speed is key - getting ideas down on paper/bytes quickly is an essential part of the process.

I prefer paper because of just how speedy it is, but the iPad with a big touch interface looked very promising.  So after a quick bit of research I decided to give iMockups a go.

iMockups allows you to create basic interface sketches for web, iphone and ipad apps.  Its not a perfect app - a lot could be done to improve it (more palette items) but its solid.  So solid I am now using it to do most mockups in conjunction with good old pen and paper.  The advantage of iMockups is the ability to send the completed mockup to developers/designers.

Dear Publisher....Where is Your App?

Where the hell is The Economist on the iPad?  Surely they are missing out on sales. Its been months since the release of the iPad and many publishers have yet to make a presence on the iPad.  What's going on?

Well I have it on good authority that an iPad app for the Economist is “definite”.  So why the delay?  Its rumoured that Apple is working with a number of publishers to sell newspaper/magazine subscriptions.  This would probably be done through either iBooks, iTunes or maybe even iMag/iNews?

So due to these rumours I’ve held out on reading any magazines or newspapers on the iPad and will wait to see what the subscription options from Apple are.  Then again, all these rumours may be just that, rumours.

What About iWork on the iPad?

I’m in two minds as to whether or not I should install these apps (numbers, pages, keynote).  I believe the iPad is a very good business device without these apps.  I would like a spreadsheet application - I currently use Google Spreadsheets, and the implementation in Safari on the iPad is very poor.  So I’m holding out for a Google native app (please).  This would be killer as I usually have a Google Spreadsheet open throughout the day.

As for word processing, Pages looks to heavy for my use.  If i was creating flyers for a local sports team, it might come in handy.  But for writing blog posts, I still use Google Docs.  Google Docs in iPad safari doesn’t even allow you to type!  How ridiculous is that - the ipad is actually quite good for typing even without a bluetooth keyboard.  I manage around 1000 words in 20 minutes.

Google needs to remember they are all about supporting multiple platforms!

More Serious Stuff for the iPad

Expense tracking looks promising on the iPad.  There are a few apps available but most of them have interfaces that are as boring as well, expense tracking.  Just because the task is boring, doesn’t mean the interface has to match.    As I'm a receipt junky, I could really use a solid expense tracking app to replace my giant and somewhat confusing spreadhseets.

Go2Meeting also has a good app.  I could envision sitting down in front of my macbook with a meeting happening on the iPad and me working on the Macbook.  Skype could also potentially be very useful - due to the built in microphone.

Finally, note-taking is the perfect fit for the iPad.  I’ve looked at a couple of apps, but none are perfect and I’m a little biased as I’m currently developing one myself (which of course will be amazing ;) ).

So now my buyers remorse is gone.  I am actually doing work on the iPad and I’ve come to the conclusion that it can be a very “serious” device.  For those who have bought the iPad and weeks later are stuck wondering “what the hell am I meant to be using this for”, take a look at your current workflow and see what alternatives are available on the iPad.   I would love to only travel with just my iPad, and would, if only I didn’t need to use Photoshop.

What "serious" apps do you use.  Or is the iPad just fun and games for you?

In an upcoming post I'll discuss why the iPad makes a great travelling device.

Photo by - Johan Larsson
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