In response to the notion that iPad is just a toy or just a consumption device,  I’ve prepared the following from many discussions with people over the last few weeks.  I’ve debated calling this “How the iPad is a Great Work Device” among other things.

This list is a bit focussed for certain kinds of work being done, but it still is relevant.  The iPad is particularly strong when work must be done in small groups of 2, 3, 4 or 5 people.  Some of these advantages may fade for larger groups.

Some of the items listed may be valid only in the United States.  Check before buying if you have any questions or doubts.

Speed:

  • Wakes from sleep faster than a laptop.
  • Gets applications started faster than a laptop.  (Less time to get started with that quick presentation.)

Speed becomes very important when you have to consider other people’s time.  Think of those hallway or elevator presentations you have to finish in 90 seconds.  If your work involves pitching work, proposals or giving status updates, or just bragging,  you probably show pictures, video, or slideshows or documents to people on the fly.

Also, if you are trying to recapture time that would have otherwise been wasted (listed elsewhere in this article),  the speed is crucial to being able to use small amounts of available time.

Efficiency for Working:

  • A touch interface is often easier and faster to use than a mouse. Gestures and special meanings assigned to taps of 2, 3 or more fingers make many common tasks easier. Especially easy are tasks related to viewing, reading, sharing or showing things.  They may not seem like much, but if you are doing them many times per day, or have very little time, they add up.   Tasks like:
    • Zooming In and Out
    • Scrolling or Sliding
    • Page Turning
    • Link Clicking
    • Object Resize and Rotation
  • Work that would have required manually writing notes on paper then re-typing them later at the computer can now be finished immediately.
    • With protective coverings, iPad can be taken to the scene of the work in environment too harsh for normal laptop-style devices,  allowing single-entry data collection.
  • More information can be carried, acquired, viewed and presented in a single device.
  • Time that normally would have gone to waste can be re-used doing some quick tasks such as reading email, looking up information, reading relevant news, or creating some kinds of documents.  Examples of time recapturing opportunities:
    • Waiting in lines (at airports, car rentals, taxi lines, banks, medical offices, schools, etc.)
    • Waiting for meetings
    • While traveling (only if someone else is driving and its safe)

Quality Hardware:

  • Easily operated within an ordinary 1-gallon ziplock bag for wet environments such as rain, boat, beach, poolside, tub, etc. (Use this tip at your own risk. See Warnings and Updates in footnotes**)   Note that conductive anti-static bags used for shipping many electrical devices will probably prevent the iPad touchscreen from sensing fingers.
  • Excellent monitor which is better for viewing video is also better for viewing in general.
  • More rugged than most laptops.
    • no hinge to break.
    • no keys to be popped off.
    • few port connectors to break.
  • iPad functions with WiFi hubs in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz ranges.  *(See Footnotes for more details)
  • Can run for a whole 8-hour work day.  The battery life claimed by Apple has been reported to be regularly achieved in real use by many product reviewers.

Working with Groups (2 or more total people):

  • Excellent monitor allows more people to see at one time. Sitting flat on a table, it allows viewing in a full circle.  If the group is standing, it is easily held where all can see.
  • Touch interface removes need for designated mouse/keyboard “driver” when working in a group. Anyone can reach in and touch the screen at any time to do things.
  • The iPad is easier to hold for a standing group. It is lighter and No Juggling Act is required to hold and operate it for a standing group. A laptop must be balanced carefully while touching trackpads and typing on keys while still showing results to a group.
  • The Work experience is more open. It is more like sharing a magazine or pad of paper than a laptop. More people at one time are included.  The work experience is more approachable, inviting greater participation. (Although the novelty of the iPad might be distracting until people are accustomed to it.)
  • The iPad’s speakers can reach a decent volume level to play sound to a group. (While it is rather easy to accidentally cover them with a hand, it is easy to direct the sound with a hand as well.)

Investment:

  • While $499 is a bit more expensive than some netbooks, it is not out of the ballpark.  And it can still be less than many laptops.
  • Since there is no contract or subsidized pricing, replacement cost is never more than the original cost. (Assuming it is purchased through normal retail channels. Might not be true in other countries or if purchased through data providers. If in doubt, check before purchasing.)
  • For 3G data models:
    • the $130 extra can be justified for the GPS alone. It is just a bit more than the cost of an external GPS device.
    • Data plans do not require contracts.  They are pre-paid month-to-month service. (Assumes a retail purchase through Apple channels. This may not be true outside the United States or if you purchase it through a subsidized plan from a data provider.)
  • Third-party repair centers are already acquiring replacement glass for less-expensive repairs than Apple stores.
  • The standard license agreement provided by Apple allows a single purchase to be used on up to 5 devices if those devices are synchronized to one account on one computer.  (Some software can have a non-standard license, and I am not a lawyer.  You should check the licenses for yourself.)
  • Applications delivered through the App Store are generally priced more affordably than store-purchased applications.
  • Apps can be purchased which will work on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.   Forward compatibility has been very good and upgrades are typically free.
  • Competition among developers is very high.  The cost to enter the market and begin selling is very low, so companies potentially have more time to spend on improving products or making new ones.

Footnotes:

* WiFi

  • The WiFi frequencies listed are under U.S. FCC rules. Allowed frequencies are probably different in other countries.
  • Reports of unexpectedly short WiFi range have surfaced. I have read no reports of 3G reception issues.  Some steps have been noted that improve the range.
  • News reports have surfaced of problems taking U.S. iPads to other countries due to different wireless frequency rules. Check with proper authorities if traveling with iPad.)

** Electronics in a ZipLock Bag (use these tips at your own risk)

  • Of course if you are using the ZipLock bag tip, you should pick your bag carefully.  Very thin bags tear very easily. Thicker, more industrial-strength bags can be found in the hardware section of stores or home-supply stores.
  • Note also that if you attempt to use a electronic device in conditions that will make it cold, (or just colder than the air) then you should not remove it from the bag until it warms up.  When you expose the device, water in the air can condense freely in and on the device.  This can damage or destroy your device.
    • I tried this trick on a recent trip to the Florida keys with my cheap digital camera.  We were snorkeling in very warm, shallow water and it worked great.  We had photos and videos of everything we saw.  Until someone took the camera out of the bag.  Water condensed visibly under the glass of the screen and it quickly stopped working.  The SD card also stopped working.  My computer could not even tell that one had been put in the reader.
    • After drying under a fan overnight, both the camera and card started working.  I was very thankful to have our family pictures back as well as the camera.
    • Some of my clever friends suggested drying the camera and card in a bag of dry rice.  Apparently this is a cheap and available alternative to desiccant.
    • Some of my cleverer friends suggested putting the dry rice into the bag with the camera BEFORE going into cold conditions.
    • I note that I did not go very deep in the water.  I have little doubt that water pressure could easily damage a fragile electronics and their cases. In the case of my camera, I was a bit worried about the motor and gears in the lens that pops out when the camera is on.  The pressure could have forced it backward into the case and stripped the gears.
    • The picture quality was also lowered by the bag.

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