Two Months with iPad as My Computer

For the past three months I have been using a 16GB iPad as my only computer device. I’m on a minimalist kick, and it was one of the 15 things I owned. I originally loved it, but the details ruined the experiment.

Well, not the details, a giant fucking problem ruined the experiment.

I like writing, and the touch interface just wasn’t cutting it, so I purchased the bluetooth keyboard for when I wanted to write posts. It was pretty brilliant as a setup. On my last flight I was forced to check my bag, and in the rough handling the keyboard was turned on, keys were pressed, the ipad took this as incorrect password guesses and it locked.

I had all sorts of screenshots and apps to show off, those are all gone, because once your ipad gets in this mode, the only way to get it out is to restore it to the computer it was last synced with. I, not owning that computer, had no choice but to delete everything.

Delete everything.

Everything gone. All my photos from three months of traveling: gone. My notes: gone. My unpublished blog posts: gone. Maps: gone.

Luckily, I don’t trust Apple a bit and didn’t delete the pictures from the camera. Everything else is gone, which is too bad. But so it goes.

I’m looking at Rocky Mountain National Park in the distance on a flight from Denver to Portland, happily typing on my new MacBook Air. It is really what I wished the iPad was, an air with touch screen.

I started this post saying the details were what really got to me.

Looking Like a Crazy Man

When you have a bluetooth keyboard on your lap, you can’t fit the iPad. When you are on the road, the perfect table is elusive. Usually you find a couch or a single chair. With no place to put your ipad, you set it next to you, or in your bag as you type on a post looking like a crazy man that is so addicted to his computer that on vacation he brings a keyboard to type away as therapy.

App Store Approval Hell

The apps are great but there are lots of crashes. A fix to a website can be pushed within an hour but to an app could take weeks. The wordpress app was by far the worst. I can’t tell you the amount of time I have lost from app crashes. Seems like the restrictive approval process is really the bottleneck here.

Not Mobile But You Are

Forced mobile sites in Safari was the most annoying part of being on the iPad. If I went to my bank site, or united.com, I had a very streamlined site. This is great, until you need something you know is in the real site, like editing a google doc (you can’t) or seeing something in flash. The blocking of flash wasn’t a huge problem, the mobile site push was.

A few updates to apps ruined the experience for me. I loved reading the NYTimes front page and opinion, which was very easy. An update to the app put it behind a paywall and made me regret updating it.

Apps I loved and couldn’t get enough of:

  • ESPN. They have a video preview of games, as well as recaps. Amazing to be on a beach and watch a huge hit by the Oregon special teams. The app builders need a special prize for their work, one in which there is champaign and plastic covered locker rooms.
  • Words With Friends. Keeping in touch with friends on the road is best done through tis scrabble like game.
  • Real Soccer 10. Great game, perfect 10 minute break
  • Google Maps. Saved my tail more times than I thought was possible.

So ends the experiment. A success and complete failure.

iPad as a toy? Oh yeah, best product out there. iPad as a computing device. When things go wrong, they go really, really wrong.


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