iPad Air 2: Conference Experiment Results

I set out this week to use my new iPad Air 2 as my only computer at a professional development conference. So for four days, with the exception of a couple of minutes tweaking a table in my PowerPoint presentation, and then using the PC to run the presentation and demo, I used my iPad full-time. At this point, I’m comfortable calling the experiment a partial success.

I spent most of my time on the iPad performing a handful of tasks, including:

Email & Calendar

The iPad has always been a great tool for email. Since my iPad is a personal device, I recently decided to keep my work and personal email separate. So I use Apple’s Mail app for my personal email accounts – Gmail, Google Apps, Outlook.com, and Office 365. It does a great job dealing with them, although I do wish I could mark email as spam within Apple’s app. I’ve confirmed I can do that with both the Gmail app and Google’s new Inbox app, but I’m not interested in splitting up my email across three different apps.

For work email, I’ve switched to Acompli. Segregating work email into a separate app allows me to try to do a better job of maintaining work/life balance. Acompli is an interesting app, combining both email and calendar in one app, almost like Outlook.  I use the calendar function sparingly, mainly because I prefer Fantastical on my iPhone and Calendars 5 on my iPad.

I had no issues keeping up with email on my iPad. I actually prefer reading and answering emails on my iPad – partly because it’s easy to do quickly, and partly because it encourages me to be brief in my responses.

iMessages & Text Messaging

Prior to iOS 8, the iPad was an outstanding tool for communicating with my iOS-using friends, family, and coworkers, but I had to resort to using my iPhone to send and receive text messages from folks using Android or Windows Phone. iOS 8 has changed that, as the SMS Relay functionality allows me to handle all of my messaging on the iPad. I still use my iPhone for messaging on the go or when I don’t have my iPad out, but it is really convenient and provides a superior experience.

Twitter & Facebook

I have been pairing my Facebook presence and time down for the last few weeks. I uninstalled the client from my iPhone and don’t choose to visit the website when I’m at work. So I typically only access Facebook now from my iPad, and I do so as briefly as possible, primarily to check to see if there are any comments on the items I post into Facebook via Instagram. I don’t particularly care for Facebook anymore, but it is the only way I have to keep up with some friends and family who use it, and doing it on my iPad is the best, most contained way I have of doing it.

For Twitter, I use Tweetbot of course. I’ve used all of the major Twitter clients on iOS and Tweetbot is undeniably the best, or at least my favorite. I use it on my Macs as well. I was able to monitor my feed and keep up with multiple hashtags I was following this week, both for the #vDM30in30 Blog Challenge and for my conference. Much like with iMessages, Twitter on the iPad is a superior experience.

Creating Office Documents

I worked on both a PowerPoint presentation and Word document this week. Both worked reasonably well, although my very strong preference is to use an external keyboard rather than the on-screen keyboard. I did have issues working with a table in PowerPoint, but I need to spend more time fiddling with it to know if that was a PowerPoint problem, an iOS problem, or simply a case where finger touch isn’t as accurate as it needs to be compared to the fine control possible with a mouse.

I used Microsoft Office exclusively this week, but I have used Keynote, Pages, and Numbers quite a bit on my Mac before, and am willing to give them a shot on my iPad since they’re included with all new iOS devices now. I may need to stick to Office to ensure compatibility when sharing documents with coworkers, but most of my Office documents end up being simple enough that I will use the suite over time that works best for me.

RSS Feeds, Web Browsing, Instapaper

While I have recently switched to Unread on my iPhone, I’m still using Reeder on my iPad since it seems like the iPad version of Unread has not been updated for iOS 8. For simply reading my RSS feeds, I prefer doing so on my iPad over either my iPhone and Mac.

I say simply reading because for feeds that either aren’t full text or that link to other sites on the web, I find Mobile Safari to be adequate for some sites, and frustrating for others. I’m not a web person, and I don’t know all the ins and outs of mobile versus desktop sites, but what I do know is that it drives me insane to hit a website on my iPad and have it force me into the mobile view. It kills me to think we moved past the whole Flash video issue years ago, but I still can’t reliably count on a website to just serve up the desktop site on my iPad, or if it does, for Mobile Safari to reliably render it.

Instapaper is how I try to deal with this issue. If I see an article or blog post linked on Twitter or via RSS, I pop it open some of the time in Safari, but most of the time I send it to Instapaper, and read it there. In addition to avoiding potential rendering issues, that also allows me to skip through my Twitter feed more quickly, filing away potentially important things for later reading.

Blogging

While I have posted to each of my blogs this week during the conference, the experience has been suboptimal, to say the least.  I used the official WordPress app to compose all of the posts, but I found the interface, especially for tagging posts, a pain to deal with. So in most cases I uploaded the post as a draft, then loaded it in the web editor, tweaked it a bit, then published.

Another failing of the WordPress app involved how it handled images. While the web editor gives me options for sizing images, as well as choosing how to align them on the page, the WordPress app offered no such options. In addition to that, the WordPress app seems to only be capable of working with images from my iPad photo library, not images that I’ve already uploaded to my media library at wordpress.com.

I found blogging from the iPad to be frustrating enough that I almost threw in the towel for that task and just used my PC. That would have been painful in its own way, since I use iPhoto to manage all of my photos and blog images on either my MacBook Pro or iMac at home. So if I’d tried to use my PC for the task at the conference I would have had to come up with a different workflow for taking the full quality images I’d snapped with my iPhone and save them in lower quality for the blogs. At the end of the day, I just didn’t care enough to deal with the headache, so I uploaded full quality images with the WordPress app and left them sitting on the page at whatever size it decided I was allowed to use.

Even if I decide to keep using the iPad more regularly for “real computer” tasks, I won’t be using it for blogging unless I can find a blog editor for iOS that gives me all the functionality I need, as well as a photo management app for the iPad that lets me resize and reduce quality on images. If you have a recommendation for a good blog editor on iOS, please send it to me over Twitter. In the meantime, I’m evaluating Squarespace as a possible new blogging platform, as I’ve heard its mobile blog app is excellent.

Conclusion: Mostly a Success, but Only Mostly

I got most of what I needed and wanted to get done this week using only an iPad. A few months ago, I don’t think I would have been willing to try. But it was nice carrying only my iPad, or at times the iPad and the Apple Wireless Keyboard around, instead of my laptop. I think with the right keyboard case, I could probably do just about everything I’d need to do on the go with my iPad, with one giant exception right now – writing blog posts the way I want to write them. I’m looking at keyboard case options, and I’m not ready to pull the trigger yet. Logitech makes the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, which multiple people have recommended to me. Someone also recommended the Logitech Tablet Keyboard. I’m waiting for now until the Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 comes out before making a final decision. The other QODE’s are highly rated and the Ultimate Pro seems like just what I’m looking for – a case for the iPad when I want to be just a tablet, and a keyboard that the case attaches to when I want to use it as a semi-laptop.

I’m not ready to sell my MacBook Pro and go all iPad all the time. I’m writing this blog post on my MacBook Pro as a matter of fact. But I will be using my iPad more than I ever have in the past, and for tasks I hadn’t considered it for until this week.

This is post 13 in the #NaBloWriMo #vDM30in30 30 Day Blog Challenge

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