My recent look at a typical day with the Sprint EVO 4G was well received and I started getting requests for a similar look at a day with the iPad. Not one to ignore good requests, this post covers a typical day with the iPad in Mobile Tech Manor. I should point out that the iPad is so different from most gadgets I write about and I’m not sure there is a “typical” day. Perhaps I should more accurately present a “recent day” with the iPad.
It is still dark outside when the merciless alarm rouses me from a deep sleep and I stumble out of bed to greet the day. The iPad is lying on the night stand where I left it last night, having read an e-book before bedtime. It has not been charging overnight, as the extended battery life you’ve heard about on the iPad is not fiction. I rarely charge the iPad at night, which is a first with me for any gadget. Instead, I will plug it in while using it at my desk in a little while, and charge it until it shows a full charge after which it will remain untethered for the rest of the day.
I grab the first cup of coffee and settle into the easy chair with the iPad in hand. It is nestled in the Apple case I bought along with the iPad, and I am glad I did. The brushed aluminum back on the iPad is extremely slippery, and I’ve almost dropped it a few times. The case adds a nice grippy cover for it without adding much bulk to the slim package. I also use the stand on the back of the case to prop up the iPad throughout the day.
The first thing I do is catch up with email that has arrived overnight. We have a lot of site visitors located all over the globe, and the stream of email doesn’t stop when I am getting my beauty rest at night. Using the Mail app on the iPad is easy to do, and sitting in the chair I typically hold it in portrait which is more comfortable for me. I spin through the night’s email in just a few minutes, responding to mail as necessary via the onscreen keyboard. I use the keyboard by typing with my right index finger in portrait, and I find it fast enough for most messages I compose. For longer entries I spin the iPad around to landscape orientation which makes the keyboard big enough for easier typing. I have three different email accounts configured, and I’ll be glad when that unified inbox appears in iPhone 4.0.
Once my inbox is back to zero I spin through RSS feeds that have accumulated new items overnight. I am torn between two apps to do this — NetNewsWire and NewsRack. Both apps handle RSS feeds in a similar fashion, and both sync with Google Reader which is mandatory for my needs. I am leaning more towards NewsRack as it is now faster than NetNewsWire since a recent update, and I like the interface a little better. I fire it up and start spinning through the hundreds of news items waiting for my attention.
I pop from item to item using the “next item” button in NewsRack, and when an item deserves more attention I either hit the star button to mark it for reading later or I hit the button to open the item in the internal browser to read it right then. Either method works well, but usually I just hit the star and come back to the item later in the day.
Once I have achieved inbox zero for my feeds, I get ready for some serious work. I make my 30 second commute to Mobile Tech Manor to begin my work day. I prop the iPad up to the left of my big desktop monitor and plug it in so it can be charging while I work at the Mac. I fire up the Calendar app on the iPad to check the day’s schedule, and then I run the ToDo app to check my task list.
ToDo is a great task manager and I sync it with my ToodleDo online account. I love the planner interface that ToDo employs, and I find it a good way to stay on top of things that need to get done. ToDo stays open much of the day on the iPad so I can refer to it as needed, and I mark things done as appropriate. That’s one of my favorite things to do — mark a task as complete.
I find having the iPad serve as my day planner in this way adds value to my work setup. Is it necessary to get my work done? Of course not; but since I have the iPad I find it is very useful to keep my planning methods separate from my work computer. I am able to concentrate on the work when I should, yet pop over to the planner to see what I need to think about next when appropriate. This is even more useful for me as I often change the work computer given all the systems that I test for work. Having the iPad function as a planner allows me to extend whatever work setup I am employing at a given time, without having to change things. It’s all about getting my work done as easily as I can.
I use iThoughtsHD as needed to map out longer articles I write. I like mind mapping and use it as a visual outliner. It’s easy to lay out a project in a map, and refer to it while I write the article. There are several mind map apps for the iPad, but iThoughts does everything I need and I like it a lot.
I work at my desk until lunch time when I shut down to grab a bite to eat. I head to the local sandwich shop after throwing the iPad and Sprint Overdrive into a little gear bag. I eat my sandwich while reading an e-book on the iPad. Today I am using the Barnes & Noble eReader app to read the book; other days I use the Kindle app. Which one I use depends on where I bought the e-book, of course. I buy most of the books from Amazon but I have been getting some from B&N as I am giving the eReader app a try. They are both functionally similar; I don’t really favor one over the other.
Just before finishing lunch I hit the power button on the Overdrive to tap into the Sprint 4G network. In just a minute it connects and the iPad automatically connects to it, turning it into a 4G iPad. I check up on Twitter using Twitterrific Pro, my Twitter app of choice on the iPad. I also catch up with my email sitting in the lunchroom. The iPad makes it so easy to check my email that it has helped me keep up with my desire to maintain inbox zero. Sure I could do this with a smartphone but the iPad is faster and easier to use due to the larger screen.
Once lunch is finished I head back to my office to finish up the work day. The afternoon is spent much like the morning, working at my desk with the iPad sitting alongside my big screen. I take a couple of breaks in the afternoon, as I believe it is important to maintain a work routine that mimics one in a “real” office. It is vital to take breaks from the computer screen, and I do that in my home office, too. I grab the iPad when I step away from the desk and read the e-book during these breaks. The iPad is my ereader of choice, and I haven’t touched my Kindle since getting the iPad.
When the work day is finished and I step out of the Manor, the iPad comes with me. The slim, light form of the iPad makes it easy to grab and go, and the fact is it is always within reach. It sits on the table next to my easy chair, ready to grab for jumping online quickly to check something. I jump on Twitter several times during the evening to keep up with my peeps, and I check the RSS feeds in NewsRack a couple of times. The real value provided by the iPad is how I can do any of these things by simply picking it up and jumping online in less than a minute. Hit the button, slide the toggle and I’m online.
Is the iPad the only way to do this online stuff? Absolutely not, but it is so easy and quick that it is the best way for me. Is the iPad worth the price to everyone for this functionality? Probably not, that’s a case-by-case situation. Is it the easiest and most enjoyable way to do these things? For me, yes indeed. Since getting the iPad I spend less time checking things on the web, yet I spend more time online. What the iPad lets me do is jump online to check a particular thing, and then shut it down instantly.
It’s not all work, I have been playing a number of games on the iPad. I try to limit the time spent playing, but some of the games are pretty good and that makes it easy to get lost in them sometimes. The game I am currently having fun with is BrokenSword HD. It is well executed on the iPad and is a great mystery that unfolds in front of my eyes.
The iPad is not for everyone, mobile technology is a very personal thing. I’m sure many will look at a given task I’ve described and come up with another type of gadget that will do the task as well or better. In my case, when I look at the group of tasks I do each day, the iPad is the best single gadget to use. Over the course of this day I used the iPad to jump online at least 50 times. A simple tap of the on button and a tap of the browser app and I was connected to anything I wanted to be connected to. The iPad is my companion device of choice, it is not a primary system. But the utility it provides is augmented by the fact that more often than not it can do what I need, often even better or faster than my primary system.
Related content on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): Can Anyone Compete With the iPad?