ipad

The Super-Sized iPad

There seems to be a lot of smoke around the idea of a super-sized 13 inch iPad early next year. Rumor sites are posting that they will come in multiple colors and have high resolution screens. One rumor even claims it will run both the Mac OS and iOS, which I have a hard time believing.

I love and use my iPad Air every day. I like the bigger screen because it’s easier to read and since I only carry an iPad in my bag, the bigger one is no less inconvenient to carry around than a mini. I’m sure there are people that would love a super-sized iPad. If nothing else, I think it would be interesting to see what the world does with a large tablet computer. If Apple adds the ability to split the iOS screen between multiple apps, the bigger screen may be important. 

Based on the number of rumors in circulation, I suspect we will all find out some time next year.

iPad mini vs. iPad Air, Round 2

I got to spend 20 minutes with an iPad Air today in the Apple Store. Wow. The reduced weight and sleeker form factor really make the iPad Air feel as if it is in a different class than the prior generation large iPad. The comparison between the iPad Air and the iPad mini, in terms of size and weight, is now a lot closer than it was with the prior generation hardware. Where before I was absolutely ready to upgrade to the mini and small screen size for the significantly reduced weight, now that I’ve driven an iPad Air, the call is much tougher. The iPad Air isn’t that much heavier and isn’t that much bigger.

The mini still isn’t small enough to fit in my pocket so if I bring an iPad with me (mini or Air), I’ll need a bag. Where it was clear to me before that I’d certainly want a mini, now I’m not so sure. I’m almost leaning toward the iPad Air. I don’t think I’m alone on this. I raised the question today on Twitter and was suprised to find how many people said they’d chosen the Air over the mini. I’ll probably wait until after the retina iPad mini releases to decide.

Either way, I’d love to see what the sales numbers are for the split between the iPad mini and iPad Air after the holidays. After seeing how far they’ve come with the iPad Air, I think the numbers for relative sales are going to be a lot closer than I originally thought.

iPad mini or iPad Air?

It has only been a few days since the new iPad event and I’m already getting questions from listeners and readers about which iPad I think they should buy. Not having laid hands on either of the new ones yet, it seems to me that Apple has made the decision much easier. Specifically, they have leveled the playing field between the two devices. It used to be that you either got the big, fast, heavy one with the great screen or the little, light, slow one with the pixelated screen. That’s not the case anymore.

They Are Both Fast

Both iPads have the same A7 chip inside them so you don’t have any processing speed trade-off with either device.

They Are Both Light

While the big one is obviously a bit heavier, not much. Apple has done a great job of removing a lot of the weight from the larger iPad. Moreover, they’ve added a retina screen to the mini without dramatically increasing its weight which brings me to my next point.

They Both Have Beautiful Displays

They both have retina screens. Since they both have the same pixel count, the iPad mini screen is actually slightly better now than its bigger brother. The non-retina screen was my biggest complaint with the mini.

One is Big and One is Small

The only difference at this point is that one is nearly 10 inches and one is nearly 8 inches. With this as the only deciding factor, for a lot of people this will make the decision really easy. They will know immediately whether they want a large one or the small one.

For those who are not certain, I’d ask you to look at the ways in which you use your iPad. If you primarily use it for consumption, such as reading websites, books, and other basic computing tasks, you should look closely at the iPad mini. It’s great for those tasks. If on the other hand you’re working on documents, using the on-screen keyboard a lot, and doing tasks that are more content creation focused, you may want to look at the iPad Air. I’ve been watching my wife, a technology-muggle, using her iPad the last few months and she does a tremendous amount of work with the on-screen keyboard. I don’t think the iPad mini would ever work for her.

I currently own both, an iPad 3 and an iPad mini. When I’m at the office or in court working on a lot of PDF files and mindmaps, I really appreciate the larger iPad's bigger screen. When I’m on the road, attending conferences, or even just banging around my house, the portability of the mini is really useful. The iPad mini is also really great for small day trips in that it fits in a much smaller bag than the iPad Air. (The iPad mini is also really great for driving wireless presentations.) Everybody’s different and everybody’s going to have to make their own decisions. I’ve grown so accustomed to having both that I’m seriously considering selling my prior devices to help offset the purchase of an iPad Air *and* retina iPad mini. Tim Cook must love me.

 

Harry McCracken Still Loves His iPad

I'm a little late in linking this story but with the excitement about the new iPads, I thought it still relevant. Harry is a top-flight tech writer who went public about the fact that his iPad is his primary computer about a year ago. Harry even guested on the Mac Power Users (Episode 71) explaining how he pulled it off.

After a year, Harry writes he still loves his iPad but is not so much a revolutionary as he first was since others are also using the iPad as their primary computer. For example, see M.G. Siegler.

I love my iPad and use the heck out of it but I'd put my Mac/iPad ratio closer to 60/40. I still use a Mac more often but anything away from my desk is done on an iPad (and I'm finding increasingly creative excuses to get away from my desk).

iPad 2: To 3G or not to 3G

The decision to shell out another $130 for the 3G connection is not so clear as it was a year ago. Now that the iPhone has a tethering and WiFi hotspot plan ($20 a month with AT&T), you may want to skip the 3G antenna and instead use your phone to get the iPad online. Doing so has its plusses and minuses:

  • It lets you save $130 on the purchase price;
  • It lets you save the extra monthly charge for iPad data (when active);
  • It saves you some battery life;
  • The GPS antenna is only on the 3G iPad so you’ll be without it on a WiFi-only iPad;
  • It requires you to always have your iPhone or other MiFi type device with you, charged, and turned on to get the iPad online. If you are using it a lot, it may challenge your iPhone battery life;
  • Going this way assumes you will always have that hotspot data connection for the life of the iPad.

I think at the end of the day it comes down to saved money versus convenience.

If you do go with a 3G iPad 2, give some thought to your carrier. Since you can now elect to get a Verizon or AT&T iPad, I recommend you get the opposite of your phone carrier. That way if you can’t get a signal on the phone, you may have a chance on the iPad.

Meetings vs. Electrons

Several posts have cropped up lately concerning using an iPad in meetings. Ben Brooks is for it. Randy Murray, not so much while Eddie Smith walks the middle path. This raises a bigger question about the role of technology in meetings and since it is hard for me to have a single unpublished thought, here I go.

I specifically recall the first time I confronted the issue of electrons and meetings. It was 1995 and I was talking to a group of clients about some pretty serious troubles. The clients (all three of them) had shiny new Apple Newtons and were making plenty of “bleep, blop, blorg” sounds while I was busy trying to keep them from getting sued into oblivion. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. As a result of that single event, for a long time pen and paper was my only meeting technology and I skipped the Newton revolution.

A few years ago the Livescribe Pen showed up at Macworld. The Livescribe pen is great in a meeting. It records your pen strokes on its microdot paper letting you create a PDF of your notes. In addition to digital backup, it optionally records your conversation and indexes the recording to the pen strokes. Tap the pen on the page where you scribbled “fanny pack” and the pen plays the recording it took while your boss talked about his holiday.

My note taking skills were never that good. Using the Livescribe pen, I now jot down signposts and instead focus my attention on the other people in the room. Perhaps it is less efficient having to go back and listen (or at least index) later but my peanut-like brain usually gets something out of the review and I know I get more information out of the meeting attendees when I’m focused on them instead of scribble scrabble. So I was happy using the Livescribe pen. My nerdy nougat filling found a way to use a gadget in meetings. Then the iPad showed up.

iPad Notes

For the last month, I’ve been desperately trying to replace the Livescribe Pen with any of the legions of note taking apps for the iPad. We are recording a Mac Power Users episode on taking notes later today and I’m here to report that, after a month of research, none of them really worked for me.

Despite some very smart developers best intents, I didn’t find an app that could keep up with my Livescribe pen. There are a variety of iPad note taking apps. Some of them let you zoom in on the screen and later shrink it. Others will record and let you drop in graphics. When the bullets were flying in a busy meeting however, they all were more distracting than helpful. Drawing words with my fingers just didn’t work. Perhaps it was all that loud music I used to listen to or my inherent lack the fine motor control but, despite my best efforts, everything I wrote came out looking like the half drunken scrawlings of a semi-literate yak herder. I bought a stylus for the iPad, which is kind of nifty for diagraming but useless for words.

The closest I came to making the iPad work as a capture device in meetings was iThoughtsHD. iThoughts makes it really easy to build mind maps and it is wicked fast. When a meeting strays in to brain storming, iThoughts kept up with a pen and paper mind map just fine.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Great Meetings

Although I’m not sold on the iPad to take notes in meetings, I have found a role for it. The iPad serves as an all knowing, all seeing, source of information. Because I’ve incorporated so much of my world into the iPad, I find it really useful as a reference in meetings. If a question comes up about some document, chances are, I have an annotated version of it sitting in GoodReader. Want to talk about a complicated brief? I probably already have an iThoughts outline of it drawn up. Trying to figure out dates, open the calendar. I’ve also got OmniFocus task lists, Simplenote text files, and Safari to answer just about any question that comes up.

A quick war story

I was in one of those smoke filled rooms for an “important” meeting. One guy was doing most of the talking. To protect the guilty, I’ll call him “Blowhard.” Anyway, Blowhard starts going on and on about how the contract says X, not Y. Everyone in the room is raising their eyebrows thinking this Blowhard guy really has it together. Meanwhile I’m drilling into GoodReader and plugging it into the projector. Up comes the contract with my bookmark directly on the paragraph in question, with my highlights showing that, sadly, Blowhard has it wrong. The contract says Y, not X. I even had a little annotation commenting on it. Behold the power of iPad.

The iPad is invaluable as a reference in a meeting. It is so good at this role that using it to take notes gets in the way. I’d rather take notes somewhere else so the iPad is free to be my Hitchhiker’s guide to everything.

The Wall

The problem I’ve always had with laptops in meetings is that they inevitably feel like you are erecting a wall between yourself and the other person. As a result, I rarely use a laptop in a meeting. When I do use them, it is to display a Keynote presentation or an indexed set of PDF documents. Those roles, however, are quickly being usurped by the iPad. If you must use a laptop in a meeting, have other attendees sit next to you or project it so they don’t wonder if you are twittering.

Summarize, Please

To answer the question, I do see a use for the iPad in meetings, but not to take notes. Instead, I use it to make me look brilliant. I’m okay with that.

MacSparky.com is sponsored by Bee Docs Timeline 3D. Make a timeline presentation with your Mac.

Ristretto for iPad Review

Since my iPad first arrived, my poor MacBook has been increasingly neglected. The iPad goes with me everywhere. So the iPad needs a bag. Not just a bag for the iPad but one that can also hold the stand, the bluetooth keyboard, and the other bits and pieces; A throw it over your shoulder, get-some-work-done bag.

Apparently I’m not the only one looking for such a bag because there are a lot of them out there. I received a Tom Bihn Ristretto for iPad ($110) review bag and, after beating it up for six weeks, am reporting in.

The Bag

The Ristretto, made at the Tom Bihn Factory in Seattle, started life as a netbook grade computer bag. It is a vertical messenger bag with a built-in padded compartment for your iPad. Empty, the bag measures 12” x 9.25” x 4.75”. As a matter of coincidence it is perfect for the iPad and an Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

The bag has an inner compartment that contains a large bay, a zippered compartment, several smaller pockets, and the iPad compartment. It is all covered with an asymmetrical flap and sturdy plastic buckle.

The padded compartment is made with quarter inch open-cell foam laminated with durable 4 Ply Taslan® on the outside, and features an interior of brushed nylon. The foam surrounds the iPad. There is a correct way to insert the iPad, with the glass facing in and the aluminum facing the back of the bag. Once you put your iPad in the padded compartment, there is a top flap that can fold over enclosing your Precious.

The large compartment is the perfect height for an Apple Bluetooth keyboard. It has three O-rings that you can use to attach your keys or optional pouches. It is also a good place for a pocket leatherman. The stock bag includes a key strap. The built in pockets are the right size to hold pens, a wallet, and an iPod. (Your phone is in your pocket, right?) There is a slanted open pocket on the back of the Ristretto. It is too small for papers (unless folded in half) but does prove handy for envelopes and mail.

The Ristretto ships with waist straps to secure it to your body. This works great for bicyclists. More importantly, the waist strap hardware unclips and disappears when not in use.

The Strap

The Ristretto ships with the standard shoulder strap, a 1.5” wide heavy nylon webbing strap with a foam pad. For an extra $20, you can upgrade to the Absolute Shoulder Strap. At first blush it seems kind of silly upgrading a strap on an iPad case but after using the Absolute Shoulder Strap for awhile, you’ll get it. The Absolute Shoulder Strap uses a neoprene pad with an all metal snaphook (see note below regarding The Squeak). If you carry the bag for any length of time, it is a lot more comfortable. I’ve also found myself repurposing The Absolute Shoulder Strap with all my various bags.

The Squeak

After using the bag for about a week I began to notice a subtle squeak when carrying it around. The source of the sound is the metal snaphook from the strap rubbing against the metal eyelit on the bag. The connectors are both metal. I used some silicon based bicycle chain lubricant and it went away. I spoke with Tom Bihn and they recommend rubbing a graphite pencil on the offending pieces. I tested their fix and it worked. Tom Bihn reports they are aware of this and are working on it.

Usage and Recommendation

I beat the hell out of this bag. Over the last six weeks I carried it through the Canadian wilderness and down the Las Vegas strip. Its been thrown in trunks, dragged by kids, and schlepped around everywhere with me. It still looks like new.

More importantly, it has performed just as advertised. The Ristretto is a great solution for the iPad and just a bit more. If you routinely use Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard, it’s perfect. I liked it so much, I bought another one for my wife.

A Note About the Pictures

All of the pictures in this review were taken after I spent 6 weeks usage. Full size images are in my Flickr feed here.

iPad OmniGraffle Review

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I have been using OmniGraffle on my Mac for years. It is, in my opinion, the premiere diagraming application on the Mac. I do some of my best thinking when I sit down and organize my thoughts visually with a diagram. The ability to quickly put together professional looking diagrams is a definite edge in my day job. I have even had other attorneys ask me what company I used for my "graphics" when in fact it is just me and a few minutes with OmniGraffle.

OmniGraffle on the iPad is not a simple port of the existing Mac application. The Omni team started from scratch. The user interface was re-designed from the ground up around the touch interface and the iPad's screen size. Interestingly, the developers did not have access to an actual iPad when developing this application. Instead, they used a fiberglass cut out in bits and pieces of paper with user interface elements printed on it to figure out how to put the application together. Regardless, the programmers overcame this handicap and released an outstanding product.

There are many features worthy of exploration in iPad OmniGraffle. The first time you open iPad OmniGraffle, you are presented with a series of documents that show you the ropes. You should go through the built-in tutorial. There is a lot under the hood with this application and you can save yourself a lot of time down the road if you learn the basics first.

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There is no menubar but instead a series of smart icons that are context sensitive. For instance, hitting the pencil icon brings up icons which are a pre-formatted square and free hand drawing tool. Once you create your object, you can move, resize, shadow, and color it just as if you were on your Mac. It is remarkable how quickly the gestures built into OmniGraffle becomes second nature. You can even attach objects with magnetic lines that remain attached as you move them around the screen. While none of this is revolutionary in comparison to the native Mac OS X application, it is remarkable that this can be created so easily without a keyboard a mouse. It almost feels like playing the piano.

That being said, a few times the interface was more complex than it needed to be. Setting object order, for instance takes some doing from the layers menu. I would prefer a simple "Send to Back" button.

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I found the physical process of creating and moving these boxes with my fingers even more intuitive than doing it in front of the keyboard. The Omni group also included smart guides which allow you to snap your objects in alignment with one another. Even better, you can set up a grid with custom spacing and snap your objects to the grid as you create them. With very little time you can have a precise looking diagram and, with the touch of a button, remove the grid.

iPad OmniGraffle ships with a nice assortment of images, connectors, shapes, software tools, and variables. If you have any favorite stencils on your Mac, you can copy them over to your iPad and OmniGraffle will import them.

iPad OmniGraffle allows you to assign your objects to layers and turn them off and on as the need arises. I have already found it useful when sharing data with clients. Building a diagram in small pieces and then adding the layers one at a time makes it much easier for the audience to digest complex data.

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iPad OmniGraffle is an outstanding implementation of the touch interface. Any aspiring iPad developers should take a long look at the care and deliberation that went into this application. Since the iPad released, the Omni Group has already made a significant upgrade fine tuning the user interface now that they have got their hands on an iPad.

At $50, OmniGraffle certainly is more expensive than most applications you will find in the iPad store but it is a professional graphics application. The OmniGroup has gone on record to explain that if you buy OmniGraffle and are unsatisfied, they will provide a refund. OmniGraffle, in any iteration, is not necessary for everyone. But if you find yourself using it on the Mac, pick it up for your iPad.

 

This review is based on an evaluation copy of OmniGraffle provided by the Omni Group.

iPad vs. Kindle

I used a Kindle for two years. As of today, I’ve been using my iPad for two weeks. I thought I’d share some initial thoughts and impressions between the two units.

User Interface

The iPad interface is intuitive and gorgeous. The Kindle interface can’t compete. While Amazon has made strides, its lack of user interface experience combined with the lack of touchscreen prevent it from matching the iPad. Once you get in the process of actual reading on the Kindle, the interface is fine. Click a button, turn the page. It is everything else that feels like pulling teeth compared to the iPad

About the Screens

There is a lot talk about how much better the Kindle is in direct sunlight. All of it is true. The idea that everyone is bringing their electronic devices to the beech sort of baffles me. I can’t imagine bringing my iPad or Kindle to a place where sand always gets in everything. Reading on a park bench or in the backyard however is a different story. Outside on a sunny day is right in E-Ink’s wheelhouse.

The Kindle simply doesn’t work in the dark. iPad, however, is very low light friendly. The built in brightness slider in iBooks was a stroke of genius. For daily use, both devices look great, but different. The full color screen of the iPad trumps the text clarity of the Kindle in my opinion but to each his own.

The Weight

The iPad a significantly heavier than the Kindle. This could be an issue for some people. If you are used to reading for long stretches holding your book (or Kindle) in front of you, this will be difficult with an iPad. Having used the iPad for several weeks, the weight has not been an problem for me although I have found myself reading it on my side in bed, as opposed to holding it up in the air while laying on my back. I generally read books laying on a table so your mileage may vary on this point. Since my transitions is from a generation 1 Kindle (which had a sharp corner in the lower left side that always dug into my palm), the easier form factor trumps the weight.

The Battery Life

The Kindle runs for days. Because the battery lasts so long, I often forget to charge it and am shocked when I find my Kindle battery is drained. If you are going somewhere without power for several days, the Kindle can keep you occupied. The backlit iPad will not compete with the Kindle battery. However, it certainly holds its own often lasting more than 10 hours in a day. Because I use the iPad as a picture frame at the office (when not working on it) my charge rarely gets below 70%

Unitasker vs. Multitasker

At the end of the day, a comparison between the Kindle and the iPad is not fair. They are entirely different devices. The Kindle is an outstanding book reader. It doesn’t work so well with periodicals (navigation is a pain), and is not much good for anything else, if you like to read books cover to cover, you’ll be happy with the Kindle.

While the iPad is a very capable book reader, it is much more. We are only a few weeks into the iPad and there are already amazing productivity, news, and gaming apps that could never exist on the Kindle. As an example, I use the Instapaper service, a lot. While there are solutions to get your Instapaper documents on a Kindle, they aren’t pretty and they don’t sync. Instapaper on the iPad is, for lack of a better word, luxurious.

Take Away

I’m giving my Kindle to my daughter. Unless you only want to read books in the sun, save an extra month or two and get the whole enchilada.

iPad Changes the Game

The last few days have been exhilarating for all of us new iPad owners. Apple has unleashed a new device on the world that is no less paradigm shifting than the original Mac was 25 years ago. There are more positive reviews of the device than you can swing a dead cat at. If I were to read just two, I would make them Jason’s and Andy’s.

I’m not going to do a thorough review. Instead, I plan on sharing just a few observations and then returning in a month to write about how the iPad fits into my life.*

Game Changer

I suspected it before. Now that I’ve used one a few days, I’m convinced. I’ve written before about my experience with tablet computers. Apple finally got it right. Others will catch on. The answer is not trying to bolt a mouse based operating system on a tablet. You have to start from scratch.

I’m already getting real work done on the iPad. I wrote a brief today (and this post) using Pages and a bluetooth keyboard. I see myself in the not so distant future without a laptop. I won’t be alone.

The iPhone App Myth

While Apple certainly gets marketing traction saying how many apps will run on the iPad, you will want to get iPad native apps whenever possible. The iPhone apps look remarkably Atari 800 on the iPad. I’ve only kept those few that I can’t live without (SimpleNote and OmniFocus). While you are waiting for your favorite apps to get an iPad makeover, don’t forget about Safari. Mint and Dropbox, for example, work just fine in Safari and both experiences are better than a pixelated iPhone application.

Transparency

My most surprising observation of the iPad is how transparent it is. As transformative and revolutionary as this technology is, it gets out of the way extraordinarily fast. Flipping through RSS feeds, catching up on Instapaper (my own personal iPad killer app), or tweaking a Keynote presentation are so seamless that you forget about the iPad entirely. This isn’t just true for nerds like me. This was proven by my Mother.

My 80-year-old mother is amazing. She grew up in a small factory town in Massachusetts where they often caught dinner in a lake behind the house. During her lifetime she has seen the world go from buggy whips to the moon and from the radio to the internet. Nothing fazes her. I handed her my iPad and she started flipping through the pages of Winnie the Pooh. Even though she has never showed any interest in computers, she became absorbed with the content and forgot she was using something electronic. Then, as she was turning the page, she did something very natural. She licked her finger and turned the page. I grinned. This technology is so natural that you forget it exists. That is why the iPad is going to change everything.

  • There may also be a Mac Power Users episode very soon where Katie and I address the iPad in detail.

The Omni Group Embraces the iPad

One of the very first developers I contacted after the iPad announcement was Ken at the OmniGroup. I’ll spare you the gory details but the email included lots of begging and pleading about how if OmniFocus is not customized for the iPad, my life would end, cats would live with dogs, and the universe would come to a screeching halt. Ken reassured me they were absolutely going to make a version of OmniFocus for the iPad. At the time I wasn’t sure whether he was serious or just trying to shut me up.

Well I guess it was the former because today the Omni Group announced it is moving its entire productivity library (OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle, OmniPlan, and OmniGraph Sketcher) to the iPad. Ken explained exactly how the company plans allocate resources and pull this off. Combining Omni’s suite with iWork, I expect to kick some serious ass with my iPad. I can hardly wait.

Competing with the $499 iPad

Ars Technica has an interesting piece about potential iPad competitors and Apple’s $499 price point. Potential competitors were banking on beating Apple’s price with their competing Android devices. Now they are scratching their heads. With Apple controlling the chip, the hardware, and software, I think it will be sometime before anyone can compete anywhere near Apple’s price.