A few months ago, I wrote a small post on using the iPad in academic theology. Having had time to reflect, I thought I would cobble some of my thoughts together. Much of my workflow (which entails a reliance upon Dropbox, iAnnotate, OliveTree Bible Reader, and Evernote) has remained the same, with the device being stellar for reading and marking-up text. Surprisingly, I have been reading eBooks on an increasing basis, largely because of the ability to mark-up text (yes, I love marking-up text!) and carry my book collection with me. Even more surprisingly, I have used the device for 'easy-going' productivity - so much so that I have been increasingly leaving the laptop at home, and just relying on the iPad.
The release of Accordance for iPad is also a great addition.
Hardware and Accessories
The key accessory that I purchased (a leather case by Piel Frama) has been very good. Whilst it is a bit bulky, the main benefit is that I can use it in public without feeling like a complete nerd(!). In fact, when preaching at church or using it as a Bible/book, most people assume that it is actually a book or diary (and not a piece of technology). There is something about the social psychology of this which makes it far better experience. The pogo stylus is fantastic for making notes in applications like Penultimate.
I would definitely buy the 3G version again, as wifi just isn't pervasive enough. If you want to use the device for anything other than media synced to it, I think constant connectivity is a must.
Some of the use-cases that I didn't anticipate include:
- Preaching from the device (this is actually brilliant - accessing the file through Dropbox and displaying in the Dropbox preview works perfectly for me).
- Watching live television and recordings (combined with our mac-mini media centre, we can stream recordings and live TV over the home network).
- Showing photos to family and friends (an obvious one, not really an academic pursuit, but I didn't somehow realise how fabulously this would work).
There are still some problems (although iOS 4.2 addressed many others), namely that:
- If it weren't for Dropbox, the lack of an adequate approach to file management would make the device almost unsuable (to me). That said, the iPad desperately needs an API for deep integration with services like Dropbox. Whilst many apps now support Dropbox very well (e.g., downloading and uploading files), it needs to be more ubiquitous throughout the operating system.
- The browser is not yet a full browser - and I'm not referring to the lack of flash. The main issue I encounter relates to how the iPad version of safari treats pop-ups. For example, if I need to upload a file through an online system (e.g., moodle), the browser just won't support it. This partly relates to the lack of a file management system, and also a limitation of the browser itself. If you are browsing journal articles, and want to save PDF's from databases, it is also problematic (you can save it to Apple iBooks, which has been a very welcome update, but shifting the files around is clumsy). I'm sure some of this will change overtime (as websites develop and the iOS matures).
- The hardware is a touch heavy. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that when reading in bed, I often receive a thump to the head as I fall asleep (i.e., I loose grip on the device and it tumbles towards me!). The screen (which has remarkably not cracked despite the many thumps to my head) is nowhere near as good as the iPhone 4. These things however, are only slight quibbles. It is still amazing hardware for a first generation device, and the battery is outstanding (hence the weight).
- The version of keynote is really limited. It's restricted font set and slightly different features to the OSX version is quite annoying. This is unfortunate, because the concept of the iPad for presentation is brilliant. (Especially if it could be remote-controlled or use AirPlay.) Similarly, the way that Pages handles most document files needs to be on par with the OSX version.
- Endnote, please come to iPad...(Papers is beautiful but, without the ability to make in-text citations, is limited).
- I also wish I could get copies of A Prayer Book for Australia and the Revised Common Lectionary (even in PDF!)... but that is unlikely due to their current publishing deals.
I'm amazed at how useful I find the iPad. I was quite sceptical when I first purchased it, but I now find it increasingly useful. I am also impressed with how easily people - of different backgrounds and ages - adapt to the interface. As the operating system improves, I have no doubt that it will become a really practical device that will enable me to leave the laptop at home (almost always, except where I need to do a lot a writing). I think that as applications become more sophisticated - being compatible/equivalent with their desktop counterparts but still different by design - it will also make it a very compelling solution.
In the meantime, I'll try to resist purchasing an iPad 2...