What are iPads Good For?

Though I love to play with pretty much anything that lights up, in my heart, I am an Apple fan and unapologetic apologizer. I have enthusiastically embraced most things Apple, from my old, second-generation iPod to a new Apple Watch. But there is one outlier amongst the data, hiding under a pile of papers on my cluttered desk. The iPad. And I’m starting to wonder why I have one.

My doubts were amplified from an article I read last year where Tim Cook explained that “he does 80% of the work of running the world’s most valuable company on an iPad”. Apparently, Tim does his job quite a bit differently than I do mine. (Hey — I run a company, too. Well, I’m also the only employee, but just makes it harder, doesn’t it?) Indeed, I have long tried to replace a laptop with an iPad, probably a result of my Star Trek PADD fascination growing up.

How is this supposed to work?

While there is no doubt that the iPad is a suburb device for consuming data, I have always run up against the problem of inputting data. I’ve tried many different external keyboards and writing implements along with various dictation options, and I just cannot find a way to be anywhere near as productive as on a laptop.

There are a number of cool keyboards out there, but (by design) they are unable to take advantage of iOS’s autocorrect, which is a deal breaker for someone who cannot spell to save his life. Writing implements also fall flat, simply because iOS is not designed to natively interact with them. Either way, using third party solutions to solve Apple problems seems wrong. After all, if they were necessary in the first place, Apple would have included them, right? (Job once explained: “Who wants a stylus? You have to get ’em, put ’em away, you lose ’em. Yuch! Nobody wants a stylus.”)

Truth be told, my preferred workplace tablet workflow involves an old Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, a Bamboo stylus, and Evernote. A pretty simple setup that sticks out in my utopian Apple ecosystem. It seems like Apple might be getting ready to introduce its own stylus-based iPad, but only time will tell. However, even with the stylus, I can never produce the same volume of work as quickly as I can with a physical keyboard (that is large enough to to fit my chubby fingers).

All I know is that the QWERTY keyboard is a function of typewriter technology from the 1800s, a way of distancing frequently-used keys from seldom-used characters in order to prevent mechanically-unavoidable jams. Unfortunately, such a design really requires two hands. On an iPad, if one of our hands is holding the device, we are already at a disadvantage. So what to do?

Just stick it on the back of an iPad and you’re good to go!

I give up, that’s what I do. I’m too old and clumsy to learn a new way to type, and I need a physical keyboard with auto-correct in order to be productive. I need a keyboard for way more than 20% of my workflow, Tim, and I’m not going to be guilted into making my iPad a business machine.

Of course, there are alternatives out there. The Microsoft Surface is a possibility, but I am still not a fan of the keyboard and I’m even less of a fan of the operating system. Besides, Tim would never let me hear the end of it. Since much of my workflow centers around Google Apps and Chrome, I could always go the Chromebook route. There is actually a ThinkPad Yoga version that navigates the tablet / laptop landscape pretty nicely. Or maybe I could go with a new MacBook — they are pretty sleek, if underpowered.

I may be a bit lost, but at least this is a very First World kind of problem. Well, whichever way I go, at least I have a plan for that iPad.

Finally a worthwhile use for an iPad…
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