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June 5, 2011


iPad 2: To buy or not to buy, that is the question…

by Tim Fifield
Tim and his shiny new iPad 2

A few weeks ago I took delivery of a shiny new iPad 2 and, with the normal ceremony associated with unwrapping goods from Steve Jobs laid it down with almost breathless wonder on my desk. Oh it’s so lovely and shiny, with a minimalism that belies its technological prowess. For one moment I felt like one of the chosen few, a band of elite techno-bohemians who’ve stumbled upon the secret to life itself.

Then I turned it on.

Please don’t get me wrong, this is a seriously impressive piece of kit that will turn you into an instantly evangelical Apple fan (if you aren’t already) but this device is tricky in that it occupies a sector of the tech world that has yet to be fully defined and as such is hard to pin down in terms of the benefits it will give you. I have heard many “padders” sing its praises to the hilt but on deeper interrogation discover that they only surf the web,  check their email and play endless games of Angry Birds on it. Hardly cutting edge.

Now if the web/mail/birds experience was all you were looking for, well done you; you’ve just bought the perfect (if a little pricey) device. But if like me you were looking for a truly portable alternative to lugging round thirteen hundred quids worth of laptop, be an effective cloud worker and keep your entire life in sync then further inspection is required.

The deal with the iPad 2 is that with a little work you can have a passable business device but you have to understand that in order to achieve this planning has to be done and apps need to be obtained.

My advice is to list out what you want to achieve. This may sound obvious but having a plan could (shock, horror) lead you to the conclusion that the iPad is not for you. If you’re using this as an alternative to a laptop BIG CAUTION needs to be evident as this works WITH a computer not as an alternative to one.

Based on a few weeks experience here are ten things you should know when posing yourself the question: iPad 2: To buy or not to buy…

  1. It’s fab for web browsing and email but…iPad does not support Flash nor can you attach files when sending emails
  2. It’s screen is simply gorgeous but…it’s quite hard to see anything in bright sunlight
  3. It does all the office functions but…it does not currently offer Microsoft Office software. You will need to use Apple iWork products such as Pages (Word), Numbers (Excel) and Keynote (Powerpoint) and save them with Office file names – not a major challenge but I’ve noticed a few formatting issues here and there when converting from one to t’other. All iWork software is available in iPad friendly Apps that work really well and are remarkably inexpensive.
  4. There are various ways to move files to and from your iPad the lynchpin being iTunes but…this is a bit clunky in that you have to find this under the tab marked Apps. My favourite way to synch files is via iDisk or Dropbox, the former costing £60 a year and the latter free up to 2GB. Remember the iPad 2 does not yet sport a USB port.
    Note: A recent update means better file management in the Apple iWork suite allowing you to store and manage files in folders…bliss! 
  5. Battery life is exceptional – I’m getting great results working this baby very hard but…it still needs to be charged though a computer or main adaptor so don’t forget this if you’re way from the office too long.
  6. Apps that need keyboard input yield an on screen keyboard which works very well but…you wouldn’t want to write War and Peace on it (a. because tapping on a hard surface is tiresome on the digits and b. it’s already been written). For serious writers get an optional keyboard which has a real feel and acts as a docking station too. 
  7. All those lovely iphone apps you bought work on your iPad but…many of them will only be the size of the iPhone screen – you have the option of “upscaling” them but this renders them a might fuzzy. If you buy iPad apps they fill the screen and work beautifully.
  8. I bought the 32GB version with Wifi on the basis that I do not intend storing loads of photos and music and I didn’t want to be saddled with another 3G data charge but…if you intend storing loads of stuff on your iPad max out on the 64GB baby. 3G data charges very from provider to provider but I took the view that free WIFI is fairly easy to get in most of the places I go and I foresee even more free hotspots in the coming years.
  9. I bought the rather gorgeous Smart Cover which has to be in line for innovation of the year in that it connects beautifully to your iPad by virtue of 32 precision magnets but…it only covers the front of the device – you will need to put it in a bad or larger case to be totally assured of a scratch free existence.
  10. You can connect your iPad to a bigger screen or projector via some cunning little adaptive cables but…these little beauties cost a bleedin fortune!
I do hope some of these thoughts have helped. Be aware that tomorrow (June 6th 2011) the Apple chaps are announcing a whole raft of new upgrades for Mac fans so many of the questions above could become subject to change.
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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 5 2011

    Nice post Tim.

    I went for the 11″ Air which is an absolute gem, with slightly upgraded ram. I haven’t found anything I can’t do with it.

    I was advised that the iPad is really a toy, i am hoping to get one for Christmas.

    • Jun 16 2011

      I agree with this whole heartedly. The conclusion is that the iPad is a niche device occupying a unique position in the firmament of tech – but I do see it becoming a stronger and stronger standalone proposition. The Air is devine, I am jealous.

  2. James Cable
    Jun 16 2011

    Good article Tim. I think the recent announcements from Apple should address some of the fiddle with getting files in and out of the pad.

    • Jun 16 2011

      Thanks James. Recent announcements at WWDC re The Cloud are very exciting. Not yet a laptop replacement but who knows what the future holds (apart from Steve Jobs).

  3. Jun 16 2011

    13 year old son tried to convince us that this is what he needed for his homework. We were not convinced, and having done our own homework are still not convinced – think a lap top will be much more suitable for writing essays etc. However 95 year old grandfather listened to him, and hey presto son has new Ipad 2!

    Having long finger nails causes problems – thats me and not my son – hence I am not able to use the damn thing!

    Katrina Smith

    • Jun 16 2011

      I’m not sure who I’m more impressed with, the grandfather or the son!


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