To iPad or not to iPad – part 4

Apple iPad (wi-fi) (from
Apple iPad (wi-fi) (from

I took the iPad to another conference last month. My experience the last time I did this (see To iPad or not to iPad – part 3) made me much more leary, but I was reluctant to lug the laptop for only a 2-day trip.

Since my recent experience, I have become a bit more nuanced and realistic with my expectations for iPad use on such trips. As you may recall, I have an iPad without 3G networking.

When attending a conference and using a laptop, I occasionally take a few notes, do email, twitter, blog and other work related items. With my iPad I often take copius notes – unclear why other than it’s just easier/quicker to get out of my backpack/briefcase and start typing on. When I take fewer notes usually I don’t have a table/desk to use for the iPad and keyboard.

As for the other items email, twitter, and blogging, my iPad can do all of these items just fine with proper WiFi connectivity. Other work stuff can occasionally be done offline but occasionally requires internet access, probably ~50:50.

iPhone and iPad together

I have found that an iPhone and iPad can make a very useable combination in situations with flaky/inadequate WiFi. While the iPad can attempt to use room WiFi, the iPhone can attempt to use 3G data network to access the Internet. Mostly, the iPhone wins in these situations. This works especially well when WiFi is overtaxed at conferences. The other nice thing is that the BlueTooth (BT) keypad can be paired with either the iPad or the iPhone (it does take time, ~2-5 minutes to make the switch, so I don’t change pairing often).

So at the meeting this past month, I was doing most of my note taking and offline work items with the iPad and blogging, tweeting and emailing with the iPhone.

If the iPad WiFi was working well enough, I probably wouldn’t use the iPhone for most of this. However, I find that at many conferences and most US hotels, WiFi is either not available in the hotel room or doesn’t handle conference room demand well enough to depend on. Whereas, ATT’s 3G network seems to work just fine for most of these situations (probably because, no one is downloading YouTube videos to their iPhone).

A couple of minor quibbles

While this combination works well enough, I do have a few suggestions to make this even better to use,

  • Mouse support – Although, I love the touch screen for most tasks, editing is painful without a mouse. Envision this, you are taking notes, see an error a couple of lines back, and need to fix it. With the iPad/iPhone, one moves your hand from keypad to point to the error on the screen to correct it. Finger pointing is not as quick to re-position cursors as a mouse and until magnification kicks in obscures the error, leading to poor positioning. Using the BT keypad arrow keys are more accurate but not much faster. So, do to bad cursor positioning, I end up deleting and retyping many characters that weren’t needed. As a result, I don’t edit much on the iPad/iPhone. If a BT mouse (Apple’s magic mouse) would pair up with the iPad&iPhone editing would work much better. Alternatively, having some like the old IBM ThinkPad Trackpoint in the middle of a BT keypad would work just fine. Having the arrow keys respond much faster would even be better.
  • iPad to iPhone file transfer capability – Now that I use the iPad offline with an online iPhone, it would be nice if there was some non-Internet way to move data between the two. Perhaps using the BT’s GOEB capabilities to provide FTP-lite services would work. It wouldn’t need high bandwidth as typical use would be to only move a Pages, Numbers, or Keynote file to the iPhone for email attachment or blog posting . It would be great if this were bi-directional. Another option is supporting a USB port but would require more hardware. A BT file transfer makes more sense to me.
  • iPad battery power – Another thing I find annoying at long conferences is iPad battery power doesn’t last all day. Possibly having BT as well as WiFi active may be hurting battery life. My iPad often starts running out of power around 3pm at conferences. To conserve energy, I power down the display between note taking and this works well enough it seems. The display comes back alive whenever I hit a key on the BT keypad and often I don’t even have to retype the keystrokes used to restart the display. More battery power would help.


So great, all this works just fine domestically, but my next business trip is to Japan. To that end, I have been informed that unless I want to spend a small fortune in roaming charges, I should disable iPhone 3G data services while out of country. As such, if I only take my iPad and iPhone, I will have no email/twitter/blog access whenever WiFi is unavailable. If I took a laptop at least it could attach to an Ethernet cable if that were available. However, I have also been told that WiFi is generally more available overseas. Wish me luck.

Anyone know how prevalent WiFi is in Tokyo hotels and airports and how well it works with iPhone/iPad?

Other comments?

2 thoughts on “To iPad or not to iPad – part 4

  1. I recently took a 30 day trip to Australia. Although we did use internal flights twice, we drove "Shotgun" as my brother-in-law was the driver. I navigated using nothing but the iPad.

    Upon arrival in Sydney, we located a Telstra office, purchased their "Ipad" data package complete with mini-sim card for about $30. Easy to replace the AT&T sim with Telstra's, and after onlly two trips back to the store, I was up and running.

    Telstra's cellular and data network was everywhere in Australia including remote outback locations and coastal locations. I must of had 99.8% coverage.

    The iPad was an excellent navigators tool. We were able to not only navigate using maps and a application, send email and international texting, we used it on Skype as well. (Audio only).

    I do have the 3g version obviously, I don't use it in the USA, however without that option in Australia, the iPad would of been useless as a navigation tool.

    I found "Internet" Cafe's, Library, and private internet to be very, very slow, unless you were in one of the big cities. i.e. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane. But the Cellular data was fast, and reliable.

    I think you'll enjoy using the iPad in Japan, but suspect you'll wish you had a cellular data option, however if I remember correctly from my STK days as network director, I don't think Japan is a GSM country.

    The downfall in the iPad for me is in the manipulation/editing/storing of photos. It displays the ones you can get into the iPad very well, doesn't organize them like Apple does with it's Mac line (iPhoto); but I bet they fix that in the next one!

    enjoy your blog Ray, you might remember me in the days I ran Customer Services support over in building 8 working for leier and farnum, and then moved over to help mensing straighten out the corporate network & communications in IT. I moved on to Cisco Systems in 1999.

    also living in Broomfield,


  2. Danny,Thanks for the comment. Yes the iPad with the 3g version has a lot to say for it. Being able to get the local country data option makes a lot of sense. I am told that Japan has good wifi coverage in the major cities/hotels/cafes so I am planning to use this. My understanding is that Japan does support GSM (for my iPhone) now but I'll let you know more after I return.I haven't tried to do too much with the photo library on the iPad so I will let you speak to that.Great to hear from you and maybe we should get together sometime and talk about old times.Ray

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