A tale of two iPads

About six weeks ago, I managed to sell my MacBook Air three days after the new MacBook Air models were released and one day before Best Buy dropped the price on my generation of MBA to less than what I sold mine for. That is, I got lucky. I was also lucky enough to find two iPad 3s on eBay that weren’t selling at or above Apple’s own price. So, I promptly acquired a 32 GB for my lovely wife and a 64 GB version for myself. Huzzah.

Since both iPads were intended to replace laptops (my MBA and my wife’s late-2006 C2D MacBook Pro), I also bought a couple Bluetooth keyboards (exceedingly used Zagg models for $10 a pop) and cases that allowed rotating between portrait and landscape. And a pack of 3-for-a-buck styli off Amazon. And a pony.

Let’s start with my experience.

In theory, setting up a new iPad should involve restoring a previous iDevice backup to it, setting up your account info, and going on your merry and/or disgruntled way. Sometimes, so I’ve read, this actually happens. But, if the Avogadro’s number of posts on Apple’s support forums is to be believed, most folks have issues. Like folders disappearing and spewing their contents all over the Springboard. Apps that had been deleted from a device being reinstalled on the new one. The oleophobic screen coating suddenly causing leprosy. The list goes on. The only true solution is to suck it up and put everything back the way you like it. Not exactly a Shakespearean tragedy, but something you’d think Apple could fix. Although they may claim it’s just a naturally occurring molding line.

Once setup was complete, I promptly jailbroke my iPad. I did so in order to use BTstack Mouse, which allows me to pair my Magic Mouse with the iPad. Why would I want to do this? Well, aside from avoiding the aforementioned leprosy, I also wanted the ability to use LogMeIn to access my Hackintosh without having to use touch gestures. And it’s often handier to have a pointing device when writing on the iPad with the Bluetooth keyboard than trying to touch menus and whatnot. The subtle joy of sticking it to the Anti-Mouse Man is included at no extra charge. Mouse pairing and usage went splendidly, so no complaints there. Sorry to disappoint.

To really replace my MacBook Air, I needed to be able to edit Word docs and Final Draft files. The latter proved a remarkably easy problem to solve with Scripts Pro. This $7.99 app gives me all the functionality I need to edit files from Final Draft 8. Some of its UI bits aren’t as fluid as FD, but for eight bucks, I won’t complain. Especially when Final Draft charges $19.99 for an app just to read their files. Silly English-speaking kniggits.

Finding an adequate Word substitute proved to be a bit more trying. I read as many reviews as I could find and finally opted to plunk down $7.99 for Office2 HD. It turned out to be an imperfect option. While it does import and edit docs with tables (I use tables to format… oh, never mind), it also does odd things like make random numbered paragraphs. Also, most of my documents use Times as their main font. iOS does not support Times; it has Times New Roman. Which should be six of one, half a dozen of the other. But instead of simply converting my font to Times New Roman, Office2 HD changes it to, I assume, Arial (it leaves the font name blank in the font menu). Which jacks with formatting even more. And since I don’t use Times for the entire document, simply selecting all and changing the font isn’t an option. It’s not a complete dealbreaker, but it was annoying enough to rekindle my search.

I decided to try CloudOn’s crazy-whack solution of using a touch-enabled and tweaked version of Office that’s literally running on a Windows box somewhere out in the boonies. (And wouldn’t The Boonies be a better name than The Cloud? Yes, it would.) Like Office2 HD, it has Dropbox integration (along with Box) for easy document management. But since it’s a bona fide copy of Office running on a desktop machine somewhere, I have no font or formatting issues. I do wish it didn’t auto save, but that’s a small complaint. My only excuse for buying Office2 HD instead of trying the (for now, at least) free CloudOn is that, at the time, I was suffering from an acute case of cranial flatulence.

And so, for my specific needs, the iPad has proven to be adequate in replacing my MacBook Air. That’s before giving it points for its tablet functionality, which is not exactly a steaming pile.

And now, my wife’s experience.

For the last three years, my wife has used a first-generation Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. She’s not a technophile of any stripe, and she generally used the machine for email and web browsing. Both of which you can do quite well on the iPad. Setting up her email proved to be a bit of a Sisyphean task, however. Since the dawn of my true, non-BBS-messages email usage (circa 1991), I have used POP3 instead of IMAP. Neither protocol is perfect, or close to perfect, or even barely above aggravating, but switching to IMAP at this point would be, for my own accounts, more trouble than it’s worth. I know this because I’ve tried and given up three times.

My wife, however, is not as heavy an email user as I am. Since I wanted her iPhone and iPad to be in sync with emails, I decided to switch her to IMAP. And since I didn’t want her emails to be simply floating about on the server, prime for accidental deletion into a nether region even the TARDIS couldn’t reach, I set up an account for her on my Hackintosh. The Hack would file everything into appropriate IMAP folders, which would sync to her iDevices along with getting backed up on my Time Machine and CrashPlan accounts. Yes, you may cue the Anal Retentive Chef now.

Needless to say, this was an overly complex solution to a problem only I thought existed. It took a week of tweaking rules and adjusting spam filters on both the Hack and server side to get everything kosher. Please do not replicate my setup. I have taken the road less traveled, and more stupid, for you. Embrace it.

My wife then went about using her iPad for roughly six weeks, including nearly four weeks on the road visiting her family. It was nice. It was nifty. But it turned out that little bit of functionality inherent in her MacBook Pro—like the Finder, a more robust Mail app and physical media—made a huge difference in her user experience. It was, in her estimation, not worth the hassle or, more importantly, the cost of using the iPad over her perfectly capable laptop—or instead of her iPhone. And so, in a reversal of what I thought might occur, I’ve decided to keep my iPad while my wife has gone back to her nearly six-year-old heat-brick of a laptop.

I can’t blame her. While I am using my iPad to replace a MacBook Air, it’s not replacing my primary computer. And if I had to do much more than edit docs in my line of work, I think I’d be back looking for another Air. The iPad is dang handy and can be contorted and pushed to be more productive than you might think. But, in the end, Mr. Dickens was right: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Or, as Herr Damage warned me, "Dude, that ain’t no laptop." I’m paraphrasing.

Later,

Fox

Comments closed
    • Diplomacy42
    • 7 years ago

    I bought 2 iPads… Since they were intended to replace our aging laptops…

    Translation, buying apple stuff that doesn’t fit my needs and spending way too much time trying to shoehorn one device into the roll of another… Good job there.

    Put another hash mark next to the reality distortion field

    • scrummage55
    • 7 years ago
    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 7 years ago

    To put my brief but ongoing ipad experience in concise words it goes something like this.

    Tablets are a very functional and relevant products, Ipads have a very good physical industrial design and are EXTREMELY reliable on the software front. Ultimately their UI design makes not sense to me. It’s attempt at simplification creates an overly complex experience for navigating a non windowed app interface. Its like why do I have to launch apps to get at BASIC info like weather for example or to get at news feeds… the absence of a comprehensive Widget/gadget environment that bring basic info and media consumption to the surface really makes everything the tablet does require more from me than I want to put in for some of the more basic features and utility.

    I actually defer to my phone for things when an ipad is in my hand for things like weather, social media, and the like. I really only play games on it, read books, and read emails…

    There I’ve said it.

    I can dig into it more but its sorta a moot point as people who love it will not admit to real faults or short comings and people who hate it are equally blind to the pros of any apple devices. Ultimately its a good product though I still feel like for my personal use when I have spare change I’d rather grab a transformer ultimately.

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      so you’re biggest issue with it is that it’s not metro?

        • kamikaziechameleon
        • 7 years ago

        How about this(typed on my iPad)…

        Android has the universal I nterface for navigating all its apps. You learn how to navigate one and the rest are extra easy. You have 4 main buttons that you can use reliably in every app, home(same as iPad) settings, back(god how I miss this button) and search. Since applications aren’t windowed they typically function like web browsers. The fact that forward and backward navigation is absent from Ios by default means you need to learn each app from a fundamental level, same with finding app settings, it’s no longer a default button but rather layered in the GUI somewhere. The one button approach funnels you through a clumsy though simplified experience that ultimately feels self defeating.

        I like gadgets in win 7 and widgets in android, they put regular, basic info at my fingertips. Maybe you dont like seeing you bank balance or the weather when you pull your phone out of sleep but I do. Saves me from needing to dedicate time and thought from these mundane though necessary pursuits.

          • sweatshopking
          • 7 years ago

          I LOVE live tiles. i’m the biggest windows phone 7 fan around this site. I also like metro, BECAUSE of the features you’re referring to.

            • kamikaziechameleon
            • 7 years ago

            I’m not down on metro other than the fact that it’s being shoved down my throat. The design of it is cool for me just for the desktop.

    • dashbarron
    • 7 years ago

    Three things:

    1) Good post Fox. +1

    2) Dr. Who! +1

    3) Styx ripped Dickens? I’ll be damned. +1 to them.

    • Synchromesh
    • 7 years ago

    I bought a used iPad 2 when 3 came out a few months back. Since then I used the iPad maybe 10 times. Most of the time the iPhone does everything iPad does. Only time iPad came handy was at the airport when reading a book. That’s it. One of the most useless devices every invented imho.

    • glacius555
    • 7 years ago

    This is hilarious! We keep whining about Windows 8 while a Mac user decides to pair a keyboard and a mouse with an iPad yo replace his Macbook!

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      yeah, i don’t understand that. isn’t it MORE work to have to carry around a keyboard and mouse than carry a laptop?

    • obarthelemy
    • 7 years ago

    If i may be troll-ish…. maybe your wife should try an Android tablet:
    – Finder: check. And a bevy of free, alternative “File Explorers” (their non-Apple monicker)
    – I/O: check. Most Android tablets have an OTG (ie, both “device” and “host”) USB port, and thus support mice, card readers, game paddles, 3 or 4G modems, … and of course hard disks and flash sticks. With no special adapter/software except the initial micro-to-regular USB cable.
    – Mail: hard to say… What was the rpoblem ? I used to use K9, but went back to the standard client for its Exchange Activesync (Hotmail uses that too, to do push and imap-like two-way sync) suppport. Other, paid apps also have that, but that’s *my* requirement, I don’t know what your wife’s issue with email was.

    I’m also finding the tablet office apps to be Ok functionnality-wise, but mostly unusable to do import/export issues. Plus those issues vary feature by feature, so depending on each doc, Doc to Go may turn out better than Quick Office or not, and so on, and so on. I find a cloud-based solution not acceptable, since they are unavailable too frequently, and usually have perfo rmance issues too.

      • dashbarron
      • 7 years ago

      Agreed. An ASUS’ Transformer with the dock would get her the best of both worlds. If you don’t mind used, you can nab a first or second generation on the cheap via eBay. Two for the price of one new iPad 3.

      • TakinYourPoints
      • 7 years ago

      Something like an MBA seems best for her. You’re gaining the above features with Android tablets but you’re sacrificing application quality, you’re getting slower hardware, and you’re getting worse displays. Not a good trade.

      As for email, no idea what the issue is, I have IMAP email working great on all of my computers as well as my iPhone and iPad.

    • Game_boy
    • 7 years ago

    What is your favorite pony?

      • fredsnotdead
      • 7 years ago

      And where is the pony review?

      • sweatshopking
      • 7 years ago

      pinky pie! cause she’s hilarious!!!! ♥♥♥♥

        • no51
        • 7 years ago

        wtf… i thought you were anti-pony. did meadows get to you?

          • sweatshopking
          • 7 years ago

          no. i was just pretending i was cool… sigh…

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      Raimbow Dash! Multicolored and fast as hell

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        is that a dude or a chick?

          • modulusshift
          • 7 years ago

          She’s one fast filly. She could clear out your hate in 10 seconds flat.

          Or these bronies, for that matter.

    • ludi
    • 7 years ago

    I can do quick emails and forum posts on my tablet, and the tablet can easily go with me to places where I might otherwise have to think real hard about whether I want to be dragging the laptop along, but it is definitely not a laptop replacement.

    • glynor
    • 7 years ago

    I [i<]really[/i<] like QuickOffice Pro, FWIW.

      • trackerben
      • 7 years ago

      On what and when where you using QuickOffice?

    • ChronoReverse
    • 7 years ago

    Tablets are best for content consumption. Laptops and computers are for content creation. This became pretty clear soon after the iPad came out =/

    • trackerben
    • 7 years ago

    Which points to a paradigm I’m into. I usually bring both an ultraportable and an iPad with me. Between the two plus my trusty Nokia, I can make myself at home anywhere on the road.

    Virtualized Office is pretty much the textbook evidence for an unmet need in the digital marketplace. This confounds some skeptics, because the most direct logical inference would be that all Microsoft has to do to meet that need, is to ship Office on Surface and iPad.

      • cynan
      • 7 years ago

      I don’t understand your second paragraph: Isn’t that exactly what MS is doing – coming up with an ARM version of office for release circa Windows 8? This will mean that office will be available for both ARM and x86 Surfaces. And it’s pretty obvious why MS wouldn’t want to bend over backwards to get an iOS version of ARM Office out at around the same time as the Surface release.

        • trackerben
        • 7 years ago

        You appear to get what I meant. Perhaps this misunderstanding comes from my reference to undiscriminating skeptics of Microsoft’s Win8-Office-Surface platform suite, and if so the fault lies in how I styled my writing.

    • rae
    • 7 years ago

    Did you try Pages as a Word replacement? Was its handling of tables worse than Office2 HD?

      • WillBach
      • 7 years ago

      Shhh, if he finds out about pages after he sold his laptop, it might push him over the edge.

    • sweatshopking
    • 7 years ago

    typical scott. he can’t keep his negatives straight.

    AND another point: How could you, an apple user sell your old MBA and allow another apple user to be a year behind? isn’t that counter to the system? shouldn’t you both have upgraded?

      • trackerben
      • 7 years ago

      But he is only human, M’seur, as you are.

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        nope. i’m a spam bot. ask l33t.

          • ludi
          • 7 years ago

          Ah, but the truly 1337 know how to spell it.

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            yes, i’m afraid i can’t actually claim to be elite. i’m made from off the shelf amd parts. mid range quality at best.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            In this age of ‘good enough’ [s<]trolling[/s<] computing, that's all you need to be!

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            WHAT?!

            Now I have to quit your guild and sue you for false advertising

            • sweatshopking
            • 7 years ago

            I’ll understand. wait, no i won’t i’m an amd cpu, i’ll probably burn out first.

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