5 Pros and Cons of the iPad on Business Travel

On a recent two-day business trip (part project check-in, part Google Analytics training) I decided to leave the laptop at the office and carry only my iPad. (Note: the iPad was accompanied by a Logitech Keyboard Cover, which is super handy.) I was curious how the device would fair in the day-to-day. These observations are by no means profound, but they helped me finally decide whether the iPad is a worthy proxy for the laptop. The short answer: probably not.

Pros

  1. You don’t have to remove it from your bag at security. A small convenience, sure, but a convenience nevertheless.
  2. The retina display (in recent models) is actually a lot of fun in the day-to-day. Particularly when it comes to working on documents, the crispness of the text is nice and noticeable.
  3. 4G models ensure connectivity is rarely an issue. In the airport, on the way to a meeting, or at the client's office where visitor wifi access can be a chore, the ready-made cellular connection of the iPad (again, 4G models) proves a boon.
  4. Sketching is a nice change of pace. I'll sometimes draw my notes instead of typing them, particularly when visual representations (e.g., mind maps) are more useful.
  5. Lots of apps are coming of age. Google Docs is a lot better on the iPad than it used to be, as are tools like Evernote and Diet Coda (for the infrequent, on-the-go code update). And Documents by Readle is a solid attempt at actual file management on the iPad.

Cons

  1. Multitasking is slow and tedious. Typing and singular activities in general are fine on the iPad, but the minute you start switching applications -- tapping the home button twice to jump over to Basecamp and again to get back to Google Drive -- your productivity grinds.
  2. Scrolling and page interactions are troublesome. If you're using a complex web-based tool (e.g., for creating development tickets), you'd be surprised how difficult pages can become when touch-and-scroll is your primary way of navigating. Tapping the screen to initiate a scroll can often trigger elements (e.g., a link on the page), making scrolling difficult.
  3. There isn't a decent IM client. While there are instant messaging apps for the iPad, I haven't found any particularly useful. And running such an app proves to be an incredible drain on your battery.
  4. File management, as always, is still pretty bad. Surprisingly, I was able to print/convert a Google doc to PDF (using the buggy desktop version of Google Drive), save it to Drive, and then email it to a client (using Documents by Readle), but this process took so long I was late to board my flight. Apps are getting better in this area, but this continues to be a huge deficiency (however purposeful) in iOS.
  5. Some sites still force the "mobile" version. With all the advances in and adoption of responsive web design, not to mention the growth of tablets, it's baffling to visit a site on the iPad and be presented with a handicapped version intended for a phone's 4" screen. Thankfully, Chrome now allows you to specifically "Request Desktop Site." Similarly, and at least for iOS users, locking important content inside of Flash-based elements proves frustrating.

The iPad stacks up pretty well to your laptop if you're tackling a few, focused activities. But as a reliable go-to, especially in the speedy routine of work, the device and OS quickly become a hinderance.

Kevin is a senior digital strategist in our Falls Church, VA, HQ. He helps clients such as the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Valspar create dynamic and successful online strategies.

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