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.
- You don’t have to remove it from your bag at security. A small convenience, sure, but a convenience nevertheless.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.