Thought Leadership

Me and my iPad

By Colin Walls

Like most people nowadays, my life is littered with electronic devices. My iPad is special though, partly because I bought one without knowing why I wanted it [which is not my usual modus operandi], but also because it is my [almost] constant companion. I have written before analyzing how I use the device and like to revisit this topic from time to time.

I am currently in the horns of a dilemma, but more on that later. For the moment, I will look at how I use my iPad on a daily basis …

There is/was an Apple strap-line: “There’s an app for that!” [Do they still use that?] The meaning is clear enough. A device, like an iPad, is only as good as the apps that you use on it. Fortunately for iPad users, there are an immense number of apps, so there is almost always one or more available to perform any imaginable task. Some apps are free; others cost money, though rarely very much. The quality varies very widely. Some are crisp and well designed; others are clunk and buggy. It is usually a matter of trying out one or more until you find one that suits your needs. This is what I have done over the nearly 4 years since I first bought an iPad. I have lots of apps installed, but actually only use a few and that small selection has evolved over time.

I think that I might group the apps that I use into 3 categories: work and life logistics; entertainment; information and communication.

For work and life logistics, I use Evernote for tons of stuff, so the iPad Evernote app is very useful. I use CalenGoo to access my Google calendar. I sometimes use Keynote to make presentations.

For entertainment, I read using the Kindle app and love the way it synchs with my Kindle to keep my place in whatever book I am reading. I do not play many games, but Words with Friends and Rummikub distract me quite effectively. I watch a bit of catch-up TV using the BBC iPlayer and use TV Guide to see what is on. And I use the Sonos app to control my audio system.

For information and communication, I obviously use the built in Safari browser and Mail app, though I am experimenting with the Gmail app for my personal email and trying out the Chrome browser, as that synchs my bookmarks with my desktop PC. I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and have found Skype works really well on an iPad. I do not use many informational apps, as they are often no better than the corresponding website; some exceptions are IMDB, and I use RSS feeds for news etc. and NewsBlur seems to work well for that.

There are other odds and ends, like calculators, maps etc., but the list above are the “must have” apps for me. But that will inevitably change over time …

My dilemma is a question of spending money. I bought my first iPad before they were even shipping in the UK and used that for 2 years. I figured I had used it daily and that it had cost me about $1 a day to own, which was good value. The iPad 3 was a significant improvement in performance, so I upgraded. That is now almost 2 years ago. I could justify an upgrade on the same financial grounds now, but I do not feel any shortage of computing power. So would a new device – an iPad Air – be worthwhile? The thing that appeals is the weight. An older iPad is not heavy – about a pound and a half. I always feel sorry for people lugging great big, heavy laptops around. But, if I hold the device for an extended period, which I might do if I am giving a talk, for example, I do start to feel the force of gravity. So, would an iPad Air be noticeably better? I can only find figures for an iPad 2 which was 601g; an iPad Air is 469g. I guess I will only know the answer when I hold one in my hand. Any advice or suggestions would be welcome by email or comment.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at