Keep taking the tablets

Ok, I admit it, I bought an iPad.

iPad Screenshot
iPad – also an excuse to show a photo of my dog, Wyn

It’s a third generation, or “new iPad”, as Apple insist on referring to it. I was one of the many thousands world-wide who bought the latest shiny thing, the first day it was available: 16th March 2012.

You won’t have seen me camped out in front of an Apple shop – I’m English, it’s a shop, not a store – no, I pre-ordered my iPad, and had it delivered.*

It’s almost two years since rumours of a tablet computer from Apple turned into reality, and we found that it wasn’t after all going to be named the iSlate, iTab or iPlate (ok, I made the last one up).

I bought my first 16GB Wifi iPad in April 2010. I planned to use it for work – yes, really – and had been experimenting with all sorts of tablet-like devices for several years before the iPad came along. I wanted something I could use to:

  • take notes in meetings
  • access email, tasks and calendars
  • store reference material and books
  • search for information online
  • open common attachments like word, excel and powerpoint
  • access the corporate document management system
  • reduce (or preferably stop) me having to print work-related documents

I loved the fact the iPad was instantly awake, unlike the laptops, tablets, netbooks and e-readers I’ve used before, all of which all required a couple of minutes of booting up before they were usable.

Having said I wanted it for work, I also wanted something I could use at home and when travelling, so never even considered asking my employer to pay for it. It would be mine, all mine, hahaha…

iPad at work

Unlike everything I’d tried before, the iPad met most of my work requirements right from the start. It also had other benefits I hadn’t considered:

  • In meetings, laptops create a small but perceptible barrier between you and the person sitting opposite. Being flat, the iPad doesn’t create a barrier when you type
  • Many laptops have keyboards that click when you type, which can be annoying for those nearby. You can do that with an iPad too, but for me taking notes silently and unobtrusively is a real bonus
  • It takes a matter of moments to read or send tweets via iPad. Twitter is a wonderful source of news, research material and intelligence, which I raved in a separate post. My favourite iPad app for Twitter is Echofon (I can’t get used to Twitter’s own app)
  • I don’t store anything confidential on my iPad, but it’s reassuring to be able to find, lock and erase it remotely in case it gets lost

Where my first iPad didn’t quite meet my needs was its dependency on Wifi. Whilst it was great to use at home, and at Wifi hotspots, my workplace Wifi and iPad didn’t really get on, and I was forever having to log off and on / switch off and back on again to get connected. I use public transport a lot, and lack of connectivity also meant that I couldn’t be fully productive when travelling. Therefore, as soon as the 3G model was ready, I ordered it, and my partner Nicky was pleased to be presented with a very nearly new Wifi iPad as a result.

Once I had the 3G iPad I stopped printing documents and reports, as I either already had everything I needed with me, or I could get to it quickly. I didn’t record the last time I printed, but it was less than two months after I bought my first iPad. So, by June 2012 two years will have passed since I printed anything at all. The other bonus with the 3G model is integral GPS which makes journey planning really easy (where am I now, how do I get to where I want to go etc). I blogged about some of that a few weeks ago.

I’m not hooked (honest!)

Despite not printing anything, from time to time I still get handed bits of paper during meetings, and for a while I’ve wanted some way of scanning them on the fly without carrying extra equipment. I was therefore (just a bit) interested in the iPad 2 which includes a camera, but when I gave it a try in the Apple shop I found that the image quality just wasn’t good enough. My iPad was only a year old at that point, I was still really pleased with it, and I really couldn’t afford to splash out on another gadget so soon. I was secretly rather relieved that I had proved to myself that I wouldn’t buy just anything new and shiny from Apple.

My reason for buying the new iPad

So what changed? Well, I didn’t buy the iPad 3 new iPad because of the retina display (although it is very good), and it wasn’t the speed (although it is faster, particularly switching between applications and browsing), and it wasn’t the new iPhoto app either (which is quite wonderful), it wasn’t even the dictation facility (although it handles dictation better than anything I’ve tried before).

No, what clinched it for me was the camera. I now effectively have my document scanner and it works a treat, particularly with the brilliant Evernote app which supports text search within photos.

Photo of a page in The Big Issue taken with iPad
Photo of a page in The Big Issue taken with iPad
Screenshot of Evernote search
Screenshot of Evernote search

On the left there’s an example of a quick snap I took of an interesting article in The Big Issue*. On the right is a screenshot that shows text search within a photo using Evernote. The example is from the desktop version of Evernote, but search is supported on most platforms. I’ve been using Evernote for years, and it’s featured one way or another with pretty much every device I’ve used. I’ll blog about it some time, but for now will settle for a quick plug.

I’m quite keen on the iPad, you can probably tell. I can testify that, as a direct result of iPad, I haven’t printed anything at all for nearly two years. It’s effectively an extension of my own memory, particularly as all my notes are synchronised to my ‘phone (yes, it’s an iPhone) and desktop (er, yes, that’s a Mac).

Keeping on taking the tablets

So that’s it then, me and one particular type and brand of tablet. I don’t know anything about its competitors apart from the fact that there are now lots of them out there. I daren’t look, in case they’re any good…



As a bit of an aside I’d like to commend delivery company TNT who attempted delivery in the morning when I was out, and left a “Sorry we missed you” card. I live in a rural location at the end of a track and have battled with several delivery companies’ automated systems recently. I was therefore expecting hours of frustration when I picked up the ‘phone to call the Southampton depot.

To my surprise it was answered by a real person after only a couple of rings . Not just a real person, but a helpful and sympathetic one as well. When I asked about the possibility of same day redelivery, the lady – I think her name was Julie – said: “we are a bit busy“, and explained that they had the contract for all UK iPad deliveries, and their depot had around 12,000 iPads to deliver that day. [Fact-checkers: please note that might not be the correct number, but it was a lot].

Having done a good job managing my expectations (downwards), Julie then ‘phoned the driver, and called me back again a few minutes later to confirm he would indeed return that evening. When he turned up at around 6pm, I was so pleased I tried to thank him with a fiver, but he cheerily refused. What great service! I will definitely use TNT again.

**The Big Issue

I chose this article in The Big Issue for several reasons:

  • It’s a great magazine, full of interesting articles
  • Vendors keep 50% of the cover price for every copy they sell.
  • The article: Graphene – the next big thing, by Helena Drakakis is fascinating and well worth reading.
  • The page is quite “busy” with strong colours and dense text, so a bit of a challenge for both the iPad camera and Evernote’s search facility.

For sale

I’ll shortly be selling my original iPad. If you’re looking for a 64GB, 3G iPad then I can do you a good deal. Although it’s been in constant use for nearly two years, it’s in very good condition, no scratches, comes in its original box. One careful owner..

This post was originally published on my personal blog.

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Corey McCarren

I work at a laboratory that produces and sells graphene, glad to see that article up there. May a future generation iPad be made with graphene supercapacitors instead of batteries and a screen made of graphene nanocoating.

Great to hear you are using your iPad effectively to be more productive!


Agreed – could be perfect in work environment. Personally I’m more hooked on my macbook air than my ipad as super light and love the quick keyboard/bootup

Mark Braggins

Hi Corey. You’re working on a very exciting product – I’d be really interested to hear how it develops.

Mark Braggins

Hi Steve (Govloop). Thanks very much for leaving a comment. I agree, the MacBook Air is a great product and I use it as well for writing and accessing server applications, but it doesn’t (for me) have the same benefits as iPad in meetings and events.

Mark Braggins

Hi Chris. Thanks for your comment. I wonder if one day it’ll feature a sheet-feeder for long documents, now that would be sweet!