Productivity with Tablets: Paradox or Reality?
No one can deny it. In 2010 we saw that the idea of a tablet computer take hold with the iPad. Consumers love the idea of using a tablet to watch video, browse the web, read e-books, and of course just use Facebook. But, even with all of those consumption actions there is a hint of making yourself more productive with an always-on, always available device.
The iPad is a phenom really, and it has been chosen by consumers as the tablet to get right now. Mostly because they don’t really have a compelling choice of anything else. Because of this adoption of the iPad, this article will concentrate on the idea of being productive with the iPad rather than another tablet, but really it could be applied to any tablet-based form-factored device.
The question: is the iPad just a consumption device or can we actually use this thing to make ourselves more productive?
The Window into Your World
One of the best things about the tablet form factor is that it provides the user with a bunch of screen real estate that their smartphones can’t and the portability that their laptops lack. This allows for viewing information and media to become something enjoyable and easy as opposed to something annoying on a small form-factored device.
The extra screen space gives the user an expansive view into their data. With the extra screen size, developers can take advantage of newer ways to interact with the apps they create. For instance in the stock Mail app for the iPad, users have the ability so view their inbox or selected folder on the left while they read their email on the right. This essentially doubles your perspective giving you an easier interface to use.
The idea of a larger screen only works if the productivity apps you use take advantage of it. Some of the best iPad productivity apps that exploit screen real estate are the stock Mail, Calendar, Contact apps, as well as apps like Toodledo, Omnifocus, Goodreader, Dropbox, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, and Evernote.
The Input Dilemma
I remember watching the live blog on Engadget when the iPad was initially released and seeing Mr. Jobs’ hands tip-tapping away on the landscape on-screen keyboard. I also remember thinking to myself, “there is no way I could ever be productive that way!” Well, I have to say I was partially right.
Input on the iPad, to put it bluntly, is a drag. For short replies and quick edits to documents it works fine, but if you need to pound out an essay for school, proposal for work, or even just a nice email to your mother, the onscreen keyboard just doesn’t do it.
There are two arguments to this:
1. The iPad isn’t made more input. It’s a consumption device.
I can’t stand this remark. If the iPad was a “consumption” device as so many tech pundits suggest, then why would Apple release a keyboard stand to go with their device? Which brings us to the second argument…
2. You can always get the iPad keyboard or a Bluetooth keyboard.
This argument makes more sense, but in practice destroys the portability of the iPad. That is if you have to carry the keyboard around with you. I opted for this solution but found after months of experimenting, the bluetooth keyboard just sits at home.
So, the input dilemma is very real on the iPad and any other tablet sized device. What I have found that is after getting acclimated to the iPad, that input isn’t as irritating as it used to be. I wouldn’t go out and right the next great American novel on the thing, but for simple task, calendar, email, and notes entry, the iPad works OK.
At Long Last
This is something to definitely take into consideration when purchasing an iPad or any tablet device for that matter. Just how long does that battery last? I believe that the iPad has set the gold bar for battery life on a device this size that performs this well. I couldn’t now imagine using another tablet that gets less battery life than it, as I use my iPad for reviewing projects and email constantly throughout the day.
So, how does the iPad stack up as a productivity tool?
With its awesome battery life, screen real estate giving you a large window into your data while being portable, and being better than OK at inputting data, the iPad shows us that it isn’t only for consuming content, it can be used to organize and make available your data to you at any time.
Although the iPad is great for reviewing and organizing your data, it still lacks in the area of actually creating things. As more and more tablet devices start shipping this year, it will be interesting to see what manufacturers come up with to correct this problem with content creation on the tablet form factor. But, for standard review of documents, quick edits, list organization, email, and information review, the tablet form factor is extremely promising and may just end up making your more productive over time.
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