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Old 01-12-2012, 05:52 PM   #1
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iPad Tablet Experiences From The Road

There are 7 smart phones in my immediate family so I am quite familiar with them. I find, for my old eyes, that one device does all simply does not fit. I believe electronic devices will continue to converge and the day may come when I will not have a stand-alone computer, tablet, camera, phone, GPS and iPod. I would not line up today to buy Garmin shares anymore than I would Kodak. However, for a Canadian who regularly crosses the border, an expensive smartphone and data plan or a 3G iPad just to get a GPS is a big pain in the wallet. There are no cross border providers, roaming fees are not for casual use and short term data plans and replacement SIM cards are still a pain. That's why I got the wifi iPad2 and Garmin 1350LMT instead of one device. I have not had a laptop since I retired more than 10 years ago so felt somewhat disconnected on the road. The iPad has been a perfect addition to our tech stable. Wifi is widely available and free at campgrounds. Even some SP like IA and SD advertise it, although we couldn't get a signal at our sites and I didn't try getting closer to the gatehouse. Most of the RV campgrounds we were in this summer had free wifi or none--not surprisingly, "give us your credit card number" is becoming an exception. For an American without a smartphone, who rarely crosses the border, a 3G iPad might make sense because you can then choose free wifi or use the cellular signal even while moving--you get everything except the phone.

One thing to understand about both smartphones and tablets is that they are appliances for consuming information. Virtual keyboards are a useful stand-in for the real thing for texting or short emails. The 10" iPad screen allows for a full size virtual keyboard and it is infinitely more useful than one on a smartphone. However, editing text and switching to the virtual alternate numerical and symbol keyboards while also using the QWERTY, while fast, still really gets in the way. True touch typing is impossible because you cannot rest your hands on the virtual keyboard without registering a key press. But for consuming rather than producing... I keep the iPad in the living room and will web browse, read email, and even pay the bills on it and not miss the desktop in the office at all. It's not that an iPad is better than a laptop, it's just smaller and more mobile. For us, it is the perfect device on the road. For travel, I keep it in a full slip on cover and stash it in a pile of clothes where it stays cool and gets a smooth out-of-sight ride compared to being in the truck.

The SOC website, and others look exactly the same on the iPad and navigating with gestures is a natural and pleasant way to get around a web site. Posting works as expected, but the virtual keyboard makes it a bit more tedious. The only glitch I've found is that the iPad seems to respond differently from my desktop to the SOC login cookie. It will not save my SOC login, although it saves all others like Amazon, Cabelas, ReserveAmerica and even banking. After messing around for awhile I discovered that if I didn't bother logging out, I would be logged back in automatically the next time. At least I don't think SOC would keep me logged in for days.

I don't play any games, but have some useful apps like a pdf reader and keep both my camera manuals on the iPad--much better than paper because of the instant and accurate search function. iPhone only apps are not particularly useful on an iPad because they stay small screen. A 2X button expands most into an unreadable pixelated mess. I did have Woodall's iPhone app and it was quite good even at its small size, but developed a glitch after I installed some other apps and now doesn't open anymore. I also have the SD card reader and HDMI adapter so can quickly upload the day's photos and preview them on the iPad's excellent screen or the HDTV. I use the iPad to back up photos and then don't erase the SD cards either so at least there is one level of redundancy. The photos can be transferred to my desktop computer just as easily from the iPad or the SD card. I do no photo editing on the iPad or even photo selection--just previewing. There is no substitute for an extended keyboard, mouse and widescreen monitor. I use Aperture for organizing, cropping and most tweaking and occasionally PS Elements as well. On a 4–5 week trip I'll take up to 1500 photos and then select 200–400 to print. I never leave photos on the iPad or card and I don't use online photo services except for SOC photos. I've used the iPad camera to take one photo and, while it's better than some phones, it's not a DSLR. Like I said before, a tablet or smart phone is an appliance for consuming information—a computer is a tool for producing information. After 6 mon. with an iPad, I've found that I "need" both.

Henry
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Old 01-12-2012, 07:14 PM   #2
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Henry,

You should take up a side job working for Consumer Reports... Thanks for taking the time to do the write up.

I have not yet taken the tablet plunge. I'm sure some day when we hit the road for months I may. That will be a few years off at this point and by then technology will again obsolete what we have now.

About a month ago I upgraded to the Blackberry Bold 4G from my older still track ball BB Curve... The older one made it to the point that web surfing was just about not usable. It use to load web pages fine including SOC but then something in many web sites starting adding so much overhead it became non usable.

The new Bold is like taking a leap forward in technology as it is. I have the hard keys plus the touch screen and no more track ball... And the 4G when I can get it for sure is addictive. I too have the issue of SOC on it dropping a log in. I log in and soon as I start to navigate I loose the log in and have to do it all over again. Have not yet figured out what is up with it.

It does not take long to get addicted to technology. 20 years ago we had none of these electronic devices that are part of every day life. Every 5 years is a major change now. It is like the microwave oven. It is hard to even think about now not having one. It is all about convenience and once you have it, odds are high you will never go back... Sort of like a power tongue jack...

Thanks

John
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Old 01-12-2012, 08:46 PM   #3
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My husband and I both have android phones, so we really don't have a need to have a tablet too.

However, for Christmas my mom asked for a laptop so that she could check email while traveling. I pointed my dad to the Kindle Fire. For $200 she has email, facebook and web access (even pre plan a trip while they have wi fi acces). As well as being able read books, play games, etc. It is also a nice sized unit that can even fit in her purse. My parents have basic cell phones, no fancy data plans. This gives her much of the functionality of a standard tablet or smartphone, but they avoid monthly fees and the inital cost was reasonable too.
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Old 01-13-2012, 02:35 AM   #4
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I had an Android for two years and just went to an iPhone last month. It hasn't been perfect, but it is much better than the early Android was. Everything on the Android was really slow and getting slower, plus things were having trouble working. I'd be shutting it down a lot to reset it.

The biggest thing was battery life. In the last few days with the Android, it would be dead from a full charge in 12 hours or less with what I consider light use. Worse if I used it a lot. The iPhone has been great in that respect...I easily get a full day, often times more. I got as long as four days at one point early on.

I don't have an iPad, but it seems they operate somewhat the same way to the iPhone. I absolutely love the e-mail system on the iPhone. I used to have two e-mail apps on the Android to handle two of my accounts. With the iPhone, I monitor four accounts all in one place without separate apps. It's great, and I can easily see my e-mail and manage it too. Since I have two accounts with the same host, I don't have to log out of my primary to check the sunlinefan e-mail- I can see if I have any on the phone first before typing in the login stuff.

I've impressed but also disappointed with Safari. This is my first Apple adventure, so I haven't used Safari before, but it does have problems for me. I have pages lock up quite a bit and when I try to close some of them, they won't. Safari altogether just locks up. I do really like the fact that I can open up multiple tabs and easily see how many and the ones I have open. Not sure if mine is an isolated issue though.

I understand Verizon no longer has a unlimited data plan, so I'm very grateful that we already had ours and they allowed us to carry it forward. I wouldn't know what to do with a data limit...

John, I too have had issues with it not holding the login. Not so much with the iPhone, but more with the Droid. The biggest thing I've found with the iPhone and foruming is somehow I tap something that takes me back to the home screen and closes out the browser. I can't really get back to that screen and I lose everything I typed.

I have a friend whose Curve broke this past fall at school. Ironically around the same time her computer broke. She got the Bold as a replacement too.
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Old 01-13-2012, 02:55 PM   #5
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Jon,
I use iCab which is much better than Safari, but costs 1.99 in iTunes. It has a huge preference list for customizing and more than 40 extra tools in a popup window. I highly recommend it. I've not see the iPhone version, but the window looks pretty lame compared to the iPad one--you can compare them in the iTunes store.

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Old 02-05-2012, 02:36 AM   #6
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I love my ipad. I use it all the time. The downside I find is that I'm forgetting the computer skills I once had. I just recently bought CO-Pilot live premium HD app when it was on sale for 15 dollars. USA/CAN. Free updates and for 10 dollars a year you can have live traffic. Co-pilot also has a RV function which will avoid low bridges and tunnels and ferries that don't allow propane.Campgrounds are listed. It is very similar to Tom Tom. You can plan a RV trip and it will figure out how much the gas will cost you. It will let you know who has the cheapest gas in your current area. I just wish my iPad had more memory and a file system but that's what I have a computer for.
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