How I fell in love with the iPad again

Despite some bad press recently, the iPad is still an amazing device

The iPad has been under fire a lot in the media lately. Some journalists have harped on "declining iPad sales" and how "the iPad hasn't evolved" and various other "the iPad is doomed!" blather and hysteria.

But I recently got an iPad Air 2, and I couldn't disagree more with the anti-iPad articles and comments that seem to be all over the place online.

Why I stopped using the iPad

I stopped using the iPad a while back, right around the time I got my iPhone 6 Plus. At that point I felt that I wouldn't use the iPad much since I also had a MacBook Pro and an iMac. With the iPhone phablet I just didn't think I'd really need an iPad.

I could not have been more wrong.

A few weeks ago, I got the itch to try an iPad Air 2. I liked the fact that it was thinner and lighter than previous iPads, but I kept telling myself not to bother because I wouldn't use it and I didn't need it, etc. etc.

But about five days ago, I journeyed to one of my local Apple stores and started poking around with the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini. I immediately ruled out the iPad mini because I wanted a full-size iPad screen. The iPad mini is a fine device, but the thinness and lightness of the iPad Air 2 just totally undercut its appeal for me.

So I left the Apple store with a brand new iPad Air 2, wondering if I had made an impulsive and pointless purchase. I had those thoughts running through my head all during the drive home from the Apple store. But when I got home, my perspective changed considerably after I had taken the iPad Air 2 out of the box and started using it.

Applications and games for my new iPad Air 2

The first thing I did after initially setting up my iPad Air 2 was to download a bunch of applications and games that I wanted to have on it. Most of them I'd had on previous iPads, but there were a few that were new.

Here's a list of what's on my iPad Air 2, in no particular order:

Audible
Comic Zeal
Netflix
Lose It
VLC
Amazon Prime
Pocket
Newsblur
Kindle
Marvin
Bacon Reader for Reddit
Day One
Mac Daily News
Castle of Illusion
Marvel Champions
Cro-Mag Racing
Sonic All Star Racing
Marvel Pinball
Zen Pinball
Monopoly
Midway Arcade

It didn't take too long to get all of my preferred applications installed even though my Internet connection speed is nothing to rave about. But once all of the applications and games were installed, I was finally able to start using my iPad.

As you can tell from the list of apps, I enjoy a bit of gaming in iOS. And I had forgotten how much better games are with the iPad's bigger screen. Oh sure, the iPhone 6 Plus is no slouch when it comes to screen space, but it can't hold a candle to an iPad. Games like Marvel Pinball, Castle of Illusion and Sonic All Star Racing (the original Sonic Racing not the awful “transformed” version) just feel so much better on a larger screen.

Comic Zeal is the best comics app I've come across in iOS, and I was very happy with how comics appeared on my iPad Air 2. They looked amazing, and I was able to comfortably read them. When I gave up my previous iPad, I also stopped reading comics since they aren't much fun on a phablet or even on the larger screen of a Mac. You really need an iPad to enjoy them properly.

One new app that I got was Bacon Reader for Reddit. I had been using Alien Blue previously and it was a fine Reddit app back in its day. But I wasn't comfortable with some of the interface changes and the fact that the app got bought by Reddit itself.

So I checked out Bacon Reader, and I'm glad I did! I love the interface and also the night theme on it. On the iPad you get a list of threads on the left and the messages on the right when you click on a thread. It's also very easy to vote threads or comments up or down.

Bacon Reader has quickly become my favorite Reddit app and it works amazingly well on the iPad Air 2. After using Bacon Reader on my iPad, I shudder at the thought of using Reddit in a Web browser. The experience really is that much better.

Day One is another app that I absolutely love on my iPad. It’s the best journaling app I’ve ever found, and I use it frequently to jot down whatever happens to be floating through my head. It looks and performs extremely well on the iPad Air 2, and I enjoy writing in it while plopped down in my recliner in the living room.

Mac Daily News is a great Apple news blog, and the site also has an iPad app available. MDN is worth checking out each day to see what's going on with Apple and its products, and the MDN editor often has some amusing or sometimes even scathing commentary on media articles about Apple. The MDN app is also free and you can easily view reader comments as well.

While I still keep the Kindle app on my iPad, I’ve found myself using Marvin again since it’s hands-down the best e-book app available on iOS. Marvin lets me change the margins and get the most text possible on my iPad’s screen. And there are a ton of other options available in Marvin that you can’t get on iBooks or Amazon’s Kindle app.

And, of course, I have Netflix and Amazon Instant Video on my iPad for entertainment. I’ve used both of them on my iPhone 6 Plus, but the iPhone simply can’t compete with the iPad’s much larger screen size when it comes to watching videos. The iPad Air 2 is also thin and light enough that I can lay in bed and easily hold it while watching my favorite shows.

Lose It is a weight management app that I use to monitor and manage my calorie intake. I’m in my 40s now so keeping track of my weight is important to me as I don’t want to put on too much weight. Lose It makes it very easy to manage my weight, and the iPad version of the app provides a great interface and it’s also very easy to use. I highly recommend Lose It for the iPad if you need a weight management app.

All in all, I’m quite happy with the range of apps I have on my iPad. Since I’ve been using them I’ve really come to appreciate the great experience that the iPad delivers that I simply can’t get on my smaller screen iPhone 6 Plus. Yes, the bigger screen on the iPad really does make a huge difference using all of the apps I’ve listed above.

Working on my iPad Air 2

One of the things I wanted to do was be able to do some work on my iPad rather than just use it to consume various kinds of content. My iMac remains my productivity workhorse, but there are times when doing work on the iPad can be a nice alternative to sitting in front of a desktop computer.

Frankly, I think the iPad has gotten a bad rap when it comes to productivity. If you read some of the comments and articles about it, you’d think that it was only good for viewing content and that you couldn’t actually produce anything on it. But that’s not the case at all, and I’ve found that I can do quite a lot on it in terms of writing on my iPad.

In order to do some work, however, there were a few things I needed such as a keyboard case, writing app, etc. But I had no problems finding those things, the real challenge was in changing my OS X-centric mindset (more on that below).

I looked around on Amazon for a good keyboard case and finally found the ZAGG Folio Case Hinged with Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad Air 2. The keyboard is spacious and it almost feels like typing on a Macbook Pro. And more importantly, it has a hinge that lets you have multiple viewing angles like a laptop. So I’m quite happy with my new keyboard case for the iPad Air 2.

I also needed a way to write within the HTML template that I use for all of my blog posts. I investigated various apps for this purpose, but I ultimately decided to use a text editor called Editorial. I created one plain text file as a template, and then I just copied and pasted it into a new file that I used to write my new blog post.

Editorial is a pretty powerful text editor for iOS and it has worked out well for me. I'm typing this blog post in Editorial on my iPad Air 2 and so far it's great. It can do quite a bit more than what I'm using it for, but I'm content using it as a basic text editor.

I also started using Pocket to save articles that I wanted to refer back to later when writing blog posts about related topics. Pocket also works on the Mac, so if I save an article on my iPad, I can also refer back to it when I’m on my iMac. It’s a great way of preserving useful articles for later use in blog posts

One other thing that I had to adjust when working on my iPad was my mind-set about iOS. If you are used to OS X then you have to unlearn some of your long-time habits, and you must also try to judge iOS on its own terms rather than constantly comparing it to OS X.

That is easier said than done if you've been working on a Mac using OS X for years and then suddenly you start working in iOS. You really have to be patient with yourself and make sure you understand how to use iOS in a way that will let you accomplish your usual task.

Sometimes this means that you might need to find a particular app to do something you did back on OS X. Or it might mean something as simple as knowing how to move between open applications in iOS by using a four-fingered swipe left or right on your iPad's screen

My advice is to be very patient with yourself, and with iOS and your iPad. It's quite possible to get work done on an iPad, but the workflow is different and that requires some learning and adjusting on your part if you are going to succeed over the long haul. iOS is not OS X and vice versa, and you have to keep that in mind when switching between them.

I'll still be using my iMac for work regularly, but I also really like the option of being able to write and edit right on my iPad instead of having to sit in front of a Mac at a desk. The iPad is a more personal experience and I tend to have it with me wherever I am in the house.

But what about the next iPad?

Some of you might have wondered why I got an iPad Air 2 when Apple will be releasing an update to the iPad in the fall, and might also be introducing a larger iPad. That’s a fair enough question, and I can understand why people would ask it.

I wanted an iPad right now, I didn’t want to wait for the iPad Air 3 or an iPad Pro. I feel that the iPad Air 2 will last for quite a long time, it’s a fantastic tablet in its own right. I could use it for the next few years and be quite happy with it.

As far as the iPad Air 3 goes, it’s possible I might upgrade to it if there are enough compelling features. Force Touch and a larger storage option are two items that might get me to sell my iPad Air 2 and move to the iPad 3. But it’s unknown just what Apple’s plans are for the next iPad Air. So I’ll wait and see what happens in the fall.

The iPad Pro may or may not be released in the fall, nobody really seems to know what’s going on with it. And I’m not yet sold on getting an even bigger iPad. I can see it having some productivity advantages and it would be great for reading comics too. But Apple needs to sell me on getting one, and I’m particularly curious about how much a larger iPad would weigh versus what the iPad Air 2 weighs right now. If it’s too heavy, I’d probably pass on it.

The iPad and iOS 9

While new iPad hardware certainly interests me, iOS 9 is arguably much more important. I’m particularly interested in seeing if Apple can successfully integrate a split screen mode in iOS. I’ve heard rumors that it’s coming, but I’m always skeptical until Apple itself actually releases concrete facts about such a feature.

A split screen feature could be quite useful when doing work on my iPad Air 2, but I’d really have to see how Apple implements it before passing final judgement. It could be great, and it also might be a bit of a kludge.

Most of what I’ve heard about iOS 9 centers around Apple making it faster and more stable, and I’d be certainly happy to see that. We’ll find out soon what Apple’s plans are for iOS 9 and the iPad. Until then I’m in “wait and see” mode.

Update: I've installed the iOS 9 beta on my iPad Air 2 and it's great!

It’s nice to be in love with the iPad again

It’s often been said that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and I think that’s the case with me and the iPad. I took a break from owning one for a while, and when I returned to it I found that I appreciated what it could do much more than I did previously.

Since I got my iPad Air 2, I have hardly even picked up my iPhone 6 Plus when I’m in the house. And the iPad has cut down the use of my iMac drastically, and mostly left the desktop computer relegated to work duties. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my iMac and iPhone 6 Plus, but neither of them can compete with the iPad Air 2 for certain uses such as games, reading, comics, etc.

I remember owning the very first iPad that Apple released and it's hard to believe how much better iPads have gotten over the years. Oh sure, iOS itself could use some additional features, and I think it will get them soon enough. But the iPad Air 2 is nearly perfect in terms of its weight and width, in a way that I couldn't have imagined back when I bought the very first iPad.

My experience has me feeling quite skeptical about all of the anti-iPad articles in the media and the accompanying comments by some readers who are sure that the iPad’s days are numbered because sales are falling off, or that Apple has forgotten the iPad, etc. I disagree with all of that and I think some of it has to do with the usual need for media outlets to generate page views by engaging in some silly Apple bashing.

The iPad is alive and well, and I love using mine.

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