Saturday, January 14, 2012

iPhones and iPads? What's for what?

I am a professed technical geek with an interest in whatever gadget has come out lately.  It is amazing that I managed to go through most of 2011 without a tablet.  For my 50th birthday, Julie got me an iPad, so now I don't feel left out.  I have been an iPhone fan for years and have dozens of applications running on it.  How would an iPad be different?  What will I use it for? Now that I have used it for a few weeks, I am beginning to find new habits.

The thing I love about my iPhone (or any decent smart phone), is the combination of computing power and portability.
  • When running, it is my music and my GPS tracking
  • When driving it is my maps and directions
  • When traveling, it helps pick things to do and places to eat
  • It's the camera that's always in my pocket
  • It's the quick read or game while wainting in the doctor's office
  • It's my star map and bird book, whenever I wish I had one
  • It's my email when I won't be near my computer for a while
All these things are really driven by the fact that my phone lives in my pocket most of every day.  It is always there and now that I got off of that piece-of-shit AT&T, I am always connected.

The iPad is obviously different.  You can bring it in your briefcase, but who am I kidding?  I haven't worked in years. It is only really portable in the "better to travel with than a laptop" way. So, how do I use it? Mostly for reading.
  • I am a news junkie.  There is a wonderful app called FlipBoard.  It is a tremendous example of how a user interface should be built.  I enjoy sitting down and reading through articles, many of which I might not have ever read otherwise.
  • Facebook is easier and more interesting from a tablet. It's nice to use while sitting on the couch, and much easier to read and type on than my phone.
  • Just browsing through things like the TiVo guide.  When you have TiVo and HBO (free for 12 months), the trick is finding the movies you want to see and recording them. Doing this with a TV remote and a crappy guide is painful.  Doing it from a tablet app is easy and fast. There are lots of examples of these little niche applications, but the more you look, the more you find.
  • Reading magazines and watching live TV both work, but aren't quite ready for prime time yet.  The magazines still suffer from user interface problems and pricing issues.  The live TV is actually ready, but is mostly hampered by contractual limitations with networks, stations, advertisers, ...  
  • Lots of people play games on their phones, but with 50 year old eyes and fat fingers, that tiny iPhone screen leaves a lot to be desired.  A tablet is much better. If you haven't seen the graphics capabilities on these tablets, they are stunning.
So, at least for the way I live, a tablet is a nice to have, but a smart phone is a have to have.   It will be interesting to see if this changes over the next few months. 

Want to get the most out of your phone or tablet?  Talk to friends about what their favorite applications are.  I welcome your suggestions here!


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