Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Why I Switched to an iPad
This is an off-topic subject for this blog, but right now after a big storm in De Soto, the cable is down. No mindless entertainment or internet right now, so I thought I would get to something I have been meaning to do: write an apologia for the use of an iPad in my every day ministry and tasks. I never set out to want an iPad... but Apple made it too easy. Let me explain.
Last November I entered an innocent little twitter contest for Logos Bible Software. (www.logos.com) They had just completed their iPhone app, and to promote and celebrate, they were giving away an iPod Touch 8GB model. So I faithfully re-tweeted their little contest entry daily according to the rules, but thought I really was just giving them a little free publicity. And then, in the middle of a staff meeting a message hits twitter from Logos congratulating me for winning. In December they sent me an iPod Touch, and I loaded their free app on it, and suddenly realized that thing was more than a new MP3 player. It was more than a PDA, less than a computer, and very, very useful. I started working on it. Really. It set up my Outlook Exchange Server email account faster and easier than Windows 7 did... no lie. I was hooked. Then I heard about the upcoming tablet computer and the iPad wound up being a really big iPod Touch. And I thought, "That could replace almost all I do on my computer."
So, I used a little restraint. I did not beat down the Apple Store door the first day they were available. I had some planning to do. I had to think what I wanted (bigger than the 8GB... did not want a monthly contract, so no 3G version...) and how I could afford it. So I calmly waited until May to buy a 32GB wifi only version with keyboard dock and Apple supplied protective cover. This was an investment of nearly 8 Benjamins, so I needed to fund it. No prob. I sold the iPod Touch and accessories on Amazon. I sold a few hundred dollars worth of used software on Amazon. I sold a few preaching commentary sets on Amazon. And when the bill came due, 96% of the cost was recovered. Now why did I go to all this trouble?
First, the iPad does what my most urgent and frequent tasks with reliability, speed, and simplicity. I can send and receive email, exchange nearly any type of file, and create nearly any simple document. Almost all my ministry material is stored out in the nebulous and dangerous invisible web cloud. Using www.dropbox.com, I can share my files between laptops, any computer with web access, and an app on my iPad.
Those apps... there's an app for that. And I have dozens of them loaded already, having developed a serious 12 step worthy addiction to browsing the app store for mostly free apps. With them I can access any file as long as I am on a wifi network... which I am in most places I meet. For instance, I recently attended a meeting of a professional network that I belong to and lo and behold the conference room had free public wifi. That will just get more ubiquitous... which is why I do not see the need to shell out $30 a month for an AT&T data contract.
I am managing this blog on my iPad. I could manage anything on it. Our church uses a planning software with an on-line module. My iPad app gets me to it. The same is true for the ministry database.... secure and password protected and instantly on my iPad. I can access our project plans, our ministry documents, our people contacts and nothing is lost. Really.
And speed is where it is at for me. I used to have to fire up my church issued Lenovo ThinkPad, log on to the church network, log on to the phone server, log on to Outlook, then get to my day. That takes 10 minutes. I would fire up the computer, go get a cup of coffee. Sign on to Windows, go chat with someone. Sign on to Outlook, get a second cup of coffee. But the iPad is instant on. Even if I restart it, that is less than 60 seconds for a full shut down and reboot. Seriously. I press a button, swipe my finger on the unlock, tap my email and it loads. I can be reading email while a coworker is still docking their laptop to the station. I can find info, even in Safari on the web with just a few strategic finger taps.
When I read the first reviews on the iPad, people complained about a lack of multi-tasking. I have not missed it. Most apps just save your place when you close them and open another. For instance, I can use BlogPress to write an entry, close it, open Safari and download a graphic, then open PhotoGene to edit the graphic, then open BlogPress to insert and tweak placement of the graphic, all without ever having to hit save. It just does it.
I have grown to really like using the keyboard dock with it as well. Except for times when I need to create a really fancy document, I can use it for heavy typing, spreadsheet usage, instant messaging, anything I could want. And I can tuck the keyboard and iPad into my smallest book bag or backpack and be out the door.
I think there is a ministry advantage to this mobility. I meet with a lot of people throughout the day, often at different locations. I have begun having documents ready to show them on the iPad screen. There is even an app that lets me use it like a whiteboard. I found that really helpful in counseling and discipleship.
There were a couple of times it has saved my bacon at church. Once, our children's ministry director needed me to look up some information for a family in the church and I had it for her in seconds. I have also used it to look up names of family members as I have mentally prepared for a conversation with a new attender. I have had instant access to our on-line church calendar to answer questions for people on Sundays.
I have prepared two sermons on it, using www.olivetree.com and their awesome BibleReader app. It lets me keep notes that sync in Evernote (which I have used on my laptops for years) and between it and the Logos app (which accesses hundreds of the volumes of commentaries as well as Greek and Hebrew tools in my Logos electronic library) I have all I need for serious sermon preparation. I haven't been brave enough to actually use the iPad for my live notes for preaching, but I could easily do so!
Personal productivity gets a boost from an iPad. Like my IPod before it, I use it for listening to audiobooks during drive time. I can usually intake a couple of dozen of books every year by doing so. The iBooks app as well as the Kindle app (I prefer the Kindle app because it lets you take notes) let me read. I take in tops stories from the AP, Reuters, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The KC Star, as well as local and national video news. The Safari web browser works fantastically well (except for that nasty Adobe Flash feud Apple has going on). I can talk on it with Skype (built in microphone) and can listen to music on the iPod app. I recently began a series of serious physical therapy sessions to counteract a back condition, and that routine is now on my IPad for my daily use. Spiritually, I do all my Bible reading and my morning prayer time and devotional reflection and journaling on it. I use it to visually create idea charts and record thoughts... even with a voice memo recorder. So it is all over the productivity gymn floor and the iPad sinks three pointers with every shot as far as I am concerned!
I have so far said only good things, but there are a couple of drawbacks. I don't think I can present from my iPad as well as I can from a laptop... for now. Even though I sprang for the Keynote app, limited font choices are not appealing to me. And Apple wants $29 for a VGA video adapter that would let me plug it into a projector. But without a wifi option for that adapter or a remote to control the screen it would be little use to me given that I would normally use it in a large teaching room. So as a presentation tool, there is still a need for development.
Another downside... printing. I get around it by emailing documents to my gmail account and printing them from a connected computer or laptop. There are printshare apps. They cost money and require you to proxy with a computer. My guess is that soon printer manufacturers are going to wise up to this problem. With 2 million iPads already on the market after 2 months, someone wants to make a boatload of cash by creating iPad drivers for popular business printers. I think it will come in time. The direct need to print from my iPad has been rare, and I don't really see this as a huge problem.
So there it is...my defense for becoming a fan of the iPad. My teenagers at home have informed me I am now an iPerson. That's OK. My digital life got a major upgrade at minimal cost as far as I am concerned.
- Posted with my iPad. The Apple Kool-Aide tastes fine.