Falling (Back) in Love with the iPad
Every day on my way to class at USC, I rode my skateboard down Trousdale Parkway with just a drawstring over my shoulder and quietly chuckled as I watched my fellow students' desperate attempts to get to class on time thwarted by the twelve-pound weights strapped to their backs. I was in college during the beginning of the transitional period from laptops to tablets, and while I eagerly embraced the iPad as my main portable computer, most of my schoolmates were a bit more reluctant to change their ways.
The lucky ones who had upgraded to MacBook Airs avoided back pain, but the heavier 13 to 15-inch non-retina MacBook Pros were still the norm, and once in a while some poor soul lugged out an ancient Lenovo or HP, complete with a power adapter barely smaller than an iPad itself. My iPad was my most valuable tool in college. I loaded all of my textbooks onto it, a cost cutting and weight reducing measure, but also used it for note taking, research, and sketching ideas. As a game design student I still needed a computer for development, so I demoted my Mac to serve only as a game making machine, which is still its primary purpose today.
Despite my tablet's prominence in my life, over time something strange happened: I started to fall out of love with the iPad. I read a few novels in iBooks but found myself longing for a paperback when struggling to find a comfortable spot on my knees to rest the ten-inch display. Each passing software update revealed how unsuited my third generation iPad was to simultaneously power its operating system and retina display (a problem that likely encouraged Apple to release their upgraded fourth generation within the same calendar year). I began leaving it behind on daily travels, and while I missed the functionality, I did not miss the heft. Although it was smaller and lighter than a laptop, the iPad still necessitated a backpack.
The launch of the iPad mini further diminished my attachment to my now outdated device (a feat Apple seems to have a knack for with each of its product launches). The device was the perfect size and weight to carry without hesitation, and even provided a comfortable form factor for playing games. That said, it was severely compromised by its inclusion of the slower A5 chip and its lack of a retina display, which was of upmost importance to me as my eyesight has always been problematic.*
Apple fixed both of those problems in this year's iPad mini. Retina display? You bet. A6 chip? Psh, they went straight to A7.
After graduating college back in May, I missed the days when I was eager to use the iPad for just about anything at all. I bought the new mini, and the magic came rushing right back.
The new mini makes my third generation iPad feel like an old Lenovo laptop. It is so much lighter than my previous iPad, and so much more compact. I live and work in Marin County but spend most of my free time in San Francisco, and although I was rarely tempted to bring my full sized iPad to the city, the mini is a natural travel companion. Yesterday I stuck it in my drawstring out of habit, but quickly realized it could easily fit into my jacket pocket.
Falling asleep at night is a constant challenge for night owls like myself, but with one hand I can read articles in Pocket in night mode on my new mini until I doze off. No need to find a position to prop it against my legs. I was never tempted to lug my giant iPad out of my backpack on the MUNI, (assuming I had even brought it with me at all), but I reach for my mini without hesitation to catch up on some reading or to send an email. My iPhone usually is dead by the time I am ready to come home, so offloading some of its tasks to the mini is also a nice way of ensuring that I have a charged phone, especially in case of emergency.
Most importantly, the mini is the solution to this far too common conversation:
"So what are you working on?"
"I work at a big game company and I am also working on an iPad game with some friends that will be released in a few months."
"No way! Can I see it?"
"Well, I didn't bring my iPad."
"It's just a little too cumbersome to carry around all day."
Not anymore. The next time I have that conversation, it will end with my new acquaintance playing House of Cards on my iPad mini.
This article was entirely written on my iPad mini using Pages. I know some have a hard time with touch typing, but I have never used a keyboard with my iPad and am just about as fast as I am with a physical keyboard. Let yourself get used to it - I promise it will be worth your while.
*I wear thick contact lenses to address my -13 prescription, and have a much thicker pair of glasses that I usually do not wear out for obvious reasons. Even with corrected vision, the thick lenses strain my eyes if I ever read without perfect lighting. While a lot of people do not like reading on backlit screens, for me it is a necessity, as long as the resolution can match the printed page. I started reading the Steve Jobs biography in print and strained my eyes, but finished it on my iPad without a problem.