Advantages And Disadvantages Of Travel With An iPad

This weekend I was away traveling, and I made the choice to attempt survival as a daily blogger using only my iPad. I wrote about that from the road on Saturday morning, but now that I'm home I have some additional thoughts.

The world is still not WiFi friendly

The first thing I found was that Wi-Fi can still be somewhat of a luxury. I stayed in a different hotel each night of my trip: Friday just north of Seattle, Saturday in downtown Vancouver, and Sunday in downtown Seattle.

I wasn't off in the 3rd world somewhere. These are modern, western cities. Moreover, I stayed in some rather nice hotels. All of them offered free internet service to guests, but only one had free wireless. The other two offered wireless only in the lobby, and you had to pay extra to access it.

There's nowhere to plug in an ethernet cord anywhere on the iPad, so with the exception of one night with access at the hotel, I spent a lot of time in coffee shops. For writing blog posts, I wrote the whole post in the Notes app, and then went to the coffee shop and pasted it into WordPress.

I am going to look for some sort of traveler's access point to take with me for future trips, but even if I do find something sufficiently small (and inexpensive), the necessity of carrying it with me starts to take away some of the iPad's luster.

Data consumer vs content creator

As a consumer of data, I have very few complaints about the iPad. Watching movies on the airplane was quite enjoyable - especially compared to the guy next to me struggling to work his 17-inch laptop in that confined space! Reading books is pleasant. Web pages are a breeze.

As a creator of content, however, I am not as positive. Writing blog posts with that on-screen keyboard was tedious, and adding HTML tags to those posts was a torture I thought only Dick Cheney could have invented. Next time, without a doubt, I'll pack my bluetooth keyboard.

Adding photos was unnecessarily difficult. Even after I've written custom WordPress plugins and Flickr hacks to make it easier to get my iPhone photos into the blog, I still experienced pain and frustration... though I imagine this could be eased somewhat with more robust plugins now that I see where the pain points exist.

My only other complaint was that the audio of my movies was hard to hear, even at full-volume, over the droning engines of a Boeing 737. Most of the blame here belongs to those obnoxiously loud airplanes, and some of it probably belongs to the movies themselves. Still, it'd be nice if there were a way to boost the sound a bit from the device.

There were some positives, too

So far, it seems like this has been mostly complaints, but there were several things to like about the experience as well.

Most importantly, the fact that an iPad is a dream to carry to, and use in, a coffee shop. Instead of a heavy laptop with short battery life and long cables, I was carrying something like a magazine. If you have to go out for internet service, this is a big deal.

As I already mentioned, the iPad's form factor was a perfect fit for the confined space in economy seats on an airplane. On the flight out, I was next to a guy squinting to watch a movie on his iPhone, and on the flight home I was next to a guy contorting his arms to operate his enormous laptop. Both of them gave up, whereas I watched several movies comfortably with my 10-inch screen resting on the tray table.

I still hadn't found anything on iBooks that I wanted, so I haven't been using my iPad for reading, and I actually brought an Italian book, to do some reading. But thanks to a helpful tweet from @Zamishka, I've found some Italian books on iBooks, absolutely free, so in the future my bag will be even lighter!

And finally, the ability to pack light can't be understated. For this three-day trip, I fit everything I needed into the tiny space under the seat in front of me. I didn't even use the overhead carry-on storage. Being on the move with nothing but a backpack is completely liberating to a traveler.

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Author: Yearlyglot
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  • Randy Yearlyglot

    To listen to anything on an airplane I can really recommend a set of noise canceling ear buds. They take up minimal space and really drown out the noise. It's weird to be able to hear what people are saying three rows down though and you'll have to make a conscious effort to yell at the flight attendant or she won't hear you.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    I may look into those noise-cancelling earbuds, since I plan to spend a lot of time traveling for the foreseeable future. Thanks for the tip.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    I thought about getting an ipad for about two weeks back in March. Currently I am tied to my Mac tower and was looking for a more on the go solution for blogging and internet access. But, I foresaw problems with connectivity with the ipad so opted for a Macbook instead. It may be a little heavier than the ipad...but it is definitely lighter than carting the tower around on my back and makes blogging on the road really easy! Too bad the ibooks of which you speak are only available for the ipad! I am curious what titles are available in Italian?

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    It is, by all means, a very cool device. But there are some use cases that still need to be worked out before it becomes good for everyone. But hey... it's still brand new! This computing model didn't even exist until just a couple months ago... given a little time, solutions will be developed.For one, the bluetooth keyboard is a completely usable accessory to bridge the gap from content consumers to content creators... though that still doesn't answer the difficulties with photos or video. But give it time, those things will be worked out too.For connectivity, there are options. A travel router doesn't look too bad, if I can find one that's small, and doesn't have a lot of cords. I see a few self-contained (cordless) options already after a quick Google search.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    One of my best impulse buys ever, bought them at an airport.

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