Getting my mom an iPad. I need simplicity!
October 15, 2011 10:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting an iPad for my (aging) mother -- what am I missing? How can I make this as simple as possible for her? If it's at all complicated, she won't go for it.

I have, rather unexpectedly, been given $1000 or so from a relative to get and setup my aging mother a new computer -- for tomorrow. I've pretty much settled on a tricked-out iPad instead; she's shown interest in mine, the tech support will be much easier on me, and all she really does on the computer is light email, MSN, view cat videos and play games. All of this is getting harder on her ancient PC. Plus, an iPad would allow her to listen to audio books and read ebooks with the font cranked up to a ridiculous size.

It'll be a 32GB wifi, but I'm planning on getting the smart cover, the apple keyboard, component cables (no HDMI in sight here) and an iTunes gift card. Are there any other accessories you think would be useful?

The trick is -- I need to make this is as painless as possible for her. I'm going to go the apple store and purchase everything, but I'd like her to:

a) not ever have to deal with iTunes on the PC. This is the most important thing -- her computer can't handle it. My dad has a computer that would, but it will end up in an argument, trust me. Can I get the Apple store to set it up initially, or can I do it? (Any chance an iPad bought at an apple store today will have iOS 5 already?) I already have my iPad and iPhone on my iTunes, will this get messy if I do it?

b) My mom panics when asked to give out her credit card online. I'd like to pre-populate an iTunes account for her with a gift card so she can get apps, etc -- without ever needing a credit card. Is this possible?

c) What is the best MSN chat app available? Ease of use is paramount here!

d) What else am I missing?

Bonus question:
My parents have expressed an interest in (Canadian) Netflix. They do not have a TV with HDMI (ie Apple TV won't work). Can I use the Apple component cables with the iPad to get the Netflix to their TV? (They'll use my netflixt account -- see the aforementioned credit card issues.) What about iTunes movie rentals?

Extra Bonus question -- how hard will it be to buy all this today/tomorrow with all the iPhone craziness?

Thanks guys. These are all questions I feel like I should know already as a bit of an Apple fangirl myself, but this is really sudden and has to be taken care of ASAP.
posted by cgg to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My grandmother bought herself an iPad 2 and figured she might need a manual too. She bought herself a maybe 400 page manual and finds it helpful.

You can set up the iPad yourself. The only downside that I can see to not having a computer to hook up to iTunes periodically with is the lack of software updates and the lack of a backup if the iPad needs to be restored.

I would create her own apple ID account rather than use yours as each account can only have 5 computers or devices (I think) associated with paid content. Using your computer to set it up wouldn't be an issue as it would only be one of 5 computers associated with her new account.
posted by sarae at 10:41 AM on October 15, 2011

I'm not really understanding why your deadline is tomorrow of all things, but aside from that. If you have an Apple store you can go to in person, I would think most of the initial "craziness" surrounding the iPhone 4S release will have subsided by now.

It's likely they can help set it up in the store initially, and while I don't think they'll come out of the box with iOS 5 installed (at least, not their current stock), it should be an extremely quick update for a brand new device with nothing on it to back up or restore anyway. In fact, if they agree to help set it up in store, they will likely want to update that along with it all.

iCloud's design is to break the devices away from absolutely needing to be tethered to a computer. You can get apps from the on-device App Store app, and your backups can be saved to iCloud instead of a machine, too. Get her a wall-charger or a dock or something and she'll never have to associate it with the computer at all.

Will she panic if she has to put in a gift card's details instead? I've never seen any way to pre-load the account with money, but it should be fairly straight forward to pay with just a gift card, I'd think.

But if you need to, you can manage the device from your own computer/iTunes, too. Apple even has a FAQ on it.

You can hook the iPad up to their TV even if they don't have HDMI, but you'll need to figure out if you need the composite, component, or VGA cables.
posted by asciident at 11:01 AM on October 15, 2011

I tried this too - sadly, my mom was too far gone to use it.

Anyway, what I did was set everything up on my computer at home, and figure I would handle adding or updating apps when I was over there. During the weeks we tried it, I never ran into trouble not having a computer to connect to. And now that I stole the thing back and use it at home, I almost never hook it to my computer.

I downloaded a ton of TV shows and movies I knew she liked and loaded up the ipad with them. I also added some fun apps that are just cool, visually, like the koi pond.
I made sure to include some books and the Weather Channel app, hoping they would suck her in.

As to the TV cable - I bought a cheap gizmo from some tech site that you plug into the TV and into your iphone/ipad and it shows whatever is playing in your gadget on the big screen. (I use it to show friends movies.) Maybe that could work with Netflix on the iPad?
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:04 AM on October 15, 2011

You can set her up with an iTunes allowance, to put money in her own iTunes account.
posted by lizbunny at 11:15 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was given an iPad2 by an organization with which I am associated. This was about a month or 5 weeks ago. I have not yet hooked it up to any pc. This is my first Apple product. Probably my last, but it is a great device for consuming media. Intuitive? Hard to say. I keep trying to do it the pc way and that is not going to work. I have to relearn as opposed to just learn. That is my problem, not Apple's. While there is some itunes account set up on my device, I have not once gone to itunes. I use the app store and seek free apps only at this point. It is easy. Almost too easy. Lots of free apps out there. Friggin ad supported apps. Being used to adblock+, not having it is a killer.

Depending on her dexterity, the taps might be a bit much on the screen. If she is used to a pc, why not just get her a new updated pc to fiddle with?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:13 PM on October 15, 2011

There's an iPad for Seniors for Dummies that might be useful. Teach her to update apps and clear her open apps, and she should be good.

Does Netflix have AirPlay? If so, you can use it with an apple tv, although you can get Netflix on apple tv, so it shouldn't matter at that point.

I preloaded my dad's account with an iTunes card. He hasn't bought anything yet,but he does get free apps on occasion by searching the app store.

I set up a homepage for him and put it in the dock where Safari normally is. The page is online so I can edit from home if I think he needs a new app or a specific link to a frequently visited site.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:48 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

My dad, who's pretty tech averse, played with an iPad and loved it. He's just waiting for it to come out with a good phone plan... I tried to explain that it's not meant as a phone and unlikely to ever come set up to go as a phone, but it didn't really penetrate. And who knows, if he wants an iPad sized phone, he can't be the only one so maybe it will exist some day. (Workarounds with VOIP or GV or other apps would defeat the ease of use thing - for him).

Anyway, I think the most important thing to start out with is to:
1. Not have any apps on it that aren't obvious how to use (even one intimidating app can sour the experience for someone tech averse).
2. Start out with one page of apps. 2 if you must but not more than that.
3. Set it up to connect to her wifi network before you hand it over
4. Show her a minimum number of things - my guess: Using the home button, what happens if you press and hold an app (so it doesn't freak her out), sleeping and waking up, and how to turn it off and on. Even write those things down for her so she doesn't feel like she has to retain a bunch of new information about an unfamiliar gadget. My dad loves having written lists to refer to. Much of the rest she should be able to figure out as she goes. I think it's a great idea to get her a well written book (if she's an instructions kind of person) because then that way she can learn at her leisure, without feeling pressured or stressed, and increase her feeling of competence.

I guess one thing she might ask you about it how to get pictures that aren't on the iPad onto the iPad to be able to send them to other people. There might not be an easy way for her to do that, so good to let her know before she gets frustrated. But I guess you would have said if that were a concern.

For chatting - There are a lot multi-network chat apps to choose from, at various prices. I used BeeJive IM and was happy with it. It supports MSN. Because it's multi-network, it may be a bit more complicated, but if you can set it (or one of the other multi-network chat apps) with her MSN login, that might work.

In the App Store, there's also a couple of Messenger specific apps, which may or may not be simpler. There is one from Microsoft itself. But they all seem to (including the Microsoft one) have pretty crappy reviews, so you should probably test them out before handing it over (some are free).

In general the review system is pretty reliable - if there are enough reviews on any particular app. I'm convinced there's some gaming and tons of fake reviews, but once you hit a certain number, you can feel pretty safe going with an app that 4 or 5 stars. Sometimes a low number of stars just reflects very high expectations for what is actually a decent app though - I find that's especially the case for 'official' apps, like the Facebook app or the Google Voice app.

I think it'll be great, actually. These devices seem awesome for the tech-averse/aging vision set.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:14 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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