Give me reasons (apps, uses, etc.) to keep the iPad I just bought.
September 10, 2013 2:52 PM   Subscribe

This post about gadget fatigue on the blue prompted this question. I just bought the most recent iteration of the iPad. I have an old iPhone and an even older MacBook Pro, and after less than 24 hours with the iPad, I’m getting the impression that the it's superfluous to my life. Please present arguments to the contrary, so that I can make up my mind whether to return it. (I've read this Ask, and this Ask, and this Ask, but the tech changes so quickly that much of what is suggested there is dated, and plenty more apps/uses have come about since those were posted.)

I'm a Mac fiend from waaaay back, and I've wanted an iPad since they were first introduced. In celebration of recently landing an almost-full-time admin job (one takes what one can get), I bought the iPad with Retina Display. It arrived last night. I spent the evening gleefully downloading all the stuff that was already on my iPhone, and playing with the settings, and browsing the web, and so forth.

I woke up this morning and thought, why do I have this thing? So I'm asking all of you what kinds of apps or processes or whatever I should try/could do with it that are awesome and/or fun and/or useful, so that I can spend a week or so with it before deciding if I should take it back.

I'm not a gamer, so all the wow!factor involved in that is a non-starter. I don't have a Big Important Job, so that sort of usefulness is out, too. I'm not an artist or a photographer, even a little bit. There's no easy way to type on the screen when you're reclining, and--this is going to sound ridiculously spoiled, but--it's heavier than I thought it would be. It's not comfortable to hold up in one hand. I don't travel except on public transportation to and from work, and my iPhone works fine during short trips for texting or solitaire or whatever. I have Netflix streaming, but... I can do that on my laptop, you know?

The two reasons I have in favor of it right now are a) I can leave my laptop docked to the very old Cinema Display on my desk while still being able to browse the web/Netflix/e-books on the couch or in bed, and I subscribe to the New York Times Daily Crossword Puzzle app, which is very small on my iPhone screen (I skip the Sunday puzzles now, when they used to be my favorites, because I have to scroll).

Is being able to surf the web/watch netflix/read e-books in bed (which, seriously, I can do with my laptop, it's just a matter of unplugging a bunch of stuff and carrying it in there) and having the NYT Daily Crossword puzzle at a decent visual size worth $500? Right now, my answer is "nope."


What's great about the iPad that I just don't know because I haven't encountered it yet? What should I be using it for? Which are the iPad apps that make your life awesome, and why are they *significantly better* on the iPad than on the iPhone? What kinds of things should I try while I have the iPad to really put it through its paces in terms of usefulness and fun?

Please do not reply with "Obviously you don't need it; send it back." I already have that opinion; I want to hear from people who know I would love it if I would just give $IPADTHING a try, so that I can make a more informed decision. Convince me!
posted by A neighbourhood park all covered with cheese to Computers & Internet (43 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I have a first gen iPad. I hardly ever turn on my computer anymore.

I'm not a gamer except for Solitaire.

I think of it as my big iPhone at home. With synching with iCloud, my phone often stays at the front door. My iPad never leaves home.

-It's my alarm clock/radio tuner (I use ooTunes)
-Netflix and Amazon Video players
-Word processing (I use Pages and don't use an extra keyboard as I'm used to the iPad size now)
-Recipes (I use a few)
-Calendar (I like the size and layout)
-Shopping with various apps. The size is better on the iPad
-When I'm kind of blue, I love walking around cities with Google Maps
-I balance the iPad on a shelf when I'm doing dishes
-Kindle and Overdrive
-Skype if I had a camera.

Basically, everything a computer can do but with much less space IMO.

True, it took some getting used to for me, but now when we shop for a new computer (coming soon), we plan on 1 computer and 4 iPads at home for 4 people.
posted by mamabear at 3:04 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I won't tell you why you should keep it, but I will tell you that you should send it back now, and buy a new one next week. Apple just announced today that they were going to bundle the whole iWork suite with new purchases. That, to me, is good enough reason to keep an iPad: iCloud easy sync between your Mac and take your work (or play, or the novelette you're writing, etc.), with you.

Now, if you already have the iWork suite, never mind and go sit in a park and get working on your hit play.
posted by General Malaise at 3:09 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

suggests you should return it, simply because a new iPad will be out soon.
posted by blob at 3:13 PM on September 10, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you both for the information about the new iPad coming soon, but the question remains: why should I have an iPad at all? If I return this one in exchange for getting a newer one in a few weeks, why is that better than returning it and just getting the money back?
posted by A neighbourhood park all covered with cheese at 3:15 PM on September 10, 2013

it's heavier than I thought it would be. It's not comfortable to hold up in one hand.

God i hope this isn't outside of the scope of the question, but i'd return it ASAP. New ones are coming out in like, a few weeks and one of the major selling points is supposed to be that they're much lighter. I have exactly the same complaint about mine, and it's been relegated to a couch internet surfing machine that only my partner uses.

That said, what sites do you frequent? Nearly all of them have interesting and sometimes remarkably well designed apps. Alien blue for reddit is particularly beautiful for instance and a superior experience to just viewing the site in a browser on any type of system. Poke around and see what's out there for sites you frequent.

You can get apps like GoodPlayer and then run PS3 media server on your docked computer, and stream any media file to the ipad. Not just netflix, etc.

Beyond that though, i kinda don't get it. I would sell mine if my partner didn't use it for surfing food subreddits so much...

The one "killer feature" it seems to have for me is the battery life. It's insane. Like charge it once or twice a week even if you use it all afternoon for days good. It takes a bit to notice or get used to, but if you actually take it around places with you it's a cool feeling never having to worry about bringing the charger or plugging it in.

Personally? i never got over the awkwardness of the weight. If it weighed like, not much more than the iphone does i'd never put the thing down. But fuck is it heavy, and the way the weight is distributed just torques your wrists if you try and one hand it.
posted by emptythought at 3:21 PM on September 10, 2013

If you returned it, would you regret it? Nobody needs an iPad just like nobody needs a computer, or nobody needs a car. iPad ownership is some fairly top level maslow's pyramid ownership.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:26 PM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

I received an iPad 2 as a prize at a work raffle, so having an iPad for free skews my calculation slightly. However, I am not a Mac fiend -- my phone is a Droid and I also own a Windows based laptop. The role that the iPad fills for me is:

1. large screen book/magazine reader -- not just for reading in bed, but in taking out to the back porch or the park. The brightness of the screen and long battery life are well suited for this task (whereas reading anything on the phone in the middle of the day with brightness turned up appropriately just kills the battery)

2. main music streaming console -- I prefer the iPad's Spotify and Pandora interface to my phone. Also, setting up an iPad in the kitchen or back porch to control my music is easier than moving the laptop around

3. cookbook / kitchen reference -- having access to the web to lookup recipes or conversion scales is very handy, and again, the way my kitchen is setup, it's clunky to do this with a laptop.

Basically, it is having access to the visual display of a small Internet enabled laptop without the footprint of a small laptop, as well as a device that can be untethered for long periods of time due to the prodigious battery life. Useful for small urban apartments, or accessing offline content while mobile (ie. reading on the bus or in a park or bar). If neither of these are worth $500 of your cash (which is an honest and useful question to ask yourself) then skip it. Alternatively, you could also get a Droid tablet for much less, and so long as your lifestyle isn't too tightly meshed with the Apple ecosystem, then it may be a less painful calculation for you.

(before winning the iPad, I was a week away from pulling the trigger on an Asus EEE Pad or Nexus 7)
posted by bl1nk at 3:34 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

My iPhone changed my life, and I love my Macbook Air, but I've been a little disappointed with my iPad.

I find I only use my iPad as a "couch internet surfing machine," as emptythought puts it. I hate typing on it, even with an external keyboard, and since mine doesn't have 3g I rarely travel with it. I prefer reading on my kindle, watching Netflix/whatever on my TV, and streaming music through my phone + Jambox. I think the one thing I really love about it is the NYT web app, which comes closer to reading a physical newspaper than anything else I've seen. I also do use it for recipes when cooking.

I don't exactly regret buying it, but I can't imagine ever replacing it if it broke. I'd return it if I were you. I certainly wouldn't consider it anywhere near as essential as a computer or car.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:44 PM on September 10, 2013

I had an iPad and gave it away to my sister because I had too many gadgets. I have a Kindle now, which is very good in many ways, but I miss the iPad for viewing pdfs and textbooks (or any kind of reference book) - it's harder to "flip through" the Kindle, and I can't really use the laptop for that either.
posted by citizenface at 3:44 PM on September 10, 2013

For those who need reading glasses and have big fat fingers, this is a no-brainer. iPhone too tiny. Won't even mention those who hate cellphones, yes I will.
Also, if you want to actually look at your photos or show them around, as opposed to just taking them, a bigger screen isn't all that bad.

Here's why it's really good: for reading stuff.
*For example music: professional musicians like the fact that you can turn pages with one touch (in Forscore for example) instead of having to grab the paper and rip it all across because of stage nerves. For classical musicians, it works seemlessly together with IMSLP's free PDFs. An iPad could contain material for several recitals, great weight gain for when you're on tour.

*For example books while traveling.
*For example heavy old and dusty books, or those that refuse to stay open while you're sipping your coffee or scratch your ear.
posted by Namlit at 3:45 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh boy, I use it all the time. It is like having a laptop -- which can connect to the web on a cell network even if no wifi is around -- with me all the time.

So, some of the things I use my Ipad for -- I read the Seattle Times, NY Times, WSJ, and Washington Post on it, as well as checking the regular media and local news sites. I love the push notifications for breaking news, too.

And I read all my magazines on my Ipad, including the Atlantic, New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Smithsonian (all of which look gorgeous and have extra Ipad features like New Yorker poets reading you their poets and video of all varieities and other gorgeous animations), and my guilty pleasures like Self and Glamour.

And yes, I use it as my book reader everywhere but bed.

It is a very nice portable music player, for my own music and for the good internet radio stations.

Yes, I like it on flights for movies, and at times for the Netflix and HBOGo apps. And YouTube of course.

I use it a ton for cooking. It is handy for my shopping lists at the grocery store, and just outstanding as a cooking aid in the kitchen. (I just slide a seal-able plastic bag over it. ) There are so many great recipe apps and videos.

I am learning Italian on it. And after that improving my French, Spanish and German. I learned to play guitar with it. You can learn so many things with course material that displays on the Ipad.

It is a great assist for finding movies and movie reviews and restaurants and booking the restaurants.

Games are fun on it. I especially like word-y games like the Crux crossword app for the NYT crossword and Scrabble. And logic games. And Jeopardy!

And as for typing on it -- I use a flat surface of some sort and a bluetooth keyboard. Siri takes pretty decent dictation too.

I'm not counting all the web based stuff like MetaFilter and MetaChat and managing email and scheduling and finances . . . .

I still use my MacBook Pro plenty, but it is the Ipad that travels everywhere with me. Nor does it duplicate my Iphone, which I use for other things .
posted by bearwife at 3:45 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, I forgot -- it is a fantastic device not only for managing and viewing photos of all sorts, yours and that of other people, but for keeping a journal.
posted by bearwife at 3:47 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I'd just return it. I got one as a Christmas gift and it pained me to seem ungrateful for such an expensive gift, but it also pained me to see someone I loved waste money on such a useless gizmo. After a week+ and plenty of apps bought, I returned it. I didn't see the sense in a (beautiful) $500 gadget to play Fruit Ninja on. There was nothing I could do on it that I couldn't do better with either my laptop or my smartphone or SLR camera or my iPod or my e-ink book reader. I've asked a lot of people who've also gotten them as gifts what they use it for and they say it's useless. I mean, everything mamabear listed can be achieved with a laptop (even a netbook or Chromebook) and a smartphone, which most of us already own. I even tried a non-Apple tablet and yes, it's equally useless, although it definitely has more functionality/features/customization, IMO. It would only become slightly more useful with the way-too-expensive 3G option. I still have my smartphone when I am out of wifi range and it can do literally everything an iPad can.

I have a friend who likes his and he says he likes to surf the internet on it instead of pulling out his laptop. I have another friend who seems to store/view all of her photos on it. So... there's that?
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:52 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

iPads are more useful than money. Mine is a constant companion. It's old, too. (A 2nd generation, 64GB, Verizon.)

No one can tell you what things to install on it, with any hope of getting it adjusted to your tastes, but a tablet, in general, is such a different beast than a phone or laptop. It's a mental Leatherman (Swiss Army Knife).

We all get buyer's remorse. If you have a truly alternate use for your money other than rotting in a bank, send it back. No sense living with regret all the time, but if you feel like you are getting out of hand, gadget wise, look at that as a separate issue. Might be true for you, who knows?

Unless something changes in the coming years that obsoletes the category, I'll be toting one from here on out. Right size, right combo/balance of horsepower to life. Best device I own, by far. In fact, second place is empty.
posted by FauxScot at 3:55 PM on September 10, 2013

I recently returned a Nexus 7 because I didn't feel the urge to use it after a few hours inhaling the new gadget smell. It's an odd turn of phrase, but tablets and mobile phones are intimate devices, and if you don't feel comfortable with one, then it's a problem.

Take it back, and not just because there are new ones soon.

If the need hits you, you can get one to satisfy that need. I think the iPad's great, with apps that explore things beyond general-purpose computing -- and my oh my is it better than a heavy, hot, battery-limited laptop in certain situations -- but there's no point trying to make yourself love it.
posted by holgate at 4:01 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you're used to using a computer for things, an ipad is not much cop. But if what you want from a device is to consume media an ipad is dandy. Also, small children get on with them fine. They're very portable and shiny, tactile and easy, they're slightly more versatile than a kindle, you can take them anywhere.

But if, say, you read on your laptop, watch films on it, and in addition do film editing or image manipulation or something then maybe you won't think so much of an ipad. After all you can't even make phone calls with it. I think they're shiny but I've never felt the need for them.
posted by glasseyes at 4:25 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have an iPad (for "work" technically, though I rarely use it for work). It is certainly not necessary in my life but it sure is nice.

I don't have a laptop (my computer is a desktop hooked up to the TV in my living room), and it's much nicer watching YouTube or reading metafilter on the iPad while I'm in bed or on the toilet (what) than using my phone. It's also great in the kitchen for reading recipes. When I travel it's invaluable, because of the not having a laptop thing. And even so, much nicer carrying around a tablet than a computer.

I never got used to reading books on it though, and just recently got a kindle which I would have to begrudgingly now classify as a "need" in my life.

I've thought about it before, like what would I do if work no longer let me have it, and I think I would definitely have to have a tablet. iPad? Maybe not. But a tablet of some sort, yes.

Everybody is different, though. I saw a place for it in my life. If I had a laptop I'm not sure I'd feel the same way.
posted by phunniemee at 4:29 PM on September 10, 2013

It uses less power (so it's more ecological), is a lot handier than books or eBook readers (because you can get the Nook/Kindle/Sony Reader/iBooks apps), and being able to play and listen to your own movies on planes that you'll rent through iTunes or whatever is awesome. Cell screens are just too small for that.
posted by jwells at 4:38 PM on September 10, 2013

My husband, who was completely computer- and tech-phobic until work gave him an ipad, likes the fact he can look things up like telephone numbers and company info. Personally he loves Google maps, looking at places he's travelled to or intends to visit (he was on the hippy trail long ago). He finds it much much easier to use for online things than a smart phone.
posted by glasseyes at 4:43 PM on September 10, 2013

I bought a tablet a couple years back. I don't use it much.

The main thing it has been helpful to take while travelling, as a smaller/lighter/cheaper machine that does much of what a computer does.
posted by akgerber at 4:45 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use my ipad for everything except graphics and web design. One place it comes in handy is to use it side by side with a laptop. When I am working in Inkscape, say, and I need to try something new, I can play the tutorial on my ipad while I use the program on my laptop. Very handy for troubleshooting computers, too. I just installed Linux on my laptop and used the ipad to have all the instructions, forums etc that I needed handy.

I like having apps to do things, as well. I'm more likely to tweet by going into the twitter app than if I have to actually go log in to the twitter site, Same with Yelp, or Pinterest. If you don't use social site much, this won't be a selling point.
posted by Biblio at 5:01 PM on September 10, 2013

It is maybe a small thing, but it is so much easier to haul your iPad around to watch Netflix than a laptop. No plugging and unplugging, super light weight, can watch lying down, pass the device over to show someone else a great scene, etc. I find it sooo much nicer.
posted by purenitrous at 5:11 PM on September 10, 2013

The one thing the iPad does better for me than any other gadget is comics. I also like it for watching movies when I'm traveling. But otherwise, I tend to surf on my phone more than I do on my iPad, even when it's right next to me, as it is now.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:11 PM on September 10, 2013

I recieved an ipad 3 for my birthday last year. When the box arrived I thought, oh, I don't need this.

I doubt two days have gone by since then when I don't use it multiple times a day. Mine is not 3g, but I can link it to wifi through my android phone when away from home.

Recipies. Stored and searched. All the time.
Evernote sync with my 27in desktop.
Apple tv.
Making short instructional videos and emailing them all in one handy app (built-in, I think)
Checking our business bookings
Watching stuff in bed
Mag subs
Garageband for the hug-buddy
Listening to audio podcasts i download from my computer for my course.

My desktop is for web work, document writing, storage etc. my phone has a better camera than the ipad so I use that for pics. For me, the ipad is the perfect inbetween gadget. I don't need anything else besides these three.

But If I had got it this year and had the option of returning then buying the upgrade a few weeks later, I would do that.
posted by Kerasia at 5:12 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was given one by the place I volunteer. If I did not need it once a month for that organization, I would give it back in a heartbeat. One of your devices is superfluous. I do not think it is a good device for being productive in a work sense. I find it good for entertainment (watching videos) and for going on the internets. Not much else. YMMV
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:23 PM on September 10, 2013

I am typing this response on my ipad. I just used my ipad in the kitchen to make dinner. My ipad alarm woke me up this morning. Earlier today, with my stylus and the Notepad app, I used my ipad at work to take notes in several meetings. As soon as I'm done with this response, I'll use my ipad to watch Netflix. And maybe play Bingo Blitz - don't judge. Before bed, I'll fire up the kindle app on my ipad and read a little - white text on black so it won't keep me awake. On a work trip tomorrow, I'll use the NextIssue app on my ipad to catch up on the dozens of magazines I subscribe to.

I use my iPhone on the go and my MacBook Pro at work. My ipad I use everywhere. I love it. But I loved it the moment I met it, so it might be a personal thing.
posted by missjenny at 5:49 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I bought an iPad in the spring and have been surprised how little I use it. Holgate is right: I don't have an intimate connection with it the way I do with my iPhone. Part of the issue here is that I share it with my kid so most of the apps are set up for her (her email for Gmail, her ID for message, etc.). I've recently started using it for watching Netflix in bed, which is nice, and I do LOVE drawing with it, but I definitely don't have the techno-crush on it I had in the early days of iPhone use. My kid loves, loves, loves it, on the other hand, and I think it's because it's her main (only) gadget.

However, my netbook is on its last legs, and when it finally gives up the ghost, I will seriously consider a second iPad rather than a new netbook. I'm also an old-time Mac user and having a Windows machine is a glitch in our otherwise smooth system. I have a desktop that doesn't need replacing, and so a Macbook is unnecessary, but sometimes you want to sit on the couch and watch TV and surf the web at the same time. The phone is ok for that until you actually want to type something. I can't imagine how long it would take to peck out a message like this on my phone. But right now, desktop, iPhone and netbook are enough gadgetry for me and the iPad is definitely superfluous.
posted by looli at 5:51 PM on September 10, 2013

Have you considered returning it for the iPad mini? I LOVE mine and use it way more than I used my old full-sized iPad. It's way lighter so I'm much more likely to use it, and it's small enough to fit in most of my purses so I'm much more likely to have it with me. (Though the mini doesn't currently have a retina display -- I'd bet it'll come out with one in the next iteration.)

As for what I use it for:
- recipe or how-to reference when cooking
- couch surfing
- note taking at work during meetings - this is huge and i have saved my boss's ass being able to bring up evernote and refer to old meeting notes. much more useful than analog steno pads.
- e-reader
- knitting patterns
- you tube bicycle maintenance how-to videos in the basement while i'm working on my bike
posted by misskaz at 5:53 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the answers so far, but since a lot of you have responded with "you don't need it/should take it back" I guess I need to clarify: I asked for answers that offer compelling reasons to keep it. Like I said in the original question,

"Please do not reply with "Obviously you don't need it; send it back." I already have that opinion; I want to hear from people who know I would love it if I would just give $IPADTHING a try, so that I can make a more informed decision. Convince me!"

The "Convince me!" means "convince me what's great about the iPad." If you think I should send it back, or you got one and don't like it and never use it etc., then you don't really have an answer to my question. I want to hear from people who love their iPads why they love their iPads, especially regarding if they also have a laptop and smartphone why the iPad is not just more of the same.

I don't know if I'm going to return it for the money or return it and get a new one, but I can't make a smart choice about that if I don't hear from people who have found their iPads extremely useful, especially if they can give me specifics about why it's better than (or at least not just a redundancy to) a smartphone or laptop.
posted by A neighbourhood park all covered with cheese at 5:59 PM on September 10, 2013

Another thing I really like about the iPad (mini) vs my laptop is that if I'm just lazily surfing the web on the iPad, I'm much more likely to put it down if something happens that deserves my attention, like my boyfriend talking to me or my dog doing something funny or something happening on tv. For some reason it doesn't anchor me and my attention to it the way that using my laptop in the exact same way does.
posted by misskaz at 6:23 PM on September 10, 2013

I had a 2 after months of waiting to get one, so I preordered the 4. When the minis came out I thought they were stupid. Then I held one. I'm with misskaz. I think you just bought the wrong one. I use my full sized iPad mostly for streaming Netflix, email reading, and web surfing.

I'm not a gamer either. I use mine for music creation. I love my generative music apps. I keep thinking I'll find games I enjoy, but I usually have one game that I play until I get sick of it, then I move on.

I use mine for finance apps (mint), web analytics, web design (I test my designs on it), Facebook, tweetbot, PBS app, NiemanLab app, NPR and NPR Music app, Kickstarter, The Verge, NextDraft, etc.

If you're a sports fan they have tons of cool apps for that.

Otherwise return it.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:35 PM on September 10, 2013

I deal with a lot of documents and PDFs. By using Dropbox across all my devices, I have instant access to all of them. I also use other apps that sync across devices such as a password keeper and OmniFocus. I'm a grad student and when I go to class, everything I need is on my iPad, from the textbooks, handouts, work to turn in, articles I need. No carrying lots of stuff around because it is all there. I could do all that on my laptop but that doesn't fit in my purse. I've had to train myself to use it for those things I guess. If I had it only to watch Hulu+ and as an ereader, it would still be worth it to me.
posted by tamitang at 7:37 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had one for work foot a while. It was totally useless for work- camera was crap, took a long time to type on, kept coming up against things that it just couldn't do, for whatever baffling reason (download flash, upload photos to a computer wirelessly etc)

At home though, i watched a ton of Netflix and listened to music and took it into the kitchen and read recipes off it. Downloaded Spanish language Apps. So stuff i could have done on my laptop but not with the same ease of portability. So that was nice. As long as I wasn't paying 500 bucks for it.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:13 PM on September 10, 2013

Swap it for the mini. We had iPads the kids used after the initial enthusiasm, but my husband surprised me with an iPad mini that I rolled my eyes over until I started using it. It doesn't have retina, but unless you're a serious gamer or photo person, the difference isn't huge. The form factor means I can hold it one-handed like a paperback, and it's just - I have no idea why a couple of inches changes everything, but it does. It's my default machine now, when I can't pry it away from my kids who love the size too.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:26 PM on September 10, 2013

My work gifted me with an iPad a few weeks ago, and I already have a personal MacBook and iPhone (on top of my work PC, so I hear you about the gadgets!). I have to say that I find the iPad incredibly useful in spite of the universe of gadgets that I'm surrounded by.

-I use Evernote constantly (it is truly the bestest app) and appreciate that it syncs across all my devices (there are times when the phone just won't do).
-I use a fantastic app called Zite which displays news in a way that is highly visual but allow me to take in a lot of information at once; it too syncs across devices (iOS at least).
-I use full-fledged Google Drive and Google email on my iPad in a way that's a billion times more full featured than my iPhone (very handy for when I need to search for an email, for example).
-I use the iPad when I think the iPhone is going to beat its little heart out looking for cell signal (the battery life on the iPad is much better than my iPhone) and when my laptop is dying (ditto).

So in other words, I've found a way to make the iDevice universe work for me (primarily through lots of syncing across devices and being picky about which device best suits the task I'm working on). It helps that my iPad was free, but I hope that if you keep the iPad you find a way to make it fit neatly into your Apple universe.

I agree with others above that you might want to give the Mini a shot (but definitely test it out at the store first) if your biggest complaint form-factor wise about the regular iPad is weight. I still can't tell you what makes the iPad display 'retina' after poring over the specs all day today so I don't think you'll miss that particularly, and the retina display and lighter weight/smaller size are the two big iPad model differences.

If you're still weighing the worthiness of iPads overall, one thing I'd suggest is downloading Apps Gone Free or one of the other 'free for a day' apps. Through them, I've really discovered an entire universe of apps that are super useful and that I would never otherwise have heard of. It's also nice because you can get some syncing going between your iPhone and iPad beyond the obvious email and Evernote or whatever.

If you scan the archives of Apps Gone Free/competitors and *none* of the apps sparks your interest, then you may just not be an iPad person. That's ok, too. But it's hard to know what you're missing if you're just looking at the top 25 list in the App Store.

You might also try finding apps for your field--I'm not sure what 'admin job' means (at my work we use that word to refer to administrators but I think you're referring to an admin assistant job?) but look for apps which will make your work life easier. Also your home life but there's lots of suggestions for that in this thread already.
posted by librarylis at 9:36 PM on September 10, 2013

I'm a science graduate student, and like tamitang, I keep PDFs of my textbooks/reference books on my iPad with a combination of Papers and Dropbox. It's been invaluable in saving my back and shoulders, and I frequently use it with my laptop as a handy second monitor when I'm doing a lot of data crunching, but not near my desk.

Evernote + iPad + a ScanSnap scanner have revolutionized my notetaking system. I used to print out tons of papers which I would read and carry about in my backpack, and over time the papers would begin to crumple into a giant heap of half-scribbled notes and ripped pages from which no information could be extracted. Now when I read a paper, I make notes in the margin and when I'm done I scan the paper and import it into Evernote (which has a built in PDF OCR). I recycle the physical copy but can look the notes/article up through a fulltext search on my iPad anytime I want. My mother loves to clip articles and recipes from magazines, and she uses a similar workflow to remove about 90% of the clutter from her purse.

If you are at all into comics or manga, I would also look into Comixology and Manga Rock. I hate reading comics/manga on my laptop because I always get sidetracked by something else, but something about their presentation on the iPad just clicks for me.
posted by angst at 10:01 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I never wanted an ipad but lucked into a free one. It's fantastic for multitasking (e.g. watching baseball while I'm surfing the web/what have you online)
posted by saul wright at 11:32 PM on September 10, 2013

I sold my full-size iPad and bought the mini - so light! so convenient! I use it at home, work, and take it with me often. I use it for email, netflix, web browsing, banking, solitaire, and lots more. I have it in a case that makes it easy to hold with one or both hands. If my computer died, there would be no rush to replace it.
posted by michellenoel at 9:09 AM on September 11, 2013

I have had a couple of iPads and will keep using them for the foreseeable future. When I got the first one though it did take a month or two of casting it everywhere to figure out what it was going to be useful for and what I wouldn't bother with. I did the same thing previously with a netbook.

Today I have many options for the short of media consumption listed above. Watching TV? I prefer a much smaller screen that is easier to control when watching by myself. When watching things at night with my partner there is nothing better than the iPad.

The pace where it really shines, in my opinion, is the clipboard. I am talking about every situation I might have used a pen, Parker and clipboard. Or maybe legal pad. There are lots of software options for taking notes but if you have any need to take down structured information quickly, accurately and unobtrusively then it's hard to beat numbers on an iPad. Setting a cell/row/column's content type before data entry gives you a custom keyboard to enter said data. This makes the on screen software keyboard smaller, faster and less frustrating. If I need to long form I have a cover with an integrated Bluetooth keyboard from Logitech that is excellent.

There are so many times a at I encounter the need to take down, or refer to, the right little piece of information at the right time. My iPod has been the best PDA I have ever owned, and I have had many, but my iPad has completely supplanted my day owner, notebook, clipboard and log book. Best of all it runs all day, synchs seamlessly with said iPod and give my excellent access to data entry for all the services I use with the iPod.

As for the one hand thing I don't bother holding it in hand. I good it like a clip board. On my forearm I can grip it with my hand or use said hand to hold, say, a stopwatch at the same time.

For taking notes I think I am one of the few who doesn't mind ever note. I have enjoyed using a vim port to write notes stored and synched with drop box.

For one off there-has-to-be-a-better-way-to-do-this I have found pythonista invaluable. I spend alot of time on skype and it makes an amazing speaker phone. I have given presentations using keynote. It is very good. I don't drive and the weight and size trade of versus a netbook is fantastic.
posted by mce at 9:53 AM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

The thing is not that you can do things with an iPad that you can't do at all with an iPhone or laptop, but that you can do them much better and/or much more comfortably. The big screen is much better for any kind of reading or looking at photo and video than an iPhone, and the form factor is a lot nicer for handling while sitting on the couch or lying in bed than a laptop.

For example you say...

read e-books in bed ... which, seriously, I can do with my laptop, it's just a matter of unplugging a bunch of stuff and carrying it in there

This sounds like it's just enough hassle that you don't actually do it much. If you do then more power to you, but the extra weight and annoyance would certainly put me off to the point where reading-in-bed-on-laptop would remain a purely theoretical possibility.

That said I went for an iPad Mini, which for me is a great balance of reasonably big screen and nice light weight. Also the lower price means it doesn't so much need to justify its existence by having some killer thing that nothing else can even do.
posted by philipy at 3:10 PM on September 11, 2013

I don’t have an iPad, but I’ve been coveting one since the first, as you did.
  1. It is a library of functionally infinite size that fits in a bag, and reading texts on a keyboarded computer (my term) is uncomfortable as hell. Even if you are like me and prefer print, ebooks are a terrific way to expand your library without taking over covet wall space.
  2. As a library of functionally infinite size, it holds cookbooks of also functionally infinite size. While your computer does as well, cleaning honey and flour out of the keyboard is hell. And I usually end up with one or two flappy keys that don’t sit properly anymore.
  3. Terrific board games where you never need to fear lost pieces (normally I hate top 10 lists, but this is pretty good)
  4. Sometimes, I am stuck without my typewriter and journal but need to force myself into a more distraction-free writing experience than my computer can provide (“option →” to switch screens is too easy a way to multitask).
  5. Living on the bleeding edge of the future of books.
  6. Connecting the dots in the worlds largest encyclopedia in a whole new way.
  7. I don’t want to just look at stars, I want to know them.
  8. Speaking of stars, to preserve digital design the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian just added the first app to it collection, it visualizes your iTunes library as a galaxy.
I’ve been staunchly in the “technology should not distract us from life serendipity” crowd for a while. If used properly, I think the iPad has great potential to enhance serendipity (much more than computers and smartphones, I think, but I digress) while also reduce life-sucking clutter from other parts of our life. Of course, most apps out there don’t come anywhere close to increasing serendipity, but it’s all about what we allow into our lives how we use them.
posted by thebestsophist at 7:49 AM on September 12, 2013

My wife and I bought an iPad2, she likes it and uses it more than any of the other devices in our house. It never caught on with me. She uses it as a magical internet surfing game playing machine.

I bought an iPad mini when they came out. I love it for reading books and comics and things I've stashed in Instapaper and Twitter. My biggest complaint with the iPad2 was that it was too big and heavy.

My wife's biggest complaint about the iPad Mini is that it's too small (she uses reading glasses).

We both love to play board games, and now that we have two we play them more frequently.
posted by togdon at 8:25 AM on September 12, 2013

I'm on my second iPad - I got the original one, and now I'm using the latest one. I find that I use it mainly in two ways:

1. Reading in bed. I end almost every day this way - reading iBooks, reading my RSS feeds, following links in tweets that I starred for later follow-up. I'll also take breaks during the day, sometimes, and do some reading in bed vs. reading at my desk on the computer.

2. Traveling. If I don't plan on working during my travel, I take the iPad rather than my laptop. It's more pleasant to use than my iPhone for many apps that involve reading.

And I used to pack my suitcase with a bunch of books to read - I read a LOT on vacations - and those books took a lot of space, and added a lot of weight. Now I just take my iPad, and maybe a magazine or two for periods when the iPad can't be used.

One of my cats likes Game for Cats - but I sure wouldn't buy (or keep) an iPad just for that!
posted by jeri at 12:09 PM on September 14, 2013

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