Whether you love them or hate them, Apple has been setting records with iPad sales, and they are invading the business world fast. They cannot fully replace a computer, and most of what you can do on an iPad can be done in some form or fashion on a smartphone. We are already loaded up with gadgets, so why is it that so many business people are investing hundreds in one more device?
Smartphones are easy to carry but too small to do much typing or reading. Laptops can be bulky, heavy, and clunky, and you have to wait for them to power on. Lightweight iPads are the perfect in-between size for people who travel extensively or spend a lot of time outside the office. For road warriors, they are by far the best choice on a plane as they actually fit reasonably well on that tiny tray table.
They also fit inside any briefcase and most folios, and with battery life that can last a full workday – even a long one – there’s no need to drag along power cords. Slim keyboards and styli for writing are available for those who don’t like onscreen typing.
The single most popular app on an iPad is of course email. Many people start the day with their iPad, pulling out it first thing in the morning to check weather, email, and the news. It’s easier to read than a small smartphone screen and faster to access than hauling out a laptop and waiting for it to boot up. Basically it’s one of the easiest ways to stay connected via email when you are out of the office.
That’s not all. Any well-known social media site has an iPad app especially designed to make the most of the size and interface. Tweet away, research a sales appoint on LinkedIn, or update Facebook with your latest activities.
For those of you who prefer face-to-face, try video conferencing. Apple’s FaceTime is built in, which allows easy Apple-to-Apple connections. Skype is also available and is practically the standard for person-to-person video calls these days. Setup on your iPad is almost effortless, and the high quality camera means picture quality is good as long as you have a good Internet connection.
If you left something important at the office (and it’s digital!), connect in using one of the many remote login tools. Depending on the tools you can access an office PC or the server, run software, open files, etc.
Since it’s so easy to open up and iPad and do a little work, you can make the most of your precious time no matter where you are. Got a few minutes between meetings? Check email, browse the latest news stories, review a presentation, or even read the next chapter of a great business book that inspires you. If you can think of something you could get done in a few minutes if only you had the right application, go search the iTunes store, because undoubtedly someone has already thought of that and created a tool just for your needs.
Using apps that store data in the cloud means you never have to worry about bringing things with you. All you need is a good Internet connection. For example, if you track all your meeting notes in a tool like Evernote, you can get to them not only on your iPad but also your smartphone, computer, and the web browser of any Internet-connected computer. No more worries about sifting through paper or copying files to a USB key, which saves you stress and time.
The camera is also a big timesaver. Instead of typing in descriptions of something you see – the label on a favorite bottle of wine, for example – take a snapshot. That will help you remember it, but you can take it even further. Load it into Evernote and add all your comments for tracking purposes, or snag a wine-specific app. Some of these can read the text from the label so you don’t have to type it, and some can even match up the label with an entire database of wine, pulling in all kinds of information about it so that all you need to add is a few comments on what you liked and maybe where you got it.
Don’t forget to use the camera to take a snapshot of whiteboards and hand-written notes for safe-keeping. Be sure to zoom in after you take the photo to make sure it’s readable and not blurry.
It may be superficial, but carrying an iPad has a certain tech-savvy “cool factor.” It says you are smart enough to invest in good tools that make you better at your job, and you like to keep up with technology. In most businesses, these two things are meaningful.
Keep in mind you can use your iPad in meetings not just to take notes but also as a demonstration tool. Whether you have videos, a presentation, drawings, or documents, you can pull these up on your iPad and pass them around to anyone you need to see them. This presents a much different image than handing out stacks of paper. In some cases it can really make an impact. For example if you need to share images like architectural drawings, it is extremely useful to use an iPad because you can easily zoom in and zoom out to find exactly the information you wish to see.
Where to Start
The Apple store is the first step, whether it’s your nearby bricks-and-mortar shop or the online store. You can choose the regular iPad or the smaller iPad mini. Decide whether you want a cellular plan or simply a wireless connection. If you have a smartphone you may already have a data plan that will work with an iPad, either with a small add-on fee or by tethering it to your smartphone. If you plan to take a lot of pictures or videos, store a huge music library, or keep a number of large files in the iPad’s memory, get more storage capacity: 64 or 128GB. Otherwise you will probably be fine with a smaller amount. Get a car charger and a spare cable so you can keep one at work and one at home. The last decisions are the hardest: black or white, and what case do you want to match?