I'll admit it—I was skeptical. I had tried out other people's tablet computers and could not see the point. But then, one day, I lucked out. A friend had bought the iPad 2 for his wife, and his wife could not see the point of it, either, and so she sent hers to me. And once I started exploring, I realized that I had been stymied in my efforts to understand the point of tablet computers, because I don't do the kinds of things that other users of tablet computers do.
Many of my friends had iPads, but I had not seen them use their iPads as anything other than toys: checking facebook or Twitter, doodling, playing games, and the like. I had a few friends who used theirs for business, mostly to show videos or pictures of their products, but those kinds of uses always felt too much like high-pressure sales, so I was resistant to those ideas.
But then my iPad 2 arrived in the mail. Of course, while I was charging it, one of the very the first things I did was to go searching for software, and I found all the useful standbys like Evernote, completely free. If only I had had such access when I was a student, I would have been in heaven (I still remember when I got my first laptop, in 1993, and how free I felt then)! Applications like Evernote would have made it even easier to study and get good grades, especially with different highlighting colors.
But, alas, I am no longer a student; I am a businesswoman, and one of the things I do is I give a lot of presentations, so the first truly productive thing I did was to upload one of my shorter presentations into my iPad. Now, because I don't have to carry my laptop to hook up to televisions any longer, I can simply carry in my iPad, hook up the 30-pin to HDMI cable, and my presentation is ready to go in seconds. But that isn't all I found that the iPad 2 is useful for; I discovered some free apps (for those of you not au courant, that is short for applications, i.e., software) that will transform anyone's iPad experience.
The first is a compass that is hooked to the satellite grid (my guess is that it uses Google Earth maps). Not only is it useful for figuring out feng shui, and problems like placing plants in the landscape, but you can set a marker and it will bring you back within a few feet. No more trying to remember where you parked the car; simply fire up the Commander Compass Lite, mark the spot, and when you're ready to return, you'll be pointed to the car! You can also use it as an online map, which will mark your location as you travel (don't take your eyes off the road—get a passenger to help you). If you're not a fan of the turn-by-turn GPS, then Commander Compass Lite will definitely help you get where you are going! It's also a wonderful tool for hiking, geocaching, and all kinds of other activities which involve orienteering, travel, and other location-based activities. Since I attend dozens of meetings a month, usually in places I have never been before, this app is really a lifesaver for me.
The second, even more powerful app that has the potential to really change the world is an educational app. Now you can get a university education for free. That is, a hundred per cent free, with a powerful app called iTunes U. This is a collection of university-level lectures which span numerous topics in science, literature, the arts, history, and many more subjects. The lectures are of very high quality and the lectures, like the app, are free to download. If you use the iCloud feature, you can also watch the lectures on any iCloud-enabled device. Now you can be just as educated as you want to be!
Other free and useful apps you may want to check out include flashcard deck creators (I'm using one for learning German vocabulary and declensions), a notepad which can recognize handwriting and allows you to draw with graph paper, and, of course, a variety of programs which may be useful for people with various needs (I got a tuner so I could practice violin intonation).
The one thing that drives me crazy is the fingerprints on the glossy screen. I'm just picky that way, I suppose. So I tucked a microfiber cloth meant for cleaning glass into my case, and I give it a good wipe down after I power the device off. If you turn off the apps (otherwise they will run in the background), the battery life on the iPad 2 is excellent; mine has been running for days without needing a recharge, including syncing it to my desktop computer. (If you have not figured this trick of turning off background apps out yet, tap the "home" button once to get the main screen back. Tap the "home" button twice more and the apps running in the background will appear at the bottom of your screen. Now touch the app you want to close and hold your finger there until the app icon starts to wiggle; a little red circle will appear on the upper-left hand corner and touching that circle will completely shut down your app.)
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I'm a touch typist, and while the on-screen keyboard is taking some getting used to, and I'm not near up to my usual 85 word-per-minute typing speed, so far I've been able to mostly look only once to position my hands and the touch typing can be fairly accurate.
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It took me forever to figure out a few things; syncing the iCal was one that I spent weeks figuring out. I wasn't ready for the iPad 2 a year ago, or even a few months ago, but now that I can see the value for my business—not only for scheduling networking meetings and doing presentations, but also for many other uses, and for enhancing my education, I love mine and wouldn't be without one again! (Time to charge mine up now and head out for yet another business meeting!)