Monday, May 10, 2010

iPad Lessons Learned in Germany

I spent last week in Munich on business and had a terrific time with several O'Reilly colleagues.  This was my first overseas trip with my iPad and I wanted to share a few of the things I learned along the way.

iPad battery life rocks!  Despite plenty of use in each direction the battery indicator never dropped below 60% on the 10-hour flights.  No, I didn't use the iPad for a full 10 hours on either of the long flights -- how long can you really stare at one screen?!  But I watched 2 movies on the way back, spent another 2-3 hours reading documents and I still wound up with a 66% charge by the time I landed.  Remarkable.  Btw, it almost seemed like watching video actually ate up less battery than reading.  After that first movie I still had a 90% charge left.

Apple's movie rental terms are stupid.  You can rent most movies for $2.99, which means you have access to them for 30 days.  Once you start watching a movie you have 24 hours to finish before it magically disappears from your iPad.  I'm betting this is more the movie studio's fault than Apple's, but this is a dumb model.  Why force me to finish the movie in 24 hours?  Why not just let me watch it as many times as I want in that 30-day window?  Would that adversely affect the income stream?  No.  As a result, I was always a bit concerned about whether I'd have enough time in the next 24 hours to finish any movie I started.  That shouldn't matter.  Once more international flights have wifi service rentals will be a much less attractive alternative to streaming.  Curiously enough, my Delta flights between Atlanta and Munich didn't have wifi but the ones between Indianapolis and Atlanta did.  Go figure.

Wikipanion Plus is a must.  No travel guide for me.  I simply bought the Wikipanion Plus app and downloaded a bunch of Munich- and Germany-related articles.  The Plus version of the app features an offline reader mode, so all those articles I pulled down were always available, regardless of my connection status.  This app is terrific.  The articles are well-formatted and include all the tables, charts and images you see on the wikipedia page.  I'm going to get a lot of use out of this one.

GoodReader is a bargain.  Do you use Google docs?  If so, cough up 99 cents for the GoodReader iPad app.  It's a gem that lets you view your Google docs while you're offline.

Make sure you've got a good wifi hotspot strategy before you leave home.  I thought I had a good plan but Verizon "challenges" left me without a connection for a couple of days.  Free hotspots are pretty rare in Germany, at least throughout the area of Munich where I was staying.  Hotels know they've got you over a barrel so they charge a small fortune for daily access.  My Verizon 3G card worked well...when it worked...but connections were often weak, generally no more than half strength.  I used that Verizon connection on my MacBook Pro as a hotspot for my iPad.  Even that solution was spotty as my iPad dropped the signal every minute or two and then had to be manually reconnected.  This, despite the fact that the two devices were no more than 10 feet away from each other.

The iPad is too small?  I don't think so but two of my coworkers made that comment.  One is from the U.K. and the other from Germany.  They both had seen iPad ads and were expecting a screen that was roughly the size of an 8-1/2 X 11" piece of paper, if not larger.  Once they played around with it a bit they both seemed to like the look and feel of the real device though.

Pity the poor Nook owner.  While waiting to check into my hotel I found myself sitting next to a Nook owner.  Her friend asked her how she liked her "Kindle" and was immediately corrected by the Nookie.  She went on to say she selected the Nook over the Kindle "because it lets me share books with my friends."  Yikes.  That means she actually knows somebody else with a Nook!  I couldn't resist sliding my iPad out of my bag to start reading next to her.  Yeah, that's right.  I noticed the envious glance and buyer's remorse in her eyes! :-)

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