Tips and techniques to help those who want to be more technologically savvy but may need a little more hand holding.


Lisa Niday - Saturday, February 18, 2012


It's been a long time since I have written a technology post, not that there haven't been technology worthy items, my husband had some health issues we have been dealing with (see the post). We are almost to the 3rd generation of the iPad and I haven't even written about it, shame on me.

I have a first generation iPad which was initially for my day job to demonstrate epubs. I have definitely enjoyed using it as an ebook reader, having completed several books now, I find the experience wonderful, especially for a road warrior. Not hauling books around is great and the cost of ebooks are substantially lower. Then I discovered I enjoyed using it on the plane for email and movies and I didn't have to worry about the passenger in front of me, pushing his seat back and catching my laptop screen and snapping it. The larger size screen is an improvement when reading email and surfing versus my iPhone, but not quite as good as my laptop. I still find I miss the power of my laptop and can be more productive in work with the laptop, but we all know space is at a premium on the plane these days.

We took my iPad on our spring break vacation last year and it was fabulous with the grandkids. I had downloaded a couple of games and these kept the kids engaged on the plane and at waiting times in the restaurant. We also downloaded a movie or two and had some books for them so I gave it high marks for a travel tool with children. Personally, I couldn't leave my laptop at home and replace it with the iPad so  I couldn't say I would recommend it for everyone's travel. However,  I would note I'm a power user and use some pretty hefty desktop apps on the computer that most people never even think about (i.e, Photoshop). I did try Keynote on the iPad and found it be satisfactory but haven't tried the Office apps yet. Now I must qualify all this with the fact this is the first generation iPad so it doesn't have as much horsepower as the current iPad.

My first experience with the iPad 2 came when I helped my mother replace a dead and dying 10 year old Mac laptop. She was using her iPhone for everything and we all know it doesn't have lots of screen real estate. She primarily does email, surfing and runs some apps for banking etc, so I felt the iPad was a good choice versus the laptop. I think she will agree, she uses hers all the time for reading email and surfing and of course, she uses the apps for some of her other functions. I think she is very happy as it gives her more screen real estate and definitely less weight than her previous laptop. She did find she had to have the 3G service turned on as she was so dependent on getting her email, etc that she couldn't afford to always be at the mercy of a wireless connection. But to be fair, neither of my parents have a hard wired phone or internet connection so this probably made sense.

Although my iPad does both 3G and wireless, just like hers, I have yet to ever turn on the 3G, but again I am wired at home with DSL have both a wired and wireless network, and carry a Verizon Mifi when I travel so I don't really find the need for the 3G. I think this decision should be based on your personal lifestyle and how you intend to use an iPad.

Now I can add a little more experience to the iPad. I purchased the Steve Jobs autobiography, a great read, but long. I wanted my husband to try the iPad to read the book but he showed no interest. I waited a couple of months and tried again. He suffered a stroke last June and sometimes finds the computer challenging, so I thought this might be easier, besides I am running out of space in our home for books. He has been able to read the book and found the iPad to be mostly intuitive. He really learns by reading, so I'm going to have him read a book about the iPad to help him along. He sometimes gets confused between tapping, doubleclicking, swiping, etc and think the book will give him the knowledge and training in a way in which he learns best. Tip: Know your methodology for learning, are you a reader, an experimenter, a hands on class kind of person? Whatever your path to learning, use your path to help you gain the most out of whatever device you use.

Rumors abound that we will see an iPad 3 announced the first part of March. I am waiting to see if this will move me to get a new iPad and try to leave the laptop at home sometimes. If you are going to replace laptops with an iPad be sure to have one for each person, sharing is difficult and you will find not worth the effort. For my parents, we could get 2 iPads for less money than a new Mac laptop and each of them could have their own customized experience, this would be my recommendation.

I have a good Boomer friend, who relayed her and her husband's experience. They had a computer die so he replaced it with an iPad. He does mainly surfing and email and his wife reports, the iPad purchase has fit the bill and he hasn't missed the computer.

So what are my recommendations? Here are a few things to consider whether this is right for you.

How do you use a computer today? Is it primarily for email and surfing the net? If so then this will fit the bill plus provide you an e-reader, an entertainment center (movies, music, and tv shows) and access to the wonderful world of apps where you can find most anything you can do with your tablet to be available for reasonable prices. If, on the other hand, you are power user of specific types of software (like graphics) then stay with a laptop. I have friends who use Office and have reported the Office apps on the iPad do most of the functions, but don't do everything full Office does, so this might fit the bill if you are business traveler and tired of lugging the laptop.

Do you use other Mac products? Do you have an iPhone, iPod or Mac computer? Then you will find the convenience of keeping your phone, email, calendar, address book all in sync a worthy venture in managing an electronic life. You will find the iPad can provide larger screen real estate than an iPhone or iPod, but less weight than a laptop.

Do you want an e-reader for the convenience of space and costs or do you travel and are tired of lugging books? Well the iPad is a fine e-reading device and then you get the other bonus points of doing email, net surfing and entertainment. If on the other hand you like the tangible feel of books, then this will not favor the iPad.

Do you have a need for portable entertainment? Now this can take many forms, it could be for you or your grandchildren. Do you want to listen to music, watch tv shows or movies or play games? Do you want portable entertainment when you take trips either in the airplane or car? Do you want entertainment for children when waiting at a restaurant? This can certainly be a reason to look or supplement your decision making process around the purchase of an iPad.

Do you need a wireless, 3G or the capability of both in an iPad? Wireless can be used on any wireless network, so it could be your home network if you have wireless or it could be a hot spot like Starbuck's. 3G means you can use it anywhere you can use your cell phone, you are not dependent on a wireless connection. You will pay more for a data plan for 3G as wireless requires none. You can choose to have the option to go either way (more money, but greater flexibility) then you can turn on the 3G on a monthly basis as you might have need and not incur the cost all the time. I choose this option so I can do either, but have never used mine on 3G. You will need to know which plan is most appropriate for you prior to purchasing an iPad.

What cell phone courier do you use? Verizon and AT&T each sell iPads and have varying rate plans. If you are already with one of these carriers, you will typically find the price is less expensive if you keep your iPad with the same carrier. Remember if you purchase wireless you may not need a data plan.

I would say I think the iPad is definitely a tool that most baby boomers will find fits their lifestyle, as with any other purchase of this magnitude, make sure it's the right choice for your life by considering the options prior to purchase. To have an iPad just to be cool, is not enough of a reason in my book, but I think I have given you many reasons to justify the expense if you needed them.

If you have purchased an iPad, weigh in on the conversation by leaving us your comments so we can start a dialog.

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