Is the iPad 2 for you?
Leeds Student Tech gave Rosanna Pound-Woods an iPad 2 for two weeks to see how the 10-inch tablet intergrated into her student life.
A luxury for some, a necessity for others… but is the iPad 2 a student must-have? Whilst perhaps most at home being read as a newspaper substitute by suited commuters on the tube, Apple’s second generation tablet is slowly edging its way into offices, family homes, and now university campuses.
As a keen blogger, social networker and Apple fan, it came as little surprise that the iPad 2 quickly became an integral part of my student life. Superficially, it’s impossible not to love the product’s practicality – light weight, portable and user friendly, it fits into any bag and has uses in every situation. A long battery life means that hours spent waiting around in the union between lectures can be filled with smooth, seamless web-browsing, particularly handy for a house hunting first year like myself. Crystal clear screen resolution and iPad optimised apps for social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter make the browsing experience as enjoyable as on an ordinary laptop.
At home, the device is large enough to watch on demand television programmes on, but small enough to curl up in bed with. Whilst cooking, the device’s speaker quality falls someway between that of an iPhone and MacBook, making it the perfect portable entertainment system.
In cafés or on trains, iPad editions of newspapers such as The Guardian combine a simplistic interface with a user friendly swiping system, and are the clear way forward in the wake of the declining print press. I found another excelling moment for the device to be with my new favourite app, Flipboard, which brings together online content from your favourite magazines and newspapers in a flip-book style magazine.
In terms of university life, the iPad 2 is the perfect lecture companion/note-taking device, especially for someone who can’t be bothered to lug a heavy laptop in everyday, but finds the prospect of typing up handwritten notes tedious and time-consuming. As a relatively speedy touch-typer, I was curious as to whether I could transfer this skill to the iPad 2, and was pleasantly surprised to find just how easily I could use its touch screen keypad. Notability is a brilliant app for note-taking, and for the lazier amongst us, Auditorium records lectures superbly.
Other student-oriented iPad 2 features of note include iBooks and iTunes U. iBooks allows users to purchase digital textbooks with a variety of multimedia features. Meanwhile iTunes U features downloadable videos and recordings, largely of lectures, from a variety of global universities and on a range of topics. Current material does seem a little thin on the ground, but with a little investment from more universities, iTunes U could be a valuable teaching resource in years to come.
All this pro-iPad 2 gushing aside, have I actually found any problems with the device? Firstly, the ability to type lecture notes, emails and blog posts is brilliant, but the dirty fingerprints left over on the screen afterwards mean a constant need to clean off smudges and a few shocked remarks from course mates at the end of each lecture. Secondly, the app market’s refusal to recognise the need for iPad optimisation means that several regularly used apps (Blogger and NME for example) came up as tiny, iPhone sized blips in the middle of the screen, and any attempt to increase their screen size means horrendously pixelated picture quality.
Aside from this fairly trivial nit-picking, the main downside of carrying around an iPad 2 has been feeling like a bit of a target. Tablets still seem to be a bit of a luxury, and are so high in price that a student using one stands out like a sore thumb. Part of me can’t quite justify the thought of spending so much money on such a luxury item. Saying that, now’s the perfect time to make use of Apple’s special educational discount – you can get student discount of up to 15% on Mac hardware and software at the Apple on Campus online store. If you’ve got the willpower to save up, or can wait until Santa’s kind enough to bring you one, it’s worth it… but for the prudent amongst us, a smart phone-laptop combo just about does the job.