Decisions, Decisions – Why get an iPad?

30 Apr

A friend recently asked me if she should get an eBook reader or should she pay the extra and go with an iPad.  It got me thinking about the things I do with my iPad and what I would do in her place.


My first response was to ask her if reading was all she wanted to do, and if so, maybe a dedicated eBook reader such as the Kindle or the Sony eReader might be better.  I have no experience with the latter, but my father has a Kindle and I have to admit it is very easy on the eye.  Certainly, it would be easier on the budget to go with this option.  Still, I am a keen reader and have many eBooks on my iPad, and find it really comfortable. Another thing to ask, if you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or similar, is if you can do all you want to do with Apps on that device.  All of the things I do on my iPad could be done on an iPhone or iPod touch, but the big difference for me is the screen size, and the keyboard size.  Things are much easier to read and see on an iPad than on the iPhone, and it is also easier to enter text with the larger keyboard. The third thing you need to consider is whether you need Internet access on the go, or whether a Wi-Fi only device is the go.  If you already have a smart phone that you use, then perhaps  Wi-Fi is all you need.

Mum’s Apps

Pages Pages - Apple– I use this word processor to write most of my blog posts, such as this one that I am writing while doing what mothers do often:  waiting.  I also write them while breastfeeding the baby, having a coffee or any time I might have a moment.  While visiting relatives, I used a recipe template that comes with the app to record some family recipes.  If I’d had a 2nd or 3rd generation iPad, I could have taken a photo and immediately placed it in the recipe document.   You can export your files in Pages, Word or PDF format.  Pages is available for iPad only and is $10.49. There are other writing Apps in the iTunes store, but I love this cut-down version of the Pages that I already use on my iMac as the two naturally work well together.  I find the onscreen keyboard works for me, particularly when it comes to typing with one hand, but I also have a bluetooth keyboard I can use.

PDF files – School newsletters are emailed to me as PDF files, as are various catalogues, such as my favourite craft catalogues that I like to keep on hand.  There are several PDF readers I have used in the past, but I find iBooks is perfect.  If you open a PDF file in Safari or mail, you can choose to have it open and save in iBook.  Once there, you can edit the file to save it in another category.  I have categories set up for newsletters, craft, and various genres and authors.  There are some PDF Reader Apps around that let you do interesting things, such as making annotations, if you need to, but I don’t.

Banking and shopping – All the major banks have banking apps, and a few of the major stores have shopping apps.  Just a caution:  be very careful using these Apps over public Wi-Fi as your connection may not be secure.  I find my banking App easier to use than the website.

“Extra Hard Division” Folder – everyone in my Facebook group knows I have the odd game on my iPad.  Some are easy for my children to find, but others that I would prefer them not to have for various reasons (one being that I don’t want them to end a winning streak – selfish woman that I am) I try to hide in folders with unattractive names.  It mostly works!  I like word games and logic puzzles.  I wish I could change the file names and icons of the Apps to disguise them better, as I can do on my iMac.  (Sneaky, I know!)

Podcasts – I have a lot of video podcasts on my iPad.  You can view these on iPhones and iPod Touches too, but you can’t beat the screen size, particularly if it is instructional.  Also, once downloaded, you don’t need a Wi-Fi connection. My favourite podcast is Scrap Time. Christine Urias presents usually 3 video podcasts each week.  She covers all paper craft, reviews lots of new products, demonstrates techniques and projects, and occasionally features her daughter Gemma with some child-friendly projects.  Below is Episode 735 on YouTube, however I choose to subscribe through iTunes.

My children love:

Sesame Street – short 15 minute episodes focusing on a letter, number or word.  At the time of writing there are 79 episodes.  I like to keep a few at any time on my iPad.  If your child’s class is covering a particular letter or number, it might be fun to download a couple of podcasts relating to that concept.  They are all very entertaining.  I just wish they would release some of the songs that they play on the show sometimes, such as Elmo and Elvis Costello singing “A Monster Came and Ate My Red 2” (proof that Sesame Street is often wasted on the young and should be in prime time.)  Download it from the iTunes Store.

Penguin Storytime – Storytelling with Liz Shanks.  I reviewed this podcast a little while ago.  You can download 15 episodes from the iTunes Store. You won’t regret having it handy for your children.

iTunes U - AppleiTunes U – My favourite video iTunes U course  is Classic Mythology with Dr Joseph Hughes from Missouri University, which looks at the great Greek and Roman Myths.   I’ve also downloaded lectures on other topics such as health, parenting, history, art and any other topic that has taken my fancy.  Having universities at my fingertips is just amazing.  There are video podcasts and iTunes U lectures in every subject.  You can find free videos with workouts, craft, cooking, travel guides and more.  Of course, there are also lots of audio courses and lectures available, and I tend to listen to these on my iPod.  Recently Apple released a free iTunes  U App for iPad.  It is really helpful for finding and organising your lectures. I also have a number or audio podcasts and iTunes U courses that I listen to, but I tend to listen to these on my iPod while driving in the car.

Calendar – Standard wall calendars just don’t work for a family of 8.  Each little square quickly fills up and the whole thing turns into a chaotic, dysfunctional mess.  I love to be able to place events in my Calendar App and sync it with my computer.    I can also print weekly calendars and stick them on our wall.  There are other Calendar Apps offering more features, but this one is perfect for me.

Craft – I am a keen scrapbooker and card maker.  I use my iPad to keep PDF files of catalogues, plus project sheets, page maps and ideas.  Some of these are in jpg format, such as photos of cards and layouts, but I often save project instructions from the Internet as PDF files and then load them into the iPad.  It saves printing out and I always have them on hand.  At this point I’d like to put in a shameless plug for my cousin’s blog at, and also mention the website where I get many of my ideas, plus which is the website for the Scraptime podcast mentioned above.

Lists – To Do lists, shopping lists, reminders:  I thrive on lists.  I find the Notes App very handy for my shopping lists and the Reminders App handy for my To Do, Packing, and Organising lists.  It is entirely satisfying to mark them as Done.

Child Amuser – OK, I am a big supporter of amusing kids with real-life activities.  I pack colouring pencils and paper in the nappy bag to keep my 4 y.o. amused when out, but sometimes long waits happen unexpectedly and it helps to have Apps that amuse, entertain and educate.  Recently my family was held up  away from home, and the wait looked like it would be quite some time, however we have a number of board games on the iPad and they happily played Monopoly until we were able to move on.  The family policy is that only educational games are on the iPad (except for the Extra Hard Division Folder) during school terms, so when we are out and about the children naturally tend to play Math Drill and Practice games, read stories or use one of the hand writing Apps.  If Luddites look at you sideways for having your children sitting there playing games, at least you can be smug in the knowledge that their games are educational.  There. I’ve said it.

Maps – I only have Wi-Fi, so if I’m going somewhere and need some directions, I’ll look it up before I go and take a screen shot for reference.  There are other Apps out there to provide GPS navigation, and I believe there is even a maps app that you can use offline.

Television– I can only speak for Australia, but there are several Apps that will allow you to watch catch-up Television for free.  The best is iView, the ABC’s App.  Most programs showing on Aunty will be available in iView for about a fortnight, however some, particularly locally produced shows, may be up for much longer.  Ten has Apps for its Ten, Eleven and Sports channels that offer a limited number of television shows such as Neighbours, plus a YTT (Young Talent Time) app that allows you to watch shows through live stream, although they are not available at other times.  I have been able to watch other shows on the Channel Ten website through Safari, but it has been a bit hit-and-miss as far as being able to watch shows.  Some times I have no problems, and other times I run into repeat after repeat of the Bondi Vet promo.  ABC iView has most of the shows I love anyway and it means I can watch them when it suits me and I’m not tied in to a schedule.  I have seen Apps for TV in other countries, including a BBC App that we can use here but have to pay a subscription for (apart from a few sample shows), but usually they are restricted to their country of origin.

What I’d like to be able to do

Unlike my sisters and a few other fortunate friends, I have a first generation iPad.  They are fortunate to have second generation iPads with camera.  When we do video calls on the Internet using either Skype or Facetime, I am always seated in the same place while they can take their iPad around the house. One of my sisters has similar tastes in craft to me, and she often takes the iPad into her craft room and pans it around so I can have a good look at her latest projects.  While I’m in the one place, they can cart their iPad around and be making dinner in the kitchen or be hanging out the washing (or both!)  I’d also like the immediacy of being able to take a photo or video and immediately incorporating it in an email or a project such as an eBook.

Some printers talk to your iPad.  Mine doesn’t, but it isn’t a big handicap as I rarely need to print things anyway, and I’m quite happy to send them to the printer via my computer.

What to do, What to do….

If I was my friend, I think we all know I’d be heading off to buy a new 3rd Generation iPad, probably Wi-Fi only, but I’m not my friend and we don’t have the same needs.  If you have a laptop and a smart phone, you may not see the need for an iPad at all, and an eReader might be the thing for you if reading eBooks is what you really want to do.  As it stands, My first generation mobile phone, my digital camera and my very basic prepaid mobile phone do very well for me.

5 Responses to “Decisions, Decisions – Why get an iPad?”

  1. handmadebylou 03/05/2012 at 11:24 am #

    Thanks for the plug! xx L

  2. Polly Robinson 03/05/2012 at 5:25 pm #

    Nicely reasoned response – lots of mac geeks would simply have said ‘get an iPad’! 🙂

  3. Melanie 06/05/2012 at 9:12 am #

    I am most excited I stumbled upon your blog. My school district is going to a BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) policy next year and I want to find as many ways as possible to reach my students through technology. This post already gave me some great ideas for apps I need to check out! Thanks!

    • Sarah DeBellis 06/05/2012 at 11:01 am #

      Hi Melanie,
      Thank you for taking the time to give me that feedback. I’m pleased I could help. I hope you find the rest of the blog useful. I’m fiddling around with App Links pages at the moment – a work in progress – and there should be some more going up soon.

  4. Lynn A. Davidson 13/09/2012 at 2:48 am #

    Thanks, Sarah, for commenting on my blog to help with my decision and including the link to this great post. Naturally, I don’t know what my future needs will be but for now if I get an e-reader it will be only to read books that I don’t or can’t have in print. It also seems to be easier to carry to appointments and read while waiting. I am reading War and Peace now and that one does not travel with me. 🙂

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