“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” Steve Jobs
However, many of the products developed under the visionary direction of the recently departed founder of Apple did change the world, and were important. For travelers, one of the most innovative products from the Apple factory is, of course, the iPad, and it’s worth taking a look at why it makes such an excellent travel companion.
First, for all its computing power and capabilities, it’s extremely lightweight — even for travelers used to bringing the sparest of belongings. The TSA will let you keep it in your bag while going through security, too. Its huge high-resolution screen, despite its slim size, is a godsend on long flights or any other situation requiring the killing of extended periods of time. (Travel much?) Battery life? Phenomenal, easily gets eight hours and sometimes 10.
The touchscreen interface is ideal for folks on the go. Standing up, sitting down, waiting in line, hands full of bags, having a smoke, eating a sandwich … all are possible times when you can surf the web, read books, or flip through photos with a flick of single finger. For those who can’t seem to leave the office totally behind while on vacation, the iPad is your workstation as well. Typing is a challenge on the touchscreen, but the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard makes it seem like you’re on a full-sized laptop. Keep all your files in the cloud. Add a VoIP application (like TruPhone) and your iPad can be your business phone, by tapping its WiFi connective capabilities. In short, there is little you cannot do work-wise while on the go.
Some downsides? Sure, but certainly not insurmountable. It doesn’t support Flash, so there are some limitations there with some sites. Can’t multitask, but is that such a bad thing really? We’ve already mentioned typing on-screen, which is easily solvable by bringing along the add-on keyboard. Another add-on you’ll need: A camera connection kit ($29) since there’s no USB port. Also, it’s not very friendly with the omnipresent Microsoft Word or Excel documents, but they’re pretty much disasters anyway.
A few more tips: Get a case. It’s great protection, and keeps your computer stealthy. And while on the topic of stealthiness, be aware when using your iPad in public. A tourist using a beautiful computer is a major target in many countries, so be stealthy yourself in certain locales to avoid becoming a robbery victim.
Finally, part of the fun of having an iPad is loading it up with cool apps, so here are a few we recommend with particular utility for traveling:
Kayak – The best search engine for flights and hotels. Their iPad app is even easier to use than their website.
WiFi Finder – Unless you want to rack up serious roaming charges, you’ll likely be turning off the 3G and switching to WiFi for most of your trip. This app will find you all the free WiFi you can handle in cities around the world.
OffMaps – Awesome iPad and iPhone app that lets you download city maps for use even in offline mode. Your iPad’s GPS is accessed and applied to the maps, even when you’re not Internet-connected or out of 3G mode.
WeatherBug Elite – You get an insane amount of weather information for any spot in any corner of the globe, for $4.99.
iBooks – Assuming you’ve already loaded up your iTunes library with enough movies and TV shows to keep you occupied, the iBooks e-reader and iBookstore give you an interactive library at your fingertips. Great way to read.
Happy trails, to you as well Mr. Jobs.