I am wrapping up my iPad mini experiment after only a week.
The goal was to see if I could possibly transition to using an iPad mini — paired with a Logitech mini Ultralight Keyboard Cover — as a replacement for my MacBook Air… and perhaps my iPhone too.
The answer is no. At least within a reasonable amount of time and effort.
Some of the failings of iOS are due to my writing intensive lifestyle, and the iPad + Logitech, while workable for email and other non-intensive writing may work out, for me, the loss in fluidity makes it a show stopper.
Also, the keyboard is workable though small, but working on my lap is an issue since the keyboard is so small I am forced to press my legs together tightly to create a platform, like I did in NYC at the Social Media Week events yesterday. And the pairing almost flew off my lap several times when I shifted my weight.
Second, connectivity. Since I was contemplating the truly radical step of doing away with my iPhone, and trying to use the iPad as my sole ‘proximal’ (mobile) device, I looked into VOIP options. And they aren’t good.
I had a Google Voice number, but it turns out that you can’t call out via Google Voice on the iPad. That’s because the app thinks you’re on an iPhone, and when dialing phones it calls you and the other person. It doesn’t operate that way on Mac, though. So, Google Voice would allow me to receive calls, but not send. (There is some way of doing this with two other apps plus Voice, but that seems so rickety.)
Skype allows you to call and receive calls from iPad, so I bought a Skype number. The problem is that when I am not using it, I keep my mini in a bag, and I hardly noticed when it was ringing yesterday. I potentially could cover that with a bluetooh headset, but my goal here was (ostensibly) was to decrease the number of devices I carry.
So: I have 14 days to return the smart cover and 30 days to return the iPad mini, so I guess I will be taking them in this week. The Logitech mini Ultralight Keyboard Cover I am stuck with, but I bet I’ll be able to sell on eBay pretty fast.
The real solution here is to make the iPad mini an iPhone, instead of a mini. Or at least make it an option.
One friend pointed out that I could put the iPhone and the mini on a shared data plan, and just keep the iPhone, as well, which takes the ‘using the iPad min as a phone’ out of the equation. But honestly, the iPad mini as a straight up replacement for my Air isn’t happening. The keyboard is small, but workable, but the thousand tiny things that don’t work make it a torture, instead of a boost.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Strangely enough, it turns out that I could do a better job dropping the iPhone with my Air, aside from the form factor. I’d definitely have to get a bluetooth headphone or a Pebble in that case. We’ll have to see.
And thankfully, Apple gives me 30 days to return the mini, so no real expense involved.
Works beautifully. I used it for a few minutes on Twitter, writing emails. Now the standard Apple wireless keyboard seems big. It will take a while to figure out the motor skills of touching the screen instead of mousing, though.
The image below was what I was afraid would happen to me, in reverse. I couldn’t remember what color keyboard I had ordered when I got to the Apple store to buy the iPad the other day, and the order that Logitech mailed me didn’t say. I guessed black, bought a black iPad min, and — yay! — a black keyboard arrived today.
And here is the mini and keyboard cover on top of the 10” Air it will be replacing. About same thickness, but half the size.
It’s been a period of changes, and I am contemplating a few large ones.
A Three-Part Mind: GigaOM Research, stoweboyd.com and underpaidgenius.com
I stepped into the role of lead researcher (‘curator’) for GigaOM Research’s Social focus area back in early December, and as a result, I’ve been capturing a great deal of my thnking about social business, social tools in the business setting, and the future of work, over there. And there is a lot going on in that sector. [Note that GigaOM Pro has been renamed GigaOM Research, although the subdomain is still pro.gigaom.com.]
Probably because of that reorientation more of the writing that used to find its way to underpaidgenius.com is winding up here, on stoweboyd.com. There are a few reasons, but the most critical factor is this: I don’t think I can effectively and meaningfully discuss the impacts of technology on business, media, and society without including a great deal from other disciplines, especially cognitive science and psychology, economics, and even politics. By politics I don’t mean handicapping who will be voted in as dogcatcher, but I do mean the political issues that shape the contours of our increasingly webified world culture. This means more of my mutterings here will have a strong element of social criticism. So be it. I will be more gonzo here, from now on: there will be more of what I believe, here, and not just what I am observing.
One side effect is that underpaidgenius become a place to see what I am cooking, eating, watching, reading, and listening to, along with handicapping the dogcatcher election. However, everything else is now fair game for stoweboyd.com, so brace yourself.
[I am also writing at beaconstreets.com, but that is local activism for a more walkable Beacon NY, where I live. Nothing much is going to change there.]
A New Generation Of Gear
I am reaching the end of a gear generation. I currently write almost exclusively on a 2011-era 10” MacBook Air. It has been the best laptop I’ve had, following on in the tradition of four or five other macbooks that preceded it. I have an iPhone 4S, which is a good smartphone. I had a first generation iPad until recently, but found it really difficult to integrate into my world: it was not a good writing solution, was roughly the size and weight of my Air, and lacked a good keyboard. I had to lug around a bluetooth keyboard if I was traveling with it, and that made it less appealing than the Air. Lastly, I have a 2006 Apple Cinema display on my desk, and the Air can drive the monitor well, with great resolution. However, the monitor is so old that iTunes’s HDCP-encoded movies won’t play on it.
Recently, I had a discussion with Per Håkansson about his set up, and I am tempted to experiment with something similar to his, which is fairly radical.
I don’t like phone calls. I mean, I am perfectly happy to have a synchronous audio-only conversation with someone if we’ve arranged to do so. But otherwise, I’d rather not. If you’re a pal, and it’s urgent, text me or tweet me. If necessary, I’ll call you back, but If it’s not urgent, use text, email, or twitter.
The iPhone is a convenient form factor since it’s small enough to put in my pocket, but it’s too small for almost everything, like writing, or reading anything more sophisticated than an email or a Kindlized text-only book. It’s ok for maps, I grant you.
So, I am contemplating eliminating my cell phone and Air, and transitioning to two devices:
(I say ‘proximal’, because these are not primarily mobile devices: they are the devices we keep on our person. They are always with us, even in the home or office.) The Mini will be fully loaded, with wifi and cellular, and I plan to switch to using Google Voice as my only ‘phone number’.
I already use Google Voice as my voice mail, and as a way to make calls when I am sitting at my desk. The only oddball case will be walking down the street with my Mini in my jacket pocket or in my backpack when the ‘phone’ rings. I guess I will have to get used to keeping my Mini earphones plugged in. That’s the part we’ll have to see about. I can easily see myself walking along, texting on the Mini.
The biggest difference in this set up is that I won’t be walking around with two devices — iPhone and Air — when I leave my office for any length of time. I will just have the Mini. No adapter to connect the phone to the Air. No tethering the iPhone to provide data connection for the Air. Today, I am stuck with schlepping two devices whenever I travel.
One interesting wrinkle is that I will be able to use the same Logitech keyboard for both the Mini and the iMac, which would make going back and forth easier. And of course, with Dropbox, all my files are available on both devices, although I don’t keep much in my files except photos, and things to read, watch, or listen to.
So: I plan to buy the Mini early next week and move the iMac back to my office around the same time. I will keep the iPhone and the Air for a few months, just to see if it all works.
There is something almost seismic about making such a huge shift.
I’ve been motivated in part by the team at Hyper Island. I sat in on a master class led by the Hyper Island folks in NYC this week, and several (all?) of the teaching team used Minis when presenting, and the form factor looks perfect for that. Very liberating to walk around with the Mini in one hand, and not bound to a laptop on a lectern. That’s where I met Per, and learned about his similar gear switch.
I also think the Mini will be the perfect reading device, and not just for kindlized book, but anything.
I am certain I will have to invest effort into approximating the Chrome plugins I use on my Mac everyday — Asana, Buffer, and so on — but I am already certain that bookmarklets work as expected on the Mini.
One interesting side effect of this is that I would retire my Northern VA cell phone number, after two years in NY.
And this does not mean I am planning to wear an iWatch if one appears.
It will be a grand experiment. Wish me luck.
The Setup / Rob Pike
Mark Gurman is the 18 year-old high school student and part-time Apple tracker at 9to5Mac who had a prodigious series of successful predictions leading up to this week’s Apple WWDC. His sources indicate that Apple will be unveiling Retina display versions of the MacBook Air in the near term:
Apple also working on MacBook Airs and iMacs with Retina Displays Mark Gurman via 9to5Mac
According to sources, the MacBook Retina Display that will debut at WWDC will not stay exclusive to Apple’s Pro notebook, but it will come down to the MacBook Air family as well.
Apple’s new MacBook Air will not see major changes across the entire computer like the next-generation MacBook Pro, but this update will truly be all about the Retina Display. The current MacBook Air form-factor is less than two years old. Just like the new iPad added components such as an A5X processor and 5MP camera to support the headlining 2048 x 1536 Retina Display, the new MacBook Air’s other enhanced components will be built-around the presentation of its gorgeous new screen.
Apple is preparing both new 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch models. These new Airs lack notable design changes, but feature fast and power-efficient Ivy Bridge processors and improved graphics engines to support the Retina Display, according to supply chain sources. The new Airs will also use improved Apple internal battery technology in order to support the battery life required by high-pixel-density screens such as the Retina Display, according to sources familiar with prototype versions of the super-thin notebook’s internal components.
I was considering buying a new 11” MacBook Air — mine is from late 2010 — but now I will wait. It would really make a big difference when using such a small screen.
Looks like Mac OS X Lion will bring Apple one step closer to a webbed OS. It seems that pre-release builds are already be delivered that way to developers through the App Store.
- Neil Hughes, Apple to release Mac OS X Lion through Mac App Store
Utilizing the App Store will allow owners of the new disc-drive-less MacBook Air to easily install the latest version of Mac OS X without the need for a physical disc. Apple ships its redesigned MacBook Air with a Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard reinstaller on a USB thumb drive, rather than a DVD.
Making the App Store a central component of the Mac experience will also allow Apple to remove disc drives from future hardware as the company looks toward a future of computing without the need for physical media. Removal of SuperDrives from devices like the MacBook Pro is expected to take place over the next 12-18 months, paving the way for even thinner designs with more internal space for a larger battery.
Apple has even moved to limit shelf space for software in its retail stores, allowing greater room for more profitable hardware to be sold. In February, it was rumored that the company actually plans to cease the sale of all boxed software at its retail locations.
Even smaller Macs, more room for batteries, and the imminent demise of the DVD as a distribution mechanism. These are all evidence of the rapid move to a web-first OS.
Yes, Apple has made some false moves on Mac OS — like Ping and mobile.me — but it will smooth those out in later versions of iOS that will support both families of devices.
I wonder when Apple will offer built-in access to the cell network — a la iPad — for the Macbook Air?
Agree with much of this. The new MacBook Air is the MacBook Pro’s worst enemy. When I got the new 13” MBA, I stopped using my 15” MBP completely. And it was a top-of-the-line i7 decked out with RAM and an SSD. In fact, I just sold it.
Apple will need to fundamentally alter the MBP line.
I would imagine the standard MacBook or the 13” MBP will be killed off. Maybe even both.
The 17” MBP, like Marco points out, is for a certain type of buyer, so they may not change it much. But the 15” is the real sweet-spot.
I’m all in favor of ditching the optical drive and making the entire thing thinner (though I’m really not sure they will with the Pro in this iteration). Meanwhile, the remaining extra space should be all about battery. Imagine if Apple sold a laptop promising something like 12-15 hours of battery life? Huge.
And yes, the glass screen should go too. It’s too heavy and too reflective.
So maybe we’d have a 15” MBP weighing in around 4 pounds. With 12 hours of battery life. Intel’s latest processors and 4 GB of RAM standard (expandable to 8 GB). More ports than the MBA. All starting around $1,600.
That would tempt me to switch back to a Pro. Though I still don’t think I would. The Air is that good.
A friend said ‘the Macbook Air is going to be the best laptop ever, like the Audi S8 is the best internal combustion automobile ever made.’ His point was that the next generation of car will be electric, and the esthetics and experience will completely change how we evaluate cars. The rise of tablets will shift our thinking about personal computing, totally, as well. But the new Macbook Air is incomparably better than what immediately came before.
I love my 11” Macbook Air, and I gave my old 13” Macbook Pro to my son Keenan, as he went back to college after Xmas, and I had not a single twinge of regret. The new Air is that good.
I am sure that Apple will airify all the macbooks, and really soon.
More good press for the MacBook Air. Consumer Reports updated its computer ratings earlier this week to include the machine, and while it had some criticisms, it ranked the 11-inch Air and its 13-inch sibling at the top of their respective categories and gave both machines a “recommended” rating. (Sorry, full rating access is for subscribers only.)
The 11-inch Air scored 67 points out of 100, well above its closest rival, the Toshiba Satellite, which scored a 51. Meanwhile the 13-inch model scored 78 points out of 100, two points better than the Toshiba Portege. The publication found the Airs’ performance, displays and ergonomics to be their stand-out features, but wasn’t quite as impressed by the speakers on the 11-inch model and the versatility of both, which it rated as “fair.”
So far, the 11” has been the best small laptop I have ever used, and I have used a bunch, including all the smallest Macs, going back to the Outbound in 1989, a Mac clone that was based on taking the chips out of a Mac Plus or SE.
Yes, I would switch to a lighter faster MacBook Air. I have tried using iPad as my only device, and like MG, I rapidly discovered it doesn’t quite make it, even with a bluetooth keyboard. And the idea of a built-in cellular modem is a winner.