My First Trip with the iPad – A Few Quick Thoughts

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iPad travel bag

I took my first little trip with the iPad last weekend. I don’t travel much, for work or pleasure – something my wife and I are looking to improve on soon – but last weekend we took a little family mini-break down to the beach in south Texas. Our trip was only from Friday through Monday, but the weather was perfect and we had a great time.

Our short trip was my first real chance to take the iPad on the road for anything more than just normal out and about stuff here in Austin. I knew we’d have some stretches of downtime during our break and debated with myself about bringing my laptop – and ultimately decided to travel light with just the iPad and see how well it would serve me.

I ended up being very happy with my choice to take the iPad only, and of course I’ve got a few thoughts to share on how the iPad fared as a travel companion – and here they are:

Kit I took

The Kensington Sling Bag – This is a great lightweight and compact messenger style bag for the iPad. It happily carried my iPad 3G in its Vaja case, sync cables for iPad and iPhone, an Otterbox Defender case for my iPhone 4, and a Compass Mobile stand for the iPad. The only thing that wouldn’t quite fit inside it was my Bluetooth keyboard, which slipped into my gym bag for clothes etc.

Apple Bluetooth keyboard

iPhone 4

Compass Mobile stand for the iPad

As you can hopefully see in the photo at the top of the post, this was an extremely light way to travel on the ‘tech bag’ side of things. I was very happy to have the Kensington Sling Bag around for this. I’ll be reviewing it – and the Compass Mobile stand – soon, but the very short story on them is that they’re both now among my favorite iPad accessories.

iPad Battery Life Still Kicking Ass & Taking Names

Great battery life may not be the most glamorous of features, but it is definitely one that continues to impress and to make using the iPad such a pleasure day to day.

Our trip down to the coast was a little over four hours, during which the iPad was almost continuously on. I’m running the iOS 4.2 beta on this iPad, so it was not only on for four hours nearly continually, but it was running a number of apps in the Multitasking bar.

I had Maps running the whole time to track our progress, see which towns we were passing through, and show my daughter how close we were getting to the big blue body of water we were heading towards. Mapquest Navigator was also always on to provide us with turn-by-turn voice navigation. I also had Evernote open for general notes during the journey – things like which exits to look out for and similar. I also checked email and Twitter periodically.

The iPad left the house with the battery at 100% – and after it’s four hours of pretty heavy usage, it was still at near 60%.

Texas Sun Also Kicks Some Ass

The iPad got a temperature warning and went on strike for about five minutes roughly half way through our trip on Friday – when we had turned the AC way down and I was (stupidly) holding it in a spot where it was getting a full dose of sunlight through the windshield.

It recovered nicely and was back in service after just a short spell.

3G on an iPad 3G Would Be Nice

During the whole trip, I could not ever get a 3G signal on the iPad – even when traveling through large metropolitan areas and even when two of our iPhones could sit inches away from it and get perfectly good 3G coverage.

At first, I thought this was an issue with the iOS 4.2 beta – but I’ve since discovered it looks like an issue with iPad itself. The issue has persisted since getting back home Monday evening, I’ve spent a long while on the phone with AT&T and Apple tech support, and I’ve got a Genius appointment at my local Apple store to exchange it later this afternoon.

Apps That Shined, and One That Sucked

Mapquest Navigator was a very pleasant surprise. It’s just a $0.99 iPhone app, but I didn’t mind running it in pixel-doubled mode – as it did a great job of routing us correctly and providing perfect voice instructions. Our route was not complicated (pretty much south, south,south) but it always alerted us when it needed to, and provided great laughs for my daughter as we kept telling her ‘the lady in the iPad’ was very, very smart.

Evernote did its usual stellar job at being my go-to app for storing quick notes relating to the trip.

iA Writer was superb for taking review notes on several apps and accessories during the course of the weekend.

The only app that let down the side was the one that should be one of my best friends, as a blogger – the WordPress app which has just recently been updated. I was able to post one very short news post during a bit of quiet time away from the beach with the app. I tried posting another little article with it and it was utter fail. I would hit the ‘Publish’ button, it would show the spinning wheel of wait for a bit, and act as if it had done its job. Then I’d check the site and find that the post had not got there, and confirm in the app itself that it still just showed under local drafts.

I tried closing down the app via the Mulitasking bar, rebooting the iPad, and multiple attempts to publish. All failed, with no error message and no workaround that I could find. Between this major failure and the app’s striking lack of many basic features, I’d have to say the latest WordPress app is still just as lame as it has been throughout its time on iOS.

All in All

I’m glad I took the iPad out for a little road trip. I never once regretted not having a laptop around – partly because this was a mini-vacation anyway and I had very few moments where I felt like doing any real work and partly because the iPad did well for all the bits of ‘casual work’ I wanted to get done – looking at new apps, making review notes and so on. The only big failure was down to an individual app, as mentioned above.

If somebody (please please) would just write a decent blogging app for iOS, I could easily travel with just the iPad even on a working holiday I think.

How about you all? Have you traveled much with your iPads for business and / or pleasure? If so, what are your thoughts on this?

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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8 thoughts on “My First Trip with the iPad – A Few Quick Thoughts”

  1. If you can't get a 3G signal, try hard booting it. That's what works when my iPhone has that problem occasionally.

    As for the Kensington, all I can say is "Was it a gift"? ROTFL:

    1. I hard booted many times to no avail. Apple exchanged the iPad for me yesterday.

      On the bag, no no no – it's a mini Messenger Bag I swear. Not a murse, no please. :)

  2. I just spent 3 weeks in China with my iPad. Hotels in China tend to not have WiFi, but do have Ethernet connections in the rooms. I took along an Airport Express that I plugged in and voila, I was connected. The content was limited, no Facebook or Twitter, they block social applications, but the iPad worked flawlessly. It sure beat carrying around a heavy laptop. I was able to keep up with email and news from back home. I was even able to place free phone calls to the US using Whistle and cheap calls using Skype. It was interesting hearing friends answer their phones and being amazed that we were calling them from China. I'm sure they thought we were paying a fortune for the calls.

  3. i guess one way to go around it is to just email ur blog entries directly. been using the 3G ipad during my daily commute and also when travelling. the reception for me depends on the telco, well here in malaysia at least.

    1. I've never done posting ny email, and I'm not sure it's something I'm keen to try either. Really just want to see a decent blogging app emerge.

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