A Student's iPad Experience - 8 months later
I know this is long, but I wanted to really illustrate my experiences with the iPad at the university level.
I bought the iPad originally to be my primary tool for school. I intended to have as many of my textbooks as possible on the iPad as well as take notes, record lectures, do research, and use it as a study aid as well.
Over these last eight months, I have forced myself to use the iPad and only the iPad while at school. Of course I type research papers and such at home on my desktop, but I use the iPad for essentially everything else.
In the end, I have determined the device just isn't quite up to par for being a laptop replacement in a University environment. I know the iPad was not meant to be a laptop replacement which is why I kept my laptop, but I was hoping with the limited tasks required for most classes (typing, reading, web research, etc) I thought it had excellent potential.
First, I'll talk about the things I love about the iPad for school.
- I saved about $1000 on textbooks this year just by purchasing e-textbooks to be viewed on the iPad through CourseSmart.
-The auto-correct text feature is very good about correcting my fat finger typing errors due to the touch screen keyboard.
-It replaced thousands of paper flashcards that I carried with me for the memorization portions of classwork, it works amazingly as a flash card viewer with the right apps.
-I was able to take everything in one device, my books, notes, study material, voice recorder, etc, the iPad consolidated all of that into one.
-The battery life could actually last me through two or more consecutive two hour and thirty minute classes which is more than I can say for my HP laptop.
There are more things I liked, but this is a list of the major features.
Now, the things that drove me almost crazy.
- The auto-correct feature is HORRIBLE for correcting names and technical words. So many times I tried to type in a person's name or a scientific word and the iPad corrects it to a word that has nothing to do with what I was typing. I know I could have turned it off, but then it doesn't correct my fat finger typos. Supposedly it has a learning feature, but it never worked for me, it corrected the same words over and over again, even when I hit the "X" multiple times.
- Not being able to have multiple windows tiled for notes and books was a real pain, and that meant I had to bring a notepad with me most of the time anyways to take notes if I wanted to have the book open as well. I tried taking notes within the CourseSmart app, but it was clumsy at best.
- I can't put my finger on why exactly, but I retained less information while reading e-textbooks on the iPad as I did when I read a standard textbook. It took me twice as long to complete a section because I kept having to go back and read it again.
- Not being able to keep my scientific textbooks that I could go to for research in the future was a big deal, which meant many of my books still needed to be bought the normal way.
- I know it's been beaten to death, but the file system is a big negative for me. I know there are apps available that allow me to access files wirelessly but they are simply workarounds that complicate and slow the issue.
- Pages could really be a great app, but I found it very clunky when formatting documents, so I never did any serious typing on it, just notes.
- Many of the web pages my professors have used to reference info are encoded in Flash or use heavy Java-script (the iPad only has a limited Java capability). While other students viewed the info on their laptops, I had to scoot over so I could watch someone's screen.
- Selecting text to do anything with is a pain in the ass, and that's being nice about it.
- Sometimes it really is nice to have a mouse.
Overall I still like the iPad, it's great for taking study breaks and watching videos or playing games, but I just don't think it would work as a primary tool for any serious student. If you are a math major, physics, or anything else scientific, you need a laptop.
My final conclusion is that I will keep the iPad until a good Android 3.0 tablet is available at which point it will be replaced and probably given to my wife. I will be upgrading my laptop a MacBook Pro in April when they release their updated models. The MacBook Pro does more than the iPad will without any of the iPad's limitations, and still has a healthy 9-11hr battery life under regular usage (several websites have tested this and it's true.)