I'm sitting on yet another plane between San Diego and Washington Dulles airport. 2,253 miles gives me plenty of time to work, play, eat, and sleep. This is my second cross-country now with my iPad and I think it is time for me to start reviewing my experiences. The iPad itself is absolutely amazing, and I'm going to go into more detail on that another time. Since many people already have an iPad or are definitely going to buy one, I am going to focus on the accessories. There are some pretty slick ones available already, both from Apple and from third parties. And quite frankly my reviews might surprise you a bit and either save you money, or change your purchasing decisions.
I'm going to start by picking on Apple. They have two primary accessories for the iPad: the Apple iPad case and the iPad docking station. The Apple case is pretty remarkable for a tiny piece of plasticky, rubbery, sorta-soft, sorta-firm material. Incredibly lightweight, it allows you to slide your iPad into a sleeve in the center when unfolded. It has all the necessary cutouts for access to ports and the hard buttons, and obviously an opening for the screen. It opens up like a book and the front flap, when closed, protects the screen from scratches and damage (although there is nothing to keep the flap closed). Fortunately for me I have quite a collection of rubber bands, which will now come in very handy!
When open, the case takes on a whole new life. A small slot on the back plus a second fold in the cover give the case the simple-yet-elegant ability to transform itself into a stand. Wrap the cover around the back, fold it along the short crease, tuck it into the rear slot, and you're in business. The stand is essentially a right triangle with the screen as the hypotenuse. Yeah, I can be nerdy, but don't look at me, you're the one who knows what I'm talking about! In its "flat form" the top is lifted up which provides a gentle slope toward your eyes, and a keyboard-like incline to the entire device. Im using it like that right now, typing on-screen. In its "tall" form it is optimized for tabletop viewing, or even tray table viewing. The tall form is also good for using the Apple wireless bluetooth keyboard. More on that later.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words and there are plenty of them out there, suffice it to say that the Apple iPad case is a good investment. Lightweight, comfortable, versatile, moderate physical security, easy access, and the perfect size. It is definitely my favorite case for actual travel, and my second favorite case at home. So far so good, right? Now for some real fun. The Apple iPad keyboard dock!
At first glance this thing is amazing. The keyboard is identical to the one on my MacBook Air with a few exceptions for iPad-specific keys such as lock, and home. Most importantly the key size is the same. Great to type on, in fact I wish i had it on the plane right now as I struggle with autocorrect, uncapitalized "i", an inability to turn im into I'm, and my favorite, the infallible shift key. By that i mean Apple assumes that no matter what is typed, if you hit the shift key, you must have meant to! But i digress--I already blogged about the crazy keys on the iPhone and iPad. I'm not here to rant about Apple keyboards, I'm here to explain how outrageous the Apple iPad keyboard dock is.
Notice I said i wish i had that keyboard now? There are two primary reasons I don't. First, it is bulky, heavy, oddly shaped and distinctly unportable! Second, you can't dock the iPad in the official Apple keyboard dock while it is in the official Apple case! Huh? Outrageous! I spent five minutes flexing and pushing the iPad case to try and get it firmly seated on the dock. The only way i could get it to sort of work was by opening the case wide left to right and carefully guiding it on with pressure. As soon as i released that pressure the case pushes up against the dock and the connection is lost. Very frustrating. Almost as bad as the physical size and shape of the keyboard dock itself.
For anyone considering the keyboard dock, let me help you. Other than what I mentioned above, it has two other major drawbacks and one big plus. First of all, the iPad docks in portrait mode. Because of the dock connection and the shape of the keyboard, it is almost impossible to change it to landscape mode, even for just a few moments, but certainly not for anything useful. Second, because the dock is permanently attached to the keyboard, it is bulky and awkward. Nothing you'll be throwing in your handbag or Jack pack. If you're carrying something larger that you don't mind accessing, it isn't enormous, but since it doesn't lay flat due to the protrusion above the dock connector, it packs awkwardly.
On the plus side it makes for a great dock, in the traditional sense of docking. If you have a temporary office you use every once in a while and don't want to dedicate a computer to it, you can leave the iPad keyboard dock there for when you're in town. It has a connection for audio out, and a connection for the Apple USB sync cable so you can keep it plugged into a wall or another computer for charging or syncing. I suggest getting a USB extension cable if you plan to keep the dock plugged into a wall since the one that comes with the iPad is only a few feet long.
Due to having to shut off all portable electronic devices, I'm finishing this blog post from Virginia. Thanks to Eric from ServInt, I'm also typing this paragraph on the Apple Wireless Keyboard. It is an amazingly light device and incredibly thin, other than the battery compartment on the top. Typing on it is the same as typing on any other full-size keyboard with responsive keys and proper keyboard proportions. As I suspected, now that I have an Apple Wireless Keyboard of my own, I am pretty sure my iPad Keyboard Dock will start collecting dust.
So what started as a post on the airplane using the iPad keyboard with no connectivity now ends in Virginia with the wireless keyboard over a Verizon Mifi 2200. Can't wait until my 64GB iPad 3G arrives!
*This post built entirely on an Apple iPad using a combination of the WordPress app and Safari.