Over Memorial Day weekend we drove from San Jose down I-5 / I-210 / I-15 to Temecula, back north to a friend’s home in Crestline in the San Bernardino Mountains, and across the L.A. basin to Santa Barbara and north on 101 back to San Jose. 1,052 miles.
We mapped more winery tasting rooms and gathered data for WineQuesters.com in the Temecula wine region (12) and the Santa Barbara urban wineries (8).
Our new iPad 3G exceeded expectations and performed better than our usual combination of iPhone and notebook computer applications. We found significant improvements over our previous tools in the following areas:
Without my new center console stand the benefits of the iPad would have been marginal. The stand was FANTASTIC and we intend to produce them for sale.
We use the MotionX Drive iPhone app for ETA, time remaining to waypoint, and turn by turn directions. MotionX Drive gets directions wrong at times so we have to navigate by map also. We use the new MotionX HD iPad app for mapping wineries and navigation. All this is vastly better with the iPad and stand than the iPhone or a notebook computer.
Within a wine region Winery Quest Pro is by far the best iPhone app for navigating to wineries. Unfortunately Google won’t let developers include directions with their iPhone maps, at least not yet.
The 3G connection is critical as is the unlimited plan at $30/month. The $15/month plan is for 250MB. I activated the unlimited plan Thursday PM (we left early Friday AM) and although we were on WiFi at our friend’s home in Crestline from Friday evening through Sunday morning we used 326 MB on the cell network on this trip. That includes part of a movie on Netflix that my passengers watched while we were driving I-5. The iPad speakers weren’t loud enough in our van so they abandoned watching it after only 20 minutes. However, it would have been great for only one person with headphones.
We use Google Maps for traffic reporting along with the Traffic iPhone app. Google Maps is vastly easier to use on the iPad than the iPhone although sometimes we used our iPhones to run apps concurrently with the iPad. This is like having 2 or 3 monitors. My iPhone dash holder works with the console iPad stand so I would have Google Maps on my iPhone, MotionX Drive on the iPad, and Katya would search around us for a gas station or check the Traffic app with her iPhone. MotionX HD can search for gas and such along the route and this feature is more useful than searches around us.
I used the iPad version of PaperDesk to collect data in tasting rooms. I set up and copied my interview questions that I have on paper forms onto pages in PaperDesk. I was able to use my index finger to write short comments and check off various features. The forms can be mailed directly to my data input freelance contractor. This saves us substantial time over the paper forms.
MotionX HD has map caching, along with letting me select Bing, Google, or Open Street Maps. It is an amazing app. Google Maps caching is dicey so in the past we had to use Google Earth Pro with our Garmin GPS device for mapping rural areas. This costs $400/year for the subscription. With MotionX HD we no longer have the cost or caching problems. Our location is accurate even in the mountains with no cell service. The iPad GPS works very well.
I didn’t think of this idea on this trip but I can open winery profiles from the WineQuesters.com database and enter data changes for existing wineries in real time as we are doing our fieldwork. While possible with the notebook plus a 3G data card or iPhone these are so awkward that I make notes in emails and sent them to me or make notes on paper. Entering directly in the winery profiles saves substantial time and gives our users more current data. This is a very important benefit that the iPad has over other options.
Brainstorming and note taking
I usually use a paper pad on a clipboard on my lap while driving to make notes when I come up with ideas. This is awkward and looking down while writing is a potentially dangerous distraction. With the iPad on the stand just forward of my right hand I can draw and write with my finger on PaperDesk for the iPad with barely a glance from the road. My finger writing looks like it will improve with practice but it is legible now.
When I’m done with a page I email it to me. Back in the office I open the PDF attachment in Adobe Reader and copy my notes into my Microsoft OneNote notebook.
While I didn’t use the iPad app Office HD on this trip I did use it a few days earlier at a seminar. Unlike similar apps, Office HD lets me take notes by typing in outline form, my preferred layout. It also has a spreadsheet and can import/export to/from MS Office. I have found that a notebook computer is awkward at times or the battery life is too short so I use paper and enter my notes into OneNote later. Office HD and PaperDesk will save me additional steps and time.
I left the iPad on a coffee table during an 11 hour party at our friend’s home in Crestline. Many guests played around with it and the apps. We left it on at least 5 hours continuously and the battery was at 50% at the end of the party. Try that with a notebook computer.
So in only a week of owning the iPad 3G I have found important uses that other devices and paper don’t do well or at all. This will be the key issue for most iPad users. It won’t replace your smartphone or notebook computer but at times it will provide a new way of doing things that the other devices don’t do well. It will save you time and probably money. It will also improve your experiences at times and there is plenty being written about that elsewhere.
Some of those uses require the stand I designed and built for vehicle and home use. The stand is critical for navigation and great for lounging at home. There are no other decent options on the market now. We’ll commercialize it as soon as possible. It will probably cost very roughly $150 or a bit more. The main cost will be the fluid type video tripod head that lets you move the iPad easily with one hand. We tried the much less expensive ball head but it sucks for this use.
To be notified when the stand is available and how to purchase please sign up for our iPhone app newsletter. Of course it will come with a warning that the driver should NEVER use the iPad for high distraction type activities such as watching movies. I believe the stand will decrease distractions and improve safety.