Armchair Unboxing: iPad Air & Accessories

Believe it or not, this is the first iPad in “my devices” list. I’ve used an iPad briefly and am familiar with the overall touch interface as an iPhone user since the 3GS. It’s not the first iPad in the house — I gifted my wife with an iPad Air (4th generation) for Christmas 2020. But this is my first iPad.

So, why an iPad Air (5th generation) instead of an iPad Pro? I had been waiting and saving my funds for an 11-inch iPad Pro. When they were updated to use the M1 SoC I knew that was the way things were going. As an artist, I did have a hankerin’ for the larger iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for sketching and using mobile graphic apps, but the price was beyond my budget. There was also another consideration. I had already purchased a Magic Keyboard for my wife’s iPad Air. Since the 11-inch Pro would also fit on that keyboard, I wouldn’t have to buy another larger one for the bigger iPad Pro. Then, the iPad Air was updated with the M1 in the spring of 2022 and I knew that would be “pro enough” for my needs.

It took about a month for it to get delivered, but it finally arrived this past week and I’ve spent quite a bit of time setting it up from scratch; no setup from my iPhone backups — I wanted to keep it dedicated for different use cases. I’m getting used to the larger touch interface, multitasking, and trying to do some tasks that I’d normally do on my Mac. For instance, I am attempting to do everything for this blog post on the iPad. After the video, I’ll write about the process in more detail.

Those that know me realize I am a somewhat silly guy. To do an unboxing video of a product months after it came on the market is possibly ludicrous. It’s probably more for me to just try out the technology and hone my skills. After all, this old dog has to keep learning new tricks. Watch it or not, it’s up to you. If you do, I hope you can at least find some humor and enjoyment from it.

Process

I obviously did not use the new iPad to record the video. That was assigned to the stock camera app on my iPhone 13 Pro. It was shot in 4K at 30fps. From there on, I tried to use the iPad for everything.

Since I use iCloud Photo Library, the video from the iPhone was synced and available from the iPad without any fuss. I used iMovie for iPadOS and downloaded the clips directly into my project from iCloud. All the editing for the video was done in iMovie, then I exported a 1080p 30fps MOV to an iCloud Drive folder. I thought that was what I would need for uploading to YouTube from the iPad. Turns out that the iOS and iPadOS versions of the YouTube app only support uploading from your Photos library, unlike the website where you can upload a file from any folder. So, I could use my Mac or try Safari on iPadOS to log into my YouTube account. Turns out that when I tried to log into my Google account on the YouTube webpage in Safari, it just sent me to the YouTube app. So, since I had already gone to the trouble of putting the movie in a folder in iCloud Drive, I decided to go ahead and move over to my Mac to do the uploading to YouTube. In the future, if I’m doing all this on the iPad, I will probably just export from iMovie back to my Photos library so the YouTube app can access the finished video from there. Too bad iMovie doesn’t have the ability to export directly to a YouTube account anymore.

For the rest of the process, I used the iPad Air with Magic Keyboard (I’m typing on it right now), starting with writing this blog post in Markdown using Byword. Most of the time it was sitting on a desktop or table but I did do some typing with it sitting on my lap. Then I used the WordPress app for iPadOS to create and publish the post.

Impressions

After so many years using the relatively small screen of the iPhone, getting used to a larger touch interface has been a bit of a challenge. For instance, the iPad interface provides the space for an app layout that is much like the interface on macOS. But since I never touched the Mac to interact, finding the touch targets and figuring out how they work on iPad is taking some time. Especially when they do something differently on iPad than what I’m used to on the Mac.

Also, trying to use a keyboard and trackpad with the iPad confounds the learning curve by adding Mac-like controls to the interface. But here again, there are differences. Like, when the keyboard/trackpad is connected to the iPad, a command-tab on the keyboard brings up a familiar app switcher overlay in the middle of the screen. But command-Q does nothing. Why doesn’t command-Q take me back to the Home Screen? There’s a Home Screen icon in the app switcher overlay, but that requires tapping the tab key multiple times to invoke it.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in January 2010, he placed it in Apple’s hardware lineup between the iPhone and the Mac. He lauded the iPad as Apple’s answer to critics who said Apple should make a netbook. But “netbooks aren’t better at anything” that a smartphone or a laptop computer can do. Now, 12 years later here I am with an iPad mounted on a keyboard/trackpad combo in my lap that reminds me of the size of those netbooks that Steve criticized as slow with low quality displays running “clunky” PC software. But, of course, the iPad is fast, power-efficient, has an industry-leading display, and runs some of the best quality software ever written.

Will this iPad Air replace the MacBook Air for my mobile computing tasks? Unequivocally, no! I’ve used a Mac for so long now that it’s particular way of getting things done is so ingrained into my workflow, that I am much more productive on that device. I will be experimenting with the iPad to see what kinds of tasks seem to lend themselves to a touch interface and the software tools available on iPadOS that provide a sense of delight in their use more so than on macOS. Certainly, once I get into using the Apple Pencil for sketching and such, those tasks will be on the iPad. I have already been reading more in this first week with the iPad. Reading ebooks is a much more enjoyable experience on the iPad than on my iPhone.

Just as Steve intended, the iPad will be my in-between device for doing some things better than on my iPhone and other things better than on my Mac.

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