My Essential iPad Accessories and Applications

Following up on my previous post about the joy that is using my new iPad Air, I thought I’d write about what I deem are essential accessories and applications. It’s only been a couple of weeks since making my purchase and has surprisingly found the transition from Android to iOS not too much of a pain. It’s fast becoming part of my daily workflow for creative writing and note-taking.

Here are some applications and accessories I use…

Accessories

Keyboard Case

Apple’s own Smart Keyboard Cover felt very unnatural to use and didn’t provide enough protection for my nice new tablet. The Inateck Keyboard Case is an absolute pleasure to use and the keys have a very nice responsive rebound. I can literally use this anywhere and feels just as stable on my lap as it is when being used on a desk.

The only downside is the connectivity relies on Bluetooth rather than Apple’s own Smart connector which would normally power the keyboard. Nevertheless, the pairing has no latency and the battery lasts weeks even with daily usage.

Apple Pencil

The iPad Air is only compatible with the first generation pencil and has a really ridiculous way to charge using the lightning connector. Apple could have quite easily made the iPad Air work with the second generation pencil. If the iPad Pro was a cracker, then the second generation pencil would be the caviar.

Regardless of the design, it’s refreshing to scribble away notes to store electronically. Previously to keep track of my written notes, I would write on paper (oh how old fashioned!?) and then scan digitally using Evernote on my phone.

Draw Screen Protector

Writing on glass using the Apple Pencil is a little slippery and need something that gives the texture to almost simulate the friction you would get when writing on paper. There are a handful of screen protectors that provide this with varying degrees of success. The most popular being is Paperlike, which I plan on putting an order for when I’ve worn out my current screen protector.

My current screen protector is Nillkin and isn’t too bad. It provides adequate protection as well as giving enough texture with enough anti-reflection qualities that doesn’t hinder screen visibility. Added bonus: a nice light scratchy sound as you'd expect if writing with an old-fashioned pencil!

Applications

I'm deliberately leaving out the most obvious and well-known apps that we are well aware of such as YouTube, Netflix, Gmail, Kindle, Twitter, Spotify etc.

Jump Desktop

I wrote about this very briefly in my previous post. If you want a link to your laptop/workstation from your iPad, Jump Desktop is your best option. Once you have the application installed on your iPad and host machine you are up and running in minutes. Judging by past updates, it’s getting better with every release.

Evernote

I don’t think I can speak about Evernote highly enough. I am a premium member and is one of my most highly used applications across all mediums. Worth every penny! It organises my notes, scribbles and agendas with little effort.

Evernote is effectively my brain dump of ideas.

Notes haven’t looked so good with the use of a recent feature - Templates. On creation of a new note, you have the option to select a predefined template based from the many Evernote provides from their own Template Gallery.

Grammarly

Grammarly is a must for all writers to improve the readability of your content. I myself had only started using Grammarly since last year and now can't think of writing a post without it. In the iPad form, Grammarly forms part of the keyboard that carries out checks as you type. This works quite well with my writing workflow when using Evernote.

Autodesk Sketchbook

If the Apple Pencil has done anything for me, is to allow me to experiment more with what it can do and in the process allowing me to try things I don’t generally do. In this case, sketch! I would be lying if I said Autodesk Sketchbook is the best drawing apps out there as I haven’t used any others. For an app that is free, it has a wide variety of features that will accommodate both novice and experts alike.

1.1.1.1

Developed by the team who brought you the Cloudflare CDN infrastructure comes 1.1.1.1, an app for providing faster and more private internet. This is something I always have running in the background to have a form or protection using public hotspots and to stop my ISP from snooping where I go on the internet.

When compared to other DNS directory services, Cloudflare touts 1.1.1.1 as the fastest. As everything you do on the internet starts with a DNS request, choosing the fastest DNS directory will accelerate the online experience.

Searching For A New Tablet and Going Back To iPad

I’ve been looking for a tablet for quite some time and doing some in-depth research on the best one to get. I am always a stickler for detail and wanting to get best for the time based on budget and specification.

Only having ever owned two tablets in the past - an iPad 2 and Nexus 7. Being someone who has semented himself in the Android/Google ecosystem, I automatically got along with the Nexus and quickly became my daily driver for web browsing and reading the vast variety of books from Amazon and Google Books. That was 5-6 years ago. The tablet game has changed... No longer is it just about viewing information, watching videos with some minor swipe gestures and basic gaming. It’s more!

Ever since Microsoft released the first version of their Surface tablet computer, it shifted the industry standards to what we should now expect from a tablet, which then led to more innovation such as:

  • Keyboard support
  • Writing with palm rejection (not that old school stylus from yesteryear!)
  • Multitasking with the ability to view multiple apps in one screen, which is only getting better by the day!
  • Near laptop replacement - We’ll go into this a little later

I wasn’t so quick to jump on the new iterations of tablets entering the market as I was waiting to see the proof in the pudding and for prices to go down. I just don’t think its worth spending over £600 on a tablet - looking at you iPad Pro! Nevertheless, from initially piquing my interest, it now got my full attention. For the first in a long time, I could see how having a tablet be useful in my day to day activities again.

Do I Really Need A Tablet?

Short answer: Yes.

If you asked me this question last year I would have more than likely have said no. My Pixel 2 smartphone fit the bill for for my portable needs. Tablet life was soon being relegated to just holidays and long weekends away.

The only thing that has changed is the increased amount of blogging and writing I now do. Typing on a smartphone really made my thumbs tired for long periods of time for when I didn’t have a computer to hand. On the other hand, I found lugging around my MacBook Pro 15" just for writing was a little excessive and lacking all day battery life.

I could see myself buying a tablet along with a Bluetooth keyboard for easy quick note taking for when going to conferences and for writing something a little more indepth. For anyone who writes, they will probably tell you when you have a sudden spark of inspiration you need to just write it down.

Conundrum: To Android or Not To Android

There seems to be a real lack of good Android tablets going around that has good build quality, vanilla OS with accessories to match. It’s guaranteed that if you go for an Android tablet, you’ll be subjected to inferior cheap cases and hardware. This was indeed the case when looking for a nice flip case for my old Nexus 7.

One would be forgiven for being given the impression accessory manufacturers don’t give Android tablets the light of day - very annoying. I still love the nice leather Kavaj case I purchased soon after getting my iPad 2. My iPad 2 may not be getting used, but still looks the part resting on the bookshelf! I guess it’s understandable why accessory manufacturers are not providing the goods for where there is limited demand. It all comes down to a lack of flagship Android devices and I was hoping the Pixel Slate would change this. Not a chance! I really wanted to go for the Pixel Slate but the main unknown factor for me is the longevity of a device that starts at £749.

The only choice was to consider an iPad.

What About The Microsoft Surface?

The Microsoft Surface is a computer powerhouse and if I needed another laptop, this would have been a great purchase. I look forward to owining one in the future. Again, it all comes down to price. You have to take into consideration the cost of the computer itself as well as the added type cover. Plus I feared I would be greeted with a long Windows Update when I have a sudden spark of writing inspiration.

Choosing An iPad

Apple’s have positioned their iPad lineup that should meet all demand:

I opted for the iPad Air for the 10.5” screen, A12 Bionic processor and Smart connector. The Smart connector was something previously available to the Pro series only and it was a welcome addition to their mid range tablet as this will give me the ability to connect a keyboard cover and any further peripherals that maybe on the horizon. Future proof!

The performance and multi-tasking support is pretty good as well. I am writing this very post with Evernote in one window, Chrome in another whilst listening to Spotify.

Near Laptop Replacement and iPad OS

I have no expectation to make the iPad a laptop replacement. But it’s the nearest experience to it. In all honesty, I don’t understand how some even find the iPad Pro a complete replacement. Would someone enlighten me?

I found using Jump Desktop to remote onto my laptop a really good way to get a laptop experience on my iPad. Very useful when I need to use applications I’d never be able to run on a tablet like VMWare. Jump Desktop is one of the best remote desktop applications you can use on an iPad.

Jump Desktop features one of the fastest RDP rendering engines on the planet. Built in-house and hand tuned for high performance on mobile devices. Jump’s RDP engine also supports audio streaming, printer and folder sharing, multi-monitors, touch redirection, RD Gateway and international keyboards.

I am really looking forward to the release of iPad OS as it might lead to a more immersive experience that bridges the gap closer to the basic features we expect from a laptop. I always felt iOS still lacks some of features currently present in Android, such as widgets to see app activity at a glance and more control over your files.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a tablet that has the capability to do a lot of wonderful things with a lot of nice supported accessories, you can’t go wrong with an iPad Air.