Popular Accessories That Have Disappointed Me
There are a bunch of iPad accessories that keep coming through my office and which continue to fail to make any kind of impression on me. I have a supreme tactical advantage: it arrives, I use it for a few days, and then I send it back. At least I'm not out $30 for something that doesn't work as well as I'd hoped...or which turns out to be kind of pointless to begin with.
What rustproof undercoating is to car sales, so iPad screen protectors are to iPad sales. Lots of companies can sell you sheets that splap onto your screen and supposedly protect it from dings and scratches.
Great. But what your iPad really needs to be protected from are screen protectors. I've yet to encounter one that doesn't take this crisp, punchy, beautiful display and make it look like a bus window. That's in a best-case scenario in which you actually managed to get it on nice and square without any trapped hair, dirt, or air bubbles.
And there's just no point to them. I've carried my iPad everywhere across this and three other countries in the past year. I've never put a screen protector on it and there isn't a single mark on it.
Whoops, one moment please...
(50 seconds of wiping)
...And there isn't a single mark on it.
If you're going to be using your iPad in a particularly dusty or grimy environment, a screen protector won't do you much good anyway. In those "I'm putting my iPad in slight jeopardy but I must have it with me" situations, just slide it into a (good quality) Ziploc bag and seal it up. You can still operate the screen through the plastic and it'll be safe from dust storms and wet or grungy hands.
As for anti-glare film: I haven't found one that offers a superior alternative to just adjusting my chair a little.
Oh, man...how cool would it be to have an iPad mounted on the dash of your car?!?
Wicked totally awesome double-plus cool.
How functional would it be?
But it's so wicked super ultra-cool!!!!
When the iPad was unveiled, the idea of having this awesome color multitouch tablet serving as the navigation and entertainment computer for my car (130,000 miles on the odometer, bluebook value: depends on how many deposit cans I have in the backseat) did verily fill my heart with white-hot lust.
So don't think I didn't go into this with the highest hopes. Still I say: car-mounting an iPad just isn't terribly practical. The iPad's size is a serious problem. Few cars have enough space on the dash to mount an iPad without covering up essential controls. Most of the best mounting spots on my car, for instance, either cover up all of the heating and AC controls or are somewhere within firing range of the passenger airbag. I'm hoping that History will be kind when they write my obituary, but I don't think History could resist starting it off with the line "In a testament to Apple's superior design and engineering, Mr. Ihnatko's new iPad 2 suffered little damage after passing straight through his neck at near-bullet speeds. ‘No other maker's tablet would have decapitated him so cleanly,' said an Apple spokesperson."
Even if you solve all of those problems, you'll need to cover the screen with anti-glare film to ensure that it's even readable in daylight. When the highway bends just a littllllllle bit to the North, presto: you can't see a damned thing. An anti-glare film won't work in every situation, either.
So the problem isn't a lack of good iPad car kits. It's that the reality of a car-mounted iPad probably won't live up to your expectations.
If you want to give it a go anyway, Ram Mounting Systems (www.ram-mount.com) makes the best car mounting hardware in the business...and yes, they have iPad-compatible cradles. I use their gear for just about all of my car gadgets. It's rock-solid and completely modular...so no matter what kind of mounting solution works best for your car and your expectations (suction-cupped onto the window, hard-mounted onto the dash, attached to a pole bolted to the passenger seat rail) you can put together the right components. And when you upgrade to the iPad 3, you'll only need to replace one piece of it instead of the entire system.
No, I don't even like Apple's own trim, stylish-as-heck one. I might have some sort of iPad dock disability. Nothing seems to be as convenient as an easel stand for simply keeping an iPad handy. Docks have a built-in dock connector and can charge up the device while it pumps out audio. Sure. But no matter how lazy I get, I can always manage to summon the strength and the courage to manually plug in a dock cable.
Bedside dock/speaker combos have a certain functional purpose. But there's a reason why I use a $20 alarm clock: I can afford to replace it if the part of my brain that wants to stay asleep chooses to crush it with a lamp.
This is also why I tend to buy $15 lamps.
Most of the items in this chapter — with those last few obvious exceptions — should be somewhere on your mind as you take your first steps along that really tight, curly bit of the yellow brick road. All of them are intensely useful and some — like my FoldIO case, my Wireless Keyboard, and the Camera Connection Kit are firmly in the "my iPad wouldn't be the same without them" category.
Taken as a group, they actually offer a little insight into Apple's whole attitude regarding the iPad. Almost all of these accessories can be found among the standard features of the 18 or so devices I've seen in the past year that are supposed to compete with the iPad.
So why didn't Apple give us video-out, or a card reader, or an anti-glare? Because each one comes with a sacrifice. Would you like a USB port? It'll cost you: the OS will need to load in a million drivers for a million devices, and that'll affect the machine's reliability. How about a built-in kickstand, or a card reader? They'll make the iPad thicker and clunkier. An anti-glare screen coating? Really? Why wouldn't you want your screen to look as good as it possibly can?
These are all things that have disappointed me about other tablets. Apple, more than any other hardware manufacturer, maintains a firm idea of what their product is. This informs every decision that they make. I'm not far off by guessing that Apple defines the iPad as "A $499 tablet with an absolutely unsurpassable basic user experience." Making the iPad thinner, lighter, simpler isn't just a design choice: it's a functional feature.
This makes me feel very, very good about my iPad.
(Chiefly because I've never really added up how much dough I've spent on the accessories that make my iPad indispensable.)