Henry Taylor writes for the The National Student, The Graduate Times, the University of Southampton’s Wessex Scene, and until June this year, was the Opinions Editor of the Soton Tab – he tweets @henryctaylor
Thanks to the iPad 2, mobile journalism has been made a whole lot easier for wannabe hacks. Yes, they’re expensive pieces of kit, but if you have one and you’re only using it for Angry Birds HD, then you’re missing out. Rather than attracting predictable fanboy vs critic arguments that always spring up when someone commends Apple on their products, I’m hoping that it will allow iPad owners to realise some extra potential from their gadget and give prospective tablet buyers food for thought.
There are several advantages to using an iPad in the field over the conventional set-up of a laptop and mobile dongle. For a start, an iPad is smaller and thinner than most laptops and has a considerably better battery life. Weight wise, an iPad weighs far less than a standard laptop and once you add in a protective case (if you need it) and a laptop charger, you’ll quickly wish you owned something lighter after a day spent trudging your patch. Another advantage is the lack of moving parts in an iPad, essentially meaning a laptop is much easier to break. Netbooks and some of the latest small-form laptops also enjoy a good battery life, and can often be just as small and light as many tablets, so they might be worth a look too if you’re considering an upgrade.
Being able to put a 3G SIM card in the iPad obviously means you’re not tied down to using public WiFi spots, some of which can be very expensive to use if you can’t find a free one. With a laptop you can use a USB 3G dongle, but it’s another thing to carry around and is another thing that can be easily lost – scuppering your chances of sending copy back to the office whilst on the bus. Nearly all major towns and cities have excellent 3G coverage and even many rural areas have a good data connection. Cost wise, there’s not much in it between a SIM card and a dongle, but several networks provide you with the option of cheaper, daily data plans for the iPad if you know you’re only going to be using the internet on the odd occasion.
Your laptop might have a low-resolution webcam built in, but you’ll end up with lower quality footage compared to what you can capture with an iPad. You’ll also look much more strange whilst recording. If you have a smartphone capable of HD video, even better – an iPhone 4/4S coupled with iCloud means you can record in HD and the resulting footage can be transferred to your iPad within seconds (depending on file size) through the use of the PhotoSync app. The iPad works as an excellent video editor as the tactile interface coupled with some thoughtful programming on the part of app designers has produced some wonderfully easy-to-use video editing apps that are more than powerful enough for what you’ll need. Obviously you’re not going to produce footage that Lars von Trier would be happy to stamp his name on, but the two examples below show that the results aren’t far off if you know what you’re doing.