Working with iPad & Zagg

iPad & ZaggI made the bold leap and made a half-week business trip to the Netherlands without my laptop, assisted only by iPad 2, Logitech Zagg keyboard case and a mobile phone.

It is hard not to like a Zagg case. With a little practice you will have a user experience that is close to a PC, with only a fraction of the bulk. The physical keyboard really makes a difference. iPad with the virtual keyboard is clearly a consumption oriented device, whereas the proper keyboard sets you free to handle most of those things that our working life largely relates to. In addition, the lightness and versatility of iPad is mostly preserved (be warned, it does get somewhat heavier though), and the use is still much more spontaneous than with a full PC. But you cannot carry this thing in your pocket — in that area iPad cannot compete with your mobile phone.

For a business user the main downsides of iPad+Zagg combo are mostly related to the limitations of Apple’s iOS. The file management is painful; files that you have handled reside in the internal memory allocated to each individual program, and it is mostly impossible to save directly from an iOS app to the file hierarchy that your other computers use. In some cases you need to resort into emailing the edited document back to yourself as an attachment, which is ridiculous. Luckily, there are workarounds like subscribing to Dropbox service — there are several nice text editors, for example, that can be linked to your Dropbox account so that you can sync your iPad productions into a place in the cloud. Apple provides their own iCloud, of course, but Dropbox leads the field at the moment at least.

The keyboard feel of Zagg/Logitech is not exactly the best PC keyboard experience I have had, but it is solid and good enough for myself at least. There are really useful additions like arrow keys (hooray! the thing I have missed most from the iOS virtual keyboard), volume keys, cut-copy-paste keys, plus dedicated keys for getting to the iOS home screen, for locking the screen, and for changing between international keyboard layouts/languages, which is also very handy. Also when consuming media, like while reading or watching a movie during a flight, having a stand for iPad is of course a useful thing.

The only half-serious usability issue I have had with this thing so far is related to the locking mechanism of Zagg case: there is no such thing. You are supposed to squeeze the iPad between the rubber cushions inside the aluminium case so that it locks into place. This is not so easy. You need to use a bit of downwards force, have the iPad in precisely right angle, secure the other edge of iPad to its place with your other hand while you press the other edge to its proper position with another one. Additionally, if the case slips off, it will automatically unlock the iPad screen. Apparently there is the same magnetic auto-unlock feature in play as with Apple’s official “smart cover”. I wish Zagg/Logitech engineers would had come up with less tricky closing mechanism. But the benefits of the keyboard case are so obvious that it encourages you to work over the learning threshold.

Apart from the lightness and compact form factor, the battery durability is probably among the best features of having iPad & Zagg as your main ‘laptop’: you can keep typing notes and surfing for materials for a full day meeting, come back to hotel in the evening, continue working, and find out that your battery is still at 64 %, just like I just found out today.

Verdict: Zagg/Logitech keyboard case for iPad 2 is a pricy, but well constructed accessory that really changes iPad into real business tool, if that is what you need.

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the Tampere University, Finland. Occasional photographer and gardener.

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