Iain Broome’s iPad Life

I would like to welcome a fantastic writer and a fellow Read & Trust member, Iain Broome to my iPad Life interview series. You can find out more about Iain on his blog Write for Your Life.

Tell me a little about yourself, what do you do, where do you live?

Well, I’m a writer and I live in Sheffield, which is in the north of England.

By day I’m a copywriter for a tip-top UK design company called The Workshop, where I write copy (obviously), but also work on UX, UI and accessibility. By night, I write fiction. My first novel is called A is for Angelica and is represented by literary agency, Tibor Jones & Associates.

I also run a couple of websites for writers – Write for Your Life and the rather stupidly named Broomeshtick.

What was your reaction when the iPad was launched?

Goodness gracious, how am I going to persuade my partner that we need one of those? That was my first reaction.

Then I started to think about it with a little less emotion. That’s the thing about Apple. They tug on our heart strings before they start to talk technical. It’s wonderful and wallet-scaring in equal measure.

Anyway, apart from initially not having the money to buy an iPad, I also wanted to think about whether I would really use one or not. I had an iMac (still do), which is totally aces, and my partner had an old Sony Vaio laptop, which she used primarily for browsing the web and studying.

I spent the best part of six months working out how I could – and if I should – fit the iPad into our lives. It was the first time I’d ever bought a computer that wasn’t a natural upgrade. I was worried my iPad would be a luxury. A toy, even.

I wanted a mobile device but couldn’t afford any of the Macbook line up and the old Sony Vaio’s battery was next to useless. In the end I bought an iPad because I decided that, as a writer, all I needed was a keyboard and a screen. The iPad has both plus all of this other fantastic stuff too.

I convinced myself that together, me and my machine, could create as well as consume.

Which model did you order and why?

I bought the 16GB WiFi only version because it’s all that I need.

My iPhone works nicely as a play-anywhere MP3 player and I’m quite happy to switch movie files to and from the iMac when I need them. I knew that I wouldn’t need the extra storage. Like I say, purchasing an iPad was a carefully considered decision.

As for 3G, again I felt pretty sure it wouldn’t be a problem not having it, and that’s proved to be the case. I use the iPad primarily at home, where it connects to our WiFi network. I can’t envisage a time when I’ll be out and about and the 3G connection I get with my iPhone won’t be enough.

How are you using the iPad on a daily basis?

I use it in the same way that you do Ben, and all us other technofolk. I read articles, blog posts, books and play games. I also watch the occasional TV show or movie. Importantly, I write. But enough about me. I can’t tell you anything new.

What’s been far more interesting is the way both my partner uses it, and my two nephews who are three and five years old.

My partner is never off the iPad. She has no interest in technology whatsoever, and yet she absolutely loves this rectangular bundle of joy. See, although she doesn’t give two hoots about what version OS she’s using, or whether it’s a 16 or 32GB version, she does like browsing the internet, checking Facebook and, inevitably, playing Angry Birds.

For people like her, you know, normal people, who don’t know or care about the hows and whys of computing, these things can be a chore. All that most users care about is the doing. With the iPad, my partner can do. And she does. All the time and wherever she wants. That’s a significant shift, both in our house and for casual web users everywhere.

Then there’s my nephews. They are children – infants – and they can use the iPad. As someone who works in usability and accessibility, that’s pretty amazing. Watching the three year old figure out ‘swipe to unlock’ in under ten seconds was mind-blowing.

It made me think back to my Commodore 64. So many wasted hours waiting for something to load. We’ve come so far. They’ll never know that anguish.

Can you give me a quick run down of the apps that you use the most?

I use Safari all the time for browsing the web, of course. And I use the official Twitter app on a daily basis to, you know, tweet.

I also use Simplenote a lot, originally for my to do list, but I’ve now reverted back to pen and paper for that. However, Simplenote is very much the place I put ideas and sentences when they come to mind.

The jewel in the crown is PlainText and this goes back to my only needing a keyboard and a screen. When the iPad launched, I was wary because I couldn’t see an easy way for me to write on the iMac and then seamlessly carry on writing in the same document with the iPad. But with the aid of Dropbox, PlainText allows me to do just that. It’s utterly brillotine.

Finally, I use Instapaper and Reeder to keep up with what’s going on in the world.

Broome small

Which app is your favorite?

I should probably say PlainText as that allows me to do what I love, but I think I’ll go for Instapaper. It’s just fantastic, isn’t it?

I know it’s wildly popular already, but I really wish that more of those normal people I talked about earlier were aware of things like Instapaper. It’s just a great way to read the web and so many people are put off by all the nonsense that gets crammed into websites.

I should start a petition or something. Maybe send an angry email.

Do you have any bag/stand/case recommendations for people?

I have just one iPad accoutrement, and that’s the Compass from TwelveSouth. It does exactly what I want it to. It holds my iPad up for me. Lovely stuff.

I don’t have a case yet. My partner (who has featured in this discussion more than anticipated) is pretty nifty with the needle and thread, and I’ve commissioned her (asked politely) to make me a nice iPad wallet of sorts. Just something to protect it from the elements. And by elements, I mean me dropping it.

What features do you want to see in a future iPad?

I honestly can’t think of anything that would drastically change the way I use my iPad. A front camera might be nice for Skype, but not essential. A really fantastic microphone would be great for interviews on the move, but unlikely to ever beat proper recording equipment.

So nothing, no extra features required. I love what it does and it does it how I need it to. You can’t say fairer than that.

Have you ever had an American pronounce your first name correctly?

Ha! I do get some strange spellings, but it’s actually just the Scottish version of Ian. As in Sir Ian McKellan or Ian McEwan. Although I am in no way Scottish. I don’t know what my folks were thinking.

I want to thank Iain for taking the time to share his iPad life with me. Be sure to follow Iain on Twitter where he is @iainbroome.

More iPad Life

To see more people’s iPad Lives take a look here.

Originally posted for members on: February 8, 2011
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