As long-term readers may recall (oh, the delusion!), my primary “use case” for my iPad is entertainment on long journeys – videos, ebooks, games (music is more convenient on my iPhone). The longer the journey, the harder it is to manage two key elements, especially where video is concerned: having a long enough battery and having enough choice.
Let’s take choice first. Depending on what kind of iPad you’ve bought, you’ll have 16Gb, 32Gb or 64Gb of storage. Once you’ve installed a few apps, a few ebooks and a few videos, you may find that even 64Gb is gobbled up quite quickly. As a f’rinstance, as each Doctor Who DVD comes out, I rip it in an iPad-friendly resolution (with commentary and trivia text turned on, naturally) and stick it in iTunes to watch at a later date. I’ve got about half-a-dozen I have yet to watch and a new one comes out almost every month. Sometimes more than one, if it’s a boxed set. Each one takes up around 1.5Gb. Add some iTunes movies, some other DVD-rips and pretty soon I’m looking for external storage. Other (lesser) tablets let you plug SD cards or even USB sticks straight in but the iPad is pickier, sad to say.
When I bought my iPad I had the foresight to get the Camera Connection Kit to go along with it. This dongle plugs into the dock connector and then accepts a USB connection to a camera or an SD Card. Images and crucially videos can then be copied off the card for viewing on the iPad. Copied off, notice, so there needs to be room (but existing videos in your library can be deleted to make room).
However, the source and the files need to look exactly like they’ve come off a camera. This means a folder structure something like this DCIM » 100DICAM and then giving every file an 8.3 filename. So your copy of Casablanca needs to be renamed CASABLAN.M4V, or on a really bad day DCM_0001.M4V. Worse, this filename is not visible when you inspect the SD card from within the Photos app – all you have to go on is thumbnail, often black. And folder structures are ignored. Still, it’s a cheap solution, especially if you have some SD cards lying around, and once you’ve copied the right file over, watching from within the Photos app is fine, if a little weird – why can’t I copy it to my media library? Better still, why isn’t the “Open With” option available so I can open a video file in any format using an app like AVPlayerHD.
Other options exist. For a while, I was considering an AirStash. This is a wireless transmitter for the contents of an SD Card which works with a companion iPad app. It’s not expensive, only $100, but hard to get in the UK without the help of Bundlebox and crucially the battery only lasts five hours without a recharge (and you can’t transmit from it while it’s recharging).
In the end, I wound up getting a 320Gb Hyperdrive for $200 which has turned out to share many of the same limitations as the Camera Connection Kit option, but thankfully not all. It’s a kludge of the Camera Connection Kit software, “fooling” the iPad into thinking that it’s importing files from a camera and although it again denies you access to filenames, and tends to provide only black thumbnails, you can have folders and sub-folders on the disk and navigate through them, so I’ve just put each file in a folder which identifies it. I copied my iTunes movie folder on to it, and most movies were already in an appropriately-named folder which saves time. With TV series box-sets, it was a bit more laborious. I had to create a folder called Breaking Bad S2, and then 13 sub-folders, each called Breaking Bad 2.x, each with one episode in. Sounds tedious, but actually it only took a minute or two. When plugged in to a laptop, the Hyperdrive behaves like any other USB drive. Plugged into the iPad with a mini-USB lead, via the Camera Connection Kit – take note, it takes 4-5 minutes to copy a whole movie over, then you can unplug the drive and watch your movie through the Photos app (and delete it when you’re finished to make room if you wish).
Just before I entered my credit card details, I had a quick tour of the site and spotted this little beauty – the Hyperjuice Stand. Now, it’s true I already have a navy blue Smart Cover to prop my iPad up, but that doesn’t stop this being a really, really clever idea. It’s a rubberised stand, lightweight, but just heavy enough to securely hold the iPad in place (360g), at a near vertical angle for watching movies or a flatter angle for typing – but the space inside is filled with battery! 11,000mA of battery which will keep an iPad going for around 16 hours! For only $130 it’s an absolute steal, and because it’s got a standard USB port on it, you can use it to charge or power a great many other devices besides iPads. It charges via a mini-USB connection too, so you can use the same AC adapter as your iPhone, or charge it off your laptop if that’s more convenient.
Having watched my choice of videos, secure in the knowledge that my battery will never run out, and arrived at my destination, I don’t want now to revert to a regular laptop. However, as lovely as the iPad is, it’s hard to type anything as long as, say, this blog post on the on-screen keyboard. So my other purchase was this handsome Aluminium Keyboard Buddy Case, only $49. It pairs quickly with the iPad via Bluetooth and the battery life is very good. Typing is certainly easier than without a physical keyboard, although the keys don’t have quite as much travel as I would ideally like – however it doesn’t really work as a case. I can fold my SmartCover out of the way, but even with it removed altogether, the iPad and the supposed case never snap together securely, they just sort of lie together. I tend to carry them separately in my Troop Brown Canvas Bag.
What toys have you bought for your iPad?