As the below chart illustrates, sales of the iPad have exploded over the past two years. The tablet’s uptake has even outpaced that of the iPhone – itself a sales blockbuster for Apple since its release.
To be sure, many iPads have been sold to consumers. But the device is growing increasingly popular in the business world, too. Many small retailers use iPads to replace point-of-sale systems (a.k.a. cash registers), while corporations are adopting them to enhance the customer experience (a la J.C. Penney, which plans to install iPads in its stores as part of a brand overhaul) or improve worker productivity.
We on RingCentral’s social team, for example, find our iPad to be very useful when traveling. It only weighs 1.5 pounds, and its battery lasts for 10+ hours, so it’s perfect for tossing in a carry-on.
How can you get the most out of an iPad in your office? Here are some best-practice tips – culled from our own experiences with tablet computing – to keep in mind.
1) Connecting to the Internet
To really optimize an iPad as a business tool, connectivity is essential.
You can get an iPad with a built-in cellular antenna. We prefer, however, to tether our iPad to a MiFi (profiled in this blog post). The MiFi is a more flexible solution, as it works with any device (not just the iPad).
Hotspot devices like our MiFi tend to offer more generous data allotments than tablet-only data plans, and they can be more cost-effective, too. Virgin Mobile sells a pay-as-you-go hotspot that charges $5 for each day it’s switched on – a great option for occasional use.
2) Communicating With Colleagues
A host of excellent free communication apps are available to help you stay in touch with your team (as well as your customers) when you’re not in the office.
Since we’re responsible for social customer care, we particularly like Hootsuite’s app. It lets you connect up to five social profiles free of charge, so it enables us to keep an eye on our two Twitter accounts, our Facebook page and our Google+ page.
We also like Skype’s app. We haven’t found a better video-chatting service – and the fact that Skype-to-Skype calls are free is just icing on the cake.
Also valuable for staying connected is RingCentral’s iOS app (and we’re not just saying that!). It lets you place calls, read and forward faxes, and change your account settings on the fly. If you want to send faxes, you can use Safari to visit CloudFax.
3) Being Productive
Need to buckle down and get work done? There are apps for that. (Sorry.)
Evernote can help you organize and track your to-dos. It’s cloud-based, so it stays synced no matter what device (phone, iPad, PC) you’re using. It even lets you record voice notes – a huge help when you’ve got a lot of good ideas percolating.
Notability, meanwhile, brilliantly harnesses the touch capability of the iPad. Notability – well worth its $0.99 retail price – makes it possible to trace out notes on the iPad’s screen. You can even use it to annotate PDFs.
Interestingly, one of the very best productivity tools for the iPad – the SkyDrive web app – is made by Microsoft. Simply navigate to skydrive.com to access the app; you’ll have the option to edit existing Microsoft Office documents or create new ones. SkyDrive provides most of the functionality of Office, plus 7GB of cloud storage – and it’s free.
4) Not Being Productive
You’re bound to have downtime when you’re on the road – and if you do, an iPad is a great tool to have on hand. There are thousands of apps that can make lolling about more enjoyable.
We particularly like Reuters’ photojournalism showpiece The Wider Image, as the images are incredible (and accessible for free). Fast Company, fresh off a recent redesign, is gorgeous, although it does require a subscription (you can also spend $4.99 per issue). And Songza is maybe the most fun of the music-curation apps on offer – it will put playlists together based on a time period, a mood or a genre. 90s’ Middle School Dance Hits, anyone?
What are your favorite apps? Share them with us!