Enjoying new iPad with keyboard case

Since I got my new iPad 5th generation in a trade-in with my carrier (traded in my old iPad Air, which itself was purchased used after selling my iPad 2 at an auction site) I find that I’ve been using it quite a lot. In fact, I’m using it to create this blog post.

Yesterday I brought just my iPad, and a tiny Bluetooth speaker for extra volume when playing songs for the class, to my weekly volunteer teaching at Hibikinokai. It worked great.

The Logicool keyboard case really makes a difference for productivity on the iPad, as opposed to mostly consuming media and checking email and Facebook.

The tablet features are great, and the keyboard just makes it easier to use for things like writing this blog post.

Some nice things about using the keyboard with the iPad include:

  • There is a special row of iOS keys, so you can easily go to the home screen, bring up your current open apps, do a search, switch languages, bring up the keyboard if you want to, control music, control speaker volume, lock the iPad and more.
  • You can use tab on the keyboard to go to the next field when filling out a form instead of tapping on the next field on the screen (which you can still do, of course – either way is fine).
  • Copy/pasting is easier because in addition to the “tap on screen” method you can use CMD+V on the keyboard. Similarly you can use CMD+L in Safari to go to the address field, CMD+A to select all text and CMD+Z to undo.
  • There is a cool Documents 6 app by Readle which essentially adds a Finder-like feature to the iPad. I understand a Finder-like feature will be standard in iOS 11 too. I used that for class by downloading some YouTube videos for class and keeping them local for playback.
  • The keyboard helps save space on the iPad screen, because when typing it’s not on-screen by default taking up screen space.

So it’s a convenient mix of keyboard and on-screen tapping tablet features.

The only problem I noticed is that when I go back to my MacBook Pro I find myself tapping on the screen now to do some things instead of moving the cursor and clicking!

Since this iPad is the wi-if plus cellular model, it’s also convenient outside. I even have a Terminal app running on it so I can connect to servers in case of a customer emergency.

Anyway, it’s quite fun. I think I’ve used my iPad this past week more than I have all my other iPads together over the past 5 years!

 

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iPad 5th generation keyboard case – what have I done?

I did something pretty stupid on Sunday. I needed a case for my new iPad 5th generation (not pro) and I was sort of interested in a keyboard case.

The new iPad doesn’t support the Apple Smart Keyboard. I knew there were several out there, including the Logicool Slim Folio made just for this iPad.

On Saturday, on the way back from Dave’s birthday party I went case hunting at Yodobashi Camera in Akibara. I almost bought a Sanwa soft back protector case (really all I need). But it seemed expensive at ¥2,800 just for that. Then I thought, well maybe I should have the Apple Smart Cover along with that. That’s like ¥4,400 yen. So the total seemed sort of boring and a waste.

But I had a Yodobashi gift coupon burning a hole in my wallet from when I got my iPhone 7 Plus in November and wanted to get something. I asked about keyboard cases for this iPad, and the salesman took me to that corner, but the ones for the iPad 5th generation hadn’t come out yet. So I decided not to get anything and went home.

On Sunday, during Hibikinokai lunch hour I went over to the Yodobashi Camera in Hachioji, right next door. The Logicool had just come out that day! I felt it and tried it and impulse purchased it.

Then an hour later I regretted it. It adds an extra 440 g to the 478 g iPad, almost doubling the weight. So it’s harder to hold in one hand and use as a tablet, which is what it is. Since I already have a notebook computer, I asked myself, “Self. Why did you do this?”

So I let myself stew about it for a day and then took it out of the box again a while ago, and I’ve been playing with it. I don’t know if I’ll use it all the time, but it is actually quite cool!

I’m tying this message on the iPad right now, at the same speed I would on my MBP. That in itself is cool.

There is also a whole row of keys at the top just made for iOS – jump to home, Siri, search, switch languages, bring up the keyboard, music controls, sound controls, lock the iPad and more. You can double-tap the home key to bring up the multi-tasking menu to switch back and forth between apps.

Also, unless you want to raise the iPad onscreen keyboard, it replaces it by default, so you save a lot of screen space that would otherwise be devoted to the keyboard.

There are extra Mac-like editing keys, like up-down, left-right arrows. I guess because this one is sold in Japan, Option-Y even switches to the ¥ sign, even when in English mode. Because of these extra keys, editing is much easier than just in tablet mode.

Technologically speaking, it is rather cool. And since I got the wi-fi plus cellular model iPad it’s like having a truly portable computer with you with an overall weight half that of my MBP.

And of course you can use the tablet on-screen features to tap and do all the normal things you do.

The keyboard comes with some small coin-sized batteries that are supposed to last 4 year before needing changing. And the Bluetooth connectivity was trivially easy.

So I’m somewhat won over by it. I might not use it all the time, but I’m tempted to try bringing it, instead of my MBP, to the next Hibikinokai meeting and doing my lectures from it.

The photo shows my MBP on the left and my iPad 5th Generation with keyboard case on the right.

Thinking about getting a new iPad because, why not?

My current iPad is the original version iPad Air. Not all the upcoming iOS 11 features (such as split-screen) are supported on this model because it has gotten old.

So I’m thinking of getting the new iPad 9.7″ model. I also looked at the new iPad Pro 10.5″ model, but functionally they are the same. The only differences are:

  1. The Pro’s CPU is A10 and the regular iPad is A9 (my current one is A7).
  2. The Pro’s screen is 10.5″ and the regular iPad is 9.7″ (in almost the same overall size).
  3. The Pro has a so-called “smart connector” which connects to the new “smart keyboard.”

But the cost is substantially different, and I don’t think the extra cost is worth the Pro. They are both functionally the same.

If I get the wi-fi plus cellular model from Apple Japan directly and, say, pay it off with a zero percent 24 month loan it’s 2,800 yen/month. But then you have to go make a separate contract with a cellular company if you want to use cellular data rather than tether to your iPhone.

I talked to SoftBank – my cell phone carrier – and if I get it from them you get a large monthly discount off of the device, so the total with data sharing and device cost and all their other fees is 3,000 yen/month. Just 200 yen/month and it includes the data contract.

So if I do this, I’ll probably get it from SoftBank and data share with my iPhone 7 Plus.

Using my Japan Softbank iPhone 7 Plus while traveling in the U.S. – America Houdai

At the end of March I will be making a two week visit to the U.S. for my mother’s 90th birthday. My mother and sister live in Boston.

Since I have an unlocked iPhone 7 Plus I thought of doing what I usually do – get an AT&T GoPhone SIM card and get a U.S. temporary account and phone number. They have plans for $45 per month which seem fairly reasonable, for unlimited talk and text within the U.S. and 4 GB of data at high speed, after which your speed is throttled.

But I ran into some problems, and it was starting to get expensive. For example, the GoPhone plans don’t allow tethering. I was surprised by that. So in order for me to do work on my computer I would need a separate mobile hotspot – more money for a new device, plus pretty expensive data plans with restrictive data limit caps. It was getting costly. I was looking at $45 for the GoPhone plan plus $119 for a mobile hotspot device + $75 or so for a hotspot data plan. All for a two week visit.

I had decided to go with AT&T anyway, because I do every year, but this morning got a notice that my online order had been canceled by AT&T because they “could not confirm my identity.” I don’t know why, since I have U.S. credit cards that match my U.S. address and have been using AT&T every year. But whatever…

While looking for an alternative a Facebook friend told me about Softbank’s “America Houdai” service. I happen to use Softbank for my carrier in Japan. The word “houdai” means “all you can.” For example, if a restaurant is “tabe houdai” (like the Sizzler salad bar) it is all you can eat. Some bars have happy hours which are “nomi houdai” – all you can drink. The Softbank America Houdai plan turns out to be quite a good plan:

  • There is no extra fee for using it. You just change certain settings on your iPhone to make sure you stay connected to the Sprint network in the U.S. because Softbank happens to own Sprint.
  • You get unlimited talk and text with calls made within the U.S. and also calls made to and from Japan. So people in Japan can continue to call me as usual.
  • The plan includes tethering. And currently there is no data cap. That’s unlimited 4G/LTE data for my iPhone and my computer.

The only drawback is that you don’t get a U.S. phone number. So when you make a call in the U.S., it looks to the person receiving the call like you are calling from Japan. And if they call or text you back at your Japan number, they end up making an international phone call. But for people calling me I can just tell them to use my Skype-in number, which is a Boston number, and avoid that problem.

It sounds like a good deal. No extra cost, unlimited talk and text, and unlimited data during my trip.

I think perhaps the AT&T network is better than the Sprint network. So I’ll report again how good the reception and speeds turn out to be. But it’s definitely worth trying if you are a Softbank person visiting the U.S. and have an eligible contract.