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!

 

IMG_8068

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.

Softbank “America Houdai” review after using it on a two-week trip to America

I recently took a two week trip to the U.S. After searching around for different data plans to use with my SIM-free iPhone 7 Plus, it turns out the best plan didn’t require a SIM-free phone at all. I have a contract with Softbank, one of the “big three” mobile carriers in Japan. And Softbank currently lets people with smartphone contracts use their phones completely free while traveling in the U.S. That is free talk to calls made in the U.S., free calls made to and from Japan and, best of all, unlimited data, including tethering. The plan is called “America Houdai” (America Unlimited). No extra contract is required. Just follow their simple settings procedures for leaving Japan and arriving in the U.S. and it just works.

Here are the Pros and Cons of my two week experience using America Houdai in Boston. I waited to write this report until after my bill for April was finalized just to make sure there was no “funny stuff” about the plan.

Pros

  • It is free if you have a SoftBank contract and a supported smartphone, which are most smartphones. It doesn’t matter if your phone is SIM-free or locked to Softbank.
  • Data is truly unlimited. I called and confirmed this any number of times and it really, truly did turn out to be unlimited data, including tethering. I used over 25 GB of data in my two weeks (even with TripMode on my Mac to keep unnecessary background data at a minimum) and there were no slowdowns.
  • The data speeds were not bad for a cell phone in the U.S. In my sister’s Brookline apartment I would regularly get 10-20 Mbps speed. Of course that doesn’t compare to what I get in Japan, but you can definitely get your work done at those speeds.
  • You can make unlimited calls out to U.S. numbers and you can make and receive unlimited calls to and from Japan. People in Japan call you as usual, and they don’t even realize they are calling the U.S.

Cons

  • You don’t get a U.S. phone number. There doesn’t seem to be a risk of somebody seeing your caller ID and accidentally returning a call from within the U.S. (which would be an international call to Japan for them) because your entire Japan phone number isn’t sent. Still, people in the U.S. don’t really have a reasonable way of calling you. I suggest getting a Skype-in number and using Skype for calls instead.
  • Voice calls tend not to be very clear.
  • Oftentimes,  calls will simply not connect. Any number of times I got an “unable to complete your call at this time” recording. But the problem was with Softbank/Sprint and America Houdai and not with the number I was calling, because whenever that happened I was able to call using my Skype account on my iPhone instead.
  • Data seems to originate from Japan, even though you are on the Sprint network. For example, I wanted to watch Hulu one evening and Hulu thought I was in Japan, so I needed to connect via a VPN instead (like I do when I am actually in Japan).

Other

  • Even though I had data roaming turning off (one of the procedures you are supposed to check) somehow roaming data slowly accumulated over the two weeks, reaching about 2 MB in all. I was concerned when I saw that happening and called Softbank while in the U.S. and they said they would make a note of it. This ended up being reflected in an extra 676 yen charge on my latest Softbank bill. I called them today and they said they would refund the 676 yen from my next month’s bill. So despite it being free, and despite following all the settings, you should still check your bill for minor charges cropping up and call Softbank when you get back to Japan if there is a problem. If you see roaming data inching up over your trip, I also recommend calling Softbank and mentioning it to get it on the record. You will get plenty of daily messages from Softbank letting you know you are connected to the Sprint network and in those messages there is a 24-hour phone number to call if you are having issues.

Conclusion

America Houdai is absolutely worth it even for the data alone. There are no U.S. data plans from AT&T or other companies which will give you 25 GB data for two weeks at a reasonable price, much less free! But you do need Skype or some other way to really feel comfortable about making and receiving phone calls, and the voice calls are definitely not very clear.

Still, overall, America Houdai was extremely useful to me on my trip. And you can’t beat the price!

If you travel back and forth to the U.S. a lot I think it’s probably a good reason to use Softbank as your carrier.