Getting an iPad Air for PhD use: A worthy investment?

Two weeks ago I’ve bought an iPad Air 2, a move that I hypothesised could supercharge my PhD to the next productivity level. Well that sounds like an overrated claim to a device that’s quite pricey admittedly. So is iPad Air 2 (or iPad Air 1) really worth the investment? So here I’d like to share my brief experience¬†on using the device after two weeks in terms of the usefulness of its apps.

I’ve been an Android smartphone user for many years and I also had used Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (first version) and Asus Transformers TF300T. Thus with this iPad Air 2 comes my first encounter of iOS for iPad. Of course many things were very unfamiliar to me such as its settings, hand gestures, apps, etc. But as I played along with the device, I was getting more familiar with it.

in terms of its physical appearance, iPad Air 2 is very light to me at about 440g for a 10.1 tablet. My hands did not tire as much after holding it for a few hours as compared to using the other Android tablets. Additionally I really like the 4:3 screen ratio which translates the A4 paper view into equal scaling. Even when I’m typing with the touchscreen keyboard in landscape mode my hands are not too far to each other as compared to those 10.1 widescreen tablets. I think the only other Android tablets of similar screen scale is perhaps the Google Nexus 9 but then its screen is slightly smaller.

The most important factor that influenced me to purchase an iPad Air 2 is the availability of certain apps that i really like to use for my PhD. We can argue that there should exist Android apps that can offer similar functionalities as those respective apps in iOS for iPad. Well from my search on existing Android apps for tablets, the results would be either no equivalent apps found or some similar apps exist but they’re not as polished as the iOS versions. I’m not referring this statement in general sense, in fact there are Android apps that are better than their equivalent iOS versions. However the following iOS apps do meet my PhD needs in some ways unmatched by known equivalent Android apps:

  1. Papership  Рthe front UI Mendeley/Zotero reference manager
  2. QuickPlan Pro – Gantt chart for research/project planning
  3. Notability – Note taking app with audio recording feature
  4. Calendars – Notable alternative to Google Calendar app

So these are the main apps that found their places in my academic workflow. In my future post I will explain about how do I utilise those apps as well as my current academic workflow which includes the use of iPad.

One thing that I really missed from the Android OS is the widget feature. Android widgets are very useful as they allow us to perform specific functions or to get information by a quick glance without opening up the whole apps. For example my bus time widget helps me to know the latest bus arrival times of the specific stops straightaway after unlocking my phone. In iOS I’d imagine that we would have to click open the app or drag down the notification bar after unlocking the device to get such information.

Anyway my preliminary conclusion here is that despite its high price tag, the iPad Air is a valuable investment for PhD particularly due to its 4:3 screen ratio, lightweight, quality apps for PhD, long battery life and touchscreen experiences.

Alternatively iPad Air is also available at lower price than the iPad Air 2. The main differences are that the iPad Air 2 has higher processing power and fingerprint security. If you are planning to get the iPad Air 1 or 2 for your PhD, the higher memory capacity beyond 16GB can be useful as the 16GB memory could be quickly utilised with more apps installed, more audio recordings made and more MOOC videos downloaded.


A Blog on Being IT-based Productive for PhD

Hello world! Welcome to this blog where I’m recording my exploration into the IT world toward achieving better productivity in doing PhD. Yes, I’m a PhD student somewhere in the world and this is basically a blog on my PhD journey. But as I explained earlier, the focus would be on IT tools (mobile devices, hardwares, softwares, apps, etc) that I discovered and how they can positively impact my study and hopefully yours as well. So feel free to browse this blog and hope you could gain some benefits from my posts.