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The iPad, My Mom, and Reactions from the Hospital



Given my Mom’s illness, I and my family have been prepared for some time to drop what we are doing and rush to my mother’s side. Yesterday we got what, at the time, seemed like it was that call. It may still prove to be the case but today Mom is once again confounding medical science (and insurance companies) and seems to be rallying, if not bouncing back. I’m certainly grateful for all the warm comments, prayers, and warm wishes folks have shared with me and that I have shared with my Mom in turn. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re at least seeing some daylight ahead.

This stage of her journey has been not unlike many journeys into adventures in health care. Moments of extreme activity alternate with seemingly interminable waiting for test results and consultations. Last night my middle sister and I stayed through most of the night with my Mother, spelling each other as we watched her get some much needed rest. Each of us took this time to catch a few winks and alternatively catch up on emails to let some extended family know what was going on with Mom.

I’ve been using the new iPad to do most of this and I have to say that although I don’t think anyone ever thought of late night ER vigils as a usage scenario for an iPad, this turns out to be just such situation here. There is certainly nothing like an emergency or crisis situation to discover what works and what doesn’t in you gear bag.

For the limited tasks I’ve been using the IPad for during the last two days I’m mostly very impressed. Does that mean it is “magical and revolutionary?” It is really too soon to tell on that front but it is certainly a great mobile device to have on hand in this situation. Here are some likes, dislikes and questions and thoughts that I have discovered.

Battery life. No scientific testing here, but suffice it to say that on Saturday I had been using the iPad for a couple of hours on battery before the call came from my sister. I didn’t plug in again until 3:30am and after doing some web brewing, answering emails, and eBook reading, battery life was still above 50%. WiFi was turned on as was the default screen brightness setting. Performing similar tasks in similar circumstances on my iPhone would have depleted that battery. I know this because we’ve been here  before. Of course the iPhone has another radio to eat juice. Today I let relatives check out the iPad and they pushed it hard cruising the Internet and playing games. I’ve still got over 40% left after the day as I type this. This could indeed be an all day device.

Everything is snappy and fast.

Bluetooth Keyboard Connectivity.
I was very pleased to see that the Igo/ThinkOutside Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard paired up and works great with the iPad. I thought this old favorite was destined for a place of honor in The Closet of Unused Gadgets, but it looks like it has new life. If you have an old Bluetooth keyboard lying around you might want to give it a try. (The Stowaway has sadly been discontinued.)

Reading. Whether it is a web page, a book, or whatever, I love reading on this device.

Video. I haven’t spent much time looking at video, but I did spend a few minutes checking out the NetFlix app, and some other video. I like what I see. But see below.
Yes, this is a fingerprint magnet
.  Actually I think the iPad goes out of its way to collect stray fingerprints from any adjacent surface. Sure they wipe off easily but it really doesn’t make a good impression when you show the device to someone for the first time. Lots of comments made about this today an they were all negative.

You Need a Case. The iPad is solidly built but it does feel fragile nonetheless. When I rushed out of my office yesterday I put it back in its box instead of tossing it in my gear bag.  A case is a must unless you are going to make this a museum piece instead of carrying it around. It strikes  me as odd, and always will, that so much money and time is spent on designing something that, as in the iPad, is truly something to look at, only to see most of that covered up with a case.

You Need a Dock or Stand
. To do any extended work (like typing this post-yes I’m typing this on the iPad virtual keyboard), or extended viewing, you need to prop it up somehow unless you’ve got one of those contortionist’s laps and leg combo that we see in the demos. Maybe that works for you but it doesn’t for me. There are some case/stand combos and I picked one up from InCase that I like a lot.

Native and Universal iPad Apps vs Existing iPhone/iPod Touch Apps
. Yes apps that existed before work on the IPad but they by and large look lousy. Facebook looks terrible. The pixel doubling may be functional but in my view using that as an early marketing hook was a stretch that we all fell for and helped Apple propagandize.

New and different
. So many have called this a big iPod Touch that it has become almost a cliche. It might be that similar but this feels so different to me that it is like entering new territory. I still haven’t wrapped my brain around this yet and probably won’t for awhile. Apple’s advantage over most who came before with Tablets, and with many that will come after, is that you can put your hands on this device before buying. I think that is going to a real key.

eBook Wars.
Some called it a Kindle Killer from day one. That may be the case but, if you ask me, Amazon killed the Kindle with its own native iPad Kindle app. Well have to see on this one but I think it might be game over.

Is Google killing off Google Reader?
This isn’t an iPad problem but Google certainly didn’t pay as much attention to Reader as they did Mail. Or if they did they goofed. It’s a mess.

. Too early to tell, but in the early going I’m struggling.

Oh, and Inking? Forget about it. More on that later.

As you can guess my mind isn’t really into covering this yet. But I thought I would share these early thoughts. And this one as well. I had taken some pictures of my Mom’s flowers and shrubbery the last time I was in town. I had compiled them into an album to show her on my Macbook. I really hadn’t thought about showing them to her on the iPad. But I synced them over this morning and did so. She loved flicking through them. Later I walked my sisters to their cars tonight, leaving my wife to sit with Mom. When I came back to the room, Mom had the iPad and was flicking her way through the other photo albums with my wife egging her on with narrative about the pictures.

Yesterday we all suspected she would not see today. Today she’s sitting up in a hospital bed playing with an iPad with a big smile on her face. I’m not so sure if this is a “magical and revolutionary” device or not, but I have to tell you that moment sure was a magical one.
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  1. HG

    04/04/2010 at 9:41 pm

    I’m glad to hear your Mom is doing much better today Warner. Keep your faith and we will continue to send our prayers for your Mom to recover quickly and for your family to pull through all this.

    I really like my iPad as well, it does like 95% of what I need for work and very portable with a great battery life. By the way I also picked up the Incase case yesterday when I got my iPad at the Apple store. I am really liking the case. I am going to exchange it tomorrow because where you connect the cable, the leather gets in the way so the connector doesn’t stay because of the leather is not cut out right.

  2. Rob

    04/04/2010 at 9:56 pm

    What a wonderful post, Warner. I’ve been praying for you, your family, and your mom. How amazing it is to see her enjoying her loved ones that way. Bringing smiles to someone does something medicine will never do.

    By the way – check out the Apple case – I’m really like it a lot – has a stand in the back that you can use two different ways.

  3. Genghis Khent

    04/04/2010 at 10:17 pm

    Warner, what can I say? My mother in law was in the hospital for 13 months, with a number of rush to the hospital moments. Having her play with the iPad is a blessing for her, if only to take her mind away from her situation to another and happier place, in this case her flowers. God bless.

  4. Paul Harrigan

    04/04/2010 at 11:36 pm

    Warner, you and your mom remain in my prayers. Take care of yourself as well!

  5. Batman Jr.

    04/04/2010 at 11:44 pm

    I lost my mother coming up on ten years ago after a month-long hospital stay. Clearly it’s not anyone’s wish, but sometimes these situations can drive home the true meaning of family like no others. You have my empathy and sincere wishes for the best outcome. Take care.

  6. kip

    04/05/2010 at 1:59 am

    I wonder if you can envisage using the iPad in work case scenarios specific to your field, Warner.

  7. Wanda

    04/05/2010 at 5:08 am

    This was extremely helpful…thanks. I wish the best for your mother. God bless you and your family.

  8. Mike

    04/05/2010 at 5:47 am

    Hey Warner….
    Best wishes to your Mom and whole family in such unhappy times.
    I appreciated the post and hope it gave you some moment of distraction to think about it.
    Count another positive thought for all of you out in the universe tonight.

  9. Gary Harrison

    04/05/2010 at 6:01 am

    Hey Warner,

    Thanks for sharing both your personal and iPad journey. I’ve been down your road myself. Praying for you, your mom and your extend family.


  10. Absolutely NoOne

    04/05/2010 at 6:22 am

    Wow, an Easter miracle. Warner, send my best wishes to your mother; you are both in my prayers.

  11. Brett Gilbertson

    04/05/2010 at 6:57 am

    Sad to hear about your Mom Warner. Have been spending too much time in hospitals with my family too lately, so I feel for you.

    Great review of the iPad so far. Very interesting to hear about the practicalities of it. Looking forward to receiving mine.

    I’ve just dispatched a friend to the US to pick one up for me as we’ll may be waiting a while down here in Australia to get our hands on one…

    From everything I have seen, I am pretty excited about it. Although I’m kinda glad to hear that it is a bit fragile and the screen is glossy and reflective. It it is definitely not a device for the field so our big markets for Tablet PCs won’t be invaded by iPads any time soon… ;-)

  12. Doctor_Roe

    04/05/2010 at 8:30 am

    Warner, we are all praying for you and your mom here. Your picture of Mom holding the iPad is priceless and certainly a joy! She looks so alert and intensely interested in the pictures!

    Your review under the current situation is an honest and real-time review. I had a similar event happen when my wife had her appendix rupture. Grabbed my gear bag and raced to the hospital. You need a system that you can count on and it HAS to work for email, internet, etc. Your review showed just that. The *cons* are minor compared to what your actually experienced when it *had* to work… emailing relatives, wifi connection to the marginal *hospital* net, etc. I hate to say this, but you and GBM may be converting me… Ugh…

    All prayers with you!

  13. Tablet Teacher

    04/05/2010 at 9:36 am


    Your family will remain in my thoughts and prayers.

    As per the iPad review. Keep them coming when you have time.


  14. DWH

    04/05/2010 at 1:46 pm

    Praying for your mom!

  15. CLC

    04/05/2010 at 7:09 pm

    I’m glad to see that your mother is doing better. I hope this keeps up! You guys being there, I’m sure, has lifted her spirits. And a light heart works better than medicine!

  16. Johnny

    04/06/2010 at 8:47 am

    Glad to hear your Mom is doing better. We’ll keep her in our prayers.

    Great iPad review. I had opportunity to use one yesterday and I liked it, although it is very different than I expected.

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