You bought a shiny new iPad 2—congratulations! You've managed to climb to the top of the technological food chain. Men want you, and women want to be with you (or vice versa). It's more exciting than a bike on Christmas morning. However, after a few days exploring the built-in apps, the honeymoon ends and reality sets in. You start asking yourself, "What more can I do with this thing?"
As it turns out, you can do a lot more, thanks to the hundreds of thousands of titles in the App Store and the ever-growing variety of accessories available from third-party vendors. Here are some steps that will help you get the most out of your new iPad 2. You can think of this article as your training wheels.
Step 1: Get Protection
Before you even touch your new iPad , do yourself a favor and get some insurance. Anything that is portable and expensive is particularly affected by Murphy's Law. All iPads come with a 1 year limited warranty from Apple that covers you against basic mechanical failures. In addition, you can purchase an extended warrantee from Apple that will cover your device for an additional year (See AppleCare Protection Plan, apple.com/support/products/ipad.html). However, the plan only covers "defects" in the device; it does not protect you against drops or spills.
For better protection, I recommend Square Trade (squaretrade.com). Square Trade will insure your iPad 2 against drops and spills as well as mechanical issues. You can get two years of insurance for $95.99 or three years for $143.99. Square Trade does not protect you against theft or loss.
Step 2: Read up on your new iPad
A wide variety of websites are devoted to Apple's mobile devices. They cover news, app and accessory reviews, tips & tricks, and more. We list some of the better sites on the iPhone Life website (iphonelife.com/bestsites). In addition, a number of book references are available (search on "iPad 2" at amazon.com).
In addition, iPhone Life magazine puts out two reference guides each year—a Buyers Guide and a How to Guide. These guides will tell you everything you need to know about how to use the device and what apps and accessories to buy for it. If you don't already have these issues, you can purchase the hard copies from our website (iphonelife.com/store) or digital copies from zino.com.
Step 3: Visit the App Store
The built-in apps cover the basics, but it's the App Store that makes the iPad so powerful. Here are a few essential apps that will help make your new iPad more functional and fun.
Add basic functionality
Flixster is the definitive movie app. It lets you check out Rotten Tomatoes movie ratings, get show times near you, and purchase tickets—all from your new iPad. It also lets you view and manage your Netflix queue, browse a DVD catalogue of over 50,000 films, and purchase or rent movies from iTunes.
Google Mobile is a collection of all of Google's most used services. You can search by voice, picture, and of course, plain text. You can also access Gmail, Gchat, and Google Translate among other services. The redesigned interface is very accessible.
The Weather Channel Max for iPad
A weather app is built into the iPhone but missing from the iPad, and every mobile user needs a weather app. While it's not the most visually appealing app around, Weather Channel Max is the most functional and the most detailed.
Have some fun
Flipboard turns your Facebook and Twitter feeds into a digital magazine for you to browse. The interface is beautiful and very user-friendly. Amazingly, Facebook does not have a native app for the iPad. While browsing Facebook on Safari works fine, using Flipbook is much more enjoyable. You can also use Flipboard to browse RSS feeds.
Defend your village against a mob of fun-loving zombies, using an arsenal of zombie-zapping plants that will slow down, confuse, and "mulchify" the zombies before they reach your door. Every iPad needs some games. Plants vs. Zombies is one of the most fun and addictive games available.
The iPad isn't just fun and games; it's also for serious business. Quickoffice lets you view, create, and edit Microsoft Office documents, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint presentations files. The software works seamlessly with Microsoft Office and Google documents. This one's a must-have for any business traveler.
Dropbox lets you access your files from any computer or iOS device. Simply load the software on your computers and the app on your iOS device and voilà… you can access it from anywhere. Dropbox makes cloud storage easy and accessible.
Now you can get all the latest blogs from iPhoneLife.com as well as news, articles, tips and more… and it's all free.
Step 4: Accessorize your iPad
Now that you have your new iPad loaded with a bunch of cool apps, it's time to think about accessories. There are several categories of accessories that can keep your iPad safe, stylish, and accessible. Starting with the most important of which—cases:
$39 polyurethane; $69 leather, apple.com
Apple had the advantage of being able to develop its new SmartCover as it developed the iPad 2, and the results are pretty impressive. The SmartCover magnetically attaches to the top edge of the new iPad and folds over the screen. When you close the flap, it automatically turns the iPad 2 off; when you flip it open, it turns it on. You can also fold the SmartCover back to use it as a stand.
This is probably the most stylish case I've seen, but it does have some disadvantages as well. The most obvious one is that it only protects the screen. The back and side of the iPad 2 are still exposed. In addition, some have complained that the magnets used to attach the SmartCover are not strong enough. They can sometimes disconnect if you are putting the iPad at an unusual angle. When it's open, never hold the iPad by the SmartCover. You might also consider slipping the iPad/SmartCover in a shoulder bag for extra protection.
This beautifully crafted, high-quality case is the perfect solution for the business professional. Handmade by leather craftsman in Spain, it completely changes the look of the iPad. However, it's stylish enough that you will not mind. Like the Apple's SmartCover, this case has a magnetic closure that puts the iPad to sleep when closed and wakes it up when opened. The leather gets scuffed fairly easily, so it's not ideal for rugged use.
The iPad's built-in soft keyboard works well for short e-mails, but an external keyboard comes in handy if you need to need to write longer e-mails or create documents on your iPad using a third-party app. ZAGGmate is a hard case with a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard built into it. The case is made of aircraft grade aluminum that protects the device while traveling. When in use, the stand can hold your iPad at several different angles. As with the SmartCover, ZAGGmate does not protect the back of the iPad.
The Gramecy is a very affordable sling bag with room enough to carry your iPad 2 and other small items. There is a small compartment for your iPhone in the front of the bag as well. The bag also comes with Cocoon's innovative grid-it organizer system that helps keep your bag orderly.
The PowerDock Dual lets you charge two iOS devices at the same time: one iPad and one iPod touch or iPhone. It looks nice and saves you from having a mess of cables. The iPad can be a little tricky to dock though, especially if it's in a case.
Step 5: Repeat the process
You've got insurance, the latest apps, and the hottest accessories for your iPad 2. What's next? By the time you've fully pimped out your new iPad, Apple will no doubt be announcing the launch of the new and improved iPad 3. Welcome to the wonderful world of Apple. I hope you've brought your checkbook, because livin' large ain't cheap.