The iPad’s slim, lightweight portability tempts many folks to want to leave their laptops behind when going out on the road. Have you ever been enticed? If so, here are some iPad accessories and apps that can help you to travel relatively unfettered while staying productive, efficient (and entertained). We’ll take a look at features and pricing for batteries, keyboards, headsets, cables, connectors, hotspots, and more.
Actually, there are fewer types of accessories for an iPad than for a notebook PC. If you’re toting an iPad but not a laptop, there’s no point in lugging a travel mouse, USB mini-hub, or Ethernet cable.
However, you’ll probably want to outfit your iPad with a screen protector, a cover, an AC adapter and an extra battery, if you don’t have those on hand already. You might also want to invest in a Bluetooth keyboard, a stylus, cables, a digital camera connector, an AV adapter, a headset, a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, and/or sundry other accessories.
Keep in mind, though, that the extent to which you’ll be able to use your iPad for notebook-type tasks will depend on your work style and what you’ll be trying to do. For example, if you’re doing a lot of document editing, you might find finger- or stylus-poking a poor substitute for a mouse or touchpad.
The iPad is fairly robust… but some additional protection can’t hurt. Start with a “screen protector”. These thin sheets of transparent film will then be the first line of defense against fingerprints, dust and dirt, scratches, liquids, and possibly also impacts. A screen protector can also reduce glare.
There’s no shortage of options here, including Zagg’s Invisible Shield (MSRP $30 through $40, depending on model) and Amzer’s Anti-Glare Screen Protector with Cleaning Cloth (MSRP $15) and ShatterProof Screen Protector – Front Coverage (MSRP $40).
For when your iPad isn’t in use, consider a cover to provide additional protection (as well as to automatically turn off the display and/or put the iPad into Sleep mode).
I’ve been happy with an Apple SmartCover, which also doubles as a stand. I indulged in the leather one (MSRP $70) rather than the lower-priced Polyurethane SmartCover (MSRP $39). There are plenty of alternatives from third-party vendors, too, for either front-only or front-and-back protection.
Another option is a full-device case like the Lifeproof nuud Case (MSRP $130), which provides waterproof protection in up to 6.6 feet of water and shockproofing for up to a 4-foot drop.
If you’re going to do a lot of keyboarding, a physical keyboard makes sense. Some of these also act as a case and/or stand.
I still cheerfully recommend (and am still using) the Logitech Keyboard Case by ZAGG for iPad 2 (MSRP $100, but available for as little as $50, if you’re able to find one at this point). Logitech offers a slightly thinner model, too, but I don’t feel that it supplies as much protection.
One newer keyboard that I like is The Brydge (MSRP $100 through $200), which includes iPad-holding hinges, and — on two of the three models — speakers.
AC Chargers and Batteries
While the iPad can go 10 hours on a single charge, it’s safer to carry along a way to recharge on anything more than a half-day trip. Ditto for accessories like Bluetooth headphones.
Because the iPad requires more power than the small iPhone-class USB chargers, you need to make sure you bring one with you that puts out an iPad’s worth of power.
Apple, of course, includes a 12-watt USB power adapter with your iPad, which has fold-in prongs for when it’s not in use. However, it only has one USB port, so you’ll need another one to recharge two devices concurrently.
My advice is to pick up a third-party one with two USB power ports. I like the ones from Innergie, both the Mini AC15 1.5Amp Dual USB Adapter (MSRP $14.99), which is good for an iPad and some lower-powered device, and the Duo USB Wall Adapter (MSRP $29.99), which like Apple’s adapter has fold-in prongs.
It also can’t hurt to own an auto adapter charger — one that fits into the cigarette lighter. One recommendation here is Innergie’s Duo USB Auto Adapter (MSRP $24.99), which provides 2.1Amps across two USB ports.
You should also add a portable battery pack to your kit, since you’ll often need to recharge your iPad — or other mobile devices — when there’s no AC or car outlet available. Make sure it puts out enough power — 1.5Amps or 2.1Amps — to charge an iPad, not just an iPhone. There are lots of choices on the market; I’m fond of Innergie’s 6800MaH PocketCell Duo (MSRP $90), which comes with two ports.
Styli and Touch Gloves
The iPad’s touch display lets you do a lot with one or more fingers. For some activities, like drawing or note-taking, you may want more precision, in which case an iOS-oriented stylus makes sense. Sadly — due to how the touch-screen on iOS devices works — none offer a pen-like “fine point.” Still, a stylus can be better than your fingertip.
One of the better options for a stylus is the Wacom Bamboo solo. Despite the name, there’s no actual bamboo involved, just a stylus that works very well on the iPad’s capacitive screen.
If you want to use your iPad in rain or cold, you can now get gloves which have fabric in the fingertips that lets them function with a capacitive touchscreen. These gloves are not expensive, either. For instance, Amzer’s Capacitive Touch Screen Knit Gloves carry an MSRP of only $14.95. (I can’t personally vouch for how much protection they offer your fingers against the cold, but it’s got to be better than not wearing gloves at all!)
Camera Connectors & Media Streamers
If you’re packing a digital camera, you may want to look at, edit, and perhaps post photos. Since the iPad doesn’t have an SD slot (alas and alack), you’ll need one or more ways to get pix and videos from camera to tablet. Happily, there are a surprising number of options.
Apple’s Lightning-to-USB Camera Adapter (MSRP $29) is great for when you just want to download photos and videos directly from a digital camera.
Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit (MSRP $29) consists of a pair of 30-pin connectors: the SD Card Reader, which contains an SD slot, and the Camera Connector with a USB port. (Note: This doesn’t mean that all USB media or device will work, because the port on an iPad doesn’t necessarily provide enough power.)
Fortunately for those who want more, there are some more capable options beyond those very simple tools. A number of companies have put out accessories that can make the contents of USB drives and media cards accessible to an iPad. These can transfer video back and forth, and can stream video directly to a tablet. Some of the many options include the Kingston MobileLite Wireless, the Apotop Wi-Reader Pro, and the IOgear NetShair Link.
Cables and Adapters
While the iPad connective ecosystem is far less complicated than that of a Windows notebook PC, it’s worth kitting up some of what’s available for cables from Apple and elsewhere. (Make sure you’re getting the right type of cable in terms of the port on your iPad — the “classic” 30-pin or the newer Lightning.)
An iPad-to-USB cable is essential for recharging, if for nothing else. You might want to pack one or even two spares. (Non-Apple cables can be much cheaper than Apple’s, by the way, especially in two-packs or three-packs.)
If you have the latest iOS device, you should also carry Apple’s Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter (MSRP $29).
Apple’s Lightning to Micro-USB Adapter (MSRP $29) can also be useful, if you need to use a charger or powerpack terminating in a micro-USB jack.
An AV Adapter lets you mirror your iPad’s display to an HDMI- or VGA-equipped TV, display,or projector for showing slideshows, movies, presentations, etc.
You’ll also need an HDMI or VGA cable, to connect to the projector or TV.
Apple offers the 30-pin Digital AV Adapter for connecting to HDMI devices and the 30-pin VGA Adapter for connecting to VGA devices.
Keep in mind that these aren’t always required; a growing number of TVs and other A/V equipment support AirPlay, a method for wirelessly transfering video.
Sundry Other Accessories
Whether you plan to make phone calls or listen to music, it’s helpful to have something you can put closer to your ears and mouth, Bluetooth-wise, such as headphones, earbuds, or a headset. I’m fond of Jawbone and SoundID, but there are choices all over the price map. Factors to look at include whether you want stereo or one-ear.
Something like the Huawei Mobile WiFi E5220 mobile hotspot can come in handy if your iPad isn’t mobile broadband-enabled, and you don’t have a hot-spottable phone plan.
If you want to bring more files than your iPad has room for, pick up an external SSD or pocket hard drive.
Also, get one or two zipper-sealing bags or pouches to carry all of this in — possibly one for power items and one for everything else. All told, whatever you get is likely to bulk up less than the AC adapter for a notebook.
…and Some Essential Apps
If you’re planning to leave your laptop behind, you want to make sure your iPad has the apps to handle essential notebook-type tasks. Here’s a short list to get you started
An Anti-Theft App
Apple’s own Find my iPhone app also works for iPads. (Be sure to initialize the app before you leave!)
An Office Suite
You should also think about downloading an office suite that can handle whatever document types and formats you use. I’m fond of Documents To Go, either Standard ($10) or Premium ($17), Another option is iApple’s own iWorks for iOS suite of Pages, Numbers and Keynote ($10 each ordinarily, but available free of charge if you’ve bought a new iPad since October of 2013).
A cloud storage and sharing app such as Dropbox or Googl Drive will give you a place to store files, in case something happens to your iPad. You can also share docs with co-workers. friends, business partners, etc.
You might also want a clipboard manager, such as Pastebot.
Remote Desktop Access
A remote desktop/access app like LogMeIn will let you connect to your home or office computers. You can do collaborative screen-share meetings with apps such as LogMeIn’s Join.Me
Even if you do tons of text input, you might be able to leave your iPad’s BlueTooth keyboard at home if you load up a voice-to-text app like Dragon Dictation Text-To-Speech.
Want to find out more about how cloud computing can help to ease your work life? Check out the “Working in the Cloud” series to learn more.