Thusfar the London-based 'iPad Pro as daily-driver' tests have been a resounding success. In contrast to simply connecting at a coffee shop, answering a few mails and sending a few tweets - which any smartphone can easily accomplish - my typical 'London Day' away from our head office is a full multi-tasking extravaganza.
And thusfar the iPad Pro has performed admirably.
Not only have I given Keynote presentations, uploaded app builds on the go, nailed all light duties like email/social networks, and done some great note-taking both in Evernote as well as the Notes.app with Apple Pencil - one of the next and most important challenges arose yesterday.
Yes, the dreaded WebEx-style conference call.
First a disclaimer. I absolutely loathe conference call services (GoToMeeting, WebEx, Google Hangouts, AnyMeeting, etc.) - they all completely SUCK. Inevitably when running or joining one of these anachronistic VOIP conference products, you are prompted to download a client, configure your browser, or generally WAIT, reload, plug-in, and faff around - effectively ensuring all attendees either arrive late, have their microphones turned off, can't hear other attendees, or simply give up entirely.
I would estimate the success rate of an uninterrupted, smooth call on any of these services is around 45%.
And that's on a good day.
Given my fractious relationship with these services, they are sadly still a necessary evil in the business world - and when running a collaborative project, something we simply can't escape. Basically, until Slack comes up with a better solution (and here's hoping they do!), here at Entropy we use LogMeIn's Join.me - a service we have found to be the lesser of the various conference call evils thusfar. But only just
Thankfully, Join.me offers an iPad-customised iOS App, and has even taken the much-appreciated step of updating it for the iPad Pro form factor. It also supports slide over and iOS 9 split screen view - something that is absolutely essential when trying to work or note-take during a conference call.
I must admit, after years of being terrorised by these conference services, I was relatively pleased with how easy the experience was in general on the iPad Pro - especially in the initial joining, setting up, and starting of a web-based call.
That said, it wasn't without its issues.
For example, the overall volume was very low, even with the iPad's internal volume set to full. Looks like an oversight by Join.me - but at points we definitely had to strain to hear everything being said on the other end. It's especially a shame as the iPad Pro's outstanding quad-speaker system should have produced one of the best conference call experiences available. Sadly, this just wasn't the case. On the bright side, the iPad Pro's dual microphone set up made hearing *us* crisp and clear.
A much more critical flaw in the app, however, is the lack of a full screen-share capability - something that does not feature on any of the big 'webinar' tools. Sadly, this is an iOS limitation, and one that is crucial to addressing, as screen-sharing is a critical business tool. Granted, the Join.me app allows us to share a whiteboard, a sketch or an individual document, but sharing and viewing a live webpage, or other iPad apps is just not possible. As we are big users of JIRA Agile boards (a web-based Agile project management tool), we regularly share our web browsers with clients during calls to review current actions and tasks. This capability is sorely missing from the iPad app.
On a positive note, the app quickly and clearly streams *other* screens which are being shared, just not in the actual direction we needed - i.e. from the iPad itself :-(
So it's not a flying pass for this test, unfortunately. I think if your goals are simply to join, view other attendees' screens, and participate in web-based calls and screen-shares, the iPad Pro (well, iOS) is absolutely fine.
However, if you are regular host/presenter on these calls, you may need to consider your normal computer for days when you know you will be 'driving' an online discussion.
That said, at this point, I feel I must mention the battery performance of the iPad Pro - especially on a long day when I'm away from a power point for well over 12-14 hours. In a word, this thing is a BEAST. After a full day in London (including using the iPad Pro during both train journeys to/from the city), I ended the day with well over 40% battery remaining. That's shocking to me - as I would regularly need to top-up my 12-inch MacBook via an external USB-C battery charger by around 2 or 3PM on similar days.
Keep in mind, the screen is on (and bright) for all but a few hours throughout the day, running multiple applications, and doing some pretty heavy lifting. So by and large, this is a killer feature - and one that is moving me ever closer to making the switch full time - as the removal of 'battery anxiety' throughout a rigorous day is just so very nice.
And thus ends Week One of the Great iPad Pro test.
Next week, the serious trial - as I will be packing up the iPad Pro as my sole machine for a 3-day business trip to Poland, and we'll be throwing everything else I can think of at this thing to ensure it's up to the task as a daily business machine.
This is where the real survival test begins...