How I use my iPad

iPadEver since I got myself an Apple iPad (64GB, Wifi only) in early April, people have been asking me why I bought it, and how I use it. These questions just got more common once people saw me on the NDTV techlife awards, with the iPad glued to my hand. And since Twitter is such a “smoke puff in a hurricane” medium, people keep asking the same questions over and over again – enough for me to put together this blog post. Which has been languishing for a while now, until Kishore Bhargava, who was also putting together a rather broader post about iPad usage, pinged me and asked me for inputs. I’ll update this post and link to his when he publishes it.

1. Why did you buy an iPad?

Short answer: My name is Atul Chitnis. That should completely and comprehensively answer your question. ;)

Long answer: I have, for several years now, been studying and talking about the concept of The Next Billion Users – people without a PC/Mac background using technology the way we use our wristwatches (we don’t think of our wristwatches as “portable time computing devices”, do we?) and who have consciously stayed away from PC/Mac-type of devices, because they are “computers”.

I have been gathering information that I can share with developers who need to target this new audience – you wont believe how hard it is for a developer with a PC background to wrap his brain around the concept of “technology for non-technology-users”.

The iPhone, the iPod Touch and now the iPad (and soon to come iTV) all address this audience, not the lemming-like PC (or even Mac) crowd.

So I got myself an iPad in early April 2010 for one primary reason: I assumed that the iPad would represent a tipping point, and I needed to be able to understand it and its use by The Next Billion Users.

Oh, and it seemed like a fun device.

Both points proved to be right.

2. What do you primarily use the iPad for?

Short answer: to feed Steve Jobs.

Long answer: I don’t use it as a notebook replacement. I don’t even use it as a computer. In fact, the second someone suggests that I “try this great ssh app for the iPad”, my hackles stand up. I do have a few “computing tools” on the iPad, but I deliberately bury them on one of the screens.

I don’t do wordprocessing, I don’t do spreadsheets, I don’t create presentations. I barely create email, though I do use it for reading mail.

And I don’t take my iPad to client meetings (it distracts too much and wastes time – for that kind of work, I prefer a notebook, or a USB stick with my stuff on it).

I know that many people actually acquire the iPad for “zap value”, but the iPad isn’t a one-to-many device, it is a personal device, and though it does have a VGA out adaptor, that is defeating the purpose of the device.

I use the iPad the way I expect The Next Billion Users will use it – as a personal content consumption device, without consciously doing so.

Since I got the iPad, I have watched children, grand-dads, housewives and other people (who wouldn’t use a PC/Mac even if someone held a gun to their heads) take to the iPad like fish to water.

Clearly, Apple is onto something that the others are missing, and I want in on that. :)

3. What are some of the apps you use often?

Short answer: Steve Jobs ain’t gonna starve.

Long answer: I have 200+ apps on my iPad, and at least 600 more on my mac, downloaded over time.

I have been an iOS user since 2008 (ever since the concept of iOS apps and the AppStore kicked off), and I have been downloading (and often paying for) apps for ages. Since all these apps also work on the iPad, I naturally had a good selection to start off with when I got my iPad.

Some of the more common ones I use:

  • Safari, Email. iPod, Maps, Photos, Youtube and Videos: Built-in apps I can’t do without. In particular I use Videos to watch video podcasts (will make a separate post about that) and movies, especially when I am on the move.
  • iBooks: I have been reading eBooks since the mid 90′s, and hence have a HUGE collection of ebooks. Using Calibre, it was a cinch to convert them to ePub format and install them in iBooks. I think that iBooks could be done a whole lot better, but it (along with the Kindle app) is a usable way to read books.
  • LAST.FM client (only available in US, UK & DE appstores)
  • Kindle: I own a couple of physical Amazon Kindles, and honestly – I prefer those for reading books. But in a crunch, the Kindle app lets me read them as well.
  • Facebook: I don’t actually use the Facebook app for iOS on the iPad, because it isn’t native iPad, and in any case, the iPad is big enough to simply use the Facebook site in the browser. Not that I use Facebook that much.
  • MindNode: A very nice mindmap tool that I also use on my Mac, but it makes much more sense on the iPad. I use mindmaps a lot while brainstorming, so this tools gets heavily used.
  • Goodreader: The Swiss Army Knife of PDF reading and file management.
  • Pulse: RSS reader par excellence.
  • Mundu IM, Mundu Radio, Spokn and Mundu SMS: Instant Messaging, Internet Radio, Voice over IP and SMS apps from Geodesic.
  • Air Video: Let’s me watch videos stored on a computer on the network, with on-the-fly conversion. I’d rate this one as one of the top apps I use. Also great for converting AVI/MKV/etc to iPad/iPhone/iPod compatible m4v format.
  • SimpleNote: A simple note taking app that syncs to the web, and has clients for almost any device and OS. Once I make a note with it, it is available on any of my devices.
  • Toodledoo: Great ToDo app, with lots of bells and whistles. Replaced Things on my iPad after the Things author tried to gouge his iPhone customers.
  • Echofon: I have tried other twitter clients, but until Twitter/Tweetie for iPad comes out (its a iPhone-only app now), this is my top client that I also use on my iPhone.
  • We Rule: Think Farmville for the iPad – but no Facebook required :)
  • Angry Birds: Terribly addictive game!
  • Scrabble: Fantastic version of this game, and even lets you use your iPhones & iPods as “tile racks”.
  • Mahjongg 2 HD: What can I say – I am a Mahjongg addict. It calms me and provides me endless hours of gameplay.
  • Myst: If I have to tell you what Myst is, then you probably are not much of a game-player :) Technically a PC game, but makes far more sense on a toouch device like the iPad.
  • Bejeweled 2: Bejewelled has been on my mobile devices since the 90′s. Hopelessly addictive.
  • Cool Hunting: Find and read about cool stuff in art, tech and other things.
  • Nimbuzz: An all-in-one IM app that also does VoIP. I use it rarely (I use Mundu IM and Spokn far more) but keep it around to troubleshoot connections or the rare time that I use Yahoo Messenger.
  • Billings: I am a professional consultant. Tool of my trade.
  • Idea Sketch Another mindmap-kind of app. Rarely used, but useful as an outliner.
  • MagCloud: A great app for discovering magazines on the net.
  • ITC Mobile: Apple’s app to track AppStore sales.
  • I have to tell you what is????
  • houzz: Heavily used (along with similar apps) during the design and construction phases of my house.
  • WebMD: OK, so we all have our little hurts and aches. This one lets me at least figure out the possible issues.
  • Firefox Home: Syncs my Firefox bookmarks and other info (including open tabs) with my other devices
  • Clockradio: Nice app to show me a clock and play internet radio when I am not using the iPad.
  • Dropbox: Really – I need to tell you what Dropbox is?
  • Setlist: App to show me songs in a setlist while I am practicing guitar, also lyrics and other useful info.
  • L&M Guitar Gibson’s guitar tuner, metronome & Chord diagrams
  • Remote: Remote control for iTunes
  • PressReader: My daily fix of newspapers from across the world.
  • Skype: Skype is… well.. Skype. ’nuff said.
  • Kayak: Flight timings, routes, tracking, etc.
  • iBanner HD: Great app for running LED banners. Good for telling people on stage that they should hurry up and finish, so we can go have food.
  • VNC: The only PC centric app – used to access my Macs and other VNC-capable devices.
  • Google Earth: Fantastic version of Google Earth for the iPad.
  • iDraft: Great sketching app. Especially nice for simulated press-sensitivity and variable thickness on the fly.
  • Epicurious: A gorgeous cookery book.
  • Aquarium: Does nothing but show fish in an aquarium, but the sound makes people rush to the bathroom :)

Many of these apps also exist on the iPhone and I use them there as well.

Note that I also bought and have installed Pages, Numbers and Keynote for the iPad, but I don’t use them for anything but demonstrating them to people who want to know about them :)

This is far from a comprehensive list, and keeps changing as I discover new apps. Unfortunately, no one has written an AppList kind of application that looks at all installed apps, looks them up on the appstore and creates an exportable document that lists the apps, descriptions and frequency of use. (Hint, that’s an app idea you could exploit!)


  1. Very nice blog post. Quite helpful as I am just beginning with my iPad2.

    Firefox Home and Skype are both very helpful apps but would have been better if they were iPad apps. Even Nimbuzz is iPhone only. I am looking for a good IM to use Google Talk on iPad. Any ideas?

    Also wanted to ask if you can recommend an app for stock portfolio tracking, may be complete investment tracking?

    This is one year old post, still useful but if you update it for 2011/iPad2, it will be very helpful for all the newbies specially from India as iPad is not starting to gain some real traction here.

  2. Kanwar Plaha says:


    It is a strange feeling reading your justification of the iPad having read ‘The Rising’ minutes ago. I feel you contradict yourself. Allow me to explain.

    To me, and it should be obvious to anyone following the open-source/linux stuff, Apple is now the epitome of what Microsoft used to be few years ago. No, Apple is probably twice as detrimental to freedom than Microsoft ever was. Sure, MS restricted your choice of software but Mr Jobs also restricts your choice of hardware — what can and cannot work on your “iDevice”. What you can and cannot do with it, etc. The ‘real’
    reason why Apple is going after Android …. but I digress.

    When you started using Linux back in the 90s, wasn’t the PC (as Microsoft envisaged it) slated to be the thing The Next Billion Users will use (and hasn’t it turned out to be)? However, you decided to help propagate this whole-linux-thing. So, in the same vein, is it not time to propagate any alternatives that one can find for Apple products? They are a direct attack on an individual’s freedom (and I am not talking in RMS terms).

    Anyway, I am not asking you *why* you bought an iPad because that is personal (and answered in your first reply) but rather questioning the contradictions between your erstwhile thoughts and articles and this article which virtually markets iPad as the device the world needs.

    Cheers … and despite this post, I enjoy reading the stuff on your site.

  3. Mayunk Jain says:

    This was such a brilliant article, not only on why to use the iPad but also HOW to use it. Personally, I am a Neanderthal who has never used an IOS device despite being a techie; primarily because they always appeared more like “expensive toys” than a must-have tool for me. After reading this, I am tempted to change my mind. As you rightly point out, the iPad is NOT a notebook or PC replacement. Yet, it is a powerful consumption device– both at play and at work.

    I invite you and your readers to sign up at for more goodies on making the iPad a business productivity tool!

  4. Vinay Rao says:

    The Next Billion users are no different from the rest of us in the way in which they make their judgement on where to spend their money. They are making priorities and trade-offs in these parameters – time, money, energy, attention, emotion. If learning to use a PC takes too much investment in time, energy and attention (even if they had the money), they just wont do it, even if using the internet (or consuming new knowledge) was a high priority. This works across markets and so people’s investments keep reducing and their returns keep increasing. Yep, Jobs and his merry men, understand this only too well.

    By that measure, the next Billion’s device has to be simple, flexible and social, on a different scale from the computer as we know it. Where people will (hopefully) never have to manage hardware and software assets on their own – you dont, after all, in a TV set.

    I’ve been doing a bunch of things in this area for a while. Will be good to know what your ideas are, if you’ve posted them elsewhere.

  5. Sandeep Ohri says:

    I wanted to buy one for taking Notes, during meetings – with a stylus and doing an OCR with handwriting recognition. Also connecting it to an external USB HDD…but I think the iPad is not meant for an app like this…or am I wrong? Please do tell!

  6. prashanth says:

    So how does dropbox serve any use on ipad? Since you only consume content? Do you use it for sharing stuff from your mac to your ipad.

    I want to get one for my parents. Would help them do all those things that they struggle to learn on the pc. However ipad is like all apple products, a premium product(read costly), and that will be a roadblock to its adoption in developing countries like india.

  7. Jaskirat says:

    Nice take! Although I haven’t come anywhere close to installing the number of apps you have, I think the iPad is a revolutionary device and and I think it has the potential to *replace* the PC for people like my mom/dad or my 6 year old cousin. No more fix-home-pc issues ftw!

    For me, other than playing angry birds, I haven’t really done much on the device. Given I am in front of the PC/Laptop all day mostly, which is why I end up going for the kb/mouse combo instead of iPad mostly. It sure is a fun device to have around though.

  8. Shalin Jain says:

    I have been using an iPad since June 2010 and primarily bought it for my parents. They love it and spend hours with it consuming youtube videos, reading wikipedia and playing games. They have never asked me “how to … ” something on it. They once saw the dancing icons and rushed to the one button they knew existed on the iPad.

    Can’t agree more on the “The next billion users”.

  9. Sunder Raj says:

    what about Antivirus /Spyware? What makes you feel that your iPad is quite secure?

    • Atul Chitnis says:

      Viruses are a Windows-specific issue – I haven’t used Windows in many years, and have never had to use Anti-Virus apps on my Linux and Mac machines. Viruses and Spyware have little chance of getting past Apple’s curated AppStore approval process.

  1. [...] read on how the poster uses iPad. Useful list of apps too, and some insightful observations made: How I use my iPad | Atul Chitnis Reply With Quote + Reply to Thread « Previous Thread | Next [...]