Apple recently unveiled it's latest updates to the iPad lineup. The $499 iPad Air is a 10.5-inch machine with high-end features such as support for the Apple Pencil and includes the latest A12 Bionic chip for advanced machine learning and AR experiences. The $399 7.9-inch iPad mini, which also supports the Pencil stylus, includes the A12 Bionic chip for improved performance over older models. Both are available online today, and purchasing one entitles you to a free personal setup in the store to help you get started.
The iPad won't replace your work laptop, but it can still serve as a powerful business tool. With the right applications, accessories and uses, the iPad can help make your work life more efficient. As a great consumer device, you'll also use it for unwinding by watching movies, swiping through photos or playing games. The key to making the iPad useful for business is treating it like a business device.
When combined with a keyboard or a stylus, your iPad goes from being a nice tablet to a powerful tool for business. Tablets are portable, affordable and easy to use, and when paired with powerful accessories, iPads can be nearly as powerful as standard laptops but without the bulky frame.
Keyboard: Apple recently rolled out its Smart Keyboard Folio for the new iPad Pro. There's a similar $159 keyboard for the iPad Air. The keyboards cover and protect your iPad when it's not in use. When it's deployed, you'll still be able to adjust your iPad to an angle that best suits you.
There are also plenty of keyboards available for both the iPad and iPad mini. Logitech makes high-quality Bluetooth keyboards ($69.99) as well as iPad-ready keyboards ($129.99) that attach via Apple's Smart connector. You can also link your iPad to Apple's full-size wireless keyboards for Macs, or opt for an Apple Smart Keyboard ($169) that attaches via Smart connector.
Stylus: The newest Apple Pencil comes with added usability, like improved touchpoint technology and new gestures for added interaction. If you plan on using your tablet for note taking during business meetings, it's a no-brainer. The Apple Pencil can also be used to jot down notes on PDFs, scribble reminders, draw charts and graphs and more. The first-generation, $99 Apple Pencil is also a great product for small business.
Case: Apple recently released a Smart Folio case for the new iPad Pro. This case offers protection to both the front and back of your iPad, making it an ideal accessory for the traveling business owner. An elegant folio case is the perfect accessory to keep your iPad, Apple Pencil and Keyboard together. You can also opt for a case made by a third party. Targus makes affordable no-frills cases for the 9.7-inch iPad (starting at $24.99) and Twelve South makes elegant iPad cases that look like leather-bound books (starting at $69.99).
Load it with apps
Thanks to an increasing demand for mobile software solutions, you can run almost all the business tools you already love on your iPad. There are more than 1.3 million apps to choose from. Here are just a few favorites among business iPad users:
- Microsoft Office Mobile Apps: Thanks to Microsoft's line of mobile Office apps, you can outfit your iPad with your favorite work tools, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Being able to showcase presentations directly from your iPad without lugging your laptop around is a win. You can also download Microsoft Outlook and OneNote on your iPad for cohesive integration across different platforms and devices.
- QuickBooks: One of the most popular software products, with small and large businesses alike, is QuickBooks. Thanks to the mobile QuickBooks app, you can access your account from anywhere, process invoices and keep an eye on the books. [See Related Story: Which Version of QuickBooks is Right for Your Business?]
- OneDrive: OneDrive is a mobile-friendly cloud storage system that has easy integration with Windows. The world is moving toward cloud storage in general, but if you're planning on doing real work on your iPad, it's especially vital, since a few robust spreadsheets and videos can eat up your RAM pretty quickly.
- Slack: Slack is a great tool for keeping your team connected. There is an iOS app for Slack, but it can also be run on desktops and across all different operating systems. With Slack, you can chat with your team, create different channels, DM people and host video and voice conference calls. [See Related Story: 8 Best Apps for Business Collaboration]
- Trello: If you want to stay on task on your iPad, Trello is a solid choice. Trello has an easy-to-use project management and workflow management dashboard that makes remote collaboration simple.
- CamCard: iPads are super convenient for expos and tradeshows when you don't want to lug your laptop around. The CamCard iOS app is great for keeping track of contacts and organizing customer data.
- POS systems: iPads can be the central hub for POS systems for small business. They offer simple, portable way to make sales. This added usability is ideal for mobile, agile small businesses like food trucks.
Remote Desktop Access
If you left your laptop at home but need something that's not stored in the cloud, you can always use remote desktop access to view your primary machine through your iPad. Microsoft Remote Desktop is a free, easy-to-use iOS app that makes remote access simple.
With powerful apps loaded on your iPad, the right accessories and remote desktop access, your iPad transforms from a basic tablet into a robust business tool.
Presentations on the go
The new iPad Pro includes a USB-C port, so you can connect to thousands of applications and systems that support this type of adaptor, including presentation systems. This means you can work on presentations and present them without having to lug your laptop to a client's location. This added use on such a portable and light-weight device like iPad is ideal for traveling professionals.