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Using An iPad In Ministry

When the iPad was launched, I mocked it. To me, it was merely an electronic toy. It was just about media consumption. Moreover, why had Steve Jobs chosen a name for a product that made it sound like Apple was joining the tampon industry?

But I have changed my views. It all began back in late May, when I attended the New Wine Leadership Conference. Among a few thousand delegates in the Harrogate International Centre, many were using iPads or other tablet computers productively. I tweeted throughout the conference from my smartphone, but it’s small and it wasn’t practical to bring my laptop from the B and B: the battery would have given out too quickly, anyway.

Soon, I began to hear stories of friends putting their sermon notes on their iPads. The morning I had to print off sixteen sheets of A4 for one act of worship, this became attractive. It also dawned on me that I might be able to access other documents online during meetings if I stored them in the cloud. The children would love me to buy one for the games, too, but that really isn’t the most important consideration.

I won’t be buying one just yet: a large car bill last week has definitely delayed the decision. But I’ll lay out my thinking so far in a moment, and I’d be interested in your opinions. Do you think a tablet is useful for a minister or not? Why? Is it just a toy for the rich? If you do use one, what tips would you offer and what apps would you recommend?

My thoughts, then: firstly, operating system. Despite using an Android smartphone (iPhone contracts were just too expensive), I don’t want an Android tablet. Since my phone was upgraded to Android 4.0 a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich, it has become too flaky. Numerous apps seize up. I can’t be doing with an unreliable tablet.

Realistically, then, that leaves me with a straight choice between an Apple iPad and the forthcoming Microsoft Surface. So my second area of thought is around the pros and cons of these two tablets, based on my perceived needs. The disadvantages of the iPad revolve around the lack of additional connectivity and expandability. There is also a question of compatibility with Microsoft Office files since we use Windows PCs at home, although I know you can use third-party services to get around that. The iPad’s advantages include the maturity of the platform, the huge range of apps and its general reputation for reliability.

As to the Microsoft Surface, we do not yet know everything about it, despite the spectacular launch presentation for it back in June. Its advantages include direct compatibility with Microsoft Office and the inbuilt keyboard, cover and stand – no need to buy additional accessories. Disadvantages revolve around some of the unknown quantities: will it have 3G connectivity? I shall need that. What will the price be? How many apps (and of what quality) will there be in the Microsoft Store? Early reports suggest that at present there are only about 2,000 – a hundredth of what is available for the iPad. And we don’t know how it will fare in hands-on reviews by technical experts.

That’s my summary. What do you think? Bring your experiences to bear on this matter.