It’s easy to look cool with an iPad. My dad can do it for goodness’ sake. Sitting there multitouch zooming in and out of Wall St Journal articles, you’d never know about his massive collection of clip-on sunglasses (Sorry dad. Love you). It’s hard to look cool with neck strain, though, so the iPad is worth examining in terms of ergonomics.
The first thing that one must consider with this device is what, exactly, you’re supposed to do with it. Essentially an overgrown iPod touch, the iPad has a tablet form factor that’s a relatively new idea in personal computing. It has plenty of processing horsepower to handle most computing tasks, and unlike its smaller brethren, the size of the device makes long-form typing more feasible. However, there isn’t an arrangement that can place a user’s hands and line of sight in virtually the same location and remain comfortable for long periods of time. For this reason, the iPad probably makes a better display device than a productivity workhorse. Internet browsing, movie watching, and other tasks that are more viewing-intensive than typing-intensive allow you to focus on positioning the device comfortably for your eyes and neck, as opposed to trying to balance viewing and typing large amounts of text. This isn’t to say you should avoid typing on an iPad at all, but that novel you’ve been working on is probably a task better suited to your desktop computer.
So having established what to do with an iPad, how does one hold it for minimal strain? This is a stickier question than you might initially think. The iPad is designed to be used in more random places than a computer desk, such as in your lap on the couch or sitting in a train. None of the bunches of positions you could possibly use it in are 100% ergonomically ideal, but that need not dissuade you. Almost nothing we do, from eating at the dinner table to reading a book, follows ergonomic principles to a tee, but somehow most of us avoid repetitive salad injuries. A big reason for this is that you don’t sit at a table shoveling food into your mouth for hours at a time every day (at least we hope not). When using your iPad, hold it how it is comfortable, and when needed, switch positions. If you find you’ve been focusing your eyes on it too long, take a break and do something else for a few minutes. By adjusting yourself in this way, you can maintain your coolness much better.
The iPad is a neat-looking, functional gadget. With the right type of use, it can also be one that’s ergonomically sound. So feel free to get out there and show the world just how with-it you are.