Is there a business case for buying an iPad?

So you want an iPad, but is there really a business case to buy one? As a freelancer can you justify the cost? As a website owner will you be able to persuade the boss?

As web designers (and to a lesser extent website owners) we love the latest gadget. The iPad is no exception. However, if we look at it dispassionately from an entirely business perspective, is it worth the money?

Let’s be honest at the start. The iPad is not designed primarily as a work machine. It is designed for watching videos, reading books and surfing the web while lounging around the house. That said, I think there are three possible business reasons for getting an iPad…

  • For testing
  • For the applications
  • For the portability

Lets examine each.

For testing

When you are desperately trying to come up with a reason to buy yourself an iPad this is probably your first line of attack. After all the iPad is selling like hot cakes, which means it will not be long before a lot of people will be accessing your site using it.

It is also true that the iPad is a unique browsing experience especially in terms of the touchscreen. There are also differences between how an iPad and an iPhone render a web page and none of the iPad browser emulators I have found accurately display like the real thing.

iPad Peek

ooo… what is that interesting looking website featured in the screenshot above. You should check that out ;-)

Testing is a fairly solid argument for having at least one iPad within your company. However lets not kid ourselves, we were not anywhere near as keen to spend hundreds of dollars buying screen reader software so we can test on that.

For the applications

The iPad already has some great applications for web designers and website owners. Here are a few of the most notable…

Tweetdeck for the iPad

Tweetdeck for the iPad is the ultimate way to stay on top of your social media responsibilities.

Newsrack and Instapaper

This is how RSS feeds were meant to be read. It is so much nicer being able to relax on the couch rather than sit at your desk (although admittedly you could do that with your laptop).



Dropbox for the iPad

Having instant access to all of my files has already been a lifesaver since buying the iPad.


FTPOnTheGo for the iPad

This program allows you to connect to your web server and edit files to your hearts content. I wouldn’t want to do a lot of coding on this, but its great for quick changes.


Audio Notes for the iPad

The best noting taking app ever! Take notes in a meeting while recording the audio. Can’t remember what your notes meant? Simply touch the note to hear the playback of the audio at that point in the meeting. If like me, you are crap at taking notes in client meetings then this will be invaluable.

Audio Notes

Moodboard for the iPad

We use moodboards a lot in our design process. They are a great way to give the client a feel for our approach without spending a lot of time on design. However creating moodboards can be fairly time consuming in their own right.

Moodboard for the iPad makes the whole process quick and painless. It is perfectly possible to throw together a moodboard with the client in a matter of minutes.

iMockups for the iPad

Although nowhere near as sophisticated as something like Flairbuilder, iMockups does allow you to create quick and dirty wireframes with the client. However personally, I prefer pen and paper.

Obviously the list of applications will grow over time. However, although these applications will only become more impressive I don’t think the iPad will ever be a production powerhouse. It is meant primarily for the consumption of information rather than production. At a push it can do both, but you will still find yourself returning to laptop for most production work.

For portability

The final ‘business’ reason for buying an iPad is portability. This really is the perfect conference device and ideal for client meetings.

Lugging a laptop around just for the sake of taking a few notes, checking email or surfing the web seems like overkill. That said there are two flaws in this argument.

First, you already own a laptop so can you justify the expense just for the sake of a few pounds in weight? Second, if you want portability then you need 3G connectivity.

Of course the 3G connectivity is expensive and also only provides 3G for the iPad. What about your laptop? It’s not like Mr Jobs has allowed us to tether our Laptops and iPads. Even if he did that is one hell of a big modem!

One option is to buy a Mifi instead and get a wifi only iPad. This allows you to connect either an iPad or a Laptop to 3G via wifi.

MiFi on the website

So is there a business case?

If I am completely honest I would say the most common answer is no. The testing argument is strong, but it is still early days and although it is nice to know your site works on the iPad it is not critical.

Unless you are a constant road warrior who does nothing but surf the web, answer email and take notes, then the iPad is not business critical. It is a nice to have but you will find yourself constantly returning to your laptop.

However… buy one anyway. There may not be a business case but you will not regret it for a minute. It’s a great media consumption device and it will prevent you from spending so many hours hunched over your laptop in a darkened room.

Sometimes you just have to treat yourself.

If you recognise that the mobile web is important and you need help deciding on a strategy, then book a mobile consultancy clinic.

Book a consultancy clinic or contact Rob about a more in-depth review.

  • Great article, I have gone down the route of buying the wifi version and getting the MiFi. I am already loving it! We are releasing some software onto the iPad and can now test it on a physical device!

  • I like the argument with the screen reader software. Everyone runs into the stores to buy an iPad “for test reasons”. Ha! Be honest: We only want it, because we want it. There is no reason …

  • I expected this to be about an actual ‘case’ that’s smart looking and acceptable for business use!

  • For myself I’ve highlighted three main business uses, email, calendar and presentation. I rarely answer email via my iPhone and I always carry a standard diary for appointments which get duplicated to my iPhone later. In both cases it’s mainly because the iPhone isn’t quite as natural at these tasks, but I think and iPad could be. The other consideration is the ‘wow factor’ when demoing work to both new and existing clients – web design work is always going to look better on an iPad than on a bulkier laptop with a lower quality screen.

  • Pat

    Thanks for the thorough review. Currently, we’re still contemplating of getting one. Hopefully, soon.

  • I loved the article, great idea, but…

    …i disagree with the sentiment that it’s not business-critical for the web designer/developer yet – I wish that I had paid more attention to generating mobile versions of our companies’ sites earlier in the iPhone’s lifespan! We could very well be on the cusp of new site trends and a major new platform for consumption with the iPad, so I think we should all be prepared.

  • I hoped to hear a great reason why I need the iPad so I can convince my girlfriend. Now all i can say is because Paul says it’s cool…don’t think she will buy that.

    Anyway I see some very interesting apps here. I’m really curious how we will look at the iPad within one or two years. If it’s heading in the direction you mention here this could become the revolution Steve was talking about.

    Anyone here using the Mifi?

  • KJ

    I think the ability to easily bring and show comps at meetings — and better, to travel via flight, are reasons enough for a design or art professional to get one. Many offices have WiFi already, and most hotels do, too. (See how I talked myself into that?)

  • I’ve been thinking that the iPad would be great to take into meetings, not just for presentations as has already been discussed above, but for taking notes. I find transcribing handwritten notes onto the computer, for sharing the ‘minutes’ and keeping a formal record, a real chore. But I object to having laptops in meetings because it can seem ‘rude’ to have a screen up in front of you. Who knows what you’re actually doing behind there?! So I was thinking the iPad would be a nice transparent way of note taking in a meeting.

    So though perhaps justifiable as a business expense, in reality, our next hardware purchase needs to be a new laptop for one of our team. And – being a small outfit – we can’t afford to buy an iPad in the same 6/12 month period as that.

  • Joel Drapper

    You didn’t mention under the Portability heading the amazing battery life which when coupled with say the allows you to get a lot done away from the office. It’s more the a consumption device. Also have you tried the “Brushes” app with a stylus?

  • I30project

    So far I am in agreement with you. I am in mobile confinement for 30 days and I think it is the best consumer product and can augment business nicely… But not a stand alone business device. See some of my thoughts as I blog daily

  • Your mention of the audio notes app appears to be a screen shot of the sounfpaper app. Which is the one you are actually recommending?