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iPad Buyer's Guide for Lawyers (2016)

By Neil J. Squillante | Friday, March 25, 2016

Originally published in our free SmallLaw newsletter. Instead of reading SmallLaw here after the fact, sign up now to receive future issues in realtime.

With this week's announcement of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple's current iPad line-up is both its best ever but also its most complex. In this issue of SmallLaw, TechnoLawyer publisher and iPad expert Neil Squillante helps you sort through the options by identifying the best iPad for each of six common lawyer use cases. Neil also recommends accessories and cases for the well-appointed lawyer. Also, don't miss the SmallLaw Pick of the Week (newsletter only) for three auto-attendant irritations to avoid.

With this week's announcement of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple's current iPad line-up is both its best ever but also its most complex. In addition, Apple now offers two professional accessories — Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. In this issue of SmallLaw, I'll steer you to the best iPad and accessories for your law practice.

The Big Picture

Apple currently sells five iPad models in three sizes. However, the iPad mini 2 shipped in 2013 and tops out at 32 GB of storage. Skip that one. This leaves four contenders. Here's how the other models stack up:

• iPad Pro 12.9-Inch (2015): $799 to $1,229
• iPad Pro 9.7-Inch (2016): $599 to $1,029
• iPad Air 2 (2014): $399 to $629
• iPad mini 4 (2015): $399 to $729

Below I explain the key differences among these iPads using common use cases.

You Want to Take Handwritten Notes

In 2012, I was enthusiastic about note-taking on the iPad but never found a stylus worth a damn. Note-taking was more aspirational than reality back then. But by all accounts, the Apple Pencil is the real deal for handwritten notes. The Apple Pencil works only with the two iPad Pro models. You'll just need to figure out which size you want.

You Expect to Read a Lot

What kind of reading?

For letter-size documents (PDF, Word, etc.), go with the iPad Pro or iPad Air 2. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is pretty much the same size as a piece of letter-size paper. However, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the only model with a True Tone display — ambient light sensors that adapt the display to your environment to make the screen resemble paper as much as possible.

As much as I love the iPad mini, it's suboptimal for PDF and other letter-size documents. But because of its size and weight it shines for reading ebooks, email, Twitter, Facebook, and web pages in Reader mode or saved to Instapaper or Pocket.

You Live in Dropbox (Or a Competitor)

iPads last a long time. The one purchasing decision that can haunt you is scrimping on storage since you cannot expand it. Storage is especially important if you have already replaced or plan to replace your network file server with a cloud storage service such as Dropbox. While Dropbox doesn't immediately download all files to your iPad as is the case on a PC, over time you'll download plenty so it'll add up.

Only the iPad Pro models offer 256 GB. These also come in a 128 GB capacity as does the iPad mini 4. Avoid the iPad Air 2 if you need a lot of storage as it tops out at 64 GB.

You Want to Give Trial Presentations

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro seems like the only reasonable option for the demands of a trial. You get a lot of screen real estate that you can split between two apps such as your outline and a deposition transcript. The 4 GB of memory makes it less likely that apps will have to reload (the other iPad models have just 2 GB). You can connect a full-size keyboard case that doesn't require batteries thanks to the Smart Connector. The pricier iPad Pro models offer enough storage (see above) to hold a lot of exhibits and videos.

The only wrinkle is that TrialPad (the leading trial presentation app by most accounts) doesn't yet support the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's native screen resolution (it works but is a little enlarged) or iOS 9 split screen multitasking. Lit Software CEO Ian O'Flaherty told me today that support for the iPad Pro's resolution will arrive in April, but there's no timetable for split screen support.

O'Flaherty added that the company's other litigation apps — DocReviewPad and TranscriptPad — support the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's native resolution.

You Want a Laptop Replacement

I have to include the elephant in the room, especially since the answer is a little more complex than it was a week ago. Clearly, you want an iPad Pro equipped a keyboard case and perhaps the Apple Pencil. But now that two sizes of iPad Pro exist, you need to determine how much you value screen size versus portability. (What about Microsoft's Surface Book and Surface Pro? That's a different article.)

You Want a TV and Stereo in the Office

Ironically, the abundance of media apps available for the iPad has been under-reported. Armed with your cable TV login, you can live stream Bloomberg TV, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC, and of course many of the entertainment networks. Likewise, you can stream virtually any radio station via TuneIn Radio and music via Apple Music, Google Play Music, Prime Music, Spotify, etc.

Sure your iPhone can run these apps if you don't mind squinting. And sure you can use your browser in most cases as long as you don't mistakenly close the tab. Regarding sound, both of the iPad Pro models have four speakers that play in stereo in landscape and portrait orientation. But if you're only going to use your iPad as an entertainment device and especially if you use headphones most of the time, the iPad Air 2 will save you money.

You Want to Look Sharp

All the iPads look sharp but that's not the whole story. I've become a big fan of Sena cases. The company works exclusively with leather, and is one of the few case makers that sells sleeves for those who prefer using their iPad naked and need protection only for transport.

Sena's most versatile case is the Vettra 360. It can prop up your iPad in landscape and portrait orientation thanks to a swivel mechanism, and contains a loop for securely carrying the Apple Pencil.

Apple's Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro changes your case calculus. It doubles as a case but protects only the screen. I recommend marrying this keyboard case with Apple's Smart Case in the same gray color (or hey maybe go two tone) to protect the back of the iPad. Yes it's shocking that Apple would make these two separate purchases work so well together.

Hope You Like Your New iPad

If you buy a new iPad, reply and let us know which model and how you use it — and whether you disagree with any of my advice.

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Topics: Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets | Litigation/Discovery/Trials | Presentations/Projectors | SmallLaw
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