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Me and my iPad: Slouching toward a still-more-mobile style of mobile real estate representation.

I got an iPad 2 Friday, my spiff for hitting my earnings goal ($1,000 per day, if you’re keeping score at home) in April. The dogs have written a ton about the iPad since its introduction, and my plan is to write a ton more as I get used to this little box.

Here’s my deal: How can I make a grand a day every month? How can I push that up to five grand a day? I’m on the move all the time. And I’m tethered to my desk all the time. And I need a way of reconciling that contradiction.

My MacBook went a long way toward dealing with this problem — and may the lord rain his blessings down upon Ronald MacDonald and all the other providers of free WiFi linkage. But a laptop wants too many resources to be universally useful.

How so? If I’m away from free-WiFi-land, I need to plug in an air card and wait for it to initialize. Not only that, I need a flat surface, and I need to give the laptop itself time for house-keeping. Plus which, I always need to nurse the battery, which makes me reluctant to use it for blue-sky purposes, for fear I’ll be powerless to deal with mission-critical problems later on. Still worse, I have to schlep the damn thing around — which makes it much too easy to leave behind.

The iPad takes away all of those problems:

  • WiFi plus 3G means instant-on internet virtually everywhere.
  • I can actually use it in my lap in my car — without moving to the passenger seat.
  • Ten hours of in-use battery life leaves me at little risk of running out of power — and the two iPhone power cables I already have in my car will both fit the iPad, as well.
  • And the iPad is almost too easy to carry: The size and weight of a magazine.

All that’s great, but it’s not as if the iPad does not introduce complications of its own. I’ll be going through everything in detail as I integrate the new machine into my praxis, but I’ll touch on a few difficulties now.

Here’s what I’m looking for from the iPad as my day-to-day front-line computer:

  • Email: This is job one, and I’ll be fully satisfied if the iPad takes away my enduring email paranoia. What I want is a way of dealing with my email as quickly as possibly, all through the work-day. The iPhone was inadequate for this chore, and the laptop too cumbersome. I’ve set up our mail servers so that every incoming email addressed to me is echoed to the iPad, while still being sent to its intended email account. I see everything I should see, and I can take action on most of my mail almost as soon as it comes in. This not only makes me much more productive in junk time, it makes me much more efficient at staying in touch with my clients.
  • MLS: This is a small problem that promises to get smaller over time. FlexMLS is just using its main web site for the iPad, rather than building a mobile site or a dedicated iPad app. This is not great, but it’s far from awful. Many less-used functions don’t work properly — and I’ll document these going forward — but saved searches and shopping cards work as expected, and it is possible to use a skein of listings as the paperless “planos” for a showing tour — as I did on Saturday. Location Services is unavailable, so there is no easy answer to the dreaded “What about that one?” question. But the simple ability to vector directly from the MLS listing to the tax records or the terrain map or whatever — having the live MLS in my hands as I show — this just kills.
  • FTP: My camera is always with me, and my file server never sleeps. Link the two together, and I can build engenu pages from the road, without having to wait to get back to the office. Even better, an assistant can build engenu pages from the car, while the buyer and I are looking at the next house. I have an FTP client for the iPad, and I like the way it works, but I haven’t tried the whole procedure yet: Photos to the server by FTP, then engenu in Safari to make the pages, then email out to the client. I have zero doubt this will work, I just haven’t done it yet.
  • ZipForms: Ugh. Urf. Ick. They have an iPad client, so the web site does not work from Safari. Just that much is stoopid, since it would be nothing to distinguish the iPad from the iPhone and let the iPad run on its own hugely-web-adept web browser. That’s bad enough, but the iPad client itself is beyond lame. It’s a bullet-point product, a piece of junk cobbled together so the ZipForms marketing reps could say, “Oh, yes, we support the iPad, too, just like the other guys.” Bill Gates himself could not have engineered a more useless piece of shitware. I will have more to say about this, but this one (lack of a viable) product will prevent my MacBook from being able to stay home as I had planned.
  • DocuSign: Very robust iPad client, very smart use of the technology. Alas, the utility for me will be limited by the clusterfrolic cited just above. Even so, for follow-up stuff — and for my never-ending broker-initialing chores — the DocuSign client will be a big win. An Bui, if you’re looking in, I will be happy to help y’all put the ZipForms dipwads out of business.

The iPad itself is not without problems. As an example, there is no easy way to save an attachment from an email, which again limits the utility of the DocuSign client. This is pure thoughtlessness on Apple’s part — yes, I said it! — the failure to distinguish the small email form factor on the iPhone from the life-size form factor on the iPad. Want proof that this is actual Microsoft-style thoughtlessness? Even though the iPad has no built-in phone (argghhh!), iTunes still transmits your stored library of ringtones when you sync.

I’ll have lots more to say about all of this — the Ipad, how I’m using it, what I love and what I hate, other apps I like, love or loathe, etc. — in the coming months. To that end, I’ve added two new categories, and I encourage other folks writing here to make use of them, as appropriate:

  • myPad will be devoted to using tablet-based computers for real estate.

  • Want Bigger will be concerned with identifying and correcting errors in products, software and business ideas.

This is an adventure for me. I’ve wanted all of this for a long time, and I am just that close to being able to do everything I want from the road. It will be interesting to see how long it takes me to plug the remaining gaps in my praxis.

Related posts:
  • Firefox for phones: Bringing real browser power to your smartphone
  • How Can The iPad Can Change Mortgage Marketing? It’s The App, Stupid
  • What would you do with a totally free mobile phone?

  • 24 comments

    24 Comments so far

    1. Michael Wurzer May 9th, 2011 8:28 pm

      >>rather than building a mobile site

      Actually, we are just about to release the early beginnings of a new mobile site, which will work well on the iPad as well as mobile phones. The first version will include only very basic searching, but we’ll be iterating quickly to add IDX, portals, and more in the next 60 days.

    2. Michael Wurzer May 9th, 2011 8:32 pm

      I also should add that our new mobile site is being built on top of our flexmls API, and we’re working on making that API available to other developers interested in creating native applications. In other words, FBS is very focused on creating the platform on which a thousand mobile flowers can bloom.

    3. Greg Swann May 9th, 2011 9:23 pm

      I’ll have more to say about all of this, now and later, but right now I want to commend you and all of FBS for your accessibility and transparency. I live in a world of Big Wants, and I respect and admire the way you deal with end-users — like me. My hat is off to you.

    4. Cheryl Johnson May 10th, 2011 4:08 am

      I take it you purchased the camera connection kit? Have you tried using the kit to connect other devices to your iPad?

    5. Damon Chetson May 10th, 2011 4:24 am

      Welcome to the iPad world. The native email client is clumsy. I prefer Mailboxes, a gmail interface. The downside is that Mailboxes requires always-on connectivity to be effective. The upside is that my iPad has pretty much constant connectivity.

      Theres lots to like. However, some things aren’t very good. First, no Kill All command for background running apps. I always imagine background apps are sucking memory or power. Maybe they are or aren’t, but it would be nice if apple created a kill all switch, especially because over time these apps need to be restarted or they behave badly.

      Second, the cover, while nifty in theory, comes of too easily and fails as a stable upright stand. Something less stylish and more rugged would’ve been nice.

      Third, the curved surface near the iPad connector means that the connector sometimes does not seat in the iPad correctly, which means it doesn’t charge overnight. Also, I imagine over time the connector may get damaged which is going to be q problem.

      Fourth, the camera is awful. Grainy. This is too pricey a machine to have a crappy camera.

    6. Benjamin Ficker May 10th, 2011 7:59 am

      Sign My Pad is, IMO, the best app out there for getting signatures in person on contracts. Docusign is not great on there since you have to have the file saved in docusign (or one of their partners, none of whom I use).

    7. Jeff Brown May 10th, 2011 11:23 am

      I’m almost on board the iPad2 train. What’s the monthly cost for all this techie fun?

    8. Greg Swann May 10th, 2011 11:41 am

      $25 extra a month on your wireless bill. Nothing extra if you go WiFi-only.

      Here’s another $15 I think you’ll want to spend: MLB At Bat for iPad.

      I plan to write about these kinds of experience-enhancing apps, because they’re a brand new software paradigm made possible by the iPhone technology.

    9. Tom Bryant May 10th, 2011 1:42 pm

      This may seem like a dumb question, but how do you manage all (phone, laptop, Ipad, camera) in the heat of the summer? Isn’t it rough on the equipment and battery life if they are left in your car during appointments?

    10. Greg Swann May 11th, 2011 6:02 am

      > Actually, we are just about to release the early beginnings of a new mobile site, which will work well on the iPad as well as mobile phones.

      This is news, actually. Have you written about this yet? I’m always available for beta play.

      > I also should add that our new mobile site is being built on top of our flexmls API, and we’re working on making that API available to other developers interested in creating native applications.

      I think you’ve mentioned this before, but I want to explicitly throw my hat into this ring, too.

    11. Greg Swann May 11th, 2011 6:05 am

      > I take it you purchased the camera connection kit?

      Indeed. I’m thinking of buying WiFi-enabled SD cards, though. Less is more.

      > Have you tried using the kit to connect other devices to your iPad?

      Not yet, nor even the camera. I want to play with the HDMI cable, too.

    12. Greg Swann May 11th, 2011 6:29 am

      > The native email client is clumsy.

      Agreed. This is another example fo the failure, on Apple’s part, to reconcile the contradiction of a big mobile screen. The mail app should be a full-blown email client, not a smartphone kludge. I’ll be writing more on this topic.

      > I prefer Mailboxes, a gmail interface.

      I’ll look into this. I’ve never loved gmail, but better is better even if it’s not ideal.

      > First, no Kill All command for background running apps.

      Nor for foreground apps. ;)

      > I always imagine background apps are sucking memory or power.

      Only apps, like the iPod app, that can actually do work in the background. Everything in memory will be running its event loop, though, scanning for the next actionable event.

      > especially because over time these apps need to be restarted or they behave badly.

      That’s an iOS thing, and Apple has had a long, easy skate on the fundamental defects in iOS. People expect less from phones — at least until the first lawsuit resulting from a rape or mugging victim who couldn’t dial 911 because the damn phone was hung up in a slo-mo software crash. But, even then, the iPad is not a phone, and the “aw, gee, it’s just a phone” argument doesn’t hold up so well.

      > Second, the cover, while nifty in theory, comes of too easily and fails as a stable upright stand. Something less stylish and more rugged would’ve been nice.

      So far, I’m digging mine. I concede your caveats and counter with two alternative propositions: Size and weight. It’s a just-enough solution, and the after-market abounds with choices for folks who want more.

      > Third, the curved surface near the iPad connector means that the connector sometimes does not seat in the iPad correctly, which means it doesn’t charge overnight. Also, I imagine over time the connector may get damaged which is going to be a problem.

      I hadn’t thought about this. Plugging the iPad in while driving is not easy.

      > Fourth, the camera is awful. Grainy. This is too pricey a machine to have a crappy camera.

      Another thing I haven’t played with yet. I almost never use the camera in my iPhone, though.

      I want to commend you, Damon, for all the informative posts you’ve written about your experiences with the iPad. Despite all my kvetching here — and in the future — this is an amazingly productive computer. I took an iPad-for-real-estate class yesterday afternoon. I learned a little, but I worked a lot, dealing with a couple of burning issues and side-blogging by email with Unchained alumnus Scott Gaertner, who also took the class. For maximizing the productive use of what might otherwise be wasted time, the iPad — warts and all — is beyond excellent.

    13. Scott Cowan May 11th, 2011 7:51 am

      Reading all the posts online about the iPad still have not tipped me to the point of breaking down and buying one.

      I too want a device that I can use (I’m not sure I really will, but that is besides the point) to be productive between meetings, etc. The down time I have in my car is usually taken up reading emails, surfing, or lately I will confess Angry Birds sigh…I am hung up on a keyboard as my input method of choice. I know I can add a keyboard to the iPad or any other tablet but then I have just created a laptop.

      I am looking forward to the continued conversation here as I know that Greg and the others will speak candidly about the pros and cons of the device and others. I too will join in the conversation as I continue my search for a lightweight, long battery life, productivity tool. I am still leaning towards picking up an ASUS Eee PC T101MT as it seems like a nice hybrid between netbook and tablet.

    14. Greg Swann May 11th, 2011 9:22 am

      > I am hung up on a keyboard as my input method of choice. I know I can add a keyboard to the iPad or any other tablet but then I have just created a laptop.

      Go to the Apple store or Best Buy and just type for a while. The complaints about the iPhone keyboard had merit, because the screen size was too small to support lengthy typing. But the iPad keyboard is startlingly adequate. It’s chiclet-y, but the error correction algorithm is very good for ordinary typing. Not so good when it’s turned on in dialog boxes. But it’s a very fast keyboard, particularly if you know how to touch type.

      I type on my iMac keyboard, stylish but not a great keyboard, on my MacBook, same complaints, and on a Logitech USB keyboard for my MacBook. The latter is a standard Windoze keyboard, including the caps lock bungle. Of the three, the full-size, full-stroke keyboard is best for extended writing, but I would rate the iPad keyboard as second-best — with no schlepping.

      How much do I like it? You’re soaking in it now.

    15. Greg Swann May 11th, 2011 11:29 am

      > Sign My Pad is, IMO, the best app out there for getting signatures in person on contracts. Docusign is not great on there since you have to have the file saved in docusign (or one of their partners, none of whom I use).

      I completely love DocuSign for working with buyers, but I can understand listing agents not seeing things the same way. How are you preparing your contracts for now? In the class we went to yesterday, the instructor, Jeff Raskin, is using Nitro PDF for Windows to prepare fillable PDFs, then importing those into PDF Expert for the iPad. Not an awful solution, but kludgey.

    16. Greg Swann May 11th, 2011 11:40 am

      > This may seem like a dumb question, but how do you manage all (phone, laptop, Ipad, camera) in the heat of the summer? Isn’t it rough on the equipment and battery life if they are left in your car during appointments?

      Except for popping in and out, I never leave hi-tech hardware in the car. In the long run, I may go with the leave-it-running plan, either with or without an assistant in the car, but for now my car is not that sophisticated.

      My iPhone lives in my shirt pocket. My camera is on my belt or in a cargo-shorts pocket. I’m going to find some kind of man-purse for the iPad, so I can always have it with me. I don’t know what to do about the laptop — maybe a small cooler with a frozen water bottle to keep things cool.

      Inlookers: This may not matter where you are. In Phoenix, the inside temperature of a car can hit 160 degrees in scratch time.

    17. Artur May 11th, 2011 1:03 pm

      the ipad thing is nice, but like you mentioned it has its limitations, that’s why the macbook air is high on my list, especially considering how weak zipforms is on the ipad and that scanners won’t work with the ipad for those occasions when we have to do a contract with blood signatures for reo properties.

    18. Greg Swann May 11th, 2011 2:10 pm

      > the macbook air is high on my list

      No 3g, still a lugging problem, and a flat-surface problem. Just about any laptop would be more robust, qua computer, than the iPad. But the iPad is actually usable in many circumstances where a laptop is just a pain in the ass. YMMV, obviously, and, so far, there is no one magic bullet. I’m thinking I’ll have to be pretty mobile before I ever want to scan a contract from the road. ;)

    19. Marcus May 12th, 2011 6:45 pm

      >> The iPad itself is not without problems. As an example, there is no easy way to save an attachment from an email, which again limits the utility of the DocuSign client.

      I’ve been able to save attachments to Dropbox from my email. Doesn’t work on the iPad though.

    20. Scott Cowan May 23rd, 2011 5:46 pm

      I pulled the trigger Greg…. I am now the proud owner of an iPad. Hell has indeed frozen over =)

    21. Greg Swann May 23rd, 2011 7:23 pm

      Good on ya. Let us know how you’re putting it to use.

      As a mutual disclosure, I paid money we sweat blood to earn to buy a Windows machine yesterday. The machine that has driven our Xerox DocuMate 510 scanner died yesterday, and I thought it would be less painful to add a new WinTel box. So far it’s been a huge PITA, but I can’t swear a new Mac would have been any easier in that role.

    22. Scott Cowan May 25th, 2011 3:38 pm

      I’m finding it to be pretty useful and a lot of fun. It is more a bright shiny toy at the moment than work appliance. I do think it will become an indispensable sidekick in very short order. One of my initial findings is the battery life is not what I had expected. While not terrible by any means I am not getting anywhere close to 10 hours a day of battery life out of the device. I am getting closer to 5 hours. One of the things that tipped me to purchasing the iPad was the claims of long battery life. I do not want to have to charge the device during my normal work day. That includes fairly or unfairly charging it in my car. Does anyone have any suggestions on extending battery life? Unlike my Droid phone I do not have the ability to kill apps and monitor my battery usage. At least I have yet to find a way to do so.

      I will tip my hat to Apple. This is my first purchase directly from Apple via one of their stores. They know how to deliver an amazing customer service experience. I am very impressed with the amount of customer service I was provided when I purchased the device and now daily with emails showing me more and more ways to use the device. I am impressed.

    23. Greg Swann May 25th, 2011 6:56 pm

      Scott, check this out:

      http://www.tuaw.com/2011/05/24/four-tips-for-better-iphone-battery-life/

      The post concerns the iPhone 4, but the advice will work on the iPad as well. My bet for most likely power sink: iPod.

      Meanwhile, inlookers: Can your computer do this?

    24. Scott Cowan May 27th, 2011 9:35 am

      Thanks Greg-

      That’s a very cool video.

      I am learning more and more each day that I can accomplish with the iPad. I will be putting together a post soon on how I have been streamlining my business practice and reducing my overhead while increasing my ability to provide excellent customer service. Even while dealing primarily with REO properties. The iPad will become the hub around which my business rotates.