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The iPad is no longer ‘kind of’ for business

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When I got my first iPad in 2010, I could kind of use it for business. Now I can’t run my business without it.

There are more apps, and the hardware has gotten better and faster, making the iPad perfect for mobile professionals with paper-free virtual offices. The line between mobile and desktop is blurring. I predict that within the next couple of years we won’t be using the word "mobile" as much.

I remember when I first wrote about the iPad for real estate in 2010. It had just been introduced, and no one was really sure what to do with it or how useful it would be for business. I preordered my first iPad before I even saw one.

I remember my disappointment over not being able to use it to write and publish blog posts and how I struggled with three or four apps just to write a real estate contract and have it signed. We could kind of access our MLS, but it really was not mobile-friendly. An MLS app didn’t come along until 2011.

Last month I had an iPad2 that I won in 2011 stolen. I just replaced it with the fourth-generation iPad.

My new iPad has that amazing Retina display, and the new A6X chip makes it much faster than previous iPads. I bought the 32GB model with 4G Internet access. It seems a bit heavier than the iPad2 but lighter than the original iPad.

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The instant on and the ability to access the Internet from most anywhere are still two of the most important features iPads have to offer for business, and the newest iPad does both faster and better than ever.

Today, I can use the WordPress app to write and publish blog posts. The new iPad also works much better with a wireless keyboard. It is faster and more responsive and can generally keep up with my typing speed. It also has Siri and will take dictation.

I can now write a contract on my iPad right through the Web browser, just like I would on a computer, and I can have it signed on my iPad. Our MLS can be viewed through the Web browser, or through a fast, easy-to-use mobile app.

With the new iPad, I can process the large RAW format photos I take with my DSLR camera, which means I can mostly get by without a laptop computer. Photographs look amazing on the Retina display, which means lousy photographs like the ones in our MLS look even worse.

From the 125 apps that I decided to bring from my old iPad to the new one, here are the apps that I find to be the most useful on a daily basis for business:

1. DropBox – cloud storage and file sharing, and still one of the easiest ways to get files to and from mobile devices.
2. Evernote – taking notes and keeping records with drawings and snapshots.
3. Google – just like Google on a computer but better.
4. Northstar MLS – it is location-based and has all the listings, and can be used for making appointments to see listings. Does your MLS have an app?
5. WordPress – writing blog posts and managing blogs.
6. DocuSign Ink – and EchoSign for in-person signings. I honestly cannot make up my mind which one is better for my needs and am currently using both.
7. Type on PDF – works for typing on any PDF easily for those times when I just need to type in a few words on a blank contract page.
8. Skitch – I used it most recently to sketch a floor plan for a client, and I have used it to jot down room measurements for sellers.  Skitch has many uses and is now part of Evernote.  
9. Walk Score – I am an urban Realtor and Walk Score is excellent for showing buyers who are not familiar with a neighborhood around the neighborhood.
10. Mortgage – a simple mortgage calculator, and I can email the results of my calculations.

My listing presentation and buyer presentations are both on my iPad. I have also used it to give presentations to groups — iPads can be hooked up to projectors, computer monitors or even television sets.

For nonbusiness use, I love the Kindle app and Flipboard, Pulse and Zite for keeping up with the news and with subjects that interest me. I use iBooks for various manuals and reports that I like to keep handy, and I enjoy watching movies on Netflix or renting and watching them through iTunes.

In general, I have found the best way to choose apps is based on my own work flow and what I want to accomplish. Most are flexible and easy to use. I search the iTunes store and read reviews.

An iPad is a terrible thing to waste, and should not be just for show. Consider reading the Apple support site for the iPad, which includes manuals and instructions. Or visit the Genius bar in any Apple store, or take classes that are available in Apple stores or YouTube videos.

I have learned some amazing things by looking at the manual. Please don’t forget to protect the data on your iPad with a passcode and set up the "find my phone" feature through iCloud. 

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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