Understanding the current iPad range

iPads
On January 27th 2010 Apple unveiled the iPad, and the first ones hit the streets in April of the same year. It was a monumental step. Despite the disparagement of a few naysayers, the iPad has revolutionised the computer industry, just as the iPhone revolutionised the smartphone industry three years earlier.

As with the iPhone, Apple was not happy to release one iPad and leave it at that. They have already released several more iterations of the iconic device, each an improvement on the last. This is mainly down to Apple’s obsessive desire to advance and refine their products, incorporating the latest developments while constantly chasing an optimised user experience at all costs. It is also a response to the fact that Apple’s competitors have spent the last four years trying desperately to come up with their own answer to the iPad, copying Apple’s successful formula while hoping to leverage slight improvements in technical specifications to gain an advantage.

Over the past four years, Apple has also expanded the range of iPads, so that rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach, users can pick and choose the size and specification (and price) that suits them. This article provides an overview of the various iPad models currently available, and offers some tips on how to choose the one that’s best for you.

You can see Apple's overview of the various iPad models with prices and technical specifications here.

iPad Air

The iPad Air is the Rolls Royce of the current iPad lineup, though happily it doesn’t come with a Rolls Royce price tag! With its long battery life, light weight, and ultra-thin profile, the iPad Air has been well reviewed by pretty much anybody who’s anybody in the world of tech. Starting at just £399 for a brand new 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad Air, you can have the best for not a lot. This iPad has an absolutely gorgeous Retina display and is lightening fast in everything it does. The screen size is 9.7 inches, which is full size for a tablet and perfect for use in the car or on the couch. Don’t expect to fit it in your handbag (or manbag), though, and it might not fit in your glove compartment either.

iPad with Retina display

This iPad has a bit of misleading name, since the iPad Air also has a Retina display. This one is perhaps more accurately known as the “4th generation” iPad (the iPad Air represents the 5th generation). The “iPad with Retina display” starts at £329 for a new Wi-Fi only model (16GB) and is being sold by Apple as a cheaper alternative to the iPad Air. The differences between the two devices are fairly subtle. The screen size is the same, but the iPad Air is just a little thinner, lighter and snappier than the 4th generation iPad.

iPad 2

Although it first became available in March 2011, the iPad 2 was still being sold by Apple until recently. Despite it’s age, the iPad 2 is still a handy device. It’s basically the non-Retina version of the full-size iPad: the screen is the same 9.7 inches as the iPad Air, but with half the pixel density, meaning text and graphics are not as sharp. The overall performance of the device is good, although everything is just a little less refined than it is on the Air. Battery life is very good. The iPad 2 provides a good user experience, with a large screen in a thin, light package. Beware, though, at three years of age the iPad 2 is likely getting close to obsolescence, as software is constantly moving on and older devices usually struggle to keep up.

iPad mini

First launched in late 2012, the iPad mini was Apple’s response to those who wanted a smaller, more affordable iPad. Although cheaper in price, Apple has gone to great lengths to ensure that the iPad mini has the same high standard of fit and finish as the larger models, and that the user experience is equally good. Some driving instructors feel the 7.9 inch screen is a little small for use as a teaching aid, while others swear by it. The iPad mini is certainly a very lightweight and compact package, great for slipping into a handbag or glovebox, and starting at only £249 for a brand new 16GB Wi-Fi only one, it’s the cheapest iPad on the market.

iPad mini with Retina display

The name tells you most of what you need to know about this particular model of iPad. If you want the compact convenience of the iPad mini combined with the gorgeous clarity of the Retina display, this is the iPad for you. It starts at £319 for a new 16GB Wi-Fi only model.

Refurbished

If you’re in market for an iPad and determined to get a bargain, Apple’s Refurbished store is an excellent place to look. Here you can pick up all sorts of great deals on as-new or nearly-new iPads, all of which come with the same one-year warranty as the brand new versions. Supply is limited, though, so grab ‘em while you can!

Second-hand

If you’re confident buying second-hand, there are good deals to be had on reseller sites such as eBay. It’s important to note that buying this way offers much less protection than buying direct from Apple, or from another well known retailer. Make sure you know what you’re getting, and always carefully check the seller’s feedback before deciding whether to buy from them.

Obsolescence and the upgrade cycle

It is recommended that you avoid buying the original (1st generation) iPad if you want to use the latest and greatest software on your device. Even though it was brand new and revolutionary only four years ago, the original iPad is already considered obsolete in the sense that it is not capable of running the latest Apple software. This results in a less optimised (and possible less secure) user experience. It also means the device cannot run the latest apps, which is a major downside since new and exciting developments are coming along all the time in this dynamic new field.

Buying a tablet is similar to buying a smartphone in the sense that it’s not something you buy once and forget about. The “upgrade cycle” for a smartphone or tablet device is around one to four years, so it’s worth bearing in mind that whatever model you buy there will come a time when it starts to feel slow and out-of-date, and you will want to trade it in for something newer and snappier. Knowing this, you can plan ahead by making sure you take good care of your iPad, so you can get a good resale price for it when it comes time to upgrade.

Glossary

GB: Gigabytes. This figure (either 16, 32, 64 or 128 for an iPad) represents the amount of storage space the device has. Many iPad users find that 16GB is perfectly adequate for their needs. More storage is needed if you want to keep a lot of videos on your iPad, or if you need it to hold literally thousands of photos or songs, for example.

Retina display: According to Apple’s terminology, a Retina display is one with such high resolution that the human eye is unable to discern individual pixels at a typical viewing distance. This means that what you see on the screen appears less like something you see on a computer monitor and more like something printed in the pages of a magazine.

Wi-Fi only: Unsurprisingly, a Wi-Fi only iPad connects to the internet via Wi-Fi only. This may be via your home network, or a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Each iPad comes with a Wi-Fi only option, or for around £100 more you can have Wi-Fi and a cellular connection similar to your mobile phone. You also need to pay to maintain the cellular connection, just as you do with your phone. It’s a more expensive option, but many people find that it’s worth it for the “always on” internet connection wherever they roam. Even if you go for the cheaper option and plump for a Wi-Fi only iPad, you may be able to “tether” your iPad to your smartphone. Tethering allows your iPad to piggyback on your phone’s cellular connection, giving you mobile internet on your iPad without the additional costs.

Golden L Fresh Awards

I have been nominated in the category of Most Useful Driving Instructor Resource in the first ever Golden L Fresh Awards. You can cast your votes here, and of course I would encourage you to vote for me if you've been making good use of my apps!

Fresh Start 2014

There are only a handful of tickets remaining for the 2014 Fresh Start Conference for Driving Instructors. The conference takes place on Monday 24th February at Worcester Sixways Stadium.

I'll be there running a workshop on how to get the best out of my apps (breakout session 3), and the whole day is packed with essential talks and workshops for any Driving Instructor looking to improve their skills and get ahead.

If you want to attend this event and haven't got your ticket yet, you'd better be quick!

Manoeuvres 2.1

My Manoeuvres app has been completely re-written in order to address a few bugs that some users have been experiencing since upgrading to iOS 7.

The update also adds brake lights and tweaks the position of the blindspots. I've added an ORU to the Reverse Left section, and also tweaked the way the ORUs work so they're more flexible and interactive.

The update is available now via the iTunes App Store.

See all the reviews of an App Store app

One of the quirks of Apple's App Store is that every time a new version of an app is uploaded, the previous reviews for that app are hidden. This can leave you looking at an app listing that says "No Ratings" when in fact a whole load of people have already rated and reviewed the app.

This guide to shows you how to reveal all the reviews for an app in the App Store.

First, look up an app on the App Store and select the "Reviews" tab.

Review1

If the app has been recently updated and nobody has added a review since the update, you will see something like this:

Review2

This is because the App Store is only showing you the reviews for the current version of the app (i.e. the recent update). To see all the reviews, you have to select the "All Versions" tab.

Review3

Hey presto! All the reviews for that app now appear.

I'm not sure why Apple is intent on hiding all these previous reviews, but I certainly like to reveal them whenever I'm considering buying an app.

How to force quit an app in iOS 7

The process for force quitting an app has changed slightly in iOS 7. Follow these steps to close an app which is misbehaving, and return it to the default state.

1. Enter the app switching screen by double tapping the home button. On an iPad, you can also swipe up on the screen with four fingers (Multitasking Gestures must be enabled in Settings for this).

BeforeSwipe

2. Flick up on the image of the app you want to quit. Make sure you're flicking up on the screenshot of the app itself, not the icon at the bottom of the screen.

AfterSwipe

That's it!

You can force quit two or even three apps at a time using this method, though I can't actually think of a situation in which you would need to do that.

Roundabouts 2.0

RtsUpdated
I'm very pleased to announce today the release of a major update to my Roundabouts app. This update is for iOS 7.0 and above and includes the following improvements:

• Smoother animations
• Collision detection - cars will now simulate an actual collision instead of driving over each other
• Exit signals for mini-roundabouts
• Medium and Large sections can now show two cars approaching side by side
• Turning right into the 4th exit is now shown in the Large section
• Brand new Spiral section
• Interface tweaked for improved usability and updated for iOS 7

The update also includes the full range of new features that I've been adding to all the apps in the Learn To Drive series, including the ability to save your own images and to email revision links to your pupils.

If you don't have the app already, get it here:

Learn To Drive: Roundabouts - Neil Beaver

Road Board 1.04 for Android

The Android version of Road Board has been updated to version 1.04. This update contains bug fixes and some nice interface tweaks including:

• Colour picker now closes on touch
• Road menus nicely aligned across devices
• Draw button switched to be more intuitive
• Multiple selection - long press items to add without closing menu

Pedestrian Crossings 2.0

Pedestrian Crossings 2.0 update is going live today for those using iOS 7 on their iPad. This update adds the new features which are rolling out to all apps in the Learn To Drive series.

Learn To Drive: Pedestrian Crossings - Neil Beaver

Get started with iOS backups

If you're unsure how to get started with backing up your iPad or iPhone? This Apple Knowledge Base article is a great place to start…

My next app: what to expect

iPadPosition
I'm really excited about my next iPad app for Driving Instructors, which I'm hoping will be available within the next week. Here's why I'm excited...

This is the EIGHTH app in my Learn To Drive series of training aids for Driving Instructors. Using these apps, almost all of your standard briefings can be brought to life with the interactive animations and other features made available by these apps. The Learn To Drive series now looks like this:

Controls
Manoeuvres
Emergency Stop
Pedestrian Crossings
Give Way
Traffic Lights
Roundabouts

That’s seven, and any day now we will have number eight: Position.

Position is going to cover many of the topics that aren’t already covered by other apps in the series. I’ve been working on this app for quite some time, and there's a lot of essential stuff for Driving Instructors in it, the kind of stuff that will make you wonder how you ever managed without it.

Here's the lowdown on what's covered:

Moving Off & Stopping
• Animated moving off and stopping
• P.O.M. & M.S.M. routines
• Steering wheel demonstrator
• Option to add other road users and move them around on screen

Obstacles / Meeting Traffic
• Dealing with obstacles on the left, right, or both sides of the road
• Meeting other road users who may or may not be following the rules!
• Meeting other road users in busy situations

Space & Speed
• Slowing down for situations with limited space
• Slowing down even more for oncoming traffic when space is limited

Lanes
• Changing lanes with or with our other road users present
• Signalling is optional
• Side roads can be added to show how signals can be misleading

Bends
• Correct position for left & right bends
• Limit points

Finally, this app already includes the exciting new features which have just become available in the Controls & Traffic Lights apps. The new features are:

• Option to email a link to online briefing
• Option to save your own images into the app
• Easy-eye colour mode (ideal for Irlen sufferers)

These new features will be added to all the apps in the Learn To Drive series over the coming weeks. You can read more about them here.

The new Position app will cost £3.99 and will be available soon!

Smooth new images for Controls

Steering
Version 2.0 of Controls has just gone live as a free update for you lucky people. This update implements the new features described in the previous post, as well as some fantastic improvements to the images, a couple of bug fixes, and a few extra dashboard lights in the Signals section.

If you haven't already got this app, you can check it out on the App Store with the button below. With this update it's even more feature-packed than ever, including the interactive clutch demonstrator and push-pull steering extravaganza!

Learn To Drive: Controls - Neil Beaver

Learn To Drive series: new features

An update to the Traffic Lights app in my Learn To Drive series has just gone live for those with iOS 7 installed on their iPad. This update introduces some exciting new features which I’ve been working on in recent months, and which will be rolling out across the whole Learn To Drive series in the coming weeks.

Here’s the lowdown on what’s new…

BriefingIcon
Briefing
Ok, this one isn’t actually new but is included here for the sake of completeness. Tap this icon for a full briefing on the current topic where appropriate. If the current subject is not one that requires a full briefing, this button will reveal a short description of what is on screen and why.

MailIcon
Email
This icon will instantly create an email containing a link to a webpage covering the current subject. All you need to do is provide your pupil’s email address and hit Send. If you have your pupil’s email address already stored in your iPad’s Contacts app, the address will auto-complete as you start to type. This is a very quick and easy way to increase the level of your pupil's engagement with their lessons. Because the link pops up in their inbox, it’s a handy reminder for them to do some revision, making them much less likely to come to their next lesson having forgotten it all.

ImagesIcon
Images
Tap this icon to customise your lesson briefings with your own images. You can import images from your iPad’s photo library, or you can use the iPad’s camera to take a new photo. Add images of your car, your reference points, the unusual junctions in your area, anything that’s relevant to your briefing. Swipe the screen to change back and forth between your saved images.

ContrastIcon
Easy-eye colour mode
This feature has been added to aid pupils with high sensitivity to images with bright colours and/or high levels of contrast. Tap the icon to make the images on screen more friendly to anyone experiencing this kind of difficulty, in particular those with Irlen syndrome. Much respect to Julia Malkin and Gary Gough, who are developing the Revolutions course, and encouraging the use of techniques like this to increase the quality and availability of special needs driving lessons for all.

DrawIcon
New drawing icon
Drawing still works exactly the same as it always did, but has this shiny new icon to brighten up your day. Tap to activate drawing mode, and the following two icons will appear. Tap the drawing icon again to exit drawing mode.

UndoIcon
New undo icon
Bored of the old undo button? Yes, me too. This one should make you feel better. Works the same as before, so another purely cosmetic change here.

ClearIcon
New clear icon
The button for clearing all drawing from the screen has also had a facelift. Much better!

I hope you enjoy using these new features in your lessons as they become available through updates to the apps. I think you'll agree that some of these features have the potential to have a transformative effect on your lessons.

The best thing about these new features is they're available to you absolutely free of charge for the apps you already own!

PLEASE NOTE: You need to have iOS 7 installed on your iPad to be able to download the updates with these new features.

PLEASE ALSO NOTE: Drawing mode in the Controls app does not have an undo or clear option. Turning off drawing will automatically clear the screen.

New app coming soon

iOS 7 update fever has passed, and I've had time to get back to work on my latest project. The majority of users have now upgraded to iOS 7 and, after a handful of minors bug fixes, everything is working smoothly again.

I'm very excited about my next app, and I think you will be too. Happily, it looks as though I'm going to be able to release it in the next couple of weeks. More details to follow...

Road Board comes to Android

Road Board is now available for Android devices, including the new Tesco Hudl. You can read more about Road Board here. Use the button below to find it on the Google Play Store...

Android app on Google Play

iOS 7: Some issues in Records

I've received a couple of reports of things not working entirely as expected in my Records app after updating to iOS 7. The problems all seem to be related to the Pupil Details section of the app. I'm already working on an update to Records and hope to have everything back to normal very soon. In the meantime, if you use Records and you haven't already updated to iOS 7, it might be worth waiting a bit longer until these issues are resolved.

UPDATE 11/10/13: Get the latest Records update for bug fixing goodness!

Contact form broken

I just found out the contact form on this website has not been working recently. I'm sorry if you've been trying to get in touch with me and haven't received a reply. I'm not sure how long it has been, but the messages have not been getting forwarded to me for at least a couple of weeks. I'm working on getting it fixed.

In the meantime, you can get in touch by clicking on the "Contact Me" link at the bottom of any page on this site.

UPDATE 22/9/13: The contact form is working again.

A couple of good iPhone car mounts

Cradle
I've recently found this to be a very effective windscreen mount for my iPhone. The main thing I like about it is the way it's adjustable so it will grip your phone regardless of what kind of case you use. Because it grips the phone at the sides, it's compatible with the extra tall iPhone 5, and also most other types of smartphone.

Another good iPhone mount I've used is the Griffin Windowseat. The thing I found really useful about this one is the long arm which was perfect for my Mazda 2, in which the bottom of the windscreen was a long way away from the front of the dashboard. The cradle size is adjustable so you can use it with a case on your phone, but possibly not with some of really bulky cases. This was designed prior to the iPhone 5 release and is more suited to the earlier iPhone models up to and including the iPhone 4S. I don't think it would fit an iPhone 5.

40% off Road Board during August

Spiral200
Road Board has 40% off for the rest of August 2013. That's only £3.99 instead of £6.99.

Road Board is probably the most essential app there is for Driving Instructors in the UK. It features 45 different road situations, plus an endless array of items, road markings, signs and road users to add to the view and build up your own scenes. You can recreate practically anything that would happen in a driving lesson, and save your own custom scenes so you can return to them again and again.

Road Pad for Android

Our first Android app is now available! Road Pad can now be downloaded on Android tablets and phones. Click here to read more about Road Pad. Use the button below to find it on the Google Play Store...

Android app on Google Play