Are the iPhone and iPad ready to become professional tools for journalists?

I never expected to actually cover the Guardian Changing Media Summit 2012.

Guardian Media Summit - Tomas Bella
Guardian Media Summit - Tomas Bella

I went there as a CEO to meet people and listen to their ideas. But then I realised that since Tomas Bella from Piano Media of Slovakia is among the speakers and is well known among media professionals both in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, I probably should go the extra mile and cover the event for my news wire service.

I did not take my laptop, nor my Nikon DSLR camera or a digital recording device. So I was left with an iPad and iPhone to work with. And check whether they can provide useful service to a journalist “in the field”.

Verdict: the iPhone cannot. The iPad is (with external keyboard as a precondition) ready for the big (professional) game.

If you want to read further:

I had my biggest misgivings about the iPhone camera and they have proven to be justified. iPhone camera has enough pixels and it might be a reasonable piece of kit for a sunny day in the open, but it can hardly provide acceptable level of quality when trying to shoot a decent picture of a conference speaker without acually jumping on the stage and shoveling the camera in his face (as the digital zoom is a no-go area for any serious photography). It does not keep good focus and the colour tint from the stage lighting is too much.

This all could be OK if the place blew up and I survived to take pictures, but it is not a way to cover basicaly static event.


Guardian Media Summit - Tomas Bella
Guardian Media Summit - Tomas Bella

However, for the first time I appreciated the iCloud since it allowed me to share photos between my iPhone and iPad without having to think about it or do anything. I fired up my (free) PS Express to try to tweak my photos but that could not save them, as you will appreciate.

Perhaps a more professional app would have helped, but the photos from iPhone tend to be a bit too “soft” in any case and as my photographer colleagues say – if you do not have it in camera, no amount of Photoshop will actually help. They are right, BTW.

My iPad supplemented with the Zagg blue-tooth keyboard proved to be quite useful, though. The total weight of my kit was about a kilogram, everything was interconnected through iCloud (a free Apple service I am not usually keen on) and the whole setup was small enough to allow me to reserve enough space in my bag to collect conference paper goodies as a feed for my mini scanner, which – unfortunately – does not connect to an iPad without another piece of kit.

Zagg keyboard with an iPad
Zagg Keyboard and an iPad folded
Zagg Keyboard and an iPad folded and unfolded

The keyboard is clearly the clincher.

Better multitasking in the iPad would have been a bonus, since I tried to tweet, blog, write a news agency story, take pictures all at the same time, but, well, one cannot have everything.

I used the (free, although available only in selected markets) MS Onenote to prepare my story (and the blog entries), but could have used (the paid for) HD Office app that I bought recently and use quite often. And probably any decent note taking app.

After I finished my piece, I found out that the OneNote does not allow to select all text in a page, only paragraph by paragraph. Luckily it allows to-email it directly from application so I emailed it to myself in order to be able to select all and paste into the web interface of our editorial system. And off it went.

I probably should have used the HD Office app, but OneNote is where I make all of the note taking on my iPad.
SO – these are the reasons for my veridict – yes iPad is a professional ready piece of kit (with the hardware keyboard). iPhone is not.