As I was flying back from Miami last week, I was on a very full second leg flight from Houston to San Diego. I ended up in a center seat on a 737, with two lawyers on either side. (There is probably a joke here somewhere!) The guy to the right of me had a new Kindle with a deluxe case and night light. The guy to my left was reading a paperback book and had an iPhone. I had my trusty new iPad 2 on my lap.
That’s when the comparisons started.
I started up a conversation with the guy with the Kindle. He showed me how the e-ink screen worked and showed me the pop out night light. The case was leather and was about the size of a 6×9 inch book. When I took a look at the unit, the side window of the airplane was open, and the black and white screen was easy to read. It looked like a great alternative to a standard book.
After looking at the Kindle, he asked me about my iPad 2. I showed him how the smart cover worked, and folded it back so it formed a prop for typing. I then showed him a Kindle book and an iBook. He was impressed with the bright screen and the reading layout.
The plane was then ready for takeoff so we had to close our devices. As we reached cruising altitude, the captain announced that we could turn our electronic devices back on. I pulled down the tray table in front of me and folded the smart cover back. I started on a blog post with the onscreen keyboard. The sun was really bright coming in the side window, so the young guy to my left closed the port hole window. This is when the comparison really got interesting.
I looked over at the guy with the Kindle and his screen had turned to a grey mush. It was very hard to read from where I was sitting. What looked great in the sun was now much harder on the eyes. He held the Kindle with one hand on his tray table and tried to get comfortable reading it. He then did something very interesting. He put the Kindle flat on the tray table and then leaned forward and propped his head up with his left hand on the tray table. He stayed this way for quite a while.
I finished my blog post up, and then started reading an iBook. The smart cover propped the iPad up at a great angle for reading and it worked well for using a finger swipe to turn pages. While I was comfortably back in my seat, the guy with the Kindle was scrunched forward. While he kept reading, I loaded up Angry Birds and started playing. He looked over and asked about the game. I showed him how it worked. He said that his Kindle was just for reading, so he leaned forward and started a new chapter.
After a few new levels of Angry Birds Rio, I turned the iPad over and used the smart cover in easel mode to watch a movie. I clicked in my headphone and enjoyed a stored TV show. Both of the guys beside me were watching the show for a while and then went back to their activities.
The young guy by the window pulled out his iPhone and started playing Angry Birds on it. He quipped that the game play was much better on the iPad than the phone since everything was larger. He then went back to reading his book.
As the flight started to descend, we had to turn everything off again. The guy with the book now had the advantage, and he was able to finish up a chapter on the way down.
Overall, my impression was that the iPad was the more usable and comfortable device to use on a plane. The screen was easy to read, the smart cover made it easy to type and the easel function made it easy to watch movies. Having a paper book had it’s advantages as it was usable the whole flight. The Kindle seemed great at first, but the subdued light of the plane and a flat case made for an uncomfortable reading experience.
The advantage of both the iPad and Kindle is they go through security well. Compared to a standard laptop, which requires that you remove it from it’s case, these smaller devices are much more convenient. You can easily stow them on a standard carry-on.
Bottom line... If you want to get work done on a plane with a minimum of hassle and also have a plethora of entertainment options, the iPad 2 is for you. If you want the simplicity of a book, bring along the real thing. The Kindle seems best for good lighting conditions or reading by a window seat. If you have specific PC programs you need to use, you’ll need to drag the laptop along.
Question: Which electronic device do you prefer on a plane?