It’s a sad place to be, but for many iPad owners who like me opted for the wifi-only version of the tablet there are times you can’t rely on the go-to methods of video entertainment: streaming. Whether it be commuting or being stuck in a place with no wifi, not being able to take advantage of the perks of iPad ownership when you could most use them is an aggravating experience.
With that in mind let me offer you some simple tips. While the iPad is best when it can communicate with the rest of the world, it’s hardly reduced to the role of an overly large and expensive coaster when it can’t. Many of the things we enjoy on the iPad can be had via local content as well.
For starters, gaming: while the Game Center requires a network connection, a majority of popular iOS games function just fine without it. While those that rely on direct competition with another player (like Words With Friends) will have to wait for network connectivity, so many others from Infinity Blade II to the venerable Angry Birds await to keep you occupied.
For those of you that enjoy using your iPad for reading, you’re (mostly) in luck as well. You’ll need a connection of some kind to browse for an load new content, but any reading material you have on your device will be unaffected. Whether you prefer iBooks, the Kindle App, the Nook App, or any lesser known app a little forethought will keep you entertained for as long as your battery lasts. Since ebooks take up a relatively small amount of memory (even illustrated ones like comic books) you can carry a large library on the entry-level 16 gigabyte models of iPads.
I have to admit I rarely use my iPad for audio outside of Pandora, which would obviously need a network connection to function, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow my lead. Just as with ebooks, a little foresight can keep you in content for as long as you have battery life to enjoy it. Audio files are usually larger than books, but are still relatively small, and even the lowest capacity iPad can hold quite a large library of tunes, be it music, audiobooks, or podcasts. Managing and loading your music on your device of choice was the first use for iTunes, and doing so is a simple task. I have my version of iTunes configured not to sync with my music library (it surpassed the capacity of any of the iOS devices long ago) but if your library is small you may want to opt for this choice, so that when you sync your entire collection is uploaded automatically. If you enjoy podcasts like I do, give the official Podcast App a look; it’s been improved quite a bit and does a good job of storing your subscriptions for later listening. I still prefer Stitcher, but I use it solely on my iPhone due to it only storing a single episode per subscription.
As for video, the media that the iPad excels in can be both dead simple and tricky to deal with. If you don’t mind relying on the iTunes media store for your video needs, you’re all set. Just download what you’d like to watch later from the cloud when you have network access, be it on your device or via your computer and synced to your device. All but the newest iTunes users should know how to import audio into iTunes; by default it will store any content you play on it in the library to make the process even easier. Sadly, many downloaded video formats aren’t iOS compatible, and the DVD collection you have isn’t even an option on the iPad- or is it?
Collecting a video library in iTunes isn’t much more difficult than audio. While iTunes and iOS natively handles MP3 files, most downloaded video files and DVDs will need some work before you’re ready to load them on your iPad for watching on the go. One of the best solutions is Handbrake, the venerable go-to solution for both video translation and DVD ripping. The free software does a fantastic job of changing most files and DVDs into an iOS-friendly format, and is both powerful and easy to use for even neophytes. For the few discs that Handbrake can’t handle (like recent Disney releases) you might want to give MacX DVD Ripper Pro a shot; while it’s not free I’ve used it successfully on many movies that were otherwise unrippable.
Once you’ve converted the file or DVD you’d like to watch to the suitable format, you’ll need to place it in your iTunes library. Just open iTunes and hit command+O to open the library import function, search for your file, and click “open”. For some that’s adequate, but I’m a stickler for metadata and album art. I rely in iDentify; it tags movies and TV shows with the proper metadata like year, stars, synopsis, and artwork then automatically places them in your iTunes library. The version I have isn’t perfect at recognizing the correct matching information, but it’s worked well overall and makes importing video a great deal easier. It’s recently received a major overhaul according to the makers; those that picked it up via the OSX App Store should already have the most recent version.
Just as with music, I wouldn’t recommend users set iTunes to sync their video library to their device. High quality movies can run well over a gigabyte in size, and would quickly eat up any available storage capacity. A simple drag and drop in iTunes has been the best and easiest means of loading my iOS devices with both audio and video, and I don’t see that changing in the future.
Ultimately, no matter what media you prefer there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it wherever you are, network connection or no. I do admit I’ve gravitated more and more to streaming services for music, video, and even podcasts, but sometimes the best solution is the oldest one- keeping your content with you.