iPad and Multiple User Accounts

February 16, 2011

Mark Zuckerberg famously said that the iPad is not a mobile device. With the possible exception of business travel[1], I completely agree. I have two iPads, and although they do migrate from the couch, to the bed, to - let's be honest - the bathroom, they rarely leave the confines of the house.

On an average day, I probably spend somewhere between 8 to 14 hours on a laptop (my beloved 11" MacBook Air). When I finally knock off for the evening, I find that I still want to engage in "computing activities", but of a decidedly more casual nature - checking Facebook, updating Twitter, watching videos, and reading RSS feeds.

For some reason (the posture?) it's significantly more relaxing to do this sort of recreational computing on an iPad than on a laptop; i.e., laptop equals working, iPad equals chilling.

Which brings me to my point...

Both Erica and I use iPads around the house a lot. More importantly, we grab whichever one is closest to us at the moment. Since the iPad doesn't support multiple login accounts, we frequently have to log in and out of our Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and other accounts.

What's worse is that we have to be conscious of who is logged into what as we navigate from site to site. This probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but I can't tell you how annoying it is to accidentally post something from the wrong Twitter account - or, Heaven forfend, buy a present from the wrong Amazon account. Er... Surprise!

Oh, the hardships of the first world.

Anyway... the fix is simple - download an alternate browser. Maybe it's just me, but virtually everything I do on the iPad takes place in a browser. There many web browsers available in the iTunes app store. I have used a few in the past for testing purposes, but for some reason it never occurred to me to download one expicitly for the purpose of facilitating multiple user accounts on the iPad.

At the moment, I'm really enjoying Mercury. It's more full-featured than Mobile Safari, which for a heavy web user like myself is a big plus. I intend to try all of the browser options and post about the pros and cons of each over time. If you have a personal fave, please let me know in the comments.

1. When it comes to the specific considerations of business travel, the awesome battery life and light weight of the iPad overshadow the productivity limitations of the device. You also get a best-in-class suite of entertainment apps (e.g., music, video, books, games) which certainly helps pass the time in planes, trains, and automobiles.