Etiquette on the iPad is white space on the map. It's not a smartphone. It's not a laptop. It's something new. As early adopters, the opportunity to define proper etiquette is ours.
If we let them, the old guard will try to take the reins on when and how we should use this goddamned thing. Yet if we adhere to the societal mores newspaper mannerists are certain to inflict upon us, we'll all be huddled in dark closets, singularly and shamefully tapping away on our virtual keypads—iPariahs, without the succor of the civil society to accompany us. But we don't have to let it come to that. Plant your flags and stake out your turf now, my fellow technophiles. Let's do this thing!
Q: Can I use my iPad at the dinner table?
A: No. If Steve Jobs had wanted you to use your iPad at the table, he would have put a camera in it so you could take pictures of your future poo and upload them to Foodspotting. There are, however, exceptions. When its large screen size may be used to share something visually will all other dining companions, you may use your iPad. For example, you may wish to demonstrate something via Wikipedia to all the guests at the table—such as evidence that they should not order the $22 Squab because it is genetically nothing other than a common rock dove, or city pigeon, which should not be consumed by anyone other than the homeless. Or you may want to show your fellow diners PETA photos of a hog farm just before they dig into some tasty bacon. Generally speaking, however, you should always try to use your iPhone at the table.
Q: Can I use my iPad while watching TV with my spouse?
A: Yes. It is correct in all situations to use an iPad in front of the TV, for a variety of compelling reasons. For example, you may find the program your spouse is watching to be boring, and wish to fire up your own TV show (remember to use headphones!). Or you may need to point out a continuity error by looking up information from Lostpedia. You may even wish to use your iPad's Twitter client to post spoilers for those in other time zones. In the latter cases, the iPad will enhance the television viewing experience, not diminish it. Think of the iPad as your own, personal Pop Up Video capable of delivering additional contextual information. Remember: No matter what your spouse says, the proper action is to always share information, even if it means interrupting the program in progress. Although this may cause some short term anger, it will lead to a greater appreciation of television programming over the long term.
Q: Can I use my iPad in bed at night?
A: Naturally, and the iBooks and Kindle apps will even lull you to sleep at night with popular fiction, and such. However, if you share your bed, you should be aware of two things. First, the iPad's illuminated LED backlit screen glows rather brightly in the dark. It might be enough to keep a sensitive partner attempting to sleep next to you awake, and it certainly has enough candlepower to affect your circadian rhythms. In other words, dim the screen in the bedroom.
Also keep in mind that if you're using an iPad to interact with others online, you have essentially invited them into bed with you. Unless your partner is cool with all your geek friends showing up in the sheets, you may want to restrict yourself to reading, mellow gaming and other less socially active activities.
Q: Can I use my iPad during a meeting?
A: In most situations, yes. It is always acceptable to use your iPad in a meeting if you are leading the meeting. You may use it to present the agenda, to present information via Keynote, to play audio or video, among many other uses. Because the iPad is notepad-sized, its form factor is already meeting-ready; others will readily accept it as a modern version of the legal pad. If you are not leading the meeting, you still may use your iPad as a note-taking or recording device, as long as it is clear that is what you are doing.
If a meeting is exceptionally boring, you may also pretend to take notes, or record minutes, while in reality playing a game or looking at hentai pornography. Again, thanks to its large size, others will assume you are doing something work-related, while if you are using a smartphone they will naturally assume you are fucking off. Remember: Do not get busted.
Q: Can I use my iPad on the shitter?
A: Yes. If Steve Jobs had not wanted you to use your iPad on the shitter, he would have put a camera in it. Even better, it's just big enough that you won't inadvertently drop it in the loo. (Probably.) However, if you are using any sort of chat app, posting status updates, or sending an email remember: Nobody wants to know where you are. Also, disinfect your iPad regularly so you don't consume fecal coliform by accident. Oh, and if Apple does add a camera? Keep it to yourself, okay?
Q: Can I use my iPad during sex?
Q: Okay, well, can I use my iPad to watch R-rated movies—or worse—on an airplane, then?
A: Yes! Have you seen True Blood? Ostensibly, it's a TV show about vampires, but in reality it's a TV show about fucking. I know this because I watched it on a Delta flight from Atlanta to San Francisco, where it was offered as an in-flight purchase. I tremendously enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as the 12 year-old sitting next to me who had never seen breasts before—much less turgid Hollywood vampire sex.
By peddling softcore smut, the airlines have given you permission to watch whatever your genitals desire, and the iPad makes a perfect delivery mechanism for it. Unlike a laptop, your iPad screen doesn't always have to be perpendicular to the tray table for you to watch it. You can rest it on your lap, turn sideways in your seat, or even hold it directly over your head and stare straight up at the beast if that's what you want to do. In any case, you can reasonably hold it so that it isn't directly exposed to those walking up and down the aisle, or sitting next to you. Courteous iPad users may still want to invest in a privacy screen—or an oversized version of the iPhone-viewing visor—but the ultimate responsibility lies with the parents, to teach children to keep their little goddamn rat eyes facing forward.
Q: Can I use my iPad while driving?
A: This is a tricky one. The 3G iPad will have GPS, and will let you run map apps. Obviously, getting directions from the iPad with its large, easy-to-see screen beats squinting at an iPhone while trying to merge on the Interstate. But it's still dangerous. Pass it off to a passenger, if possible, and if not, restrict yourself to mapping apps and leave the Twittering, email, gaming and other more immersive apps in your driveway. Or at least wait for a red light.
Q: Can I use my iPad in the kitchen?
A: The Epicurious app is most certainly one of the best programs to launch with the iPad. But to answer this question, you need to answer another: is your iPad shared? If not, do whatever you want with it in the kitchen. But if you do share your iPad with someone else, be aware of your nasty, greasy fingers when in the kitchen. The iPad screen shows fingerprints like an '80s cop drama. Go ahead and cook with it, but have some damn decency and don't leave it covered in hogfat.
Q: I'm stuck in the airport with my spouse, is it rude to play a game on my iPad while s/he has nothing to do?
A: What the fuck, dawg? There's a magazine store every 500 or so feet in an airport. That iPad isn't going to save magazines all on its own, you know. Tell your insignificant other to waddle on over to the newsstand and buy something glossy. But if do you want to go the extra mile, pick out a two-person game you can both play, like Scrabble. Unlike the iPhone, passing an iPad back and forth doesn't feel weird because it's not quite as personal. Better yet, plunk it down on a table and rotate as need be. Don't forget your lazy Susan.
Q: Can I use my iPad while I'm on a conference call?
A: Of course! In fact, this is the preferred method. The iPad makes the perfect device for conference calls because it does not have a noisy physical keyboard. No matter what your level of engagement, it's always wrong to distract others on a conference call by hammering at a keyboard, and of course you may be connected to the call via your iPhone itself, making web surfing impractical. You might use the iPad to look up something work-related if you are conscientious, or whatever. But it also solves the boredom dilemma via the quiet software keyboard, which is perfect for scrolling through 4chan while your boss yammers on about verticals.
Mat Honan is contributing editor at Wired and a technology journalist who has been covering Apple since the year 2000. He is not responsible for your impending iPad-related divorce.