There seems to be a flood of mobile apps for design engineers these days. I'm surprised they didn't also make it available for the iPhone. Is this a pattern with mobil design tools, that they favor the iPad over the iPhone?
Screen size, Rob. There's no problem getting to either platform, but once there, you have to be able to read it. You can multi-touch zoom on the smaller screen to read it, then spend a lot of time panning around to view it.
I think it depends on the app. Most are available for both smart phone and iPad (tablet) platforms, but in some cases (as TJ notes) it just doesn't make sense in terms of screen real estate to deliver an app that is dealing with rich and sometimes highly complex 3D data on the tiny screen of a mobile phone.
Over the last few years, I've interviewed an increasingly large number of engineers who spend a day or two every week working at home (Friday seems to be a big day for some reason). I would imagine these kinds of apps will grow as that phenomenon grows, in part because the engineers can't always bring their bigger system home with them.
Screen size is indeed the most important point, as you note, TJ. Or, more specifically, a big screen in a lightweight package. The recent wave of stories on tablet apps in CAD indicates that tablets are becoming mainstream for taking, say, DXF files into the field and sharing drawings, or for engineers or techs being able to look stuff up on the road or on the shop floor. (They don't replace laptops/desktops because of their data-entry limitations. I.e., you don't create the drawing on the tablet, you share it.)
Anyway, so my point here is that tablets are "arriving" in CAD, but what I think we're going to see very soon is that smartphone screen-size creep -- Android phones with bigger screens than the iPhone -- will soon position smartphones for use as CAD in the field, "hey, take a look at this" devices.
I personally think smartphone size creep will mean they'll displace laptops, too, as the become used as mobile devices on the road and then fit into a dock when you're back at your desk. Only Motorola is pushing this so far, and many people I've talked to disagree with my scenario here, but I think it'll happen.
I'm not sure I'd go as far as to agree that a larger smart phone screen will lead to the smart phone replacing the laptop, but I do agree with you that tablets and smart phones of all shapes and sizes are definitely going to be the go-to device for specific kinds of interactions, mostly around design reviews and collaboration. Having access to handy tools, be they mathematical calculators, look up tables, parts databases, GPS coordinates, or whatever are also natural apps to find their way to these new platforms.
That sounds about right, Beth. For this type of stuff, I see the smartphone more as the backup to the tablet. If you're caught in a situation you weren't intending, the smartphone can be used, but for day to day planned work, it's going to be the tablet as the main tool - sort of as a replacement for a notebook or 3-ring binder.