You’ve probably seen far too many posts and microblogs about my affectation for the iPad recently. There’s some strange allure about the iPad for me, and many others. I can appreciate the incessant conversation about a simple device can be frustrating to some as well, but I’ve been enjoying experimenting with my iPad Pro recently to put it through its paces a little bit.
I’ve been experimenting using different input methods, external displays, mice, keyboards, all sorts of things. Whenever I do this I get the inevitable question of: “Why don’t you just get a Mac?” This is usually from people looking to pick a bit of a fight, but I’ve also heard from many people that were genuinely interested in why someone would prefer an iPad to a MacBook or similar. One such person wrote:
… okay. I’m going to go there. If you use mouse support and a fixed keyboard all the time…what’s better about using an iPad ove a MacBook with iOS apps and a touchscreen? I ask this as I suspect some people would prefer that, although there are no MacBooks with touchscreen…although those people don’t really seem to touch their screen either so 🤷♂️
There are a myriad of reasons why I use an iPad to do what I do versus a MacBook or iMac. It goes without saying that these reasons apply to me and I’m not trying to make the point that the iPad is better than desktop / laptop Macs. I’m just trying to explain why it is better for me and why I enjoy using them.
Chris opens his question, as others do when they see a photo of a very specific iPad setup I share a picture of / am experimenting with by assuming this is the way I always use the device. Generally speaking, across a week, I use my iPad across a plethora of different configurations and setups, all dependent on the task at hand.
Since upgrading my iPad Pro to the first beta of iPadOS just some of the ways I’ve used my iPad include:
- iPad and Smart Folio Keyboard on a desk, and sitting on the sofa
- iPad and Smart Folio Keyboard with mouse
- iPad connected to 4K monitor with Magic Keyboard and mouse (with the iPad off to the side / not touched)
- iPad and Brydge Pro Keyboard with and without mouse
- iPad with nothing connected at all, whilst reading / browsing
While there are certain flexibility options afforded to you with something like a MacBook you still have a fixed form factor to deal with which is too limiting to me. I can use the iPad as I would a MacBook if I choose, especially if I use the Brydge keyboard and a mouse, but I can also remove everything and just use it like a tablet whilst reading or relaxing on the sofa at night, and many configurations in between.
The addition of true game controller support is also pretty huge in this respect, as yet another possible option for what my iPad can transform into. With Arcade just around the corner, my tablet / laptop / desktop computer device will then also be a pretty compelling games console.1
I won’t go too in depth in this one, but the very fact that Apple is putting so much effort into giving developers options to port their iOS apps to the Mac speaks volumes. Apple knows what most of us also know, that a lot of iOS apps are incredibly good, compelling pieces of software. I really like the App Store and the multitude of great apps, and games, that are available within it, and I could never give that up for pure Mac apps.
Ease of use
What a lot of non-iPad users seem to not understand / appreciate2 is that those hoops they think we jump through to shoehorn an iPad into our workflow are not hoops at all. Just as switching from DOS to a GUI interface back in the day would have required you to complete your tasks in a different way, so to does using an iPad. It’s a paradigm shift, there’s no question about it, but once you’ve learnt how to do task X, Y and Z in this new world it’s then just as easy to do as it would have been for you before. It may even be simpler, if you just make the effort to learn and break old habits.
I’ve not used a Mac in any meaningful way for years now so I have no doubt in my mind I would be able to do any given task far, far quicker and effectively on an iPad than I could if I was forced to use a Mac. Again, this isn’t about me saying iPads are better for everyone. I am saying it’s better for me and I am better at using it.
This is a bit of a silly one, but for me using an iPad / iPadOS / iOS is just more fun than using a desktop or laptop. I don’t know if it’s because those things have always been associated with work to me, and the iPad was traditionally about consumption / entertainment, but there’s a weird feeling I get when I use my iPad. It’s not just me, I’ve heard a lot of people express a similar pleasure. I’d love to see some kind of research into what makes it so enjoyable to use, but there it is regardless.
At the end of the day, as it always has, it not only comes down to preference it comes to what you need to actual do on your device. For many, a simple iPad is definitely not capable enough to do what you do. If you require specialist software, for example, like I do with my day job, it just can’t replace your real computer however much you try to shoehorn it in. For many, however, I think it’s more capable than they know, but I think the message is starting to get across now.
You do you, and be happy while you do it. It’s the best any of us can do, and hope for. Thanks for attending my TED Talk.