I was reading Daring Fireball about this, and I feel like there’s a good take in John Gruber’s essay:
This part, in particular:
Ten years later, though, I don’t think the iPad has come close to living up to its potential. By the time the Mac turned 10, it had redefined multiple industries. In 1984 almost no graphic designers or illustrators were using computers for work. By 1994 almost all graphic designers and illustrators were using computers for work.
Maybe the iPad doesn’t need to “revolutionize” an industry or sector of computing. But the example above speaks to me: I can’t get past the iPad as a media-consumption machine. I want to, and envisioned, drawing on it, marking up drawings, photo editing … all the kind of things that e.g., the Apple Pencil suggest. That is, not only consuming media but also making media.
But for me, the whole interface and ecosystem is so awkward. I can’t get media to work on (drawings or photographs) into the iPad effortlessly; nor can I export them into my other Mac ecosystem without the feeling that hey, I can just do this on the laptop to begin with, or do it with pencil and paper and a scanner.
Going forward, I fully expect this to change, but OTOH I expected my workflows to have already changed. Perhaps, as Gruber points out, the problem isn’t the device, but really is the OS’s paradigms.
Edit: of course the problem may be the user. Maybe I’m holding it wrong.
Amen. It’s such an amazing device. My wife and the original one. Two more since then. Currently she’s using the last revision of the 9.7" and absolutely loves it.
I have an iPad Mini 5 as my second device and it’s absolutely fantastic. The beauty of them is how they just work. And they work for both basic use and power users. The base iPad is probably the single best deal in computing.
I should be clear… I know that this perspective is the odd one out! The reason Apple hasn’t made the touchscreen Mac device I want is because not enough people want that device.
The Verge’s reporting on how Microsoft received the iPad makes this clear.
The difference in experiences between the two platforms is wild.
I wrote most of a 4000-word research paper yesterday, a little on iPad and a little on macOS.
The iPad allows me to sit somewhere comfortable and focus in on the writing experience. It’s freeing and flexible, and in turn it feels like there’s less between me and the work I’m doing.
The Mac is… staunch. It’s harder to get into “the zone”. But I had eight windows open in five different apps with way more control over what happened in those windows, without having to use a pointing device (i.e., all keyboard driven). I was able to write more, faster, and with better reference to the materials I was building the paper around.
I mean, to some extent, these two different experiences cannot be bridged. It’s physics. You can’t fit that many macOS windows on a display small enough to be manageable on a tablet, and you can’t afford that much control over that many interfaces on an tablet without breaking the focus-enabling freedom of the iPad. They’re different things. Parity is a fool’s errand.
Still, the iPad needs to do more growing up. The latest iterations have enhanced user control but introduced confusion into the “grammar” for how we interact with the device. Copy and paste/text selection, managing windowed spaces, and other issues have begun to inflict friction on that fantastic, flexible interface. Doubtless this is something we’ll see a lot of progress on in the next decade.
Absolutely. The major difference is that using a Mac requires discipline to not get caught up by the countless distractions. Especially if you become a “power user”. Due to its constraints, the iPad forces you into being more focussed on the task at hand.
However, what always bugs me after some time is that the iPad is physically more tiring. While I could type, code or use design tools the entire day on my MacBook. Being forced to constantly perform tap and swipe gestures all over the 12.9" screen, which I have often propped up vertically in a laptop screen-like angle with the keyboard in front of it, is more taxing than just moving my hands to switch from the keyboard to the trackpad of my MacBook. And I’m saying this as a weightlifting coach so I wouldn’t call myself unfit.
I also would wish for a bit more openness that allows for more power user tools to strive. I am not necessarily wishing for it to emulate macOS, but productivity apps should be allowed to hook into the system deeper. The best example that comes to mind is Alfred on macOS. I could imagine “Spotlight hooks” for Shortcuts, where the current selection (text, files, rich links etc.) can be picked up in the query. That Spotlight is listing both, the indexed Shortcuts and suggested Siri Shortcuts, is already a step in the right direction. It would be great if the detour of having to copy a selected item to the clipboard first could be omitted, as well as Shortcuts running in the background without the need to switch apps.
I’m really curious what we’ll see in regards to Shortcuts and the iOS/iPadOS split at WWDC this year.
I agree with almost everything you wrote, but I’ll comment that I think that some of the (misguided) expectation that an iPad needs to do everything that a Mac can do (or vice versa) comes from the great deal of overlap in what they both can do. I think that makes it very tempting for some people to want to choose one over the other as a device that can do absolutely everything perfectly, and they are invariably disappointed.
Also, I think that the iPad is a fine “laptop replacement” for some people, and that context is crucial. The notion that the iPad is a universal “laptop replacement” is (in my opinion) nonsense, but it’s absolutely fills that role for me when I travel. I think for a lot of people the iPad has become their mobile computer and it fills that role very well as long as people don’t expect it to be a MacBook.
A couple of funny stories that I thought of on my run this morning, while listening to Upgrade.
First, my daughter has a Kindle Fire that she uses for education games and movies. She calls it her “HiPad”. I think the term is ubiquitous for her now.
Second, a few years ago, I read the Issacson biography on my Kindle. This was before I got an iPad. I recall the section of the book that talks about the iPad launch made me felt bad that I wasn’t reading it on an iPad. Strong marketing from beyond the grave.
I have had the three iPads starting with the first, followed by the Air 2 and now the Air 3. The Air 2 and later the 3 have been my primary computers for writing, photo editing, video editing, reading PDFs and grading student papers. It was the main reason I was able to offer an online logic course (pen support and easy annotating of problems submitted via email in PDF form). I have a 2017 MacBook Pro, but the iPad does 90%+ of the things I need to do.
iPad 2, followed by iPad Pro 9.x, followed by iPad Pro 10.6. So, yes, I like iPad.
These discussions leave the same aftertaste that some of the earlier criticisms of the Mac did: “Good for artsy types, not so good for getting real work done…” All while people proceeded to do all kinds of “real work” with them. But the initial criticism stuck around for a long time, and I see the iPad-as-consumption-device is still hanging around, too.
Apple Watch is a terrible replacement for a Mac (or iPhone, etc.). OTOH, Macs make terrible wristwatches!
Some criticism of the iPad is likely to remain until those of us of the keyboard & mouse generation fade into history. There is a new generation of computer users that have never touched a mouse and may never have a need for anything like a Mac.
Are there any YouTube channels or something that cover this perspective effectively? I want to believe—but I have not been convinced by examples like Viticci and the number of (expensive) accessories and mods it takes to make his use of the iPad effective and ergonomic. That is, I have never been truly impressed by what it has to offer me—or I am still using it wrong.
Or maybe that’s it? The comparison to something else is rooted in the assumption that we’re all “knowledge workers” doing thinking (and writing) for a living. Maybe the form factor and OS aren’t for me. And that’s okay, but getting a better grasp on who it’s really for would help me understand the enthusiasm for the platform.
There are a few half-decent iPad-focused podcasts out there (quality usually episode-dependent), like iPad Pros and occasionally content in A Slab Of Glass. On the hosts of the latter show has this YouTube page.
Good point. Some time ago I heard Alex Lindsay (PixelCorps, etc) mention how Rwandan senior government officials utilize iPads for a lot of their daily activities. Rwanda is becoming one of Africa’s major tech hubs and apparently been taking a clean sheet approach to technology that I found very interesting.
“Rwanda is to the point where everybody has got an EHR. Does everybody in Europe or US have that, does everyone have access to it?” Brian O’Connor, chair of the European Connected Health Alliance, said at the Connected Health Conference in Boston in October. “Secondly, every village has a clinic. Sometimes it’s an actual clinic, sometimes it’s an iPad. Those iPads have allowed people, instead of going four hours to see a doctor, to communicate through the iPad. And when they need drugs and so on, they are …sent by drone, parachuted down.”
One problem I often faced was management wanting to “computerize” an existing process rather than rethinking everything prior to beginning the project. Trying to move their antiquated methods to a new tool was frequently a waste of time and money. I’ve been most successful moving to a mobile first lifestyle when I take a look at what iPad brings to the table rather than expecting it to function like the big iron I used for the last 40 years. And doing this has made working with technology fun again.
I don’t think I’ve read a cogent essay, but I found this particular video and using Procreate persuasive.
I agree that getting too wonky with the iPad is not really how to make it great. The iPad is so good when you can pick it up, move your hands a bit, get a feel for what you’re working on, hold the screen in different ways to get perspective, and so on. With the iPad it’s like you’re working with less, but more directly and effectively, like molding digital clay instead of 3D-rendering pots by typing in numbers and carefully dragging shapes in CAD. Something like that, anyway.
My initial thoughts were: I have an iPhone and a MBP. So why on earth would I need something in between? So, I didn’t get one.
Hearing and reading about the iPad and how people were using it, I decided to buy an iPad Air with the lowest spec, WiFi only. WRONG AGAIN! But it took a while to notice I should have bought WiFi+Cellular.
So, at first I didn’t really use it much. Ok, it has a browser. And it has mail. And other stuff. Like the iPhone and the Mac. But slowly I started to really like it. And use it more and more.
Jump ahead some years: now I have an iPad Pro (WiFi+cellular)+Pencil+Smart Keyboard and it’s an essential part of my life/workflows. From reading a chapter before sleeping to annotating PDFs, I use it a lot!
Thanks. I sometimes wish I worked in audio or video to play with all those tools.
I do sketch and read on my iPad Pro. Concepts is incredible, as is managing academic readings. It’s a stellar addition to my gadgets—doing those things on the iPad is a dream.
I guess I have to stop trying to replace everything I do on my Mac with a mobile-friendly set up. I get frustrated when I hear about e.g., Viticci’s satisfaction with his iPad work and can’t understand what I’m doing wrong—but maybe what I’m doing wrong is being envious of other people’s approaches.
Curiously, I’m still using my first ever iPad, an iPad Air 2. I think I’ll need to budget for a new one later this year when iPadOS 14 comes out, as the iPad Air 2 is the oldest iPad that supports iPad OS 13.
A couple reflections:
Like others, I found it difficult to see the point of an oversized iPod touch at first. However, as I’ve used it more and more, I can see where it excels - writing, etc. For example, iPadOS allows much easier distraction-free work than macOS. It’s much easier to have the iPad excel at a small set of particular tasks than for the same to be true about macOS.
I chose to get the WiFi only version, and have regretted my decision ever since. Having cellular connectivity would be infinitely more convenient than tethering, and worth the small price premium.
A hardware keyboard is so useful for extended writing. I’m looking forward to seeing if Apple improves mouse support.