The iPad Only Experiment

Hello, having had a MacBook Pro with TouchBar 512GB last year and a number of issues, ultimately leading to returning it, I decided I’d go iPad only for my personal computing needs this year. I’m on an iPhone XR and iPad Air 3 256GB and so far, so good! It’s doing everything I need to do and want to do, and mostly doing it flawlessly with not as many workarounds needed.

But every so often, I get the itch for a Mac (or high end PC laptop) - I don’t need one, but kinda as a tech-toy. To mess with and use, despite the fact I don’t need it as such. Problem is, there’s many better things in life now to spend my money on and savings. So I’ve avoided making that jump unless I could truly justify it.

But I thought of a better idea, I’ll keep the iPad until next Christmas. Put it through its paces in a real, long-term test. Seeing if it’s just a matter of changing my ways and embracing it for good OR if it’s putting myself through hell unnecessarily to chase an unrealistic dream. It’ll see me live with iPad OS 13 and next year, 14 too and have me change my ways to get by.

If it goes well - upgrade to the latest iPad Pro 512GB next Christmas.
If it’s a disaster - splash out on a stunning 16" MacBook Pro that’s current next Christmas

The experiment will be from when I got my iPad back in September until next December, and if it’s of any interest to you guys, to post my workflows, setup, frustrations, revelations and other thoughts here on MPU Talk as the experience unfolds. How does that sound? And if good, is it better to update this thread or to make dedicated threads per discussion through time?

Thanks guys!


Yes. Please post your experiences here. It’s always informative to see how people are using their devices. Thanks for sharing.

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I’m doing the exact same thing starting Christmas day. My current 15 inch MacBook Pro is getting quite old. I think it is time to transition to the iOS only life. So I bought the iPad Air 3 with 256 GB and the Apple pencil and a Smart Keyboard (returned the KB and I will choose an external BT keyboard next week. I’m still rocking the IPhone 7 and I plan on taking that to Apple soon and trading up to the XR or 11 pro.
I’m not selling the old MacBook. I’ll keep it around for a while and probably gift it to a family member.
Like you, I plan on evaluating my setup at the end of the year. If things go well, I will go ahead and update to whatever is currently available in the iPad line. As for the phones, I am tempted to wait on upgrading my 7 till this upcoming spring Apple event to see if they release a new mythical iPhone SE model.

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I did this a year ago and it is still working great. Here is what I posted about my test and experience.

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Thanks! Great write up.
For my work, I do use Excel heavily so I still need (actually my job requires me) to use a windows PC to run office apps. I also have a personal copy of Office 365 on the iPad but only for occasional small spreadsheet work or creating everyday documents. I use Notes and Evernote to capture notes and for research purposes. Along with the project to go IOS only, I’m also reevaluating my app use on Apple devices.


Same here…I need Windows+Excel to get work done… While I can get a lot of the stuff to run on macOS+Excel, iPad only is not an option.


New Year Update:

It’s now around 4 months since I’ve been iPhone XR and iPad Air 3 only. The form factor is REALLY paying dividends over holidays, when travelling over the holidays and out and about. It’s not ‘holding me back’ or pushing me into the corner, hidden behind the laptop as I’ve been known to do for most of my teenage years. Now I’m in early 20s and working, living life and about to start travelling more. The iPad fits life better and that continues to be one of my main favourite parts of iOS only.

I did a lot of Apple workshops for fun over Christmas and spent a lot of time in the store on that 16" MBP as well as the new great entry TB MBP 13" which in laptop terms was always my long-term cup of tea. They’re still amazing, but I can’t see myself getting the money’s worth now that I use a mandatory Windows PC at work. I don’t want to be sitting at a desk at home after, I want to sit back on the couch or out on the beach in the summer - iPad excels here. No worry of sand damage or dampness damage (relatively ofc). Throw it into the car door, unlike my MBP TB last year which had a tough bulky THULE case.

During the cold dark winter nights, it has been nice to hook the iPad up to a screen in my room and the bluetooth MX Master and K380 keyboard. I can sit down and jounral in Notability, manage my personal finances in Numbers and keep a YouTube video in mini-floating player at a scale where it’s watchable. I think if Apple made this scale to the monitors aspect ratio in an update (and on iPhone, like Samsung DeX) I’ll have very little need to go back to a conventional desktop or laptop computer.

There are tradeoffs, some small things are a little less convenient, there’s no full on desktop apps or interfaces or true heavy horsepower… but this is what I realised: Nothing I do depends on that. Numbers for iOS is no Excel, (I’m nearly at the end of the Excel 2019 Bible) and I’m more acutely aware of that than ever. But then again, my personal budget doesn’t need automated or high end analysis.

I started handwriting with Apple Pencil and making ‘nice’ notes like I used to do out of boredom in university lectures, particualrly writing goals for 2020. There was something rather theraputic about that to be honest. I’m looking forward to doing that more. I’d be missing out on this with the Mac.

I’m glad this is going well, because now I’ve always got this personal computer that’s versatile, cheap to replace (available worldwide and repairable worldwide), takes up little space, little time or thought for maintenance, cheap apps, always evolving and improving and more. My money and mind is free to go after other things during a time where it could be spending thousands every other year on a cutting edge Mac

Hope this helps people / inspires them

PS, personal use case, and also I have a work Windows PC ‘just in case’, though I’ve not needed it to date

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That’s great, thanks for the write-up! And I can relate, I’ve been relying on my iPad Pro (10" model from 2017 I think, first, and 512G 12.9" 2018 iPadPro for the past 18 months or so) and I’m not looking back.
In my work as a creative director/art director for games, I use it for note taking, documentation writing, annotating art from artists on my team, it hooks easily to the Apple-friendly big screens we have in meeting rooms, and when I have to work as a concept artist, I use Procreate, which first motivated my move to iPad and which has proven to be sturdy enough to become an industry leader in the past year.

Now, I must admit that whenever I need to work on the game itself, in the engine, or code anything serious (which is rare in my case but does happen from time to time), then I need to fall back on the pc workstation I have. But hey, I can do a bit of that on the iPad through Splashtop! :smiley:

Thanks again for sharing your story, and happy new year!

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I’d consider migrating much/most of my work to an iPad once (1) trackpads and mice pointers are given first-class, Mac-like status by Apple and (2) Lightroom and Photoshop are brought up to feature parity. But that looks to be years away. I’m currently iPadless but will likely buy a new Pro model when it comes out (this Spring?), but I can see myself using it mainly for consumption and as a companion tablet to some Mac apps for now.

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I’m really interested in how this goes :slight_smile:

My own experience has been that iPadOS has gone a long way to making my iPad (11" cellular Pro, Apple folio keyboard) a very nearly perfect travel computer.

It’s funny: I find that circumstances dictate which device I prefer to use. There are times (on the couch, on a plane, in a cafe) where the instant on, always connected, compact nature of the device far outweigh it’s pain-in-the-butt limitations.

On the other hand, after working with it for a while and then sitting down at my desk, with a MacBook Pro docked and connected to multiple displays with multiple desktops containing multiple apps all running together, I feel a bit like suddenly seeing the world in colour after having gotten used to it being black and white.

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How would that be different from an MBP with a touch screen, though? Not to say that wouldn’t have its advantages, but just wondering if you could elaborate. :slight_smile:

How would it be different? One setup exists in the real world, one doesn’t. :wink:

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Hehe, I meant that an iPad Pro with a trackpad and photoshop sounds like an MBP to me, so I was wondering what it being an iPad would bring to you. :slight_smile:

Text selection is the big one for me. I do a lot of writing and I find using iOS a chore because of the inability to, say, connect and use my Magic Trackpad.


I agree that that’s a bit more finicky than on a laptop or desktop.
Ironically, I find using a keyboard on iPad to get in the way of how Apple has worked around not having a mouse. On the virtual keyboard on iPad, you can use 2 fingers to move the cursor where you want, and there seem to be ways to be relatively efficient with it, but then you’re typing on a virtual keyboard, and some people do it, but I have a hard time making it work for me. The folio isn’t the best keyboard around but it’s a much better experience at least.
Anyhoo, I hope the future will deliver what you wish!

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Why isn’t there a service which just allows you to spin up an instance of MacOS, Windows, Linux or *BSD on a VM so you can connect to it with VNC? You could just spin it up when you need it, pay by the hour, and then shut it down after.

Obviously you CAN do this with both Google Cloud and AWS, but it’d take a lot of work, and possibly quite a lot of cheating with licensing terms for Windows. And I’m pretty sure this would be close to impossible with MacOS.

Edit: I found one for Windows… Now to find a mac one.

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My workplace provides this kind of thing (VDI) for Windows and Linux. Using it from an iPad is… well, not an optimal experience, but better than nothing in a pinch. It’s certainly not a substitute for having the actual desktop OS running on a desktop computer.

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Well guys, as you might have seen I sold the iPad in favour of a 2017 MacBook Pro 13” 256GB. It’s been nice getting back to the Mac and it’s advantages and freedoms of being a full OS. But I must admit, one month in and I’m sort of bored again. The iPad wasn’t doing anything wrong or badly… I just saw the Mac for £899 brand new and acted impulsively. I’m missing the iPad to say the least and am considering buying another, maybe base model. Because I got the Mac at such a low price, I could sell it on for a profit as it’s still immaculate and under warranty and a store care package. I’m going to wait and think about it for a while. I’m terrible when it comes to buying and selling Apple stuff. Thankfully due to finding good deals and/or student discount and not keeping them too long I’ve always broke even so haven’t lost any cash. I’m thinking of doing another experiment with my iPhone for 30 days and documenting it so I’ll post a thread about that if you’re interested.

Ps. The iPad trackpad update was announced just as I sold it… typical! Looks great.

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