Update: Results of my 30 day iPad Exclusive Use Experience

On November 1, 2018, I committed myself to using the cellular 2018 iPad Pro 12.9 with keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil as my sole computing device at the office, at home, and when traveling for 30 days. As I write this it has been 51 days. I have been faithful, mostly, to that “spirit quest.” I promised to follow-up on my experience. This is that follow-up.

My Reasons
This begs the question, “why go through the trouble of creating new workflows and learning new processes and applications when I have a 2017 13” MacBook Pro with Touch Bar capable of meeting all of my computing needs?” Aside from the fact that I enjoy learning new things and fiddling with technology, I have many reasons for wanting to consolidate all of my computing to the iPad. Some of my reasons are subjective while others are objective.

I’m convinced that along with integrated voice control and artificial intelligence, mobile computing platforms like the iPad are the future of computing technology. Articles like this one from the WSJ predict as much. While there are current hardware and software limitations making a full transition to mobile computing a challenge, but possible, as noted by the writer of the WSJ article, the biggest challenge is not hardware and software, it is mind-set: “The real barrier, I think, is people’s mind-sets. Those of us who grew up with “desktop” operating systems have trouble grasping that even our phones are fast becoming as computationally powerful as the computers on which we get our work done. But people who lack those experiences have no such bias.” Assuming that mobile platforms like tablets are the future of computing, I figure I might as well get a head start in making the transition in my computing practices.

There are other more immediate and practical reasons for striving to replace my MBP with the iPad for my computing needs. Without going into an in-depth discussion of each, my reasons include the following:
- The desire to simplify and be more efficient and focused by mastering one GUI, one device, and one set of workflows rather than constantly switching between MacOS and iOS. To borrow an aphorism attributed to Albert Einstein, “Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler.”
- The desire to have a powerful, portable computer with all day battery life. While the MBP is powerful and mobile, it does not have all day battery life.
- The ability to selectively use the best GUI for the task at hand: keyboard, voice, touch, or pencil. Only the iPad offers them all.
- Access to the largest and most innovative applications available. While there is a rich reservoir of applications for MacOS, I believe it is accurate to assert that the iOS ecosystem is more innovative and vibrant than that for MacOS.
- The ability to switch between portrait and landscape modes based on need or preference. For example, I use portrait mode from annotating PDFs, reading, taking handwritten notes and giving presentations. I use landscape for most other tasks.
- The increased security provided by the iOS platform. While MacOS is far more secure than Windows, iOS is even more secure and less prone to exploits than MacOS.

My Computing Needs
Before I describe my experience and assessment of using the iPad as my sole computing device, it is important to share my computing needs. What one needs for getting stuff done will vary widely depending upon one’s work, entertainment preferences, and hobbies. As the Head of School for a large private school, my role is similar to that of a CEO and my computing needs reflect that role. In no particular order, I use a computer to write books, write work related communications and articles, to prepare and give Keynote presentations and speeches at national and international conferences, compose and respond to email, manage large teams and collaborative projects and related documents and reference material, review budgets and other relatively light spreadsheet work, referencing my calendar (my assistant manages my calendar) reading books and research, manage research citations, annotate speeches and articles, manage personal finances and track investments, teaching a graduate course, online shopping, participating in forums, brainstorming using a mind mapping application, conducting meetings and taking notes, developing strategic plans, preparing reports, occasionally watching a video, listening to music and podcasts, photo editing from RAW files, looking up recipes, managing and storing receipts, articles, quotations, user manuals and more. I do not code, create videos, or produce podcasts and my spreadsheet work is light to moderate.

My iPad Experience
Overall, my experience using the iPad as my sole computing experience has been enjoyable and productive. I find using the iPad far more enjoyable, flexible, and productive than my MBP, though I have a few exceptions as noted below.

On the positive side, here is what I find works well.

  • The ability to have cellular on my device increases productivity and reduces friction. I’m always able to get online. This is important because I work without paper and all of my documents are in the cloud and synced with the iPad. While I could use my iPhone as a wifi hotspot for my MBP, this is not always reliable and it drains the battery on both devices.
  • Typing on the iPad Folio is excellent. In fact, I find the iPad Folio keyboard to be better than the MBP butterfly keyboard for touch typing, though I miss having backlit keys when on a dark plane.
  • The iPad with the Pencil enables me to more “naturally” take notes during a meeting and removes the “barrier” between me and others in a meeting. I do a lot of interviewing and hiring. The ability to have the iPad in my lap and to take handwritten notes is far more natural and informal feeling than typing on a keyboard. This applies to all of my meetings.
  • The ability to have two but no more than two windows open at a time (especially on the larger 12.9” iPad) is productive for two reasons. First, it reduces the distraction of having too many windows open. Second, I can open two full-size applications side-by-side for working on reports, research, a writing project, etc.
  • Using the Pencil to edit photos in Pixelmator or Affinity is a pleasing and effective experience.
  • Having the ability to grab my iPad and instantly change from keyboard typing to handwriting notes or switching from using the keyboard to the iPad without the keyboard to give a speech is fast, easy, and natural. I have one device that serves each of these purposes extremely well.
  • I only need one small bag to carry everything I need.
  • I’m using dictation and Siri far more, which has also increased my productivity and forced me to learn how to use dictation more effectively.
  • I found using the Apple Pencil to navigate the iPad and memorizing the keyboard shortcuts (hold the Cmd key for application specific shortcuts) reduces the need to reach for the screen and reduces what I believe Steve Jobs referred to as Gorilla arm.
  • Many of the iOS applications are more delightful and easier to use than their MacOS counterparts.
  • I was surprised by how good Apple Notes is but only after forcing myself to experiment and learn how to maximize it. I don’t consider Apple Notes to be a replacement for programs like Evernote, I use DEVONthink for that purpose. Apple Notes is not so much a shoebox for storage as it is an excellent note taking and note keeping application. Go figure. :slight_smile:
  • My normal day goes from 6:00am when I arrive at the office to 8:30pm. My iPad lasts all day, especially when I plug it in briefly while having lunch for about 30-45 minutes.
  • The iPad just works. I seldom have to “manage” the iPad. The MBP requires more management overhead.

As one writer said, not everything is rainbows and unicorns. I have run into limitations and frustrations. Here are the ones that I find to be most problematic.

  • It is not possible to manage contact groups in the Apple Contacts application. I use contact groups a lot so this can be frustrating. This is one of the instances in which I had to use my MBP to create and manage contact groups.
  • It is not possible to manage folders in Apple Notes. Again, this forced me to use the MBP to arrange folders in Apple Notes. Truth be told it is not “necessary” to have folders given the good search functions in Apple Notes but I’m OCD when it comes to being organized so a good folder structure is important to me.
  • While it is possible to work in spreadsheets on the iPad, it is a frustrating and inefficient experience. If one does a lot of spreadsheet work, the iPad is not a suitable platform until/unless iOS drastically improves in this area.
  • I have little need for external storage but I do like to backup my work to both the cloud and external hard drives in different off-site locations. It is not possible to connect the iPad to an external storage device. I hope/expect this to change with iOS 13.
  • While most anything can be done on the iPad, somethings are harder or impossible even after mastering new workflows. I’ve already mentioned spreadsheets, contact groups, and Apple Note folders. The other pain points include selecting and managing multiple files. This is not something I do often but when I do I find that it is possible on the iPad, but not ideal.
  • I don’t use Google docs a lot but when I do, the experience is better using Chrome on the MBP than using the iPad. Again, I can use Google docs, sheets, etc. on the iPad but Google applications work better on my MBP using the Chrome browser.

My Verdict and Plans Going Forward
Having used the iPad nearly exclusively for 51 days and forcing myself to learn new workflows and mastering iOS applications and iOS keyboard shortcuts, I have concluded that I will be using the iPad for nearly all of my professional, personal, and entertainment computing needs. In fact, I’m reversing the normal process of using the MBP as my primary computer with the iPad being my backup or mobile computing device to using the iPad as my primary computer and only using the MBP when I can’t effectively and efficiently use the iPad. In other words, my MBP will now be my backup, secondary device. My prediction is that as iOS continues to evolve, I will use my MBP even less.

To those who are wondering if the iPad can replace their MBP or iMAC as their primary computer to get real work done, I’d say yes for most. There are of course some professions where this may not currently work—for example, developers/programmers, those who extensively use spreadsheets, podcasters and others. That said, making the transition to using the iPad as one’s primary computer requires a willingness to change, to deal with the initial loss of productivity and the frustrations that come with changing workflows and habits. Moving to the iPad as a primary computing device requires a change in mind-set and habits. Not everyone is willing to make the mental and emotional investment in making the change. To those willing to make this investment in time, frustration, and mental energy, I encourage you to do so. I found the iPad to be overall more productive, efficient, and delightful to use than my MBP.

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Great summary of your experiences - I do however have some info for you regarding Apple Notes as well as a workaround regarding external storage in case you weren’t aware:

  • In Apple Notes it is in fact possible to manage folders as well as move one/several notes between folders, pretty easy :slight_smile:

  • A great work around for me has been to repurpose an Apple Time Capsule by configuring it to log onto my existing wifi - done through Airport for iOS - at which point the internal disk is shared through AFS.

    • Afterwards I connected an external USB 3.0 Passport for Mac, and then through Airport for iOS I configured the TC to share disks with the option “With password for a disk”
      • Last thing I did was to purchase & download Remote File Manager from Jane Zhang which is pretty low-price - there is a free version as well which works, however it is limited to one network drive only, and I’m planning on connecting a couple more drives, eventually. Anyway, this is the only app I have found to work with shared network disks on either AFS/SMB, and it works perfectly - I can have traffic in/out from the web while moving data to/from local network drives at the same time without noticeable speed drops.
        • I just need to move files into the app sub-folder in the “On this iPad” folder through the Files app, and the switch to the Remote File Manager app, to upload data (or download data) to networked drives.

Don’t mean to correct you, just wanted to give some pointers to at least two of the issues you’ve been having :slight_smile:

Thanks Tony, I appreciate the suggestion about external storage! As to Apple Notes, yes, I can move notes to folders and I can create folders on iOS. What one cannot do is nest and move folders. If this is possible, an Apple Engineer who asked for my input is not aware of it. :slight_smile: I’d love to know how to move/nest Apple Notes folder on iOS. If you know how to do so, please let me know! And, feel free to correct, my wife does often. :slight_smile:

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A really interesting summary of your experience. Thank you for sharing this.
I have never used a Mac and so I feel I have had the luxury of learning the iOS way of working just as it has developed into a fully functioning ecosystem.
I hope to be “only ever iPad” for as long as possible.

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Aaah, that way - I misunderstood you :joy:
Yup, that is one feature I’m missing as well - I’ve settled for Bear Notes for now, though, but hope to be able to go native Notes again (in iOS 13, maybe?:crossed_fingers:t2:).

Oh, I never correct - clarify, perhaps😂

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Thanks for sharing your experience of using you iPad as your main machine. Whilst I have not made a conscious decision about moving from Mac to iOS as my main machine I have found myself doing this more and more since I got my iPad Pro in the summer of 2017. Like you I have found that there are many tasks I can accomplish just as easily on the iPad as I can on an iMac/MacBook with very little friction. As I still have access to my desktop machine as well it means I am only carrying a very small a light machine around with me during the day which has an always on network connection thanks to the 4G modem.

Like you I have found some limitations with using mainly iOS. One fo these for me was also managing groups, more specifically not being able to, on iOS. However, there is an app for this which I have found really useful called ABC Groups, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abc-groups/id685048714. This app fills in the gap left by Apple in the iOS contacts app and does so at a very reasonable price. It seems a strange thing for Apple to leave this functionality out of their own app (email contact groups change and alter all the time) but at least the developer of ABC Groups has provided a means to do this on iOS.

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Ha! maybe I can get my wife to do more “clarifying!” :wink: I’m really only kidding. My wife is very patient and gracious with me.

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Thanks for the tip; I’ll check the application out!

I just gave this app a DL as well, and a really cool feature is that this app seamlessly imports existing groups, apparently🙂

iPad Pro 10.5" main driver here, and my experience is very similar. Particularly managing contacts. Seems like a really obvious shortcoming that could be easily improved on (but then again, I have no idea of the complexities involved in developing contact apps…)

I found Full Contact and use that to make up for the shortcomings in contact management in iOS. It demands a subscription, so won’t be to everyone’s liking, but it’s served me well thus far. Will also have a look at ABC groups, just in case I’m missing something…

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Hello @Tonny_Bukdahl,
It does import your existing groups which have been made in the contacts app on MacOS. It was trying to edit my existing groups on my iPad which led me to find ABC Contacts. Any changes made in ABC get sent back to my Mac via iCloud syncing.

Darran

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Thanks @Bmosbacker for sharing your experience.

I am on the edge of purchasing the new iPad Pro 12.9" as a replacement for my aging MBP. The price has made the decision hard to justify (The iPad Pro may cost more than I paid for my MBP :neutral_face:).

I appreciate the usage breakdown, and the positives and negatives based on actual usage.

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Just remember, each use case will be different. I wouldn’t want you to make a wrong decision based on my personal use case and experience. :slight_smile:

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No worries.

It is nice to hear the actual usage. As an example, I work with a lot of documents, writing and organizing. I use Notes a lot in a similar manner to capture snippets and ideas, and things. This is the bulk of my work with my MBP. Your experience is a good insight.

I have not used an iPad with two apps open side-by-side. So that is interesting. I can do it with my MBP, but it is not feasible for real work.

The one downside was the spreadsheet. However, I use them more as reports than analytics work. I have 27" iMacs at home and work when I need to bear down.

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I know a month probably isn’t long enough to tell, but any other ergonomic or health issues so far? I avoid even using a laptop exclusively for fears (possibly unfounded) of posture, neck, etc.

I have the luxury of being a free agent myself and did reserve time for working on exclusively from an iPad Air 2 for a couple of months as an experiment.

Most of my work can be done on an iPad. The exceptions are when I work in a spreadsheet and I need multiple documents and some video editing. I can imagine life would be easier with an iPad Pro 12.9" to allow two full screen apps side-by-side.

I’d love to get multiple tabs in one app or give me the option to see two documents within the same app.

I think Apple likes to have their technology home-grown. Apple’s previous OSes, MacOS 9 was great but its technology foundation was showing its age. Apple knew they had to essentially do a reboot and start over

When Apple transitioned to MacOS X in 2001, it came from a well fleshed out Unix foundation. It was an excellent choice but didn’t have everything Apple wanted (even if they didn’t know what they wanted yet). Watching the evolution of MacOS X from version 10.0 to version 10.14 has been fascinating. But over the years, it feels like adding stuff on top of a foundation that is starting to buckle under its own weight.

iOS is Apple’s opportunity to create their own OS from the ground up and perfect it. It’s roots are relatively recent and Apple owns it completely. Apple always wants to own their work. Their reliance on Intel for Apple’s hardware is probably irritating and recent rumors have stoked the fires of Apple using ARM chips eventually for much (if not all) of its hardware lineup.

I intent to keep using the iPad more now for most of my work. As the OP stated, it’s a mindset switch. We’re so used to doing work on a desktop or notebook. Switching over to a new platform can be tough. I still love my MBP but I’m thinking of the future. It just feels like Marzapan will be an emulator to get people used to the iOS model. I’m already using a trackpad on my desktop. Most of my apps are readily available on iOS.

It’s gonna be an interesting ride here.

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No, I’ve been using laptops and iPads for years with no issues.

Yes, don’t get me wrong. I still love my MBP. It’s so hard to let go of MacOS X and Keyboard Maestro.

I remembered the transition from MacOS 9 to MacOS X. The first MacOS X had an emulator that allowed us to run MacOS 9 in its own shell. That eased the transition as I entered a new world. A lot of the app developers used that time to slowly create a MacOS X only version.

It is suspicious when Marzapan allows us to have iOS apps in MacOS X. Perhaps this is a gentle nudge towards iOS or a future platform that melds the best of both iOS and MacOS X?

I still use my MBP at the office. But when I’m going away on a short trip where my technology demands are not quite as strong, I’ll be using an iPad.

Nice, I should have known :grin:

I recently bought the new MacBook Air 2018 and I have been using it for a month. It’s an amazing joy to use. But, I will receive my new iPad Pro 11’, 256 GB Wifi+Cellular with the Smart Keyboard in the beginning of January and I want to make it my primary device. I will keep my new Air around for a transition period and then go completely iOS. It’s the way of the future and it’s better to get in the from the beginning.

I have no doubt that it will be a long learning-curve to go iPad iOS only instead of MacOS. I’m really, really fast on a Mac. I can get things done with incredible speed using keyboard shortcuts, Alfred and other apps. Colleagues and friends are always amazed at how fast I am when using my Mac.

So it will no doubt be frustrating to make the transition. But the iPad is just more fun to use and I think I will love it much more than I love this new MacBook Air.

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