Can the iPad Replace Your Laptop?

When the new iPads were released a couple weeks ago it reignited a conversation not only on tech blogs but also from friends about the iPad being a replacement for the traditional computer. My current setup is the 10.5” iPad Pro for basically everything outside the office. In the office I have a work iMac and at home I have a 2012 MacBook Air that normally lives tucked away under the couch. If I was to break down my usage it would be:

  • iPad - 60%
  • iMac - 40%
  • MacBook Air - negligible

I can and prefer to use the iPad for most of my work. There are a couple key hang ups for my situation (citations/bibliographic management for research papers, screencasts) but for the most part I could do it all from iPad. That’s not to say that I have to think differently about some tasks that I do. But once you make the switch you can maneuver your way around and get things done as fast or sometimes faster on the iPad. iOS 11 will be released closer to the Fall and it will reduce many friction points that people have when using the iPad.

I think the hang up for many is that if you use a laptop it covers all situations for the general person. If I was going to go one device without access to any others I would have to go with a laptop. The iPad is nice and I prefer it in many situations but it hasn’t reached the level of a necessity yet. Although, for some tasks it makes the process faster such as grading students papers but I can do that on the laptop as well. Additionally, I may be more focused on the iPad but that is more of a personal problem rather than a device problem.

A laptop may not be the best solution for all situations but it is an adequete device for everything. An iPad may be a better device for many tasks but it can’t do everything.

At the end of the day when you are making a decision about going all-in on the iPad you need to think about what all you use the computer for. Additionally, if there are some things you can’t do on the iPad do you have access to a computer? The iPad can do many many things and for many people this could be all they need. I just know that for me I still need access to a traditional computer. Its not the limitation of the device but the apps that are available.

Below I’ve catalogued in detail what I do on the iPad and what I have to do on the Mac. Notice that the tasks on iPad can all be done on a laptop as well. But as a preference, most of these I would rather do on the iPad.

Tasks on iPad

  • Email
    • Spark
    • Mail
  • Research
    • PDF Expert
    • Goodnotes
    • Evernote
    • Logos Bible Software
    • Accordance Bible Software
  • Writing
    • Ulysses
    • Bear
  • Create and write documents for work
    • Google Docs
    • Google Sheets
    • Ulysses
    • Microsoft Word
    • Keynote or PowerPoint
    • MailChimp
    • Goodnotes
  • Communicate with students
    • Canvas app
    • Email
  • Grade students homework and papers
    • SpeedGrader
  • Meeting notes
    • Goodnotes
    • Notes
  • Communication
    • Slack
    • iMessage
  • Web browsing and reading blogs
    • Safari
    • Fiery Feeds
    • Instapaper
    • Amazon app
  • Photo editing
    • Affinity Photo
    • VSCO
  • Watch baseball via MLB.TV app

Tasks that need a Mac (for me)

  • Finishing research papers: This is one of the biggest and saddest pain points. If you use bibliographic software such as Zotero there is no good way to do this on the iPad. Normally, I will write almost everything on the iPad in Ulysses then export it to a .docx file and finish the paper in Microsoft Word on the Mac adding citations, formatting, and proofreading.
  • Screencasts: For work I make a good amount of screencasts and tutorials for various things. There is no good screencasting software on the iPad and additionally, to help others out I really need to be using the device they will primarily be working with. Making edits (both video and audio), capturing audio, exporting, uploading to Vimeo or YouTube all need to happen on the Mac.
  • Editing websites: this is a more minor issue but is a pain point. For example, the other day my wife and I were working on a website for a donation campaign for our adoption and I had to bring out the old MacBook Air to create the website. I use Squarespace so if you use other services or know coding then you may be able to get by on the iPad.
  • Miscellaneous tasks: every once in awhile I just run into simple tasks that I just can’t do (or don’t have the time to figure out how to do) on the iPad. For example, one morning I was getting ready to send out a MailChimp campaign from my iPad and I was running into formatting issues. I had to go back to the office to finish this up. Another example is using Google Sheets I’ve run into a couple issues that I could not do on the iPad.

I have the luxury of having a iMac for work so I really don’t have to worry about having multiple devices. The only friction on the personal side is finishing research papers on the iPad. For work, I’ve run into more miscellaneous issues that I’ve needed a Mac for. I love the iPad and I wouldn’t want to give it up but I still need access to a Mac for some things.

If you have any further thoughts or comments I’d love to hear from you on Twitter (@renshaw330)