Thinking a bit about the iPad as primary device

There was a period early last year when I tried using a iPad as my primary device. I liked the portability, but I eventually abandoned the scheme when I had to give up the iPad (it was a work device and that job ended, which is a different story).

As it turned out, I was not really sorry that the experiment had to come to an end. Furthermore, it is a year later and I have never seriously considered replacing the iPad.

I had not really thought about it much until I ran across a post this morning by Charles Arthur about his own forced iPad-only experience:

A couple of weeks ago, I opened my Macbook Pro as usual. The keyboard lit up, as usual. I waited – there’s that pause while the display gathers itself (it’s a 2012 model) and the processor pulls everything together and presents the login window.

Except this time, nothing. The display didn’t light. There was the quiet sound of the fans going, but nothing. Oh dear. Closed the display, opened it to catch it unawares – no, that wasn’t going to fool it. After a bit more futzing around, I concluded that it was not in the mood to work. But I had work to do, and so I turned to my iPad Pro.

That was, as I say, a couple of weeks ago. Since then I’ve been doing everything I’ve done on this iPad – a 12in iPad Pro, with Smart Keyboard. That means email, writing articles for papers, editing chapters for my book, composing The Overspill’s daily Start Up post, and so on.

Arthur provided a very thorough list of the ups and downs of of his experience so far, and his points all rang true for me.

Unlike Arthur, I found that the bad of the iPad-only scenario vastly outweighed the good, and it was just not worth it to me. Also unlike Arthur, I had a working laptop and was using the iPad as my primary device because I wanted to try it rather than out of necessity.

I do get that different people like different things, and I understand that there are ways to work around some of what I perceived to be the shortcomings of the iPad as a primary device. I also know that figuring out these workflows can be fun and rewarding in a tinkering-under-the-hood sort of way. What’s funny is that while I will happily spend hours digging around in text-file configs to figure out why whatever DIY open-source web app I’ve installed on a server isn’t working, I turn my nose up at mucking with workflows in Pythonista.

Mostly, I think it comes down to the fact that the iPad—while a nifty and well-engineered device—does not really fit into my current workflow. If I want something super-portable, I’ve got my phone. If my priority is a lot of text generation and multi-step, multi-app processes, I’d rather have a full-sized keyboard and robust OS. It’s why, over a year later, I have never bothered to replace the iPad I used to have.

That’s just me, though.

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