09th November 2018

The new iPad Pro has been released, so of course it’s time for everyone to discuss how it can’t be used as a work device.

In my opinion a big part of the arguments stem from the idea of it being a laptop replacement. And this leads to a lot of comparisons of apps, and tasks that people do on their Mac, and how they’d accomplish it on an iPad. Some of the time, you find some really good discussions on where a Mac or iPad would be better suited, or things that could be improved. But most of the time I don’t find the comparisons to be very helpful at all, and the rhetoric of not doing work on an iPad, is for some reason, still a thing.

There’s quite a lot of things that I think cause this type of reaction, and hopefully I’ll manage to explain all of them, in this rant-style piece.

First of all, the reviews are not always being done by people who use the device full-time, or do a substantial about of tasks on it. I wouldn’t be able to review a windows laptop very well, simply because I don’t use one, or even know anything about them anymore. Therefore my opinion would be completely worthless, and would only provide inaccurate information to the debate.

Also, I think the comparisons between the devices are being done are mostly too high-level. The problem is being abstracted away so much, that what’s left is checking if a Mac app is available on iOS, or if a workflow can be done in the exact same way. They’re not trying to solve an actual issue, or ask themselves what else can this device do that I couldn’t do before.

This shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but macOS and iOS are different operating systems. And the way to do something is not always going to be the same. Maybe the question you have to ask yourself when trying to see if the iPad could work for you, is “How can I reproduce my expected result using the iPad?”. Instead of trying to replicate the exact process. It’s a nice thing to have if everything works the same, but it doesn’t devalue the iPad as a platform, just because the way it does things is different.

Another thing I see, and I think it’s becoming noticed by more people, is that reviewers tend to project their own situation a bit too much. For example if the reviewer couldn’t use an iPad full-time, or if a specific group of tech people can’t either, then it must mean the device is the problem, and that no-one can use it for work. A lot of professionals exist outside the tech community, and a lot of them happily use the iPad for their work. But a lot of reviewers tend to ignore these people. Not every person is in the tech community.

It leads to another misconception, that if you can’t do your work on an iOS, then the iOS platform is somehow behind. Sure, there are loads of places where iOS can be improved. One of my biggest wishes is some way to develop apps for iOS, on iOS itself, that would be a huge chunk of users that could then do work on the iPad. But it doesn’t necessarily automatically apply to all work. For example, does a farmer moan about his tractor because he can’t do his taxes on it? No. It’s just one of the many tools they use to do their work. And the iPad is just another tool that people can use.

My last complaint is what I regularly see on Twitter, and that’s when people want proof about how people use their iPad, and they want the people that do happily use them for work, to explain how other people can as well. I don’t like this. They tend to put blame on happy iPad users, why they can’t become one themselves. Maybe this stems from jealousy, but it’s annoying to see.

I’ll end on what my current situation is: I like to work on my iPad, and I’d like to work even more on it, but that doesn’t mean the iPad is necessarily bad.

If anyone wants to know about why they can’t work on an iPad, my answer is: “I like to work on my iPad, and I can do a great deal on it. If you can’t, then oh well.”

15th October 2018
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Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

At its annual Adobe Max conference, Adobe announced plans to bring a complete version of Photoshop to the iPad in 2019.

Photoshop CC for iPad will feature a revamped interface designed specifically for a touch experience, but it will bring the power and functionality people are accustomed to on the desktop.

I’m interested to see how Photoshop will actually work on the iPad. They do say it’s the full version, but will it include the automation that was available on the desktop, and how will it fit into the iOS environment? For example, will it have support for Siri Shortcuts, support for a Photo Editing Extension, and how are the toolbars going to be translated into iOS UI?

Then there’s the price. Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo are both priced at £19.99, Pixelmator is only £1.99, and there are apps like Polarr that are free. I’m guessing they’ll extend their Creative Cloud subscription to include the iOS version, but I think a cheaper solution is needed to be competitive on this platform. £9.98 per month is their cheapest individual plan in the UK, and that will deter a lot of people.

Another recent announcement of theirs, Project Gemini, is something that’s probably more suited to my uses. As that is a lot simpler, and focuses on drawing and illustrating.

12th August 2018

I was reading another great piece by Matt Birchler this morning, about the things he (an Apple fan) loves about the Microsoft Surface Go.

But when I read this little section, something about the iPad clicked in my head:

Connecting to an External Display

I keep asking for Apple to allow this on the iPad, because the ability to plug this into my 27″ screen and use it at that higher size and resolution is wonderful. This wouldn’t work on the iPad of course unless you had a larger touch screen, but it would totally work if you had one of those (not that this is impossible, of course).

There was this rumour recently, about how the Smart Connector on the iPad is going to be moved to the bottom. But there’s no real solid proof that it’s true, and there are tons of differing opinions, including one that it isn’t a smart connector, but instead, a moved Touch ID sensor.

Mac Rumors have a great page about the related Smart Connector rumours, and you can find the source CAD image below:

But what if it had something to do with extra connectivity, rather than simply moving an already existing port.

The original idea of a Smart Connector on the bottom (in portrait) was met with jokes about how the keyboard would look, and how unusable it would make it. But the image showing the Surface Go in landscape mode, with the USB C connector visible, made me think that it is, in fact, the perfect position for a connector that is designed to add more functionality while working.

I think the reason why people were originally mocking the idea of this new position for the connector, was because the majority agree that the time these ports are needed are when the device is in landscape mode, connected to a keyboard and while they’re doing real work.

So what if this allowed them to do more?

Maybe connecting to another display, accessories like cases that come with batteries, or things like an SD card reader.

However, just like the rest of these posts, this is pure speculation. And my attempt at creating a different perspective, that I don’t think has been made that much. What if, instead of simply moving a port, they were adding one, and making the experience better, rather than worse.

Further Speculation

While I’m speculating on this rumour, I’ll go a step further for a second.

What would happen if Apple added a USB C port to the iPad?

It would, of course, have to be alongside the Lightning port in my opinion. But that would open up a whole new bunch of possibilities:

  • You could charge your iPad while having EarPods plugged in, meaning they could remove the headphone adapter.
  • Fast charging would be standard, (if they included the USB C charger).
  • Connecting to portable storage, batteries, and monitors, would be extremely trivial.
  • Only one charger for your MacBook and iPad.
  • Another type of port means more chances of third-party manufacturers making accessories. It’s easier to adopt a standard connector like USB C than creating a one-off product that uses a Smart Connector.
  • It would boost the USB C world just slightly more. Or at least move in the direction of having a single port that’s available on all Apple devices. For example, you’d get one external drive, and maybe an external display, but you’d be able to connect your Mac or iPad. It sounds super simple, but that’s what it should be.

Anyway, this has probably gone on longer than it should have done. But I hope I’ve got a different perspective across, and maybe spawned some more speculation.

28th March 2018

Yesterday, I was getting pretty excited about the “new” iPad:

That’s why this iPad seems absolutely perfect. I get to use one of the most exciting accessories for the iPad, it won’t cost me a huge amount of money to do it, and there are a ton of extra upgrades that I’ll be getting in the mean time. For example, I’ll use this upgrade to move from 64GB to 128GB, the A8X will be replaced with the A10 Fusion chip (currently used in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus), an ever so slight improvement to the camera (it can take Live Photos), and around a 19% increase in battery capacity. Along with some more improvements that will probably cause additional delight.

Since then, I’ve discovered one tiny spec of information that completely flipped this article on its head. As much as the new iPad was an upgrade to my Air 2, the display is actually a downgrade. Specifically, it is not a laminated screen like the Air 2, and more recent models. So the screen is actually clearly behind the glass.

I can’t buy a product like the iPad, knowing I’m going backwards in regards to the display. Because that’s 90% of the iPad experience!

I think my only solution is to get an iPad Pro if I want the Pencil support. I didn’t want to do that though, so I’ll have to have a think.

27th March 2018

Apple have just announced their newest iteration of the iPad, at their education focussed event. They also announced a lot of other school related software, and integrations, but I’m not interested in that at all really.

However, I am very interested in the new iPad. Even if it is geared towards the educational market. And that’s mainly down to two factors: the low price, and the Apple Pencil support.

I should probably interject here with more details on my current iPad situation. I have an iPad Air 2 WiFi, with 64GB of storage. It is actually only my second iPad, after the iPad 2, and I think it’s quite near as perfect as it can be for what I use it for. I watch videos, read blogs, write for my blog, listen to music, play games, etc.

Basically all the usual stuff. Apart from working. But I’m an iOS developer, so it’s not as easy to switch as some other professions. Anyway, I’m completely happy with my Touch Bar MacBook Pro.

Back to the iPad. One of the few features that has made me super jealous of iPad Pro users, is the Apple Pencil. Because it’s such an obvious extension to the iPad, and I can see myself using it for a wide range of tasks. Like taking notes, sketching (of course), mapping out ideas, and maybe I’ll even find a way to write for my blog by handwriting. I would probably prefer it.

With all of that said, it’s probably surprising why I haven’t already just purchased an iPad Pro. I have been very close to making the leap, but the one blocker has always been the price, compared to the added value it would give me. Sure it’s powerful enough to warrant that price. But it’s not worth it for me.

That’s why this iPad seems absolutely perfect. I get to use one of the most exciting accessories for the iPad, it won’t cost me a huge amount of money to do it, and there are a ton of extra upgrades that I’ll be getting in the mean time. For example, I’ll use this upgrade to move from 64GB to 128GB, the A8X will be replaced with the A10 Fusion chip (currently used in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus), an ever so slight improvement to the camera (it can take Live Photos), and around a 19% increase in battery capacity. Along with some more improvements that will probably cause additional delight.

Maybe I’m biased in my opinion here, and I’m 90% certain’t I am. But, I think that this could be the iPad model that pushes a lot of other “normals” to upgrade. Seeing as it doesn’t require any extra use of the device to warrant the price. It’s a super reasonable price, and it could potentially be a decent upgrade for someone on an Air 2 like me or earlier. It would certainly push up numbers for iOS 11 adoption, and from the user’s pont of view, it would give them another few years with a solid device.

I’m very much looking forward to using this device. And it’s been quite a while since I’ve felt like that about a new Apple product. Minus the AirPods.

30th January 2018
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Ryan Christoffel wrote a great piece over at MacStories, about what he wants to see the iPad gain from the Mac:

I made the iPad Pro my primary computer when it first launched in late 2015. The transition pains from Mac to iPad were minimal, and the device has grown even more capable since that time thanks to improvements in iOS. My need for a Mac is now extremely rare.

My desire for a Mac, however, still exists in a few specific use cases. There are things the Mac has to offer that I wish my iPad could replicate.

Now that the modern iPad has many basics of computing covered, here are the things I think it needs to take iPad-as-PC to the next level.

My favourite proposition:

Wouldn’t it be great if an app like Workflow could become more Hazel-like, triggering workflows automatically in the background based on pre-set rules?

They’re great ideas, and I hope Apple adopt at least a few of them.

Read the full article.

 

31st May 2017

It’s nearly halfway through the year already, and I’m surprised to say that apart from the odd accessory, I haven’t purchased any new gadgets this year. And the only big things last year was my new MacBook with Touch Bar and an Echo Dot (which I rarely use now).

That probably isn’t anything spectacular for most people, but I’m a young lover of technology, and a general fan of most things new and shiny. But with a mix of being a student, and the prolonged life of most devices nowadays, I simply haven’t needed to upgrade anything.

But there are a few things that I think may be due an upgrade in the next six months – my Apple Watch and my iPad.

Apple Watch

As I’ve wrote about before, I’m still using my Series 0 Apple Watch. And while it’s providing me with everything I think I need from it, I was slightly tempted to upgrade to the Series 2. So if Apple were to come out with another updated model – the new features, speed increase, and the fact that my current watch screen has had a chip for about a year may push me to upgrade.

So there isn’t an immediate requirement for me to upgrade my watch, I think a Series 3 would be time to do so. I’ve had my current one for quite some time.

iPad

My iPad is another weird one, I’m currently using an iPad Air 2, so it’s still a relatively new device. But it’s not a pro.

Ever since the Apple Pencil was announced, I really wanted to get one, but this was when my iPad was still pretty new, so I knew I couldn’t warrant an upgrade so soon. And the 12.9" iPad Pro was also a thought, but with the "recent" purchase of a new MacBook Pro, I thought that I would simply not use it enough. However, I’m growing into using my iPad more and more everyday, and while I’m not Federico Viticci, CGP Grey, or Matt Gemmel, the iPad is becoming more of an important device in my life.

Usually the need to upgrade a device is because it is no longer fit for purpose. But that doesn’t apply to my iPad, and it’s mainly because of the software. Sure, Apple makes iOS available on a huge number of previous devices, but I’m talking about apps. I’ve started using a few apps recently that while have reignited my iPad usage, also reinvigorated my iPad, giving it a new sense of power.

These apps are Workflow, Magic Launcher, 1Password, Ulysses, and Todoist, just to name a few. Granted these apps have been available for a while, but I’m now starting to use them properly. Which has made a lot of difference to the way I see my iPad, and has now led me to understand even more how people have moved fully to iOS. One of the best parts of these apps are the widgets you get to use in the Today view. By seeing more at a glance, and to compile bigger actions together in Workflow/Magic Launcher, it lets you do more by actually doing much less.

Putting all of this in the simplest terms, my iPad has become so much more, and it’s leading me to want to use it to do even more of my daily tasks.

What I want in my future iPad is Pencil support, a slightly larger screen than my iPad Air 2, a smart connector for an external keyboard, and general speed improvements. Everything else is down to iOS. And in that regard I’m hoping to see a deeper Siri integration, native drag and drop, and a better way to handle choosing apps in split view.

Other Hardware

Apart from these two apple devices, there’s nothing else that I particularly need. I think I’d like to get a Nintendo Switch, but then again I’d probably stop using it quite quickly, as I do with most other games consoles.

Then there’s the next iPhone, but for once I don’t have a desire to upgrade my phone at all. I’m using a 7 Plus, and it’s a mature device that I honestly can’t think of many features right now that would push me to upgrade.

Final Thoughts

What I’ve learned over the last 6 months to a year, is that hardware isn’t really ever the issue, software is. Which is what got me in this predicament having a bunch of old devices.

Software nowadays can be an elixir of life for old devices, and as much as hardware manufactures won’t like it, they’re lasting a lot longer than they used to.

05th March 2017

Can you do real work on an iPad?

Well if the real work is writing, then I argue that it is probably better at it than most other devices.

A writer’s provisions are the tools they use, and their imagination. This is why a lot of effort is put into finding and using the appropriate tools, because it allows the focus to be on the writing.

In my opinion, because of the writers need to focus on what they are writing, the best tools are the ones that don’t make themselves a distraction from the end goal. The ideal environment needs to adapt to the writer and not the other way around, which is where I think the iPad fits in perfectly. It’s of course, not a new product, but still the argument on whether work can be done on it successfully continues (although this seems to be dying out).

With the iPad, you have a fully portable device that is not only able to be taken anywhere, but it’s also able to be used anywhere. It also benefits from the consumerism around the device, because this has led to a wide array of accessories being made, such as external keyboards, stands, and now the Apple Pencil. Especially with iOS being such a flexible platform, and apps for pretty much every single scenario.

I have a MacBook Pro and while I like to write using it, I still find the iPad to be more suited to the job. With tasks like visually organising notes and ideas with the touch screen, or making use of the Apple Pencil, it’s as if you’re really interacting with the content, without any unnecessary distractions.

Also, it may sound strange, but the Workflow app for iOS is another reason for why I favour the iPad for writing, as it makes all the management tasks associated with writing much more streamlined and adaptable. The way I think of the comparison between writing on an iPad and writing on my Mac, is the ratio on which actual writing is done, compared to the time you spend managing your writing and the related process. For me, my Mac is okay for longer-form writing pieces where I spend a long time writing, that the amount of time editing, submitting to blogs, embedding images, and so on isn’t a big deal. On the other hand, with my iPad I have all of my processes automated with apps such as Workflow, Opener, Trello (Trello has a website you can use), so I can focus on the writing, regardless of the situation.

I of course can’t complain too much, because my Mac is the newest MacBook Pro, so it’s super light, and the keyboard is nice to type on. But I still believe the iPad edges out in front.

An iPad may take longer to get used to, and maybe a while to find and configure the writing tools for you. But once you’re there, you’re free to just write.

15th October 2016
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Over at MacWorld, Jason Snell has written about how his MacBook has become secondary to his iPad:

For the past year I’ve been traveling with a 12.9-inch iPad Pro and leaving my MacBook Air home whenever possible. Traveling with only an iPad can feel freeing and it can also feel confining, depending on what you need to accomplish. This week I took a trip and brought my laptop along like the old days, and was reminded about what the iPad does well and where the Mac still has the upper hand. – MacWorld

This is the closest opinion piece about iPad/Mac that matches mine. I also love my iPad (I have an Air 2), but there are some things that it just can’t do. Like hacking around in the Terminal, manage files better, and also programming – It’s possible on iOS, but it’s massively better on the Mac.

My Mac will always come first, but in the scenario of travelling, my iPad usually comes out on top. Because it’s mostly work that makes me use my Mac.

12th August 2016

The problem with the iPad is both hardware and software related. Anything work related you can do on an iPad can, in most cases be done faster on a Mac. No question. – Dan Counsell

This is probably the most common idea behind a the majority of iPad articles, whether it can truly be a device that replaces your Mac.

Well Dan Counsell (Founder of RealMac Software), has written his thoughts on it, and I thought it was worth sharing.