I finally got myself a big boy iPad.
Since the introduction of the first iPad in 2010, I thought it was a cool device that had little or no place in my life. That changed when the iPad Mini was released in late 2012: all of the great features of the full-sized iPad crammed into a lightweight form factor that fit in my coat pocket. Since then, I’ve owned the iPad Mini 2 and (briefly) the iPad Mini 4, and I loved both. (The iPad Mini 4 is a fantastic device that I highly recommend.)When the iPad Pro was announced back in the fall, I decided to see what the limits were on my smaller, less powerful device. And while I was able to do a great deal of work on my iPad Mini—to the point where, for several months, I barely used the MacBook Air I was borrowing from a family member, and never touched my aging MacBook Pro—I eventually ran into a great many limitations brought on by the smaller size and the software of the Mini. Eventually, to avoid frustration, I started offloading more tasks to the aforementioned MacBook Air.
This January, I had an opportunity to re-test my iPad as my primary work machine, and it lasted for only a couple of weeks. I eventually had to take my MacBook Pro out of retirement, wipe its hard drive and reinstall OS X (which fixed many of the issues I was having), and lug that four-year-old behemoth around every day. Fun times were had by all. Not. And then Apple announced the iPad Pro (9.7″), and I instantly realized that this was the iPad I’ve been waiting for. The iPad Pro (12.9″) was too large and ungainly for me, although I frequently played with them in Apple Stores; the smaller version (the “Baby Pro” in iMore parlance, I believe?) would likely be perfect for me.
I was able to leverage my impending graduation from a masters program at the country’s number-one school in my field (well, this year we tied at the top with, I believe, Harvard in the rankings, but we were the undisputed #1 during the bulk of my time there) with the promise to sell my iPad Mini 4 to convince family-members to give me an early graduation gift: the 9.7″ iPad Pro. (I purchased the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil myself.) It arrived maybe two weeks ago, and I have been using it constantly ever since as I’ve tried to adjust to the first “real” iPad I’ve ever owned.
Now, in the first draft of this blog post, I was going to call into question my decision. After three and a half years of using an iPad I could take anywhere without a second thought, an iPad perfectly suited to one-handed use, an iPad that fit in my coat pocket … the iPad Pro is a major adjustment. It’s bigger, it’s heavier, and it’s something that I really can’t bring with me everywhere on the off chance I want to read for a few minutes or get some light work done. Taking the iPad Pro anywhere is a conscious choice. There were other issues, like adapting to the Smart Keyboard, and other software limitations that hadn’t presented themselves on my Mini because I’d never tried to use my Mini that way. And for the first week that I owned it, I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake.
This past week, however, I was able to get a glimpse into the future of computing. My internship was winding down, so it was no longer necessary for me to use my MacBook Pro as a presentation device (yes, I could buy a Lightning to VGA adaptor, but they’re $70 and spending that just to use an iPad for two days seems frivolous and stupid). Instead, I was doing paperwork and data entry at a desk in the back of the room. And for three days, I only needed to use my MacBook for a grand total of five minutes: to send an email with an attachment from an account that isn’t set up on my iPad, and to adjust settings on an online service that were not optimized for touch-screen interfaces. Otherwise, my MacBook stayed in my computer bag unused.
Here’s the kicker: it really worked! Sure, there were some issues. It wasn’t perfect. But I actually felt more productive using the iPad than I had been on my MacBook performing the same tasks. While the iPad Pro can multitask, it doesn’t invite distracting multitasking the same way a full-sized laptop or desktop computer does. It encourages single-minded focus.
I lusted after the iPad Pro with the future in mind. And now that I know it is possible for me to start and complete tasks on it—not just throw together a loose idea that has to be polished and finished on a “real computer” later—I feel so much more comfortable with owning it, and I look forward to making it the centerpiece of my workflow once I line up my next job.
Microsoft calls the Surface “the tablet that can replace your laptop” [emphasis added]. I call the iPad Pro “the tablet that will replace my laptop.”
Side Note: I’ve had to rely on Google’s apps for the last four months because of where I was interning, and golly they suck on the iPad. Here’s hoping that Google finally starts listening to its iPad-using customers and updates Sheets, Slides, and especially Docs to actually be usable. Hopefully I won’t have to rely on them in the future, but if so, that is probably the one thing that will keep me coming back to OS X devices.