I’ve had my iPad Pro (9.7″) for a little under two months now. And since this blog is all about me-me-me, I figured now’s as good a time as any to write a little more about it and what I’ve been doing.
I believe I noted in my initial review that I’d stopped using a traditional computer by-and-large since I received my Pro, and that’s still the case. There are a couple websites that just aren’t properly configured for touchscreen interfaces, or simply work better or an OS X (soon-to-be macOS) device than one running iOS, and in those cases I break out the MacBook/iMac in order to complete that specific task. But I honestly cannot remember the last time I spent any significant time doing anything of substance on a laptop or desktop computer.
My iPad Pro, by way of contrast, gets daily use. In fact, it gets way more use than is probably healthy. I still take it pretty much everywhere I go that I feel there’s even a slight chance that I’ll want to read or write or surf the web or play a game or watch a movie. I don’t carry the Apple Pencil with me all that often, but Procreate and Pixelmator are both given “first page” treatment—and I love playing around in Procreate with the Apple Pencil, I might add, despite my total lack of artistic skill. I am constantly playing around with new things to do on my iPad, expanding my use of multi-touch gestures, keyboard shortcuts, multitasking, and so-on.
Gaming and Video
My mentality towards mobile games has, over the years, become “Play one at a time until I get bored of it and find something new and novel.” That hasn’t changed on my iPad Pro: right now, I’m obsessively playing the newest of major-franchises-to-rip-off-Clash of Clans games, Transformers: Earth Wars. And I love it, so much so that I had no issue tossing a couple ducats their way to contribute to them keeping this bad boy going. I mean, it’s G1 Transformers based! Plus, it’s just different enough from all the other base-building games I’ve played to keep me invested.
So my gaming habits haven’t really changed, but ZOMG!, the screen makes playing this game a joy. It’d be a little too big for me to play some of my old favorites, like the mobile version of Injustice: Gods Among Us (and its WWE clone by the same studio). But for these strategy games, it’s a joy to use. And I’m sure there are a lot of other games I could find that were too constrained on my iPad Mini (now the property of my sister) or my iPhone 6S Plus.
But the real winner here is video. Not surprising, the stellar screen on the iPad Pro is great for watching movies and TV shows. I’ve typically avoided buying movies through iTunes because I didn’t have a good place to play them. Not anymore! I’ve gone on a bit of a shopping spree of late, picking up some of my favorite movies when I see that they’re on sale: Jurassic Park, Inception, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and my new favorite superhero adventure, Deadpool. (Seriously, how good is Deadpool!? It’s amazing! Like, purchasing full price amazing.) So I’ve got a growing collection. And someday, when I finally bite the bullet and pick up an Apple TV, I’ll have something to watch on it.
Because satellite internet is the devil. But that’s a topic for another blog.
There are a few ways that I’ve been using my iPad Pro to help facilitate creativity. And let me tell you, it’s far more convenient than carrying around a traditional laptop, even if the magnets in the Smart Keyboard stuck to the metal mesh table I was sitting at as I started writing this. I want to highlight a few of the uses.
- Writing: I’ve had a lot of trouble lately (as I’ve noted on this very blog on more than one occasion) getting into a creative mindset. But when a mood strikes and I’m nowhere near a laptop, or that laptop becomes a conduit for all of the distracting wonders that the Internet has to offer, what good does that do me? While I love the multitasking features that the iPad Pro offers, the best thing about using it as a writing tool is that it gives me the opportunity to focus on a single task at a time. And that encourages focus. Although I’ve found myself bouncing between a few different apps as I sit here typing, the truth of the matter is that once I settle on an app, I’m working in that app and not worrying about everything else going on. (It also helps that there’s no Wifi here, and I have yet to set up cellular on my device. Whoops.) I would like to point out that I have written all of my stories to date on my iPad Pro, in Pages, and transferred them to the WordPress application.
- Drawing: I’m not an artist. Faaaaaar from it. I barely consider myself a writer. But I will admit, the Apple Pencil is a joy to use and has encouraged me to at least attempt to put it to good use. I have a feeling that I’ll have a lot more productive use for it in a couple months, but for now it’s just an awesome toy to play around with when I’m bored. But here’s the funny thing: the more I use the Apple Pencil, the better I will get. And with the incredible breadth of potential ways to use the truly blank canvas of the iPad, it means I can create just about anything I want, from water colors to charcoal to ink.
- Podcasting: Ferrite was one of the first apps that I wanted to download to break in my new iPad Pro. I’ve only briefly played around in it, but it seems like a fantastic tool and one of these days I will sit down and record a full podcast. After all, that’s the reason I relaunched my Crazy Random Jumble blog in its current form. And since I have absolutely no interest in trying to record conversations over Skype or Google Hangouts or any of the other ways people set up their podcasts over long distances, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. (Note: I’ve recorded an introduction for the Podcast, and I have music tracks I created a year or so ago on Garage Band to use for it. Now I just need to force myself to record the actual content of the episode.)
I’ve always tried to use my past iPads Mini for productivity and my various creative efforts, and would always run into trouble. Sure, by and large, they mostly got the job done … but it was always a frustrating experience that I muddled through because I saw that it was the future and wanted to make sure I was as close to that cutting edge as I could stand. The iPad Pro is not without its faults, but golly, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of my past iPad experiences.
Minor Pain Points
As I mentioned, the iPad Pro experience is not perfect. One of my major pain points—the lack of an ability to view two Safari tabs simultaneously—is being addressed in iOS 10. I am going to use that feature constantly. However, at least from what I’ve read, Apple has yet to fix the Split View app-choosing experience: a reverse-alphabetical list with app icons. (I’ve been using Split View since the moment I picked up an iPad Mini 4, and it took me until the other day to understand how the apps were arranged.) Apple needs to come up with a better experience, because they could easily put apps two-by-two or something, or allow us to arrange them however we want. After all, I’m generally not using most of the available apps in Split View.
Another thought that occurs to me regarding Split View—and the arrangement of Springboard in general—is that there is a massive amount of wasted space on the iPad. I know this isn’t a new idea, but the iPad really should have some sort of easily-accessible dashboard that can be on at all times or serves as the “home screen” for when you open Split View. In essence, it would be copying the way Today and Notifications currently slide over from the right on macOS. Especially with the way iOS 10 has transformed the Today View and widgets, this could prove to be extremely useful. If nothing else, just make better use of the screen real estate. I would hate to own a full-size iPad Pro.
The other major issue I have run into is the behavior of sites that have not yet been optimized for mobile. Of course, this is something I’m sure I’ll continue to struggle with for years to come. There are two situations in which I find myself turning to a more traditional computing device: when I have to use Google’s s**ty productivity apps (thankfully, I haven’t had to do that in a couple months, but I know that is going to change soon), and when I am trying to use a website that just doesn’t want to cooperate with me tapping on the screen. While that happens infrequently, it happens enough to be an annoyance and it’s made certain things I need to do enough of a chore that I’ve taken up the bad habit of procrastinating on them. Because digging out a laptop and making sure it’s charged or holing up in the office on the desktop is a hassle, and the whole point of having an iPad Pro is to avoid that kind of hassle!
Through a strange twist of fate, I ended up with a Wifi+Cellular version of the iPad Pro, rather than the Wifi-only one I had initially sought out. As of right now, I’m waiting until I have a more steady source of income before I decide to sign up for a plan. I’m currently debating between joining the family unlimited plan through the magic of AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV (which would be ridiculously expensive), or strike out on my own with something more reasonable, like T-Mobile. I’m in no rush to make that decision, though, even though it certainly would come in handy at times.
Then again, being confined to the Wifi-only experience isn’t so bad. As I mentioned already, it’s forced me to avoid certain distractions. And besides, I have my iPhone if I need to look something up or get the urge to check social media when I’m on the go. It helps to keep in mind that this is a work machine, not a toy, and certainly not a time-wasting diversion.
It’s incredible to me how much I’ve been using the iPad Pro in the last two months, simply astounding. While there are certainly other Apple products for which I have a great deal more fondness and which have had a much larger impact on my life, I have no qualms with declaring my iPad Pro the best computer I’ve ever owned. We’ll see if that continues once I am back to working full time and using this as a full-on productivity machine. But so far, I have no reason to doubt the capabilities of this beast of a tablet.