When Steve Jobs announced the iPad in January 2020 I did not think much about it. Then again, despite being a long term Apple user, I’m unlikely to get a new device before its 3rd generation. My first iPad was Mini 2.
At that point my requirements for computing device change forever. The compact form of Mini made it an all-around tool. It fitted inside my jeans pocket and was almost invisible inside the jacket/coat. Cellular connectivity kept me on-line everywhere.
Step by step I started figuring out how to use it more. First, as a dedicated email device. Things turned it into perfect GTD companion. ater iPad become my reading and document review tool. I even had a SSH client installed. From today’s perspective, it was quite awkward. At the time I was often carrying Bluetooth keyboard in my bag. Despite it not being ideal setup, it was still much more portable compared to my MBP 13”.
And it was the portability that played a key role in 2016 when I needed to replace my old laptop. The choice was simple. MacBook 12” was light and had a keyboard. It was supposed to be the ultimate portable device. Except it wasn’t. It still required a laptop bag. Instead of the coat pocket, I was leaving it inside the car gloves compartment. MacBook was a nice device, but over time it wasn’t able to keep up with the performance requirements. Video calls (which I depend on) were making it slow. There was a lot of overheating I had to get regular MBP for daily work.
When Pro 10.5” I did not need much convincing. I picked it up immediately after it was available and have not looked back since. Sure, I still have my laptop - traded 13” MacBook for maxed out 15” configuration. But it stays at the home office most of the time. The laptop is dedicated to activities where I need a lot of screen estate (data analysis, coding, or for tools generally not yet available on iOS).
My current iPad Pro 11” Cellular with Folio keyboard travels with me everywhere I go. No longer in my pocket. But inside Everki mini messenger bag which is allows to carry pretty much everything I need (even for work travel) and compact for everyday use. For the last upgrade I did consider getting 12.9” version but decided against. Because of portability. It’s quite likely I will get it for my home office at some point.
Let’s start with the obvious. I write this blog post using iA Writer. At the same time connected only to 4G network with an unlimited data package. Ability to sport 150mbps at any given moment made home broadband obsolete. At the desk iPad Pro also serves as a cable hotspot for my laptop. No need to fight with the WiFi coverage around the house. Not to mention the slow broadband connection.
Most of my general day-to-day activities revolve around the paper notebook and iPad. Bear, Things, and MindNode are the digital counterparts. All my call remote meetings the tablet. There was never a time where it would cause any performance issue, there’s no fan noise to bother me. At the time of writing, Zoom is my go-to tool.
Where the iPad shines is being a focused device. Instead of dozens of distracting windows open on my laptop at any time, there’s only one app. ne screen I have to focus on when using the tablet. I did welcome multitasking improvements of iPadOS 13, but I am wary about the demands people have for upcoming versions. Being limited to a single thing help me to think more. Be more mentally present. It reduces the number of shiny things that can trigger procrastination. It’s worth mention that my iPad has most of the notifications disabled.
For anything development related there’s Blink Shell. Via jump host with
tmux I can do any type of work I need to do. As mentioned above, the screen estate is a limiting factor. iPad can’t provide comfort similar to a laptop designed and optimized for that purpose over decades. But the point is - I don’t always need it. There’s plenty of opportunities where I have to focus on one thing and ignore the rest. The obvious pain point is working with data related work, where there’s still plenty to be desired. Either apps or workflows.
The rest of my needs are covered either by G Suite suite, Microsoft Office, plethora content sources (Audible, Pocket, PDF Expert, etc.), audio tools (Ferrite), Slack, Yoink, 1Password and Safari for everything web-based.
iPad Pro battery is strong for all-day work. In case of any doubts, I pack 20000mAh power-bank, which can keep me afloat for 2 - 3 days without having to search for the power outlet.
The special remark is dedicated for Apple Pencil. It goes without saying “I had to get it”. Both the first and second generation. It’s a nice and handy gadget. While I intended to use it for note taking, in long term I never got thrilled by the feeling of writing on the glass. My use of the Pencil reduced over time. Don’t get me wrong I’m still using it and Notability is amazing. But if there would be one benefit to point out it’s the fact Pencil helped me to get back to use regular notebooks and pens daily.
Where Pencil helps is the ability to create sketches. Other people can create amazing output using digital tools, but I’m not one of them. Even simple things look horrible no matter how much I try. Being able to sketch something by hand reduced my frustration quite a lot. And the output is usually well-received by others (or at least nobody complained so far).
Looking back at my use of iPad has been fantastic experience. From the awkward beginnings to a sophisticated device it is today. Some people are not afraid of calling it their daily driver. Others think it’s outright impossible. At the end of the day, it depends on the type of work you are doing. For my situation iPad become an indispensable device. It made my remote-only work setup possible and more enjoyable. Step by step it’s changing the way how I work, the way how I perceive computing in general.
PS: it took me 6 months to find the courage and publish this blog post. Guess there’s no better day than iPad’s 10 year anniversary to do it.