The iPad as Laptop Replacement, Continued

A few days ago, MKBHD posted a video explaining how he is using his iPad Pro with the beta iPadOS installation to replace his laptop. That has always been my play. I still use my iMac every day on my desk, but I like the idea of being able to work on the iPad when I go mobile. It is early days, and the beta is still a work in progress with many bugs, but I think this release is going to tip a lot of people toward the iPad as mobile device lifestyle. There a lot of reasons but two that particularly stand out are file management and the new Safari.

File Management

File Management using the latest operating system works a lot better. You can now create folders when you save files, and there are now multiple categories to sort and organize your files. While it’s not up to all of the features that you get with the Mac’s Finder, it has most of what you need. The new release does not address tags, so if that’s important to you, you may still need a laptop. However, for most garden-variety file management, the iPad is up to the task, although a bit slower.

The New Safari

I cannot understate the value of a desktop class browser on the iPad. With the installation of the beta, all of my trouble spots on the Internet that traditionally did not work on the iPad immediately started working. That includes Google Docs and Sheets, my banking website, Squarespace, and all the other fiddly sites I could never get to work on my iPad. Indeed, since installing the beta, I have yet to find a website that doesn’t work.

There’s a certain amount of delight that comes with using the iPad. That usually comes with a trade-off in that things may take slightly longer. Regardless, you will be able to get real work done on your iPad with this new release and you just may find it replacing your laptop come September.

The Latest iPad Videos Get It Right

Last week Apple released a collection of new videos about getting work done on the iPad. I finally got around to watching them today and they are really good. What I like about them is that each video takes its time demonstrating actual workflows. I think that is what we need to see if we are looking to get more out of the iPad. They even call out specific non-Apple apps.

I also appreciate how they demonstrate more real-world uses. Instead of using the iPad with scuba gear to map an ancient wreck, they have people taking notes and making presentations. Not nearly as sexy as prior “iPad use” videos but so much more relevant to most of us.

These are some of my favorite tutorial-ish content that I’ve seen from Apple in years. They even have a film showing how they shot the videos with the iPad itself. Keep them coming Apple.






The Next iPad

Jason Snell wrote up a nice summary of the current rumors and his opinions on the upcoming iPad at Macworld. It seems a near certainty that we’ll get at least one new iPad next month with Face ID since the current iOS 12 betas on iPad have gone out of their way to move all information to the top right and left of the screen, thus making room for a notch. That bit of evidence also makes me think the iPad Pro will have an edge-to-edge screen since the current iPad Pro design has plenty of room in the forehead to accommodate the Face ID sensors without adding a notch.

Another interesting point is that with an edge-to-edge screen, what will happen with finger detection on the edges? When the iPad was first released, Apple made a pretty big deal out of the fact that it needed borders so you could hold it without touching the capacitive screen on the device. I know they’ve been working around that on the iPhone but I expect that problem to be harder to solve on the iPad where everyone will nearly always have at least one finger holding (and touching) the front of an edge-to-edge screen.

The New iPad

Over the weekend I took a trip to the Apple Store to check out the new 9.7 inch $329 iPad. There is a lot to like about the new iPad, starting with price. It’s roughly half the cost of the 10.5 inch iPad Pro. For that price, you get an iPad that supports Apple Pencil, looks great,and is plenty fast. I tried to get it to drop frame rates, and it felt just as fast as my 10.5 inch iPad Pro. (I know that it is not but it still felt plenty fast.) I think, for most iPad users, the new 9.7 inch iPad is fine. 

9to5 Mac has a postdetailing the differences and there are quite a few but having used one in person I can tell you for most people those differences won’t matter. Going forward, when friends and family ask me for a recommendation for an iPad, I’m going to point them at the new $329 iPad unless they’ve got a good reason to move to the pro. When you consider the rich assortment of software available for iPad plus the fact you can get a Bluetooth keyboard in the $30 range, the new iPad is a heck of a deal.

For those of you that are interested in the iPad Pro, I think we’ve officially entered the “don’t buy unless you must” zone. I expect a new iPad Pro shortly, probably with Face ID and more bells and whistles to distance it from the impressive new $329 iPad.

Repairability vs. Sturdiness

Over the years, Apple Products have become increasingly less repairable. The latest teardown of the new iPad evidences this fact with photos of densely packed electronic components and copious amounts of glue. This led iFixit to give the new iPad a low repairability score.

I get that, but also don’t see it as big of a strike against the iPad as most people make it out to be. For years now, repairing these devices, even without the glue, has been no walk in the park. To make these devices small, they have to be dense, and things are locked together inside, so the contents don’t move around. This also leads to that sense of sturdiness you feel with an iPad in your hand.

I can’t help but feel to make it more repairable you’d lose some of that. I’d also argue that for the vast majority of us, we’re not going to take a screwdriver to our iPad at any time, no matter how repairable it is. As a result, for most of us using less glue, adding more space inside, making the device less sturdy for the sake of repairability is a cost without a benefit.

I don’t envy Apple in having to make that decision between repairability and sturdiness. I understand there is a screwdriver-wielding crowd out there that won’t be happy as Apple increasingly locks these devices down. However, I think they generally make the right decisions when you consider the abundance of Apple Stores and certified repair centers where we can get a professional to fix our devices and the fact that we buy these devices to use them every day, not take them apart.

A Few Notes From Apple’s Education Event

I followed the live stream blogs during today’s Apple Education event and took a few notes. These observations are based on reading the live blogs. I’m sure that people in the room will have more insight as the day goes on.

That New iPad

  • I’m happy to see the Apple Pencil support moving down the line. It’s pretty great, and everyone should be able to use it.
  • I think Apple still has a pricing problem. Chromebooks are in the low $200 range. The new iPad is $300, but when you add a case/keyboard $100 and an Apple Pencil ($100), a fully rigged iPad becomes nearly 2.5 times the cost of a Chromebook. When schools need to buy them by the hundreds (or thousands), that extra $300 is going to matter.
  • I think the non-pro iPad has come so far that it indicates we are going to get the iPhone X version of the iPad in June at WWDC. I’d be surprised if the rumors aren’t true about adding Face ID to iPad Pro.

Swift Playgrounds

I’m glad Apple is continuing to press forward with this app. Swift Playgrounds are fun, and I’ve done a lot of coding in there over the past few years. I consider it a puzzle game as much as a coding education. My kids never got interested, but I’m guessing a lot of kids will go nuts for the new augmented reality features.

iWork

  • The new features in iWork look interesting. They didn’t talk much about it.
  • I think collaboration is where iWork needs the most attention. I’d like to see it collaborate as easily as Google Docs and it currently doesn’t.

iCloud Storage

200GB per student is great. Hopefully, they follow suit at WWDC and announce everybody gets a free 200GB. The current free offering of 5GB, particularly in light of the cost of Apple hardware,  feels pretty cheap on Apple’s part.

Teaching Tools

The classroom tools look impressive. I’ve not got any experience with them and am looking forward to hearing from teachers about this. As I understand it, for the past few years Google has been eating Apple’s lunch on classroom tools.

iBooks

I’m currently in the home stretch of an iBooks media-rich Field Guide, and I was very anxious about iBooks Author today. It looks like I’m fine. They are bringing the ability to create books to the iPad, but it doesn’t appear iBooks Author is porting to iPad. Instead, it will be an additional feature in Pages. So long as they keep improving iBooks Author on the Mac, I’m good.

The iPad in Education

On MPU several years ago we had Fraser Speirs on, who spearheaded one of the first one-to-one iPad programs in a school. When I asked him about why they used iPads instead of a traditional computer with Microsoft Word he had a really good answer. “We’re making CEO’s, not secretaries.”

The iPad is an inherently more creative device than a traditional computer, particularly something as basic as a Chromebook. Apple made this point with the new “Everyone Can Create” curriculum. I think schools and teachers, like Fraser, that take advantage of that will be doing something special for their students.

 

Gabe Weatherhead’s iPad Experiment

I enjoyed reading Gabe Weatherhead’s thoughts following his attempts to do more on his iPad. Although I have to admit that I could never see Gabe going into the iPad-only crowd, at least not in the foreseeable future. Gabe is far too clever in the way he uses his Mac. Indeed, Gabe never was looking to replace his Mac. While that is possible, and even preferable, for some, I still think for most of us the question should not be about whether one platform can replace another so much as us users figuring out which platforms work for us best under which circumstances, which is exactly what Gabe did.

The Increasingly Rare iPad Deal Killers

Jason Snell wrote an excellent piece today about how he uses his iPad for a lot of his work. The post references a recent quote from Microsoft’s Satya Nadella that implies the iPad is not a real computer and a recent iPad ad that makes its point nicely.

I’ve spent a lot of time writing and podcasting about the iPad as a potential laptop replacement. In the early days, I went iPad only while writing the book, iPad at Work. Back then it was rough. The hardware, operating system, and software were all in need of improvement. Things did, however, get better. iPad hardware these days benchmarks alongside currently shipping Macs very respectively.

iOS also is a lot more powerful than it used to be. Last year I gave my laptop to my daughter and used my iPad as a laptop for about six months before buying a replacement laptop. That was during iOS 10, and the reasons that I ultimately bought a laptop rested largely on the operating system. Before iOS 11, managing multiple files and email attachments felt masochistic. iOS 11 fixes that. Now with iOS 11 and the Files App, I’m able to manage files nearly as fast on iPad as I am on Mac. If I had 35 years experience using a tablet like I do the mouse and keyboard, I’d probably be just as fast. 

All that said I still find times where I need the laptop. The interesting bit for me is that while Apple has improved the hardware and the operating system, I’ve got some lingering problems with third-party software. 

Two such roadblocks that immediately come to mind are Microsoft Word and Googe Docs. I spend a lot of time in both these apps doing day-job legal work. In many ways, Microsoft Word on iPad is superior to its Mac counterpart, but it has one glaring omission, the inability to modify style preference. If I want to change a style format or line spacing, it’s simply not possible in Microsoft Word for iPad. I’ve used styles in Word forever. If you know what you are doing, they dramatically improve document editing and tricky legal paragraph numbering. Likewise, Google Docs has a change tracking feature that works fine on the Mac but has never been properly implemented on the iPad app. I’ve found ways around these problems, but they are workarounds and get in the way of productively using my iPad.

It didn’t hit me until reading Jason’s piece tonight, but with each step forward, the iPad’s limitations get narrower. The hardware and operating system problems are, for the most part, solved for me. Likewise, there are alternatives for my software problems. There are iPad word processors that support styles. Google’s passive-aggressive approach to the iPad leaves them ripe for disruption by some other company that wants to make a Google Docs-like experience for iPad without second-class iPad software. I’d honestly be surprised if these problems (along with two or three other on my particular list) don’t get solved in the next year. 

But getting back to the original point, if you are asking yourself whether or not the iPad is a “real” computer, the fact that I’ve got to go to Microsoft Word style formatting for distinction should tell you that the question was already answered a long time ago.

iPad Sans Bezel


Image by Benjamin Geskin

Image by Benjamin Geskin

Now that I’ve got a bezel-less iPhone in my hands, I’m looking at my iPad(s) a little sideways. Turns out I’m not alone. Benjamin Geskin did some lovely renders of a bezel-less iPad that feels to me like the direction Apple has to be going with this. The trick on iPad will be the swipe up gesture. Currently, there are two separate gestures: short up for dock and long up for the control center. If I was a betting man, I’d say that a bezel-less iPad would switch the long swipe up to match the behavior on the phone and they’d move the control panel to some other gesture.