Switching from a MacBook Pro to an iPad Pro

Since the release of iOS 11 and the 2017 generation of iPad Pros I’ve been wondering about making the move to an iPad as my ‘main’ computing device. I currently have an early 2013 MacBook Pro and, whilst it has been awesome for 99.9% of the time, I did have a few keyboard issues last year. Those issues cleared up but it did make me consider the possibility that I’d need a new computer at some point, so I’ve spent the last six months or so thinking about it, and in particular thinking about whether an iPad is suitable as a primary computer.

Before I continue, I want to clear up a small point about terminology. Some people go to extreme lengths to insist an iPad is never a ‘replacement’ for a laptop because it’s a different animal altogether, and others are just as evangelistic about the contrary view.

I see this as nit-picking but I like to pick a good nit, so I’ll wade in with my own view. The OED defines the word ‘replacement’ as follows:

The action or process of replacing someone or something. A person or thing that takes the place of another.

That definition is, I think, fairly clear. I currently use my MacBook Pro to manage email, browse the web, do some writing, maintain this blog and other assorted tasks of negligible interest to you. I plan to try to use an iPad Pro to do these tasks instead. I am therefore replacing the MacBook as my main computer with an iPad Pro. I may do the tasks slightly differently. I may swipe instead of click and swear at it in Swahili instead of English, but the activity of using my MacBook Pro as a main computer is being replaced by the activity of using an iPad Pro as a main computer. Or at least that’s what I’ll attempt to do — time will tell whether or not I’m successful.

It is a replacement and no amount of semantic manipulation can change that. It’s like replacing a manual screwdriver with an electric screwdriver: they may be operated in a different way — with one you twist your wrist and with the other you press a button — but they both achieve the same task, you have just replaced one tool with another. Anyone who thinks differently has consumed too many screwdrivers of the other sort.

It’s worth noting however, that defining the word ‘replacement’ is one thing but whether or not it can actually act as a replacement for you, in your circumstances, is another thing entirely. Torturing my screwdriver analogy again, I may be able to replace my manual screwdriver with a posh electric one but what if it needs to reach into a really tight space? The electric screwdriver simply might not fit.

It’s the same, I think, in the iPad v MacBook argument. There are some tasks that may not be impossible on an iPad but would be difficult to the point of frustration if they were regularly performed. There is also some MacBook software that doesn’t have a viable iPad equivalent and if you’re a heavy user of such software a swap might be unwise. I used to write some stuff in Filemaker, for example, and the iPad just doesn’t have the appropriate development environment for that. If I still needed to do that, it would be impossible to go iPad-only.

So you always need to assess your own individual requirements. In my situation, for what I need to do now and anticipate doing in the future, an iPad is viable option. Or so I hope — I haven’t actually got the device yet.

Anyway, on with the story.

The first decision I had to make was whether to go for the 10.5 inch or the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. I read many articles comparing the two form factors — many, many articles — and I took a trip to a shop where I could handle both sizes of the device. I also thought at length about my requirements. I do need portability, which is why I have a MacBook rather than an iMac, but it’s secondary to functionality in my list of priorities, which is why I have a 15 inch MacBook Pro rather than a 12 inch plain MacBook.

Ultimately I decided I preferred the larger screen’s real estate. Portability is important to me but it’s not the be-all and end-all of everything. Most of my computer’s movements are within the house: it goes from desk to coffee table and occasionally to the bedroom or kitchen. What I’m hoping an iPad will do for me is give me is a bit more flexibility in that respect. I’m anticipating there are more positions in which I could comfortably use an iPad than there are for my MacBook and I hope the task of moving it around is that bit easier too.

I am by nature a reclusive hermit and I avoid the human race whenever I can but there are certainly occasions when I need to mingle with the riff-raff and my computer needs to leave the house. This is where I’m hoping an iPad Pro will offer convenience. It will be lighter and more conveniently sized for transportation.

So it’s a compromise of sorts and I have no illusions it’s anything but that, but by saying it’s a compromise I don’t mean it’s worse (or better) over all than what I’m used to. I will gain some things and lose others; some things I do will be a little easier and some may be a little harder. For one thing, I will be losing some screen real estate in order to gain some portability. All things considered, the best compromise for me turned out to be the 12.9 inch iPad Pro (or at least I hope so, I haven’t actually got it yet). Of course you may have very different requirements and you can only make your own choices in that respect.

Another benefit I hope to reap from switching to an iPad is that I like to write freehand, which makes the Apple Pencil appealing to me and I’m eager to try it out. I will however require a proper keyboard. I can get by with on-screen keyboards when I’m tinkering but I’m in my 50s and don’t have the dislocating thumbs the younger generation seem to have these days, so for real work I’m going to need a keyboard and I’ll need some sort of stand for it too.

So, I have placed an order this morning that consists of:

  • 12.9 inch space grey iPad Pro with 256 GB,
  • Apple Pencil for iPad Pro,
  • Magic Keyboard,
  • Smart Keyboard for 12.9 inch iPad Pro.

You may think I have a surplus of keyboards in that order but I have cunning plans (milord) that I’ll expand upon in a later article.

That little lot set me back £1,286, which will send my bank manager into spasms of expectoration but there we have it. It’s done. I have located a particularly snazzy stand I plan to order but I’ll let you know more about that at some other time.

That’s it for now but I intend to document the whole process of adopting an iPad Pro in future articles. I know this will involve a learning curve and I have no doubt I’ll have to think my way around some issues but, from what I’ve read, I should be able to achieve my objective of using an iPad Pro as my primary computer. Undoubtedly it will need patience, initiative and a change in mindset, but I’m ever optimistic despite being an incompetent buffoon with technology sometimes (even though it was my career for nigh on 35 years).