The iPad conundrum revisited again

Hey friends, it's a slow period for Apple News, so the pundits are revisiting the perennial issues they have with the iPad. Notably, Jason Snell's piece “Giving up the iPad-only travel dream” has sparked the latest discussions.

In the battle between iPad and Mac, I’m a longtime member of Team Both—I use my Mac most of the day at my desk, but when I write elsewhere in the house or backyard, I switch to an iPad Pro in the Magic Keyboard case. And that iPad (in a regular case) is my primary computing device when I’m not in work mode.

I’m not at all ready to declare the “use iPad to get work done” experiment dead. With the forthcoming release of iPadOS 17, Stage Manager has thrown in a bunch of improvements that suggest the iPad’s progression to more functional status continues, albeit at a pace that’s a bit too slow for my liking.

But here I sit at my mother’s dining room table, typing on a MacBook Air. Something has changed in my approach to travel, and I’m trying to understand just what it is and what it tells me about the trajectory of the iPad as a productivity tool.


On the iPad, advancement doesn’t work like that. Instead, it’s decided in various meetings inside Apple where specific features will get prioritized or deprioritized for the next operating system cycle. Once every year or two, we will hear about some (legitimately exciting!) new features that will extend the usability of the platform. And that will basically be it. The waiting begins again.

I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of creating more inconvenience for myself in order to push the iPad past the boundaries Apple has set for it. For the cost of an extra 2.75 pounds in my backpack, I can travel with a MacBook Air knowing that more or less anything I need to do while on the road can be accomplished without requiring weird workarounds or risking a catastrophic tech failure.

I want to do it all on my iPad. I hope that one day I’ll be able to. But for now, I’m done pushing the envelope. Apple will determine what I can do with my iPad, and when that changes, I’m sure they’ll let me know. Until then, all any of us can do is wait.

John Gruber's commentary:

The reason this topic remains evergreen is that I want to use my iPad more. There’s something ineffable about it. It’s a thrill when I use my iPad to do something that an iPad is actually best at. I honestly think I’d be more productive if I owned no iPad at all, yet I keep trying to find ways to use it more.

Matt Brichler's commentary:

I have an 11” M1 iPad Pro, and I use it daily. It’s a good device for doing a number of things in my life, but I sadly think it’s going to always live as a secondary device. I’m happy to have it, but yeah, I was an iPad-only guy from 2018-2021, and for me, life is better on the Mac + iPad train.

Denny Henke's commentary:

Pundits, podcasters, it's okay to just move on, use the Mac and be happy. Remember, not every tool is made for you or will be useful to you. You can trust that there are those of us out here that find the iPad to be the perfect computer for us and what we need to do with our a computer. We'll leave you to your Macs and hope that one day you'll be able to turn your gaze away from the iPad and learn to be happy with your Mac.

Look, I don't give a shit whether someone uses a Mac, iPad, iPhone or all three. Personally, the iPad does 90% of everything thing that I need it to do. The other 10% I do on my Mac. Computers are tools. Use the tool that best suits the job at hand. It's that simple!

Published first to – August 26, 2023

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