Why Try to Use iPad as Laptop Replacement

iOS & iPadOS

The announcement yesterday about iPad OS sounds at least somewhat promising concerning making the iPad truly viable as a laptop replacement. At first, that got me kinda excited. Then, I started thinking about my motivation concerning why I would want to potentially replace my Macbook Pro with a iPad in the first place. That then then made me wonder about other people's motivations for wanting to do so.

I entirely understand that a regular (non-pro) iPad would be much less expensive than a Macbook or Macbook Pro. Financial motivations aside though, if someone has a modern thin and light laptop with a SSD, especially if that laptop is a Mac, I don't really see an advantage to replacing one's laptop with a iPad and I do see many disadvantages.

For my purposes, I find the iPad not to be a suitable laptop replacement for a few reasons. It is my understanding that at least some of these things will be fixed in iPad OS but I doubt all of them will be.

Two of my big complaints about the iPad, which will be fixed in iPad OS, are the fact that, in IOS, you cannot have two documents open in the same app at the same time and you do not have direct access to external storage devices. While this will not be the case in iPad OS, I have my doubts as to whether the methods of accessing externally stored files and switching between documents on the iPad will be as fast and efficient as it is on the Mac. We shall see.

Then, there are a couple of things that I doubt will be addressed in iPad OS.

First, I find writing to be very inefficient in IOS. Writing a text message or a quick and simple reply to a E-mail is fine but writing a document of any significant length is completely impractical.

For one thing, when editing a document in IOS and arrowing up and down in the edit field with a keyboard, some lines are skipped and other lines are repeated by VoiceOver. I have tried to find various work arounds for this myself and have tried things suggested by other VoiceOver users and haven't found a method yet that works reliably. This may be fixed in Mac OS but I don't think that is likely, as this bug has existed in IOS back to at least IOS 7 and it is my understanding that iPad OS is a variant of IOS.

Also, there is no good spell check option in IOS for users of VoiceOver. It is true that a IOS VoiceOver option was recently introduced, which allows one to skip to the next and previous misspelled word and access suggestions for correction. However, this way of doing things is very clunky, when compared to the way of doing things on the Mac. On the Mac, you just press command semicolon, to hi-light the next misspelled word, press VO shift M to get a list of suggestions, arrow to the suggestion you want and press enter. I haven't used IOS spell check in a while so I can't remember at present exactly how it works but it is much clunkier than what I just described for the Mac and, also, the IOS spell check option is not present in many apps.

Now then, it is true that Voice Dream Writer allows for bug free navigation and also has a spell checker but, again, the way you have to do things is very slow and clunky, when compared to doing the same things on the Mac. You have to do a lot of swiping around on the screen or, if you want to do it all from the keyboard, you have to do a lot of key pressing, going in and out of quick nav. I just find the whole process to be very inefficient. To me, this is true of many things in IOS, when compared to the Mac. I hope I am wrong but I suspect that the same will also be true of iPad OS because, again, iPad OS is simply a variant of IOS.

I have written 3 books and am working on the 4th. I regularly write documents of between a few hundred and a few thousand words. I have produced podcasts and audiobooks, requiring a lot of audio editing. I do all this with ease on the Mac but I can't imagine having to do these things in IOS. And yet, I know that some others do these things in IOS with no problem. I surely don't know how they do it though.

For these reasons, I no longer have a iPad.

I heard this announcement about iPad OS and I thought "This is great, maybe I could now do the same things on a iPad as I do on my Mac". Then I thought "but why would I want to do them on a iPad when I can already do them on my Mac". I have a 2015 13 inch Macbook Pro, maxed out. it is thin and light, maybe not quite as thin and light as a iPad and BT keyboard but I don't find the difference in weight and thickness to be really meaningful. Is it really much harder to carry something that is a quarter inch thicker and a pound heavier? My Mac has very good battery life (5 to 10 hours, depending on what I'm doing). It's small and light, it has good battery life, and it does everything I need it to do. Why would I want to find another way of doing the same things, just for the sake of it?

I do also somewhat understand the attraction of being able to do everything on the same device. However, when I think about it, even that isn't that big of a deal to me. It's kind of like fixing up your house and wanting to use one tool for everything. A hammer is good for driving nails and a screw driver is good for screwing in screws. Can you use a screw driver to drive a nail? Probably, depending on the exact situation, but it just isn't well suited for it. To me, it's the same when it comes to a laptop verses a iPad for productivity work. Can you substitute one for the other? In many cases, sure, but an iPad just isn't that well suited for productivity.

Granted, IOS is much better at some things than the Mac, reading and music for example, but I have my iPhone for that.

Don't get me wrong. I am a tech guy and so I do somewhat understand wanting to have things just to have them and wanting to try to do things just for the sake of it. I would love to be able to play a MP3 on a toaster, just to do it, but I also recognize that there isn't really a practical reason to do it. I also don't really see a practical reason to try to use a iPad as a laptop replacement for productivity, other than financial, as I previously said, and if you look at something like a MacBook Air verses a iPad Pro then even much of the financial incentive disappears.

This is just my prospective and I know that there are many others, which is why I'm posting this. What are your thoughts? Have you successfully used a iPad as a replacement for your laptop, with advantageous results, or do you see a practical reason to do it?



Submitted by Sarah LaRose on Saturday, June 8, 2019

This is the first I have heard about Ipad OS. I am intrigued. My MacBook is about three years old and its battery life is inferior to my Ipad mini 5. I have had no problems with the Ipad and keyboard using Word and other apps. I manage my web sites via the Wordpress app on Ipad as well. In my primary office environment I still use PC due the fact that IOS does not support some of the languages I work with; but I am intrigued by the concept that I might be able to work with this as a traveling option—my PC is a 15.6” monster weighing in at 5 lb.

Submitted by Jeff on Saturday, June 8, 2019

Scott describes very rational reasons why he doesn't want to replace his computer with an iPad, and given his situation, I'd have to agree.

My sighted wife has used an iPad for several years as her personal computer. But that's because her iPad meets her needs. She mainly uses her computer for email, surfing the web and consuming media. She likes to watch movies and TV programs, so she wants the larger, better screen of her iPad Pro. She also likes the portability of her iPad. She doesn't write much more than a few emails and she's not a touch-typist, so the on-screen keyboard suits her quite well. She has a Bluetooth keyboard that she doesn't even bother to use most of the time.

On the other hand, I am a touch-typist and the touch screen interface of my iPhone just can't compare to the proficiency I have on my Windows computer. But then, even a mac wouldn't be as efficient for me. (You couldn't give me a mac.)

So, it always comes down to each person's particular use case. One needs to evaluate how one uses the computer and decide what best meets those needs.

Submitted by thebigt on Saturday, June 29, 2019

Hi @Scott Duck.

I got my first ipad mini complete with blue tooth keyboard after using a Windows laptop for years. I wanted the ipad for travelling and at the time, i did not think i would use it as a laptop replacement. However, i liked it so much that i have used it ever since and am on my second ipad mini after the first ones earphone jack broke. I have had this one for at least four years. This earphone jack has broken, but i use my airpods with it.

Some things are more difficult, but most things i can do on the ipad that i could do on the computer. I would deffinetly recommend a blue tooth keyboard if you do get one though.

Submitted by Ben Swiggett on Saturday, June 29, 2019

Hello Scott,

I tried to replace my laptop with an iPad for about three months, and I eventually returned to my laptop. I used a regular iPad from 2017, and many of the problems you mentioned were the same ones I encountered. The main problem with the iPad seemed to come from the software.

I still have my iPad, and I use it everyday to read books and watch movies. Basically anything I don't want to run down my phone's battery for. I am curious to see where the iPad software goes in the future, but the software just isn't powerful enough for me yet.

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