My wife is now the proud owner of my iPad Pro. And she couldn’t be happier. As of Saturday: two days after the MacBook announcement, I have officially gone back to the Mac. Here’s why:
Kicking it old school
I loved everything about the new MacBooks Pro announced at Thursday’s event, everything that is, except the prices. To get into a new MacBook Pro required more money than I could budget. To get into one with the new Touch Bar would have required a bank heist.
The one without the Touch Bar seemed like a consolation prize. The Touch Bar is the hot new thing. Even for Apple, it is a bit rough to say that $1,500 is not enough to get it. Once tax is figured, it would have cost me $2,000 for a Touch Bar. No can do. So I didn’t.
What I did get was the then current 13” MBP. To save a bit of money, I picked up a refurb from the Apple online store. This was always going to be my plan B. This is still a very powerful computer that will easily suit my needs. I wish it were a little thinner and a little lighter. But otherwise, I can’t complain.
After so much anticipation for the new devices, I ended up kicking it old school with my purchase. The real question is why go back to the Mac at all. You may recall that I when all in on the iPad Pro last year. I opted for the top of the line, LTE model with keyboard and Apple Pencil. After a year of running the experiment, I’m back to the Mac for my mobile needs. Here’s why:
The One Percent
With the iPad Pro, I could do most of what I needed to do for work and play. To be fair, there wasn’t any work I needed to do that I couldn’t do with the iPad Pro. But there were plenty of workarounds that I had to employ. There are enough differences in the experience so that doing some things related to my job were more difficult on the iPad than a Mac.
A lot of my work is done directly in the web browser. Safari on the Mac is a completely different animal than Safari on the iPad. What works in one environment may not work the same way in another.
Admittedly, my work is a edge case. Most people would not have the challenges that I did. But that is beside the point. Everyone has their own edge cases. Even if it could be said that the iPad Pro could duplicate 99% of the Mac experience, there is always that 1% that can never be fully replicated.
One percent is all it takes to wreck a perfectly fine experience if it is the right one percent. I needed to return to the Mac for the one percent experience that I couldn’t get on the iPad Pro. Put simply, my job is a lot easier on the Mac than it was on the iPad Pro. In this case, easier means more productive.
The iPad Pro is going to be a perfectly good device for the people who don’t have those edge cases. I believe that most people who purchase an MBP could probably be just as happy with an iPad Pro. But some few people really need all that a MacBook Pro offers, even if they don’t need it all that often. When they need it, that one percent makes a huge difference, as it did for me.
At first blush, one might confuse an iPad Pro in a Logitech Create case to be the same form factor as a traditional MacBook Pro. One would be wrong. The two form factors are a lot more distinct than appearances suggest.
What is similar is the size and weight. The iPad’s screen is a little taller. But the Macbook’s screen is somewhat wider, giving it a larger overall area. The iPad Pro with Logitech case is imperceptibly lighter than the MacBook Pro. But the laptop is easier to hold aa it presents a more solidly integrated package with more even weight distribution.
This is where the similarities end.
There is simply no substitute for having a solidly integrated keyboard. For touch typists, the MacBook Pro has the clear advantage. Adding to that advantage is the fact that the MBP keyboard is one of the best in the business. No keyboard available for the iPad Pro is as good.
There is also the matter of an integrated pointing device. Even with a touchscreen, a hovering finger is not as accurate as a sensitive trackpad. This becomes obvious when you have to select, cut, copy, and paste all day long. If you prefer a mouse to a trackpad, that is an option on a laptop. No such option is available for the iPad.
Also, there is something to be said for never having to reach up from the keyboard to touch the screen. I can work either way. But when you are in the typing zone, you don’t want to have to switch from tapping to reaching. It breaks the creative mode. You go from editing thoughts, to operating machinery. Using a mouse or trackpad is also an interruption in mode, but not in plain of operation. That makes a big difference.
Accessibility features are core to the way I use devices. Many accessibility features are shared between the Mac and iOS in name, but not in function. Some accessibility features serve me better on iOS. Others are much better on the Mac. It all depends on what you are doing and how you like to use your devices.
The accessibility features I use most for work are better served on the Mac than iOS. This will not be the same for everyone who relies on accessibility. I am a low-vision user. A totally blind user would have a very different experience, and given the same workflow as mine, may prefer iOS.
When I am working in iOS, I miss more of the Mac accessibility features than I miss iOS features when working on the Mac. This difference also amounts to measurable productivity.
What I’ll miss
Don’t get me wrong. I miss my iPad. It was better for watching video. Some accessibility features were really nice to have. And Apple seems to be pouring a lot more energy into iOS than the Mac. More new and interesting things happen on iOS.
I greatly miss having integrated LTE. For some things, touch is better, just not for work in my experience. Battery life was better on the iPad for my usage. I like it a lot. And had Apple introduced a new 12.9” iPad Pro alongside the new laptops, I might have been tempted to get one of those instead.
I am not suddenly against the iPad Pro. Far from it. I love it. But as Microsoft and their partners could tell you, getting work done is not about what you enjoy. The Mac is all about getting work done. The iPad Pro is more versatile. But there are trade-offs for that versatility.
Apple is expected to announce major updates to the iPad Pro in the Spring. I can’t wait to see what they do. I am far from done with the iPad Pro. But for now, I have to get even more work done. And for me, that means going back to the Mac.