When Apple first announced Sidecar at WWDC, I was skeptical. It is not that I don’t appreciate the power of a second display. But I have used other iPa as display solutions in the past, and have not been impressed or convinced by the utility. Sidecar has made me a believer. And it might just get you to take a look at the possibility of adding a second seat to your Mac hotrod.
There are reasons I wasn’t impressed by the other solutions. The first and most obvious challenge is screen size. If you are using a desktop, your main display is 21” or more. Mine is 32” It is not obvious how adding a 10.5 screen to the mix will improve things. People who use extended displays tend to like having size parity. Using an iPad with a desktop can be distracting rather than productive.
It makes a lot more sense when you are using a 13” iPad with a 13” laptop. Even the size difference of a 15” laptop and 10.5” iPad can detract from the experience. It is not a deal-breaker by any means. But adding a mismatched sized iPad to a desktop setup is not ideal.
Another problem with using an iPad as a second monitor is the duplication factor. Almost everything you would put in the second display has a dedicated iPad app that is possibly better. You could use a second display to play Hulu while you work. But the Hulu app on the iPad is better. So why not just use that instead of extending the Mac? This question can be asked for almost everything you would put on the iPad as a secondary monitor.
Ooe Mouse and Keyboard to Rule Them All
If you took my suggestion in the previous segment and just used your iPad as an iPad to be a companion display, you would also need to control the iPad with a separate keyboard as well as touch input. That gets very confusing.
Let’s say you are typing and email on the Mac, but keeping up with messages on the iPad. What happens when you want to respond to a message? You have to start typing your reply on a separate keyboard attached to the iPad. Your first reaction will be to tap the iPad, then start typing your message on the Mac keyboard. It gets messy in a hurry.
If you are using the trackpad on the Mac and see something on the iPad that you want to scroll, you will start to use the Mac trackpad to scroll before you realize that doesn’t work. Again, you have to awkwardly change modes of operation to get anything done.
If you use the iPad as a secondary Mac display, you can use one mouse and keyboard to control all of your windows. There is no need to play keyboard roulette.
One Set of Features to Rule Them All
Now that desktop Safari is coming to the iPad, that is one less barrier to using the iPad for all your web browsing needs. But there will still be some difference in how the two browsers work. You don’t want to have to switch between thinking about Safari on the Mac and Safari for iPad.
By extending the desktop to the iPad, you can use Safari for the Mac the way you are used to using it, except extended to a second display. It does not matter if the Hulu experience is better on the iPad app, if you are used to using it on the Mac, extending that experience to the second display makes a lot more sense.
What kind of poser uses a dual-display setup in a public space like a library or coffee shop? Now, you can be that poser, and rock it like a boss. It this very moment, I am that poser. And I strangely feel no social discomfort in this mall’s food court.
It’s not just for posers who want to look and feel important. If your high-productivity zone is a dual monitor setup at home or the office, you don’t have to give it up just because you hit the road. I am sold on the mobile dual-screen lifestyle. And Apple’s solution beats them all even with fewer features.
Less Is More
Sidecar, as it stands now in beta 2, is one of the rare examples where less is truly more. Every other app I can think of that does this includes a way to use the iPad like a touchscreen Mac. Unfortunately, the Mac is not built to be a touchscreen device. And everyone knows that who has used it that way. Apple has some work to do if they want a touchscreen Mac.
Adding that feature introduces cruft and junk that slows down the system and detracts from the enjoyability and productivity. For the most part, Apple treats your iPad like a simple display rather than a separate smart device. That seems to be the right approach.
The Apple Pencil is the exception. And I am the wrong person to review that functionality. I am not an artist. And it appears to be specifically for those who are. There might be some utility in being able to fill out and sign documents using the Apple Pencil in this mode. We will have to see.
There is also the option to have the Touch Bar displayed on the bottom of the iPad. I have yet to find utility in this option. It takes up valuable screen real estate on your smaller monitor. And if you are already using a Mac laptop, you already have access to the Touch Bar in the place you need it the most.
In other words, the feature is brilliant when it is less, and questionable when it tries to be more. Because the feature is nice and light, the performance is amazing. I can’t tell the difference between the responsiveness of the iPad as display when wireless, and when other apps do the same thing with wires. As near as I can tell, there is no reason to pack that extra cable.
Conclusion: A Bigger Laptop Bag
For the first time, you will have a legitimate reason to carry both a laptop and an iPad at the same time. You might need a bigger laptop bag. Once you do it a few times, you will not want to operate your laptop without an iPad as a secondary display.
Apple could have charged for this feature and been justified doing it. This will be one of the big reasons laptop users will want to upgrade their Mac OS this fall. This will also give that underutilized iPad a whole new lease on life. Get ready. Sidecar is about to drive a new round of Mac upgrades and iPad sales. It’s that good. And this is only the second beta.