How I’m More Productive on an iPad Air than a MacBook Pro

iPad AirI’ve been a Mac user since 2000 when OS X came out and I bought my first iBook.  Over the years, I’ve found Apple laptops to be the most productive computing environment for me, first as a web developer, and now as a pastor.  However, after 5.5 years on my current laptop I started to think about replacing my MacBook Pro, and I had to evaluate what would be the best solution for me.

The main factors I considered were as follows:

  1. Portability
  2. Cost
  3. Cloud-only
  4. Productivity

After doing some research, I decided to try an iPad Air and see if it could meet all of my requirements.  I’ll briefly share the results I’ve seen after a few weeks of use as my primary computing platform.

Portability
At 13-inches and 5 lbs., my MacBook Pro isn’t enormous, but with the amount of traveling/commuting I do for missions, conferences, and meetings, it had definitely become a liability in my mind.  In contrast, the one pound iPad Air is extremely portable, and there’s no reason to leave it behind, no matter where I’m going.  Adding this Anker keyboard case (which, at only $30, I highly recommend) brings the total weight up to ~1.75 lbs. (16 oz iPad + 11.6 oz case), and it fits much more easily on an airplane pull-out tray than any laptop I’ve used.

Additionally, the 10+ hours of battery life means that I’ve never had to charge the iPad Air away from home.  Now I don’t have to worry about finding an outlet at a cafe, running out of juice on a plane, or lugging around a heavy power supply.  Portability is a huge strength for the iPad Air.

Cost
With a new MacBook Air or Pro starting at about $1000, and options quickly elevating that price (I probably would have spent ~$1500), the $499 I spent for a basic iPad Air is a big savings.  Refurbished options or older models can bring the price even lower.

Cloud-Only
I don’t want to risk losing everything if I lose/break a phone, tablet, or laptop.  I also don’t want to spend a lot of money for more storage on the iPad.  Therefore, I try to do pretty much everything in the cloud.  While I like Apple products, I don’t ever plan to use iCloud because it locks me into one platform.  Therefore, I use the following services to store all of my files, documents, etc. in the cloud.  This keeps me from needing a large amount of storage on the iPad, and ensures I can access my files everywhere.

  • Documents & Photos: Dropbox
  • Notes & Digital Filing Cabinet: Evernote
  • Music: Amazon MP3 and Pandora
  • Movies/TV: Netflix and Amazon Prime Video
  • Books: Amazon Kindle
  • Sermon Notes & Collaborative Documents: Google Drive
  • Bible Apps & Reference: YouVersion and Logos

Productivity
This was the great unknown.  Could I actually be productive using an iPad as my primary computing device?  I was immediately surprised by how much I could do on the iPad Air, but I also found it slightly less efficient to do certain tasks, such as copying and pasting, switching between apps, or working with spreadsheets.  However, I quickly noticed an enormous benefit.  Because it’s (slightly) harder to switch between apps, and there is only one app on screen at a time, I immediately became more focused and avoided many of the distractions (ie. web browsing, checking email repeatedly, social media, etc.) that tend to kill my productivity.  The increase in focus that I’ve seen more than cancels out the effect of being slightly less efficient in smaller tasks.  For me, this was the biggest surprise, and also the most welcome benefit, of switching to the iPad Air: I get more done because I’m less distracted.

Problems
There are only a couple of real problems I’ve run into that I’m still hoping to find solutions for.

  • Drag-and-Drop: Some websites have drag-and-drop functionality that doesn’t work with a touchscreen device. Evidently there is new javascript code available to fix this, but many websites haven’t implemented it yet.
  • MailChimp: Our church uses MailChimp to manage our email list, and I’ve had trouble editing some text boxes in their web interface on the iPad. I contacted their support team, and they’re working on a fix.
  • Google Docs formatting: The Google Docs app for iPad doesn’t have very good text formatting capabilities. For instance, it’s impossible to change from double- to single-spacing, which is very irritating. Hopefully improvements will be made over time.

Other Helpful Apps
Here are a few other apps I’ve found helpful and can recommend:

  • Pages: While I don’t want to get locked into Apple’s ecosystem, Pages does a great job of creating beautiful documents, and can export to Word format.
  • Keynote: Great presentation software. I’m looking forward to learning more of its capabilities. If you have an Apple TV, you can stream your presentation directly to any HDMI device.
  • iMovie: I’m not very skilled with video editing, but iMovie can do a surprisingly good job for most purposes.
  • Mint.com: My favorite personal finance and budgeting software.
  • Expensify: I use Expensify to track receipts and expenses.
  • Microsoft Office: Recently released for iPad (there are many 3rd party options for editing Microsoft-formatted documents), you can open documents for free, or pay for a subscription to natively edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
  • Prompt: If you need an SSH client, I’ve found this one to be a good option.
  • HootSuite: For posting and managing social media accounts.

I’m sure I’ll always have a desktop machine at home for more intensive work or specialized tasks (my old laptop is currently serving this purpose, and I’ll probably get a Mac Mini in the future), but the iPad Air has already proven to be a great fit for my needs, and the experience should only get better as software improves.

What about you?  Are you considering trying a tablet as your primary device, or have you already made the switch?  What have you learned?