The iPad discussion is all about moving goal posts and hand wavy things. In other words, it’s about framing and context. But it’s also about fluff. Let’s start with the fluff. It’s kinda like cotton candy. Sweet and interesting at first but not a lot there when you really bite into it.
A few days ago Jason Snell, wrote his latest on how the iPad has been failing him. And, predictably, a host of prominent pundits chimed in. Yesterday another notable iPad user, Harry McCracken also commented. He’s not planning to leave the iPad but shared some observations.
The company’s legendary dedication to making what Steve Jobs called “the whole widget” usually results in deeply integrated experiences; the iPad, however, has gotten that benefit only in fits and starts. And lately, it’s felt like the platform is stuck somewhere between its past and its future.
I’m noticing a theme with these posts which is a lot of hand waving about the “problem of iPadOS” but rarely anything specific. In general the sentiment is that Apple is moving too slowly in making the iPad into a Mac. After some very general statements McCracken finally points to a specific example, support for external webcams coming with iPadOS 17 as a feature he’ll be happy to have. But also points out that it took too long as evidence that Apple is too “lackadaisical” in its progress. He mentions a long list of other things but doesn’t provide the list.
The only other specific he gives is Stage Manager which he doesn’t like so continues to use the old Split Screen-based multitasking. But in general he continues to love his iPad and will continue using it. The point of the post seems to be: 1. Mac hardware got better with Apple Silicon 2. iPadOS is still not macOS.
In other words, his story really feels like a fluff piece during a slow news cycle. Gotta write a column this week so take an easy ride on the current pundit meme. But no real substance.
In all of the articles taking that ride this week none provided much actual specific evidence of any significant problem. Each might provide one example of something very specific that may be a miss in iPadOS or limitations of third party apps. Matt Birchler had a post about how the edge cases add up to something significant. As examples he cites several third party apps that are possible on the Mac but not available on the iPad or limited on the iPad: Spotlight alternatives, third party password manager limitations and alternative screenshot tools. Echoing Snell’s original article he writes:
I guess my feeling is that the iPad is great to a point, and as soon as you stop out of bounds a little bit, it becomes quite challenging to deal with, as your options to override system behavior are basically zero.
He follows up with an example of where the iPad failed him on a recent trip:
I took only my iPad on a trip recently and I was editing photos. Lightroom is my editing app of choice, and Adobe does a really nice job of keeping features in sync between the Mac and iPad versions of their app. However, I took some really high ISO shots on the trip and wanted to denoise them using Lightroom’s relatively new AI denosing feature. That’s on the Mac but it’s not on the iPad version, so some of my photos weren’t able to be edited until I got home.
Okay, but, wait. Let’s talk about picking nits a bit. The reason the iPad is not a capable computer is the lack of 3rd party screenshot or Spotlight apps? Limitations to 3rd party password managers? Or a missing feature in one of Adobe’s apps that has nothing to do with iPadOS but rather is a choice made by Adobe?
My point here is that this story about the iPad as a computer really has entered a new stage as the goal posts are constantly being moved. In 2018 the discussion had far more substance and we could point to important, core functionality and features were still missing. For example, file management with the new Files app was still a very basic. Multiple app instances didn’t appear until 2019. Before 2020 the iPad was a touch only computer with zero support for mouse or trackpad.
In other words, it’s all relative. Year to year, improvements are made to iPadOS. And let’s not pretend that the same cannot also be said of macOS. Somehow Mac users in 1992 were getting things done with their Macs running System 7.1. In 1999 they were able to do even more running System 8.6. Sure there were limitations in the system and third party apps but somehow we got by. I loved my Mac and used it daily.
Not long after we had the big transition to OS X. It was rough at times, slow going but things gradually improved and stabilized with OS X and third party apps for the new platform gradually appeared allowing users to get more done. I can tell you that in 2002 I was happily using my iMac to build and maintain websites and create documents of various kinds, email, use the web, edit photos and video.
See? Same thing. The evolution of computing is an ongoing process. This iPad conversation, if given context, is kinda silly. All operating systems and app ecosystems are always in a state of becoming better. Computers as tools are always contextual. The users, tasks, environment, hardware, OS, apps are all fluid.
And the framing of the discussion as “Can I get by with an iPad as my only computer” is also past it’s usefulness if it was ever useful at all. Do we similarly ask, can I get by without my iPhone (or any phone at all) and just carry a Mac? Of course not. For all its openness and extendability, if you need to make a phone call or easily take photos while on the go, you likely don’t want to rely on your Mac.
Speaking of the iPhone, for the cost of such a little device and all the attention paid to it, one would think that people had abandoned their Macs and were “iPhone only”. But of course, that’s ridiculous. Surely not. But it’s not ridiculous, is it? For some users the iPhone is exactly the computer they need and nothing more. In fact there are some people that have both a Mac and iPhone but find more convenience and utility with the iPhone, leaving the Mac sitting idle most of the time. Again, like all tools, computers are contextual and relative.
I’m not planning on writing this up, but I have gone through iPadOS 17, and all my old posts about iPadOS 16, and collated a list of many of the things Stage Manager still gets wrong.
I appreciate when users take the time to document problems but it’s worth noting that in some cases “wrong” is opinion as opposed to broken. Just one example in the list, the dock disappearing when a window is moved down to bottom of screen. I like and want that to remain as it’s useful to me. I can swipe the dock up if needed or move the window.
The iPad originated as a touch-first computer and remains touch-first 13 years later
An interesting aspect of the ongoing discussion about the iPad is that it's primarily from the perspective of Mac "power" users. Which is to say, long-time users that have been using the Mac and are most comfortable with its feature set and interface. These are users that have and want access to the most open-ended computing experience possible. They're very efficient with their Macs and have time-tested workflows with apps they know well.
In terms of understanding the iPad as a broadly used computing platform, it's important to remember the bias of the most heard on-line voices which are, predominantly, the voices of content creators and tech enthusiasts that publish podcasts, videos on YouTube, and websites.
But what about the touch-first users? I've often referred to my extended family when I've written about the iPad. They seem to be what I assume is close to the average. They're not tech-oriented, they don't read tech blogs or keep up with the latest hardware. The iPad users in this group have never heard of Stage Manager or even Split Screen.
Their most used apps, including those that use Macs: Safari, Messages, Photos, Mail, Notes. Other apps most used: Netflix, Facebook, and a few games. No one in the sample develops applications or publishes videos or podcasts.
They are almost all touch-first users, relying on their iPhone for at least 50% of their "computing". Those that use an iPad use it about 50% of the time to compliment the iPhone. Most of them are using these two devices. There are 3 Mac users compared to 6 iPad users and 2 PC/Chromebook users.
If my family is even close to average then it would be accurate to say that there are more touch-first, casual users than there are "power users" that use a mouse/trackpad/keyboard.
Of the 3 that use a Mac, 1 is a college student, 1 recently graduated from college, 1 retired. All 3 use their iPhone far more than their Mac. The two who use computers full time at work are using work issued Windows/Chromebooks. When not at work their computer is the iPhone.
So, in my family at least, casual, touch-first users dominate first with iPhone, then iPad. Their usage patterns seem to reflect the larger picture of Apple's sales for the past 13 years and it explains why Apple has prioritized iOS and touch-based computing for the past decade.
The iPad started as a touch-first tablet computing device and it remains as a primarily touch-first tablet computing device. Admittedly this is my best guess based on anecdotal observation and a general sense of Apple sales numbers, but if true then it would be accurate to say the iPad, in use, remains closer to the iPhone than the Mac.
2015: iPad Pro
All that said, Apple opened up a whole new set of expectations when they released the much larger screen 12.9" iPad Pro in 2015. It instantly created a whole new idea of what the iPad could be and speculation about where Apple would take the platform.
The 2015 iPad Pro brought with it the Pencil and the return of an iPad specific keyboard offering from Apple. It's been 8 years and I was curious about the initial reviews of this first iPad Pro.
From the Tech Radar review of the 2015 iPad Pro:
The iPad Pro could be a lot of things to many people - including professional users, considering the amount of business apps in the App Store. To some, a great sofa pal. To others, a brilliant hybrid device that enables them to flip effortlessly from sketching to movies to typing reports on the go.
Is it good enough to usurp the need for a MacBook Air? Could you ever get by just using this tablet and the optional accessories around it, or does it need to be part of a larger family – a device that's perfect for certain situations but gets relegated when it's time for proper work?
There was only one way to find out – force myself to ditch the laptop and try to write this review on the Pro (and you can see the results below). While that wasn't as easy as I'd hoped, I've found a lot of use for the iPad Pro 12.9 in day to day life.
He goes on later to [describe the process of writing the review](https://www.techradar.com/reviews/pc-mac/tablets/ipad-pro-12-9-1269255/review/5). His conclusion on writing, editing images and posting the story:
But I learned a lot about the iPad Pro's capabilities in that time. This thing is definitely capable, and the amount of workarounds are large - you can get things done, just not as easily, and since then I've used it on the train to do loads of different bits and pieces and really enjoyed the portability.
iOS isn't a desktop experience, and I can't see it ever being. As such it's hard to call the iPad Pro 12.9 a definite laptop replacement. For some, it will be more than enough, but workers might struggle with the limitations iOS brings through its silo app methodology.
And Macworld also wondered about the intended use and audience for the iPad Pro:
One mild concern that is currently troubling us is the issue of who exactly is expected to buy it, and how it will affect (and potentially confuse) the buying decision...
Five years after its launch, questions still remain over the iPad’s ability to operate as a primary work tool – because its screen is smaller than almost all laptops, because iOS is limited in many areas, and because the iPad can’t multitask. Some or all of these shortcomings can be addressed in a 12-inch iPad Pro,
They go on to mention possible use-cases such as office productivity and creative as well as the available software and the lack of multitasking.
Though much has changed with the various iterations of the iPad OS and available apps over the past 8 years, many of the questions raised in those first reviews persist today. From pundits to article comments, many Apple nerds are still confused and frustrated by the iPad.
But I do think some clarity can be found in two simple bullet points:
- The Mac is a keyboard/mouse/trackpad driven computer with a more mature, more open desktop OS.
- The iPad is a touch-first mobile computer that has additional "power user" features when connected to a keyboard and mouse.
For those that want the full-on power user experience with fewer OS limitations, the Mac is the choice.
For those that want touch-based computing that can be extended with the addition of a keyboard/trackpad/mouse there is the iPad.
Testing a mouse with the iPad. Works better than I expected but it’s an old, cheap mouse. Scroll wheel is a bit funky and every now and then tracking get’s wonky, seems like the bluetooth connection is lagging. Anyone use the Logitech Lift mouse with an iPad? Do the multiple buttons work on iPad?
A common theme in the discussion on addressing climate change is that what’s most needed is systemic action. As I understand it, what people mean by that is government legislation to fund new infrastructure for transport and energy and, likely, regulate/cut fossil fuel based infrastructure currently in place.
And often in the conversation those advocating such systemic change as primary often, to some degree, speak against individual action in terms of altering consumption to lower carbon footprint.
Okay, but here’s the thing: For decades citizens of the US have been way too passive in their participation in the “democratic” process. Passive, apathetic, not interested, this is what has defined the citizens in the US. In fact, that word really isn’t used much. Rather the word consumer is used to define people because that’s what we allowed ourselves to be defined as.
Global corporate capitalism has slowly, steadily and completely redefined people’s identity and understanding of place as that of consumer. “A government by the people, for the people” is a fucking farce and has been for a very long time.
So, for those of you demanding systemic change to address the climate crisis, tell me, do you expect the government bodies that have been so completely bought and paid for to suddenly act against the entrenched corporate lobbies?
The vast majority of citizens gave up their power and responsibility decades ago. A broadly participating citizenry taking responsibility for government just walked away. It was replaced by a much, much smaller group of people that we now call “activists”. These are folks that, for whatever reason, maintained or developed an interest in “issues”. A very tiny minority trying to do the work of the full population that prioritizes working and having the “American Dream”.
It’s somewhere between willful negligence and naïveté to again pass the responsibility to “government” that we all admit is somewhere between corrupted and broken. If we expect that “our” government is going to fix the climate crisis then we damn well better be willing to step up in a big fucking way to reassert our control of said government. Voting is not enough, not even close. That’s the passive, do as little as possible bullshit that has gotten us into this mess.
If we’re going to deal with this it has to become central to our lives. All our lives. Anyone suggesting we can just sit back and let it be fixed by political parties under the influence is fucking delusional. However you slice it your attention and effort are now required. If you’re not interested in participating then I hope you’ll own your passive, apathetic non-contribution to the solution and your full participation in being the problem. 🌍
I’ve been avoiding Google search for a few years, using Duck Duck Go instead. Tried Bing but the website is yuck. Safari provides Yahoo as a choice for built in search. I thought, why not?
Only been a couple days but I am really impressed. Way better than expected and my new default.
My take on a personal climate impact assessment and plan. 🌍
As others have noted in recent similar threads, I'm not suggesting that personal action on climate is the primary or only action needed. Far from it! I'll continue to be a loud-mouthed advocate of action at every level possible. In the past I've helped organize and joined in on a variety of direct actions. As far as I'm concerned we should have immediate short, long-term and ongoing climate strikes with the aim of shutting down business as usual. But while I support collective direct action I'm also a fan of personal direct action because as individuals we all add up. The US is collectively 300+ million people. If those 300 million people made a real effort to make changes, well, they add up to an entire country of people making a change. Lastly, the fastest way to make such direct impact is simply conservation. It can be done by anyone today. No barriers other than a lack of effort.
Before I dig in on details, a note about the context. I'm single, no kids, work from home. My tiny house is in a rural setting with nearest town/stores about 8 miles away.
So, my take is, let's do this and stop making excuses. Here's my PEAAP (Personal Environmental Action Assessment and Plan)
Local transport for home supplies and groceries
I have an older, 2007 Toyota Matrix, gasoline. At my current rate my mileage for 2023 will be around 110 miles, about equal to 2022. In 2020 and 2021 my miles were closer 200 each year as I was making more trips to town for a home-bound family neighbor who I shopped for. Going forward I'll keep my present course which amounts to 1 trip to town every 7-8 weeks. When I do drive I focus on efficiency. Slow acceleration, coasting, etc.
I've got several extended family/neighbors within about a mile that I visit and this is either done by foot or bike. I'd thought/planned to switch to a bike for grocery runs to town but I have 2 dogs and a cat so for now I just plan my grocery trips to coincide with resupply of their food which typically get's purchased in fairly large bags.
I don't do air travel (or much travel really) so no flying to report other than two trips back before 2001. I've taken Amtrak and were I to need to travel any distance in the states I'd look to Amtrak if possible.
I've been living in a 200 sqft tiny house for most of the past 15 years. It's located under mature trees in an area that is predominantly shady due to a pre-existing woodland which helps a great deal during the summer. Location is Missouri so fairly hot and humid.
Heating is currently an electric oil radiator and on average is kept at around 62° F daytime, 58° night. I'd like to get this down a bit lower. I bundle up in the winter, it's easy and cozy. Also, I'm in the habit of going for at least one dog walk a day, often two. And in the winter I find that after a walk I'm warmed up for at least an hour after. In addition to the heater I have a heat tape that is used to keep pipes from freezing in the small, covered space where my water pipes enter my cabin.
I also have a well house that has to be heated when outside temps drop below and stay below a certain temperature close to freezing. I've made this far more efficient in recent years, It's a small space. I use a fan and an electric oil heater. I've got a remote thermometer and smart plug. When the temp in the well house drops below 34 the heater and fan go on. When it hits 38 they go off. Also, heat tape for the pipes in the well house to keep pipes from freezing in the outdoor section.
During the summer my cabin is cooled by a mix of fans, outdoor air when possible. Once it get's hot enough outside that I can't keep the cabin below 79° I use a window AC at which point the average temp is around 77°. As much as possible I monitor and adjust. When it's cool outside I turn off the AC and open windows for fresh air, especially at night. It's a balancing process that also includes monitoring humidity. When the AC is on I find that a two fans easily allow me to be comfortable at 77°.
Cooking is mostly a microwave or small electric induction cooktop. I also have a small propane stovetop/oven for power outages and a small amount of baking in the winter. A small refrigerator/freezer for food. It's not mini but perfect for full time living and one person.
No hot water though I do use hot water to shower in a neighboring cabin that belongs to my sister and brother-in-law. I don't shower nearly as often as most people.
I have a mini wash machine for laundry, hang to dry.
I have a solar panel and battery for charging my iPad, iPhone and a set of USB string lights. It's also what I use to charge 4 batteries for a lawn mower which is used for various patches of grass. I'm generally not in favor of grass lawns and mowing but am currently trying to manage/remove an invasive plant, lespedeza, that has to be mowed. The alternative is to let it take over any open area which would be a signifiant loss of native species. So, I'm mowing minimally in areas that require it for foot traffic as well as to remove lespedeza.
My current average use of electricity is about 9 kWh per day which could come down a bit but probably not too much as that's mostly heating and cooling and I think I'm going about as far as I can go.
I've been mostly vegetarian for the past 33 years. Exceptions to that include occasionally eating some fish from the lake near my cabin. For a short time I also ate small amounts of venison when hunted by family. And when I come across leftovers from family I'll eat that whatever it is. I'd rather eat it than see it wasted.
In the summer I avoid cooking in the cabin as much as possible. I'll use the microwave but if I want pasta or anything that needs to significant time I'll do it in my little outdoor kitchen. Much of my summertime diet is easily done with no cooking.
In the winter I cook as much as I need as any residual heat helps keep the cabin warm.
Beverages: I stopped buying any kind of drink that comes in plastic, glass or aluminum. Currently I buy the following drink related products: pre-ground coffee, bulk spices for tea, paper containers of cocoa, soy milk and non-dairy creamer both of which come in lined paper cartons. Currently experimenting with composting those.
My primary rule of food consumption is to only purchase food that comes in steel or paper. I do allow for food that comes in plastic bags such as popcorn kernels, bread and tortillas. All other food comes in paper/cardboard or steel. This has allowed me to cut consumption of plastic to near zero. Exceptions to this: coffee which comes in a kind of vacuum packed plastic and vinegar that comes in plastic and is used sparingly.
In general I look for ways to reduce packaging for food and other household products. Example: I consume a LOT of peanut butter. After saving up quite a few wide-mouthed glass jars that peanut butter comes in I started buying bulk peanuts in 20lb bags. Every 10 to 14 days I just blend a new jar of peanut butter as I use them. It's minimal effort and 10 minutes at most. That leaves 1 plastic bag that I use over the course of several months to collect what little trash I have.
Personal hygiene and household products
Bar soap that's packaged in paper covers 99%. In the past I've very sparingly used dish soap in a plastic container but have cut this to near zero. I have a jug that I've had forever and only use it when I must. Toothpaste and deodorant both come in throw away packaging. For laundry I use the laundry strips.
Clothing and footwear
I almost never buy new clothing. Underwear, that's about it. Most of my current clothing is just stuff I've had for years or stuff that was given to me by family that were cleaning out closets. I've had to buy 2 pair of jeans over the past 5 years. Currently I've got several pair of boots that were donated by above mentioned family. Other shoes I've purchased. I walk A LOT so over the years I've gone through what I expect is more than the average consumption of shoes. That said I wear them until they are, literally, falling apart.
This is the area of personal consumption that I most need to improve.
My current flat screen LED tv is most certainly going to be my last. It's 4 years old but at the moment my plan is to not replace it. Instead I'll use an iPad or secondary computer display as a tv instead. That's what I'm doing currently and it works fine.
My day-to-day computer is a 13" iPad Pro. It's the 2021 model and I expect to use it for at least another year or two, possibly longer. I'll keep current iPhone for much longer. I have a Mac Mini (2021) that is usually turned off or, if on, is functioning as a file server. It will likely be the last "computer" I buy as it's a device I have as a back-up for work should the iPad fail for some reason.
My plan for electronics devices going forward, as it's been in the past, is to minimize frequency of upgrades as much as possible. I don't have a hard rule on this.
I'm using far less than the average citizen of the US but still using more than the average used in many countries. Just having a refrigerator, window AC and heater put me in a category above most of my fellow humans and thus, more than my share in the global context. That said the vast majority of my fellow humans are using far less than their fair share. There's a balance to be found somewhere far below the average energy/resource consumption in the US but also above the lowest.
Others posted in recent weeks: Michael's PEAAP