I don’t get the iPad

I bought the first generation iPad as soon as it came out. Couldn’t wait to own one. But three years later I still don’t get it! 

My problem is not so much the old argument about the iPad being a consumption rather than a production device. There are so many really effective tools that you can use on an iPad these days to do really useful work. In fact it was various podcasters’ enthusiasm for those tools that made me go back and have a second try at using the iPad seriously. That and the fact that we are in need of moving tools around in the family again and I was interested to see if I could survive without my laptop. I can’t.

My MacBook air is just too useful. I have it tricked out with all sorts of app launchers, text expanders, macros, productivity apps, and other apps that make it much easier for me to get more done faster and better. The combination of the best computer I have ever owned and my iPhone 5 is still impossible to beat. In contrast using the iPad was, for me, like wading through treacle.

To say I don’t get it is perhaps unfair. I do get it, in the sense that it is an amazing device that is clearly useful to a lot of people. One day when I am feeling particularly flush I may get an iPad mini, but otherwise the iPad is not for me. 

Maybe if my only other experience of computing was a work PC…

29 thoughts on “I don’t get the iPad

  1. I tried to make my iPad (2) a poor man’s MacBook Air by adding a keyboard. While it makes is a bit more usable, I still find myself gravitating to the Air display at the local Apple Store.

    PS I don’t have single piece of music downloaded to the iPad so I must be doing it wrong.

    PPS I do have 2 movies downloaded but it’s been a while since I’ve watched Sherlock Homes or Tron..


  2. I kinda agree (personally can’t live without my Macbook) but the iPad is great for carrying around sheet music for gigs and then doing the occasional bit of email checking / news reading / browsing while I’m waiting…


  3. I think my iPad fits quite nicely into my workflow, because I don’t have a laptop.I have a big fast desktop PC with 3 screens.An iPad and an iPhone.

    I have everything I need cloud-stored and synced. I use the iPad to show people things, to write and to curate things, manage notes and lists, etc. I often do 80% of a job with it and then clean up when I’m at my desk later.

    I don’t have any music or films on it (if I want to watch something I’ll stream it anyway).

    I find sketching on it very useful. More convenient than paper even.


  4. Euan – I couldn’t live without my 3G iPad because I have a work PC which is so locked down/out. Plus as I have to lug my work laptop around with me when travelling the iPad becomes a very close friend as some hotel networks are closed to my laptop but not my iPad.

    I think that tagline here is not how purposeful my iPad is, because it solves a problem for me, but how corporate security policy has evolved to the extent that it necessitates a companion. I love iPlayer app, especially now you can download programmes, ideal for the journey into work.

    P.s. isn’t an iPad and IPhone for the over 40’s 🙂 present company accepted


  5. I do use my iPad now for about 80% of my needs — effectively, the laptop is now my morning writing and podcast editing machine, and once done with it the rest of the day (for all purposes) is done on the iPad.

    I certainly take your point about how a MacBook Air beats the iPad hands down. I’m also heavily invested in add-in tools on my computer to make my life easier. For some jobs, too, there’s nothing like the ability to work at speed at the keyboard/trackpad give me compared to fingers-on-screen.

    For all that, I find myself looking for ways to move the last 20 per cent over to the pad, rather than for a reason to ask my wife to give back the laptop. The really big thing keeping me on the computer, mind, is odd: it’s hypertext markup. (I write in the WordPress editor and insert my own HTML.) I get so, so tired of fixing <I> and </I> mistagging thanks to the autocorrection…


  6. I’m in exactly the same boat. The only thing I’d argue with is that the best selection is a Mac laptop and an Android phone. I don’t go in for Apple/Android tribalism but Apple undoubtedly make the best laptops but the iphone/laptop iTunes-tied limitations are absolutely infuriating if you’ve got used to the freedom of Android. Beyond that with the likes of Google Docs, Google Music there’s all the cloud you need.

    Re the Mabook Air – by my reckoning it’s pretty much a comparable size to an iPad but with so much more to it. Cost aside, I can’t imagine why anyone would choose an iPad over an Air.

    Interesting aside which you may want to consider. Here, where I live in Vietnam, the iPad is THE must-have item. However because people don’t have laptops to tether them too nor credit cards to buy apps or movies with – when you buy them the shops basically cram it full of apps and music and that’s it. Customers are then stuck with their choice and from there they can’t change very much. Considering how limiting that is – perhaps, in Vietnam, the brand is more of a pull than what can actually be done with the machine. Perhaps that goes further than Vietnam.

    The fact that from the outset people were falling over themselves to say just how they use the iPad did suggest they protested too much. Don’t argue how much you use it – just use it. I recall a friend posting on line how fantastic it was to use the iPad on a flight – he could put it on the fold out tray and then jam the keyboard on his lap without "having to fire up his laptop" as if that was such an arduous time-consuming job.

    I think yes, it’s a decent fill-in between a desktop and a phone. But it’s also a welcome "must have" for someone who just wanted an extra piece of kit – however hard they they had to work to justify it.


  7. I now only use my MacBook (albeit a 4-year one) for presentations – and even that is changing.

    Now use iMac and iPad mini… and the iPhone is now used mainly as a (bad) phone, and point-and-shoot camera, and maybe for maps.


  8. Agree with other respondents that it’s all about how it fits into your workflow, not how it replaces a perfectly useful tool.

    Could not live without my MBP (Retina) but equally could not live without my iPhone and iPad. They all have a place in my workflow and are set up according to that. The key thing is I don’t try to make my iPad replace my laptop or my phone etc. Each have their own place.

    With that in mind I think my typical day is probably 20% Macbook, 40% iPad, 40% iPhone.

    My usage of the iPad has definitely increased since I got a mini (because the size, and most importantly the weight make it easy to carry around all day) but fundamentally, of preference I will communicate (soc-med, voice etc.) using my iPhone view email and the web on iPad (just a more pleasing experience over either of the other two devices ) and prefer my Macbook for content creation, although as I grow increasingly confident in the iOS voice dictation capability (and less self-conscious about looking like a berk talking to my iPad) that is starting to shift.

    Also echo the sentiment that these devices being outside the corporate utilitarian computing (in a walled garden) is a big incentive to use.


  9. I love my macBook Air and iPhone 5 combination but also have an Ipad mini for those occasions when I need to travel lighter. I must say that I used my version 1 iPad as a production device more than I do the iPad mini, but then I didn’t have a wonderful Air at the time.

    Inbetween my iPad 1 and Mini I had a Google Nexus 7 tablet which became a great consumption device until I broke it. Picking up the iPad mini shortly afterwards found me sticking to my consumption behaviours rather than getting back into heavy production duties… other than lightweight social media tasks.


  10. I have an iPad 1 and as you know, I’m a Windows PC man. I could write a list as long as my arm about the things that frustrate me about the iPad but my major gripe is that I can’t be productive without a mouse. Touch screens are for users, not developers. Perhaps that’s a more general comment about tablets than the iPad in particular. I want a mouse-over to tell me where a link is heading BEFORE I click it. I need to have a right-click context sensitive menu and I want to be able to cut and paste in all contexts.


    1. Similar frustrations to my own Jeff except it was keyboard shortcuts and macros that I just missed too much. I see taking my hands off the keyboard as a point of personal failure! 😉


  11. Isn’t it great to have the choice?

    I quite fancy an iPad mini because my current primary home device (apart from the shared iMac) is a MacBook Pro that is excessive for the purpose. Twenty years ago, when first buying a non-work computer, the choice was minimal. Even a nice Toshiba laptop was a poor alternative to the standard desktop PC. (I was Mac-oblivious then.) Now, I think it is incredible that people can choose exactly the technology experience that works best for them. That might be a gamer-spec Wintel PC, plus an Android phablet. Or a Chromebook and iPhone. Or…

    What worries me is that there is very little sensible guidance for those who are starting afresh with these decisions.


      1. That’s a fair challenge!

        I think these new devices are a bit like social software. It is sometimes hard to work out what they would be useful for until you get one. Thinking about them from the perspective of established technology is inevitably going to be misleading. (Matt Baxter-Reynolds puts this very well in the context of putting Office on the iPad: http://www.zdnet.com/tell-me-again-why-we-need-office-on-the-ipad-7000013988/)

        For many people, that is fine. The established technology works really well for them. You have done that analysis and reached a perfectly reasonable conclusion. That might become problematic (and I am not suggesting that you have done this) if people assume that their answer also applies to others.

        In fact, deciding on a new piece of kit needs (now more than ever) a real understanding of the needs, interests, capabilities and skills of the person who will be using it as well as a current perspective on the state of the software and hardware combinations that are possible. Both very hard tasks.


  12. Interesting post Euan,

    I own an Air, an iphone, an ipad and an iMac and the usage pattern (excluding phone calls) is around:

    70% Air / 15% iPad / 10% iPhone / 5% iMac

    I play quite a few games on the iPad, and watch films on the plane / train to be fair, but I also write a lot of music on it, notetake in meetings, read on it (I don’t have a kindle) and use it to edit and share photos and videos. Apps like "StatusBoard" and "Actions" also have it sat in a dock on my desk by my Air a lot of the time.

    But mostly I tend to use the pad on the sofa, in the kitchen or in bed, where the air is just that little bit to big and obtrusive… and walking round the house, or in the bath! (you can hold it nicely in one hand)

    I think it’s just so handy to have around, I’d give up my iMac before my iPad, and would prefer to lose the iPhone to another make rather than lose the pad!

    I kind of summed it up back when I started using it on my blog


    It’s always fascinating to see another perspective 🙂



  13. I don’t have much use for an iPad either. And I have the first gen as well. It’s beautiful but, just like you, I need a machine that will allow me to be productive in as simple a manner as possible. By the time you get a keyboard, et. al. for your iPad, you might as well get a laptop or Air. I agree with you, Euan. And, when asked by friends, I lay it out as you have.


  14. It’s a good think you don’t make management decisions for Apple then!

    The Macbook Air is amazing and everyone should experience it…or if coming from Windows…experience it after they have OSX down. But the fact is that a touchscreen is more natural, intuitive and fun. The Air in the most useless size is still twice the price of an ipad…many people who buy ipads are already over extending themselves.

    Many others of us in the ipad world already have a productivity with a Macbook or Imac. When need something to chill on the couch with.

    It’s really not that hard to "get it"…


  15. I have Macbook Pro, iPhone 4, iPod, Nokia C2, Audio Technica condenser usb mic, JBL bluetooth onbeat venture speaker. I mention all as I need all. Note I am in Bangkok. Phone wise I use the Nokia for 2G calls and iPhone like an iPad, or iPod touch. Phone system the iphone on dtac often doesnt have a good signal, where the Nokia on AIS always works. I use these like all day, iPhone on the go. iPod in condo for music, mix of mic and speaker for music but also phone or dictation using Skype a lot. When I left the iPhone in the back of taxi and thought I lost it, my replacement would not have been an iPhone but an iPad mini. The reasoning, purely there are a lot of business apps to name but one, like Balanced Scorecard that are not on the iPhone. So although I do not have an iPad the reasoning I want one is the apps. So for me I am app driven. There are at least 7 apps where there is nothing similar on the Macbook pro or iPhone. When an iPad mini retina turns up I shall get one rather than move up iPhone wise with a 3G card. My Macbook pro has apps you cannot get on the iPad and therefore another a reason. I use it all the time as I live alone and then don’t tend to use anything when I have company. Those apps like scrivener, dragon dictate, iTunes for interview recordings, simple minds, project management and apps that are disk hungry using 500gb disk. I write manuals and books so need a lot of instant memory sitting in front of me. Also need the power of the Macbook. I do not use Android as I dont need it. When I move phones next I may go for a cheaper one which is windows or android. But in Thailand signal and atenna are more important. So my reasoning for an iPad is to replace the iPhone. Will re engineered IOS7 cause us to reject some of our existing iPhones and iPads for something new??? I expect so.


    1. You are right Robert – I am much more likely to replace my phone with a mini than the Macbook. In fact I should have said that that was one of the options I was considering. I only really use the phone with my family and iMessage and Facetime would do for that.


  16. I felt the same way about my iPad 1, it felt like a relic. oversized, overweight, underpowered, OS stopped at 5, no camera, etc. I recently got an ipad mini, and with the addition of a combined logitech case/keyboard has become the device i carry around with me just about everywhere and allows me to do most of the things I want to do on the move. Sure, It needs a retina display and a better camera – the current one is no advance on the one i had in my nokia N95 7 years ago, and is not as powerful as my MacBook Air. Other than that it is a marvellous thing. Just shows how the consumer electronics industry survives. I pulled out my 2nd gen iPod touch a few weeks ago, and now it’s nothing more than an expensive USB drive.


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