With the new release of iPadOS we thought it was time to reflect on where the iPad sits within Apple’s device line up. I have been using an iPad Pro as my primary machine for the last 18 months.


In April 2010 when the iPad was released it was considered “just a large iPhone”, considered a pejorative by it’s detractors. Almost 10 years later, it has gone on to dominate the tablet market having a 31% share. Although Apple have always claimed the iPad as productivity device it was always focussed on a consumption in its early days, launching without a file system which required dedicated apps and workarounds to edit, copy, save files etc.

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Over the years Apple has taken steps to introduce a level of “professional” features (both in software and hardware) to boost the iPad’s capability as a productivity device. The introduction of the file system in iOS11, multitasking options in iOS9 and more recently the Apple Pencil & Smart Keyboard make the modern iPads incredibly powerful tools for content creation devices in their own right or paired with a MacOS desktop or laptop

Use for Work

I had tried to use an iPad exclusively for work several years ago but found the experience too clunky; requiring work arounds to effectively manage files, navigate between apps etc. With the release of the iPad Pro in 2018 I decided to try again and replace my MacBook Pro with the iPad when on the road.

I haven’t looked back. The size of the 12.9” iPad Pro is perfect for getting work done on the train, plane or even when grabbing a bite to eat in a restaurant (!). The battery life is incredible and easily lasts a day or two of business/leisure use. I enjoy the form factor of a “laptop” like experience for typing on a keyboard, or “notepad” experience when laid flat on the table with an Apple Pencil. The latter I find particularly useful in meetings where I often feel uncomfortable engaging with someone whilst typing away on a laptop. The “lie flat” aspect of the iPad feels more natural and conducive to an open conversation and using an Apple Pencil feels less hampering than having to type.

I believe the sweet spot for the iPad is general browsing, word processing & communication. For these areas I believe we are almost at a parity of experience with desktop operating systems. I believe some creative professionals would say the same for photo and video editing. The quality of applications is very high with, ironically, Microsoft’s suite of Office 365 applications being stand out. Word & OneNote in particular actually surpass their desktop equivalents.

One big gap for me at the moment is the experience working with spreadsheets. Microsoft’s Excel comes close, but the experience of even basic spreadsheet creation is a challenge on the iPad and the most consistent source of frustration for me. More work required!

When I am back in the office the iPad complements my (now stay-at-home) MacBook Pro as an extra screen. Small features such as Air Drop, iCloud Drive, Shared Copy and Paste and Handover make migrating from one device to the other seamless. Not having to take my phone out of my pocket or bag to answer a text message or call is a nice perk.

IPad OS addresses one of my big bug bears which was a clumsy copy and past system by introducing a three finger gesture dedicated to cut/copy/paste/undo and redo. It sounds small but it really helps keep the flow of editing a document. There are however challenges still. Ironically, as the iPad was trumpeted as content consumption device I still cannot get on with reading lengthy documents on a screen. Printing, annotating and highlighting by hand is a much more natural process for me. It’s a habit I am trying to kick and I’ve adopted a workflow for shortish PDFs using “Notability” but it’s strenuous. For anything longer than 6-8 pages though I still print.

As iPadOS matures I would like to see more thought put into the File System. At present it seems quite haphazard as to which file storage locations happen to show up in any given application. It’s not particularly intuitive although I have to give credit for the compatibility with Dropbox & OneDrive outside of Apple’s ecosystem (unusual for them!).

All in all, I would suggest that if your requirements are limited to email, messaging and document creation/edited the iPad is a perfect “on the road/rail/in the air” companion. It handles these tasks as well, if not better than a laptop but with added benefit of the pencil features and great battery life. To wind down, watching a film is pin sharp (please Apple give us a 16:10 dimension iPad!). If you need to do any image editing, coding, or using any specific apps it won’t work for you, but for me the iPad is a lightweight powerhouse. Roll on the iPadOS updates!