Using an iPad for “Real Work.” No, Not Blogging, my Actual 9-5 Job.

Can I let you in on a little secret? When it comes to “iPads can do real work,” I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I have been using an iPad for 99% of my website and design work at home (including the redesign of this website a few months ago), I have been working on a Dell laptop at my 9-5 job. In the past week, that’s starting to change.

We have a 2017 iPad at the office that we use for testing1 and I decided a week ago that since I’m the only person who uses this device, I should just load my email, calendar, Slack, and a few other work apps on it. So for the last few days I’ve been using the iPad for most things.

The Good

Meetings are a million times better with the iPad than my Windows laptop. Instead of using OneNote or Evernote for my notes, I’m using Apple’s own Notes app and it’s going much better for me. Maybe it’s what I’m used to, but I feel like Notes introduces less friction than any of the apps I’ve tried on Windows. I would love to have a new iPad with Pencil support so I could draw inline in my notes, but this still works.

The reduced bulk is a game-changer. Part of this is because I have a 15” laptop, which is pretty substantial, but going down to a 10” screen and like 1/3 the weight is so liberating. As I move from meeting to meeting throughout the day, it’s great to carry something smaller.

Most of my workflow is just as good as it is on the desktop, and some elements are even better. Jira, for example, is a slow-as-molasses experience on even my quad core Kaby Lake laptop, but the in app experience is smooth and actually kind of enjoyable sometimes. Slack is also far better on iOS than the desktop, and so is most of my web browsing. Likewise, Office documents are just as easy to work with on iOS, and I even SSH into our dev server many times throughout the day to do things and it all works just was well as on iOS.

Email is more manageable for me. We use Gmail at work and I have to use it in the browser because I can’t find an email app for Windows that is both secure and worth a damn. On iOS I’m using the Gmail app, and it’s a better experience than the browser. I get about 50-100 emails per day and I feel like I have a better grasp on them on iOS.

Notifications crush Windows, which means I get the information I need right when I need it. Slack notifications are essentially broken on Windows (for me and everyone I know), and since more things are happening in native apps, I am able to control exactly what notifications hit me. Windows has notifications too, but the control just isn’t there.

Speed is an unexpected win as well. Despite being a $329 tablet, iOS feels faster for most tasks than my nearly $1,000 Windows laptop.

Unlocking is way easier since I have Touch ID and not a keyed password like I do on Windows. Like on all iOS devices (pre-iPhone X) I just press the home button for a moment and I’m logged in and ready to work.

The Bad

As much as wish they were, not all the apps I need are on iOS. Photoshop is the big one right now, as it’s something I spend an hour or two in everyday2.

Some apps are worse on iOS than Windows, which just makes me sad. Google Sheets is a good example, as it is much slower to use with a keyboard than it is on Windows. This is really the only service I can think of that’s notably worse than it is on the desktop, which is good, but it’s still a step in the wrong direction.

10” is a smaller canvas than is ideal. My Windows setup is a 15” laptop screen with two 27” monitors attached. Dropping down to 10” simply changes how I work. I’m pretty sure the 12.9” iPad Pro would make this better, but sometimes it’s nice to just be able to see things on a larger canvas, and outside of AirPlaying to a Mac or Apple TV, there’s no way to do this3.

I miss my clipboard manager. Only being able to copy and paste one thing at a time is a pain for my workflow. Sometimes I have times that I copy 3-5 things in succession and then paste them somewhere else. Or maybe I copied something yesterday and want to get that back, I can do this on Windows and macOS, but not iOS.

Takeaway

So far the experience has been very positive overall, but with a few minor issues. So far this is going better than I expected and I will be sure to report back later once I’ve been doing this for a few more weeks. Maybe there are things that are problems I just haven’t run into yet. There also could be more benefits that I’m not noticing yet, but will become more clear in time.


  1. Not a pro, mind you, just a $329 one with a simple Logitech keyboard case. 
  2. Which is why I was very happy to hear that Adobe is bringing a full version of Photoshop to iOS next year. 
  3. Not that AirPlaying is even the same thing. 

Microsoft’s Surface Go: iPad Killer?

I’m going to spoil the question in the headline1 right up front: no, I don’t think the Surface Go is going to “kill” the iPad. Will it outsell the iPad? No. Will it be just as niche a product as the other Surface computers? Probably.

Too often, people view products as dollar signs first, and products second. Yes, price is a factor when making any purchase, but I don’t think that Microsoft is going to move the needle much by releasing this product. Yes, with it’s similar size, build, and price tag, it absolutely is a direct competitor to the iPad, but I don’t see how this solves problems for real people. At least, not in a way that a multitude of other Windows machines are already doing. I see 2 major problems with the Surface Go.

Problem 1: Software

This is the biggest one, and it’s a major reason I’m not even pondering one of these things. As one would expect, the Surface Go runs regular old Windows, which means you’ll be running Windows 10 with Windows apps.

I work in an office where almost everyone has a touch screen laptop that folds into a “tablet mode”. The number of times I have seen someone purposely touch their screen to do something is close to zero, and the number of people who ever go to tablet mode is exactly zero. Even the one guy who has a Surface uses a keyboard and a Bluetooth mouse because he “hates the trackpad and touch is just too imprecise.” He likes how it looks, though.

I don’t blame my co-workers at all, Windows is not touch friendly. Yes, it has been designed for touch input, but I wouldn’t say it’s enjoyable to use that way.

And I’m just talking about Windows 10-optimized apps, most apps people actually use on Windows is still the old style app that hasn’t been optimized for touch at all.

Problem 2: Price

Despite these issues, Microsoft isn’t even beating Apple in the price war. In fact, when you add the things you will probably want to get with the Surface Go, the difference is more striking.

At $399 starting, the Surface Go is $70 more expensive than the iPad already. If you want to get the official pen(cil) for each device, that’s going to drive you up another $99 each, and the Surface Keyboard is another $129 while you can get a pretty good iPad keyboard for like $69. For those keeping track, that’s:

  • iPad only: $329
  • Surface Go only: $399

And if you get the keyboard and stylus:

  • iPad: $477
  • Surface Go: $627

In fairness, the iPad comes with 32GB of storage and the Surface Go has 64GB. How much storage each OS needs aside, that’s a definite difference. That said, if you want to go up to the 128GB model of either device, that will cost an extra $100 for the iPad and $150 for the Surface Go.

I know price isn’t everything. God knows, as an Apple fan, I get it. But the fact that Apple is still lower cost in every way here than the Windows option is notable.

Takeaway

I’m not the target audience for the Surface Go, I totally get it. But as a product, I don’t quite see who this is going to appeal to. I certainly don’t think it will appeal to people who are buying iPads today, as one of the big things that makes people get iPads is that it is not a traditional desktop computer (often, specifically that it’s not Windows). I also don’t see how it appeals to Windows fans, as it doesn’t really do anything that windows fans are typically drawn to (cheaper, more customizable, desktop-style software, etc.)

It feels, much like the early Surface tablets did, that this is a product where Apple is trying to be Apple more than they are trying to be themselves. I think this product could carve out a niche in 2018/19 and I hope people find some cool uses for it, but I don’t see how this becomes a wide success with its current feature set and pricing.

I like Microsoft overall, and I do wish them the best, but this product just isn’t doing it for me right now.


  1. I wish I could remember who I heard this from originally, but it was something to the effect of “if a headline ends in a question mark, the answer is no.” 

What Automation Means on iOS and Android (Podcast #107)

People have different ideas for what “automation” means on iOS and Android, and it can have a negative impact on how we talk to each other about our respective automation services. As someone who lives in both worlds, hopefully I can clear things up a little.

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Twitter Shares Fall, and That Might Actually Make Sense

Twitter shares fall after report says account suspensions to cause user decline

Shares of Twitter Inc fell 9 percent on Monday after a report said the social media company had suspended more than 70 million fake accounts in May and June, which could lead to a decline of monthly active users in the second quarter.

We in the tech world like to snark on Wall Street. Apple earns record revenue again and Wall Street kills their stock, only see it rise again within a few days: “how can they be so dumb?” we exclaim. So when Twitter shares dropped almost 10% after reports that they deleted 70 million fake accounts, tech people were once again flustered.

I was there too up front, after all, if they deleted 70 million fake accounts, then there are the same number of real accounts, if not more. Or more importantly, the number of actual eyes viewing ads is unchanged by this.

But here’s why I think it’s not as crazy as some suggest: if Twitter was actually overstating how many real users were using their service, then this drop in fake accounts may as well be real users. If I bought ads on Twitter assuming they got X users per month, and then I found out that that they deleted 70 million fake accounts, the X in this equation changes in a potentially meaningful way.

I don’t think it’s a case of Wall Street being stupid and not recognizing the difference between real and fake accounts, I think it’s a matter of them realizing Twitter didn’t have quite the reach they expected. It’s not that Twitter is worth less now that they’ve deleted these accounts, maybe they were less valuable than their stock value represented, and this is a correction.

Then again, I’m not a stocks guy, so this is just conjecture. This is more a friendly reminder to not assume people are idiots.

It’s Not TV, It’s…Well Now It’s Basically Just TV

HBO’s next year will be ‘like childbirth,’ AT&T media CEO tells employees – The Verge

The bigger picture seems to be that Stankey is talking about turning HBO into more of a direct Netflix competitor — something that doesn’t just focus on prestige content, but also includes a wider variety of shows and movies for people to watch. Stankey said HBO needs to get people watching for “hours a day” instead of “hours a week.”

This is one of those situations where it’s hard to tell if I’m just wanting things to be how they have always been or if I am right to be concerned.

HBO and Netflix are different beasts today, and AT&T seems to want to make them more alike. Not by pressuring Netflix to be more like HBO, mind you, but by making HBO do all the changing. This isn’t bad on the face of it, I love Netflix, but it seems like it would be taking HBO away from one of its core draws: quality.

For over a decade, HBO’s tagline was “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.” The company was able to create shows that had content the networks simply couldn’t show, but it also rode on a business model that rewarded quality over quantity. If HBO gets to the point where they are creating “hours” of content people will watch every day, then there simply isn’t a way for them to keep up that quality standard.

Here’s an easy way to put it: when I new show hits Netflix, I only even look at it if the title, poster, or actors draw me in. I ignore most shows that Netflix releases. They have so much content that most of it if pretty average. There are plenty of gems in there, but the fact alone that a show is made by Netlix is not an indicator that it is a good show. When a new show comes to HBO I will research it and watch trailers and more than likely at least watch the premiere episode. I do that because the hit rate for their shows is just so damn high. If it’s on HBO, it intrinsically has cleared a certain par in terms of quality and production values. I won’t love them all, but there’s a really good chance I’ll like it.

I hope that HBO continues to create great television and I hope that this time next year I am still a happily paying subscriber. AT&T has me a little on edge right now, though.