The case for iPad

The case for iPad

I’ve been seeing a lot of people question the utility of an iPad, or question whether the form factor has a future. I understand some of it is click baity videos to get viewers, but here are my thoughts on why the iPad form factor is useful.

I spend all day at work at a desk or a table with a laptop in hand. In an ideal world, outside of work, I’d be outdoors moving and doing something physical. Unfortunately I don’t live in that world; I still need to spend time at a computer outside of work… but I don’t really want to do it on the device I spend all day on.

Enter the iPad. In particular, the M1 iPad 5th Gen, which can be found under $500 used or refurbished.

It’s a more casual and more versatile computer than a laptop.

Lean back consumption

The first use case is simply consuming media. The iPad is great for browsing YouTube, and perfect for watching Netflix because it’s a bigger screen than an iPhone. It works on the couch, in bed, in a doctor's office waiting room, or on an airplane.

Upright consumption & creation

So we’re moving from laziest to least lazy. One step up from a completely passive video viewing device is using the iPad to consume and create content while sitting upright. I do this while reading books or articles when sitting on my couch, or while writing in my journal using an Apple Pencil.

Lean back Light Productivity

So stepping up another level in sophistication is doing some light productivity work while holding the iPad in your hands. The obvious tasks that come to mind are online shopping and basic task management, like a daily review of tasks. More recently, with the release of Final Cut Pro for iPad with an M1 chip, I started doing my “selects” on the iPad. I can lean back on the couch, review b-roll, and select the best clips that I’ll eventually use in a final edit of a video. This makes the entire process less painful and more fun than sitting at a desk.

Light Desktop productivity

I won't sit here and say that the iPad is a computer and can do all the same tasks just as easily, but it has come a long way. There’s a portion of traditional desktop tasks that now can be done on the iPad when sitting at a desk or on your lap when using the Apple Magic Keyboard.

The first task that I’ve moved from my laptop to my iPad is video editing. I can do the selects for my footage laying down on the couch, but for the editing itself I have to sit up and put the iPad in the Magic Keyboard or use it with an external keyboard and mouse. I can lay out a rough cut of the a-roll on a timeline, and lay out the b-roll selects no problem. For the final touches I still need to pass the project back to my laptop or Mac Mini to finish it in the full version of Final Cut Pro.

I also do all of my blogging on my iPad. I use the Apple Magic Keyboard, and it works fine for short sub 45-minute sessions of typing. Anything longer than that and I want my full computer setup, and my nice ergonomic keyboard.

Last but not least, you can do real work on an iPad, though it takes some adjustment. I accidentally forgot to bring my laptop to work one day, and I had my iPad in my bag. I plugged it into my work monitor, and it was surprisingly functional. I could easily switch between Slack , e-mail, and Google Sheets spreadsheets. I was probably 80% as fast as on my laptop, but it was much better than I expected.


So people can keep questioning the form factor, but ultimately the iPad has these 4 different types of utility, and it keeps growing as iPadOS progresses. Maybe I’m in the minority of users, but I like having a separate device that’s setup differently than my primary work device. I also like being able to switch from sitting at a desk to laying down on a couch, to sitting in a chair with the same device.

At some point the devices will converge, and the iPad will be as powerful as a laptop. As long as it gives me more computing options, I don’t really care which one wins out in the long run.