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In June 2017 I ordered the then new iPad Pro 10,5 intending it to be my only/primary device. I had been using my old iPad Air in a similar role but not only was my hardware coming against its limits, but I was also excited to get an Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. Now, almost a year and a half later, I thought it would be interesting to check in and see how successfully the iPad Pro has served me, and how the iPad only lifestyle has been.

I think it’s especially interesting considering users like Fraser Speirs, Jeff Perry and CGP Grey have moved to either a duo device lifestyle or even dropping the iPad.

What is good about the iPad 10,5

My first impressions of the iPad Pro 10,5 were very positive. It was faster, pro-motion really enhanced interactions, touchID gen 2 was super fast, and the slightly larger screen was a welcome enhancement. Likewise, the accessories of the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil were great enhancements that – while with faults – really improved my experience with the device (more in a second).

In the first few months, I had moved a couple more tasks to the iPad and found prior tasks to be better than before. I was using the iPad as my primary and basically sole device.

I bought some more pro apps such as

As well as accessing my old specialized writing apps and the improved Lightroom CC. Altogether, they provided a useful suit of tools to get my regular work done, blog, create fun side projects and creative tasks, and they all did so faster and more responsively than my iPad Air ever could have. In many cases these apps provided more power than my MacBook ever could have and at a fraction of the cost to boost.

Apple Pencil white background

The Apple Pencil

The first gen Apple Pencil was a good first attempt. The interaction with the iPad was delightful. It did take a while to get used to using pressure and angle but that was an issue with the user not the device. As much internet ink has revealed, charging with the lightning port isn’t great, but it was the best way they could at the time. (The new apple pencils pairing and charging option looks a hundred times better though.)

The apps I use the most with the pencil are

There are a couple of other occasions I use the Pencil and I certainly use creations from the Pencil elsewhere.

Apple Smart Keyboard 10,5

The Smart Keyboard

The Smart Keyboard seemed like a much better way to use a keyboard that my old Bluetooth Logitech cover case. It was certainly lighter, and more discreet when folded behind the device. The keys took me a little while to get used to, but they do provide a great typing experience. While I still enjoy using a mechanical keyboard, the Smart Keyboard is nicer than my work MacBook with touchbar’s keys in my opinion.

There were, however, compromises with the Smart Keyboard. My old Logitech case was easier to take off completely, providing a nicer reading experience. Furthermore, I could put my iPad in portrait orientation for a typing experience which I preferred. The Smart Keyboard did not afford this experience.

Throughout the year I had different issues with the keyboard. First it was occasionally losing signal, then a few weeks ago it stopped responding completely. I believe the Apple extended warranty would cover this keyboard but it didn’t for one reason or another.

This has left me debating whether to splash out on another Smart Keyboard or choose a different option. Since I no longer need to type as much on my iPad on the go. When I do, using the onscreen keyboard can be a better experience as it takes up less space on the train, removes any issues of “lap-ability” and encourages me to use an even nicer keyboard for typing at home.

The item I miss the most is the easy ability to stand my iPad up which makes me consider getting one of the regular iPad covers and saving the money and then saving that money towards the next iPad Pro (not the brand new ones, but the next ones).

I may well end up getting a replacement Smart Keyboard, but the fact that this is even a debate isn’t a great sign in my opinion. I know many people love their Smart Keyboards and it has changed their perspectives towards the iPad. But for me, losing it hasn’t been the end of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather this hadn’t happened and I’d still be using my Smart Keyboard if it hadn’t died, but it’s not been a huge loss.

What changed for me

As the academy year rolled around in September, my work started to change. All of a sudden, the issues with the iPad became more exposed to me. We had a new management system which was web based.

We were told that we’d be able to access it from our phones but that turned out to not be true. Still, one of the promised updates was a mobile responsive update. This never came during my time there.

I thought icab browser would work fine, but it didn’t. The web page basically only worked in Chrome on the desktop and even then it wouldn’t always work.

Suddenly I had to start regularly using a work PC. Once I started to use a PC for at least one task, I started to turn to it for more tasks. As I was there, why not do some of those other tasks that were easier on a desktop.

This included simple things like printing a worksheet in colour as the pc was connected to the colour printer and my iPad could only airplay to the black and white one, to more specific actions that didn’t have a replacement such as accessing a learning website that allowed me to create quizzes which students could access in their phones. Of course, the mobile app couldn’t create quizzes and hacking the ability to do so on the iPad was painful.

Changing job

In the summer I changed job and my iPad became the wrong device for work for one simple reason. Google docs.

While you can do most of the basics in Google docs for the iPad, you can’t handle tracking changes and making suggested edits (a vital part of my work). Even when the iPad can deal with my Doc needs, having a much larger screen (an external monitor) for many, many tabs and a dedicated work provided device for just work projects means I almost never use my iPad at work.

The exceptions are

  • Editing pdfs (it’s a nice change of pace)
  • Mindmaping (it feels nicer)
  • Occasional notes.

Instead, my iPad sits beside me as a notification and personal device. Useful but not usually “work” and not “iPad only”.

But out of work is different

However, out of work – for side projects such as this site – I am using the iPad more than ever (with the exception of DSLR photos. Photo management has become extremely frustrating for me as it’s so close to be amazing but so limited too. It’s the 75–80% where you can do most things but you miss key items.)

I enjoy not having a Mac screen when I’m out of work and not sitting at a computer desk. iOS 12 improvements, such as screen time and enhanced notifications make me both want/need to use the device less but also enjoy using the device more as it is even more focused.

Also, despite my complaints about DSLR photos and photo management, I’m taking more iPhone photos which makes the iPad a better editing device. It’s not perfect, but it’s constantly connected to my iPhone’s photos which makes it easier.

The Future?

I wonder if my work had offered me the chance to choose one of the new iPad pros, Pixel slates/books or a Mac, what would I have chosen. As much as I’d like to be able to choose the iPad, it just wouldn’t be the best choice for managing all those tabs and Google docs. I guess this puts me in the boat of many iPad users now. I enjoy using my iPad – especially for my own tasks – but I don’t use it for my day job (with exceptions).

If I switched to being a freelance writer who wasn’t beholden to the workflows of my company and Google docs, then I’d happily revert to using the iPad exclusively, but that’s not my situation at the moment.
I don’t regret buying the iPad 10,5 last year, it has and still servers me well and I can’t wait to see what iOS 13 brings.

(p.s. Note the lack of discussing “real work” I hope you can see that I did use it for “real work” and now don’t use it for my current job but still use it for real tasks)

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