Justin Williams, in The Chicken or the iPad Pro:
The sad reality is there aren’t enough Omnis in the ecosystem right now to make the iPad Pro a viable productivity platform for anyone but those executives, retired folks, and masochist bloggers who jump through more hoops than a circus elephant to use an iPad instead of a Mac.
Williams makes a lot of great points in his post, but the one thing I left his post wondering about the most, was if he was right about the masochism of iOS. It’s been something I have been going back and forth with for most of the day — just eating at me a bit.
I have to say that I both agree and disagree with Williams on this one. I’ve personally spent a lot of time trying to make iOS on the iPad Air and iPad 3 before that, be my main system. Each time I failed, not because it was not possible, but because it was infuriating at times to try and do even simple things. Masochism would be an apt description if I was thinking about working with iOS fulltime on an iPad Air or smaller device.
So far though, I would disagree with Williams about that same level of masochism with the iPad Pro and iOS 9 (both hardware and software come into play at this point). As I mentioned on Twitter earlier today: I wrote 1,600 words this morning on just the iPad Pro’s on screen keyboard, edited the post, resized screenshots, made a mockup, and published the entire thing to my site all with just iOS. I could always do this in the past, but it was frustrating to say the least. Today though, it was just smooth as could be. No issues and no frustration.
In fact, I loved writing and editing on the iPad Pro, and while my photo creation and resizing workflow needs a bit more work, it too went smoother than normal. I haven’t even had the device long enough to think about better methods than those I devised well before iOS 9.
What I am struggling to figure out, is what exactly has changed. Because there’s one more thing I didn’t mention: I didn’t use split-view at all in order to do this. This isn’t really a matter of more screen real estate or see things beside each other. It is something else.
After thinking about this for some time I’ve figured out a few of the reasons why I think the iPad Pro fundamentally shifts the tediousness of using iOS to a very pleasant experience. And while I think there is more to it than what I have figured out here, this is as good a place to start as any.
Often when I am writing I will walk away from my computer for a bit, and when I come back to it — knowing what I want to write again — I have to type in a long password and unlock the machine. There’s no way around this and it breaks my mental cycle. It’s one of the biggest interruptions for my writing flow.
With the iPad Pro, I have Touch ID. I can keep my internal dialog going while I mindlessly unlock the iPad Pro and jump right into my writing. It’s a small thing, which actually is quite powerful when you consider how much friction is removed.
My iPad Pro can time out quickly, and still be easy to get back to work with. My MacBook simply cannot compete with this. I know many will say set a shorter password, or something like that, but why should I have to do that?
Further, most things I do on iOS, are secured not with passwords I need to type in, but with my thumb print. Again, this is a small thing, but so very powerful. My iPad before this was an iPad Air and it didn’t have Touch ID — I used to loathe having to open 1Password on it. That same loathing followed me to my iPad Pro, and each time I grin when I invoke 1Password because I have Touch ID now.
You cannot understate the value of the time saved with Touch ID. This needs to be on Macs, but for now it isn’t and is thus a big reason why working on iOS is getting a lot smoother.
Full Sized Onscreen Keyboard
I’ve mentioned how much of a difference the new keyboard layout on the iPad Pro makes, but again it is a lot bigger of a difference than you might assume. With previous iPads I could type on the screen, but only with training my fingers and only with accepting a lot of typos.
With the iPad Pro, I can type on the screen the same as I can type on any physical keyboard. I may not be able to rest my fingers, but the keys are roughly in the same place and therefore I can basically touch type on the screen without looking, and even hit modifiers correctly.
It is probably one of the best parts of the iPad Pro for me so far. There is also a benefit to using the onscreen keyboard which you don’t get with a physical keyboard: cursor movement. With the onscreen keyboard I can lay two fingers on the keyboard and easily get the cursor to where I might want to edit. This is one reason it is almost better to type onscreen than it is with a physical keyboard.
At the very least I would argue that editing is easier, and better, with only the onscreen keyboard. I am so very glad Apple took the time to make this onscreen keyboard for the iPad Pro, without it the device would be considerably worse.
Apps Are Better
I don’t mean iPad Pro apps are better, but apps in general are getting better and better for the iPad. There may not be as many as there is for iPhones, but what apps there are, are getting even better.
I think the iPad Pro will accelerate this, but that’s half guess and half prayer.
Either way, I am astounded by how good some of the newer apps I had yet to try really are (like 1writer).
It is Now a Niche
Even before the iPad Pro, but certainly now with the iPad Pro, working from iPads as a primary device was becoming a larger and larger niche. A niche filled with people willing and able to pay for niche software. Workflow might be the best example of this, but certainly Editorial and Pythonista are another two.
If people didn’t rely on iPads to get their work done, then I doubt those pieces of software would be anywhere near as well maintained as they are.1
And this market is only going to grow with the iPad Pro. Even if the device doesn’t sell in huge numbers, the people who do buy the iPad Pro are likely to be ones with money to spend on apps. Because if you are committing to the iPad Pro, then finding and paying for an app which is $19.99 makes a lot of sense so long as that app will actually make your life easier in any way.
This is exactly how The Omni Group sells their apps, and it works well for them. This is how I would urge more developers to look at selling their iPad Pro apps. You give me an app which makes my life easier, and I will find a way to pay you for it.
This is Just the Start
It also occurs to me, that if I am this happy with the iPad Pro today, how happy will I be in another year or two? So far there is no software which really challenges the processor of the iPad Pro. And there are few apps really taking advantage of the screen real estate. Imagine when apps that challenge the processor, or effectively use screen real estate come out.
More than any of that though: iOS is essentially at version 1.0 for the iPad Pro. I already hear iOS 9.2 is much improved on the iPad Pro and I can only imagine how much better things will be in a few months from just an OS level alone.
So to better answer Justin Williams’s question: it can be masochism to work from only an iPad, but it is increasingly just becoming a very smart decision for a great many people. It will always be a nuts decision for a particular group of people, but each update to iOS will only make that grouping of people smaller and smaller.
Right now, it’s not crazy at all for an iPad Pro to be my main computer. After all, a large part of my day is Slack, and that is far better on iOS than it is on OS X.
I say this knowing full well that two of those apps look like shit on the iPad Pro. ↩