Posts about iPad

I didn’t return my iPad Pro

Today, I get to eat a little crow: contrary to my publicly stated intentions, I did not return my iPad Pro. The short version is that my old iPad Pro more or less died on me. 

In my previous post, I wrote that I could do everything I needed on an iPad with pen and paper. The thing is, I didn’t inventory my work on iPadOS until after I wrote that post. (This was stupid of me.) That was when I thought to myself: Shoot, I do a lot of iPad-only stuff when I’m working on wireframes.” I’ll frequently grab screenshots of apps and websites and place them alongside my sketches. I tend to iterate on ideas from left to right, duplicating old ideas, erasing what didn’t work, and sketching more (as though I were duplicating art boards in Figma). 

On top of that, a lot of my clients are long-term clients, and the work that I do months or years prior might (and has) become useful again, even if it were disregarded prior. I do not want to keep stacks of draft paper filed away for months or years at a time.

At that point, I made a decision: I still don’t need this new iPad, but I do need my old one.

So I booted up my 2017 10.5” iPad Pro, which I had previously formatted for trade-in, and set it up again. I had a bit of work to do, so once Freeform was ready, I got to it.

That was when I noticed the smell.

The iPad had this faint smell of burning plastic, but only when I held my face near it (which I tend do while drawing; please do not judge me and my weird habits). I’m no engineer, but I know that anything resembling the smell of fire in a battery-powered product was bad, so I shut the iPad down, and made a new plan.

Clearly, my 2017 iPad Pro was kicking the bucket.

So, in an effort to get the best bang for my buck and make the new one last, I would keep the 2024 iPad Pro, and trade in the 2017 iPad Pro.

A day or two later, I brought the 2017 iPad Pro to the Apple Store to trade it in. I explained what I just wrote, but the Apple Genius seemed nonplussed. Does the device power on?” he asked. I said yes. Does the screen work?” he asked. I said yes again. Finally, he asked if Touch ID worked and there were any large dents or scratches. I said yes and no, respectively, but I added that the battery only lasts an hour and may or may not be swelling. He again, said this wasn’t an issue and they would check all that during their diagnosis.

So he used whatever fancy tool Apple has for this, signed off on everything, and gave me a refund of $100 towards the 2024 iPad Pro (which felt pretty generous, all things considered).

Then he got me to wipe the 2017 iPad Pro, and something happened.

The iPad froze after I entered my password to disable Find My on the iPad. Oh yeah, this happens all the time,” the Genius said. On every product, not just iPads. iPhones and Macs all freeze here too. Don’t worry.” 

Then the iPad unceremoniously shut down. 

I asked if we should have seen an Apple logo with a loading indicator below it (we should have), and the Genius said yes. But then he added nonchalantly, Who knows though? I’ll be back.”

He spent a few minutes helping other customers before he returned. My iPad still hadn’t rebooted.

You said the battery doesn’t last, right?”

I said yes.

He took about thirty seconds to find a Lighting charger buried somewhere in the deep recesses of the store and plugged the iPad Pro in. It still didn’t turn on. 

The Genius’ brow furrowed. I think your iPad is dead.” Seeing my immediate look of concern, he added, but we already gave you the money for the trade in, so it’s our problem now.”

I spent another several minutes with him while he tried every troubleshooting method I knew of and a couple I didn’t. Eventually, the iPad rebooted long enough just long enough for us to see the iOS welcome screen. There. Your data’s been wiped,” he confirmed. 

Then the screen turned off again as the iPad shut down, while plugged directly into an outlet.

And that, dear reader, is how my old iPad Pro died the moment after Apple gave me my trade-in value for it. As my father-in-law pointed out to me, it is rare in life for a system like that to work in your favour, so cherish it while it lasts.

I did, however, return the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, which only served to help me procrastinate on the iPad before returning to my Mac. I replaced it with the Smart Folio cover, which is totally fine.

Attempting to turn a screwdriver into a hammer, or why I’m returning my iPad Pro, 2024 edition

About a week ago, I took delivery of a new M4 iPad Pro. My old iPad, a 2017 model, lasts about an hour on battery life, and the Pencil is starting to get laggy. Now seemed like a great time to upgrade.

In the past couple weeks, I’ve really enjoyed my time with the iPad. But I’m going to return it, because it’s not a tool I can use to get my work done. I wrote about this in 2020, and the situation hasn’t changed. (In fact, it’s more true for me now than it was then; I’ve added audio and video production work to my plate, and I need Mac-specific tools more than ever before.)

I’m not upset about this. My brain is most compatible with macOS, it turns out. I like having many windows open at once, and I like having a file system. Every time I sit in front of the iPad with its Magic Keyboard attached, my brain tricks itself into thinking I’m sitting in front of a capable laptop, and then I waste hours of time not doing my actual work. So the iPad Pro is going to go back, because there are many other interesting ways to spend that $2,000.

What this did make me realize is that the tools don’t matter. As makers, creative pros, we can use whatever we want to use. If we like fancy pens and paper, use them (you will not be the reason that our forests disappear”). And if you like iPads, use those, if you can.

That being said, it’s our responsibility as makers to discern the right tool for the job. Two weeks ago, a plumber came to our home to fix an issue with a toilet. He did not need to use a hammer to fix our toilet, and thank goodness he didn’t try! (Imagine the thunderous crack of a hammer colliding with porcelain.)

Instead, the plumber used a screwdriver and a couple minor objects unique to his trade. He disassembled a couple things, replaced a part, and put it all back together in under twenty minutes.

Let’s pretend, though, that the plumber always admired the shape of hammers and the satisfaction he gets when he swings one. If he were a little off his rocker, he might attempt to use a hammer for all his work. Even an outside observer would recognize this as problematic.

I think I feel similarly about the articles I’ve read in which folks suggest the iPad virtualize macOS as a sort of escape hatch” for Apple (Steve Troughton-Smith put it best). I’m sure I would love macOS on an iPad. I’m not arguing with that. But, to continue with my tool metaphor, let’s call a spade a spade and deal with the object as it is. Let the iPad be an iPad.

One other thing I’ve been thinking about is the continued movement to digitize everything in our lives. The a‑ha moment for me about my iPad came when I realized I can just sketch wireframes for my clients on a piece of paper. Not only is the tool I use for wireframing irrelevant to my clients, but the increased focus I’ll get from paper’s inherent limitations (no wifi!) is a boon in the context of work.

Or, to put it another way, does every room need to have a computer in it? We are so addicted to computers. New computers promise to work better in daylight and remove blue light in an effort to suggest, I suppose, that you can use their product anywhere, anytime — or more aptly, everywhere, all the time.

Perhaps we need to get better at saying no thanks to technology that doesn’t dramatically improve our lives.

Capture One iPad Preview

Over the past four or five years, I’ve gone back and forth between Lightroom and Capture One many times with my photography work. I find C1 takes me a little longer to work with, but I often prefer the results I can get with it — especially with regards to colour accuracy.

That’s why I was curious about their recent Capture One for iPad preview. I’m impressed with the work they’ve done on the UI. It’s clearly early days — this is still a preview — but I’m more interested in editing with this on iPad than I am in editing with Lightroom CC.

What that preview video confirmed for me is that I just don’t like working on iPads. I watched as David danced around the iPad UI and couldn’t stop thinking about how much faster all these edits would be on my Macs.

So Capture One for iPad looks very impressive. I have a lot of questions still: how are photos synced? Where are they stored? How can I manage the synced photos and edits between machines? Does this work well for catalogs, or is it meant for sessions? Etc. It’s exciting progress, though. My congratulations to the Capture One team for thinking out of the box and designing a UI that is specifically tailored for a touch interface. 

But now I have a different question, unrelated to Capture One, but very much related to the iPad: For years, my assumption was that the software was holding back the iPad. But with software like this, the software won’t be the problem. The problem is just that my human fingers are not as precise or fast as a dialled-in mouse or trackpad.

If Apple announced a new version of iPadOS that somehow fixed all the issues I have with file management, window management, and other productivity features on an iPad, would I want to use an iPad? 

I’m starting to think I will always prefer the mouse-and-keyboard paradigm.

Can I use an iPad Pro for professional creative work?

Every year around this time, just before Apple unveils the latest versions of their operating systems at their annual developer conference, I like to re-evaluate whether or not I can use my iPad to get work done.

The iPad Pro is really a perfect portable machine. It’s small, insanely light, and easy to use in almost any situation — even tight plane seats. You can even get a cellular-equipped iPad if you want consistent and reliable internet when you’re away from a wifi connection. (And the new Magic Keyboard is a wonder.)

I really like using my iPad, and I always wish I could use it to get more work done. And every year, I ask the same question: can I use it as a laptop yet? Can it be my only portable device?

There are a lot of people I know, follow, and admire who use the iPad as their only machine, or as their dedicated portable device. I trust each of these people; they each represent a different class of person who is well-suited by the iPad’s strengths. They are writers, photographers, and entrepreneurs. The iPad is great for those people.

Writers are blessed with the iPad. There are more writing apps for the iPad than I could count. It is the best writing device I have ever used.

Photographers can almost complete their whole workflow on an iPad. With apps like Affinity Photo, Photoshop, and Lightroom on the iPad (and the USB‑C connection on the latest iPad Pros), it’s never been easier to use the iPad for photography[^1].

And for entrepreneurs, it’s easier than ever to use the iPad as your only computer. It’s great for project management and email, and the cellular model makes it easy to manage your business anywhere.

For many people, the iPad is all they’ll ever need. But I am a designer, photographer, and writer who codes websites. This adds several wrinkles to this setup.

Somehow, the iPad is ten years old, and there still isn’t a great web design app available. Sketch and Figma are noticeably absent from the App Store, and Adobe seems uninterested in porting XD to the iPad.

On that note, we don’t have any great print design apps either. InDesign does not exist for the iPad. (I use InDesign on my Macs all the time.) Its competition, as limited as it is, isn’t on the iPad either. Publication design and professional page layout on the iPad is a non-starter. 

Even if InDesign or its competition arrived on the iPad, those apps require so many other simultaneous computing contexts that I’m not sure an iPad experience would ever be great. (I often have Photoshop, Finder, Illustrator, and InDesign open at the same time, all working on the same publication.)

Speaking of Photoshop: while you can edit photos with an iPad, I’m not sure anybody should manage them with it. The only DAM available for photography on the iPad is Lightroom. If you use Capture One, DxO, or any other alternatives, you can’t manage your photo library on the iPad. I’m currently a Lightroom user, but I don’t want to be bound to Adobe because of my hardware. (I’ve been considering Capture One for some time now.)

This isn’t necessarily about avoiding Adobe’s subscription fees. I am happy to pay for the tools I use to make a living. But as a working professional, I don’t want one option from one company. Competition breeds creativity and makes all the tools better. Philosophically, I don’t want Adobe to ever be the only option.

Finally, it’s also difficult to get web development done on an iPad. It’s not impossible, but without a desktop-class web inspector, and without local virtual machines or code compilers, the job becomes an arduous series of gotchas. (And the desktop-class Safari” on iPad works until it doesn’t. Without hover states or anything else we take for granted on a PC, the internet is a lot harder to use.)

Most people do not have jobs with requirements like mine. I’m sure many people can use an iPad every day for all their computing needs. And I’m sure there are some people in my situation who choose an iPad, and jump through its hurdles to use what is admittedly a more tactile device. 

But I just want to get work done. 

The real problems are edge cases. Many small tasks take much more effort on an iPad than they do a Mac. 

The other day, I made some quick edits to a Markdown document for a client. I needed to export the document as rich text and attach it to an email. This takes two clicks on my Mac; on an iPad, I had to fumble around for a few minutes until I got it done. 

My sister is a teacher. If she needs a new machine, she could very well use an iPad. However, if the website she uses to track student attendance and report grades doesn’t work on Safari in iPadOS, then it’s moot. She won’t install iCab to get the job done. She’ll be rightly frustrated, return the iPad, and get a Mac instead. 

I love my iPad. I genuinely like using it. I wrote this post as a way to talk myself into using the iPad more, but it slowly morphed. Here’s my basic problem, in a nutshell: if it’s faster to accomplish basic tasks with my laptop, I’d rather use that. I remain impressed by folks who use the iPad for their work every day, but for people like me, the iPad makes enough tradeoffs that I don’t think I could make the switch.

You can throw all the Magic Keyboards and Apple Pencils you want at this thing; it doesn’t make it any better at running the tools I need to get my job done.

[^1]: Because Lightroom CC relies on cloud storage, I’m not sure most professional photographers could rely on the iPad as their only computing device, but it can certainly be the mobile solution.

Affinity Designer comes to iPad

Holy smokes, this looks amazing. I don’t do a lot of design work from my iPad, and I think I might be too reliant on Typekit to make this work, but Serif has put an incredible amount of polish into this app.

If you want to get a good overview of what this desktop-grade design tool is capable of, check out the tutorials. It’s insane.

I still can’t do design work on an iPad

Last week, Apple made a big splash with its latest iPad offering, the iPad Pro. Featuring a massive screen with insanely high, pixel-perfect resolution, a nearly-perfect don’t-call-it-a-stylus digital pencil, and an incredible amount of computational power than surpasses the overwhelming majority of laptops in the wild, the new iPad should be a no-brainer for a creative professional like myself. I want one so badly. But I still can’t use it for work. 

With that explosive, perhaps controversial lede out of the way, I should clarify: I think a growing number of people can use the iPad for work, particularly with the split-screen features of iOS 9. If you tend to work a lot in the Office suite and send a lot of email, I think the iPad could easily replace your laptop. 

But for the creative pro that Apple is pitching this to, I think it’s a dud. 

To begin with, there’s a dearth of applications in the creative industry for the iPad. Adobe has made a couple, but they’re designed for mobile and meant to get us started with our ideas. If we want to finish them, Adobe is pretty clear that we need to do so in a desktop application. You still can’t run Xcode on an iPad. You still can’t make a proper mockup on an iPad. 

Part of the problem is the App Store. My preferred mockup app on the Mac, Sketch, won’t be coming to the iPad any time soon. Emanual Sa explains:

But the biggest problem is the platform. Apps on iOS sell for unsustainably low prices due to the lack of trials. We cannot port Sketch to the iPad if we have no reasonable expectation of earning back on our investment. Maintaining an application on two different platforms and provide one of them for a 10th of it’s [sic] value won’t work, and iPad volumes are low enough to disqualify the make it up in volume” argument.

Yikes. I don’t believe that app trials would fix everything, but I think it’s time Apple threw developers a bone. Unsustainable software businesses won’t entice great software developers to invest in your ecosystem. 

The other problem is that iOS is still a sandboxed environment. You can have a great app like Coda running on iOS, but it’s pretty limited: no external servers, limited language compilers, etc. I spend a lot of my day coding in text editors. When I can’t do half my work on a device because there’s no possibility of an app in that product category being available for it, that’s very constraining.

With all that being said, even when there is an app available for iPad that I could use in my workflow, I’m not sure I want to use it. 

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with the beta of an app called Protosketch. It’s similar enough to Sketch that I can get some work done with it. But doing some of this work without the precision of a mouse is cumbersome, particularly on my first-gen iPad Air (whose single gigabyte of RAM is really beleaguered while running the app). The larger iPad Pro might make it better, but it’s not worth spending $1,000 to find out. 

If you want my hot take on when iPads will kill off desktops, it’s pretty simple: desktop computers lose their usefulness when the software available on the iPad becomes more valuable than its hardware. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I hope the iPad Pro helps spur us along. Like I said, I want one.