On stage during the iPad Pro event, Tim Cook compared iPad Pro with the entire laptop category. And threw out impressive stats. It’s faster than 92% of PCs on market, it outsold laptops from every other manufacturer. Plus, the A12X is faster than some Core i7 Laptops! If you’re planning to ditch your MacBook for an iPad Pro solely for these reasons, you should keep reading.
The iPad Pro Can Work For Most People
Before we get to the nitty-gritty, yes, the iPad Pro can be a wonderful primary computer for most people. Even most business users. If all you’re doing is browsing the web, taking notes, sending emails, exchanging PDFs and watching Netflix, the iPad Pro is going to make a wonderful computer for you.
Another use case is if you’re an artist. You can create some amazing things using in apps like Procreate and Affinity Designer using the Apple Pencil. But even then, I’d argue you should use iPad Pro as a complementary device for your Mac (because there’s no Illustrator or Photoshop on the iPad yet).
But if you’re reading iPhoneHacks right now, I’m going to assume that your needs are going to be a bit more complex than that. And this is where iPad Pro breaks down.
If you’re planning to buy an iPad Pro as your primary machine, go through the arguments below. If none of them apply to how you get work done, then you should go ahead and buy the iPad Pro. If not, stick with something that runs macOS.
1. iOS Safari is No Match For Desktop Browsers
You might not care about external storage and Pro apps but for most power users, mobile Safari on iOS is going to be the biggest problem. It’s the ankle bracelet that will hold you down.
Some websites, like WordPress backend, just don’t work on mobile Safari. And if you’re used to using Safari with a keyboard and a mouse on the Mac, switching to Safari on the touch screen full time, can slow you down.
The biggest frustration I’ve faced on my 10.5 inch iPad Pro is now Safari behaves when in Split View. If you’re working or researching, your browser is only one of the apps you want open at a given time. When you put Safari in Split View, the entire user interface changes. The tab bar from the top disappears, and you essentially have the iPhone Safari UI on the iPad. Once you try to cycle through 5 different tabs in this way, you’ll understand the frustration.
And it’s not just this one thing. Safari doesn’t support extensions and simple things like copying links, adding bookmarks or sharing a page takes 2-3 taps instead of a click on the Mac.
There are better browsers on the iPad Pro but they all use the same underlying technology as Safari (which means the same website experience). You can use a third party app like iCab Mobile to access better tab management and get extension support but again, you can’t make iCab Mobile your default browser. So when you click on a link from an app, it’s going to open in Safari. This brings us to the second biggest annoyance with iOS.
2. You Can’t Change Default Apps
This limitation is easy to ignore on the iPhone. But if you’re planning to spend 8 hours working on the iPad, this will get frustrating. You can’t assign a default browser, mail client or calendar app to a third party.
You can use third-party apps for all the three things, but when you’re trying to open a link or use system features like sharing, it will always go to the default app.
3. Apps Are Still Limited
iOS is a sandboxed environment. macOS is not (well, not as much). This means that apps can only work in their own little corner and can’t communicate easily with other apps. And iOS apps don’t have access to the file system or core OS features like syncing like they do in macOS.
Which means that things you can do on macOS just don’t work on iOS. Things like reliable background data syncing, running development servers, or even automation.
Apps that do exist on iOS are limited in functionality and scope. Doing simple things like downloading a PDF, editing it, signing it takes 2-3 different apps and a lot of taps.
There’s no GIMP, Illustrator, Photoshop or Final Cut X on the iPad.
4. Utilities vs Workarounds
macOS is a platform filled with little utilities. Want to see four time zones in the menu bar, there’s an app for that. A way to save and manage everything you copy to clipboard? There’s an app for that. Want to write a script that automatically files all the screenshots of the day in a specific folder? Use the built-in Automator app, or just write an AppleScript. An app like Alfred can let you create workflows to do any kind of automation or tasks you can think of.
macOS has infrastructure that helps you be more productive. You can pick it up and leverage it. On iOS, you need to create the infrastructure yourself, while iOS tries to fight you every step of the way.
It’s possible to create automation workflows in iOS using Shortcuts app. But they’re fairly limited and they’re not automation in a true sense. You need to trigger the workflow yourself for it to work.
5. No Exposed File System, or External Storage
Dealing with files on iPad is just not simple. Even the new Files app isn’t that helpful. If you’re used to organizing files in Finder, you’ll have to completely switch to iCloud Drive or Dropbox to get a similar experience. And even then, some apps won’t support Files app picker so you’ll end up with duplicate files or you’ll have to sync them manually.
The iPad Pro has a USB-C port but you can’t use it to connect to external storage. You can’t just attach a flash drive to copy some data or to take a backup.
6. Limited Multitasking
You can only have two apps on the screen at a time. You can bring in another floating window on the side, but that’s it. And you can’t customize the layout like you can on the Mac.
7. USB-C Is Still a Pipe Dream
The USB-C port on the iPad Pro is pretty locked down. By default, it can only mirror the display. External display support has to be written specifically by each app. And it’s used only as a display, not as an interactive touchscreen.
This means the uses for an external monitor connected to an iPad are fairly limited. You connect a MacBook to an external display and a whole new world opens up. You get a big screen to do more of the same things. On the iPad, that’s not the case.
USB-C also doesn’t work with printers or external drives. You can’t import or export data, just pictures, and that too only in the Photos app. You can charge your iPhone from the iPad Pro though, that’s nice.
Can You Adapt?
The iPad Pro vs MacBook debate is not about hardware or the price. It’s about the software. The iPad Pro hardware is plenty fast and given the specs, even the new raised prices make sense. But iOS on the iPad just isn’t there yet. And you shouldn’t buy a machine hoping that someday it will all the features you want or need. And as it stands right now, macOS has a huge lead over iOS.
If you’ve used macOS for a couple of years and you’re used to the trackpad and the keyboard, more importantly, macOS, switching over to iPad Pro is not going to be easy.
Because the functionality and features you need to get your work done just don’t exist on iOS.
iOS has a different set of functionality and interaction models. If you can adapt to the new way of doing things, while it’s not completely ready, you might be able to replace your MacBook with the iPad Pro.
I’ve been through the experience multiple times now. So I would suggest you don’t go all-in. If you must, get the 11-inch iPad Pro, try using it for a week or two. If it doesn’t work out, you can return it before the return window is up and get a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air instead.
Which One Do You Choose?
Are you going with an iPad Pro or a MacBook? Share your reasons with us in the comments below.