As a MacBook (and previously PowerBook) user for around 17 years now, naturally I was very curious when Apple first released the iPad in 2010, and how it might complement and perhaps ultimately replace my laptop.
These days I don’t use my MacBook for as much as I used to.
There’s no music composition (or indeed playing/storing music in iTunes, which became far too complicated and bloated years ago), video creation, website coding, FTP transfer, or photo processing.
My main uses are for online reading and writing, plus organising and editing photographs (as in sorting and deleting those which don’t make the grade, not post processing).
Which means either my wife’s old HP laptop, resurrected as a Chromebook, or my daughter’s very fast and light Lenovo Chromebook, which cost just over 10% what my MacBook did, are 95% as easy and capable for my uses today.
I held off for years in getting an iPad, because they couldn’t do half the tasks I did with a laptop.
Then around 2017, I looked more seriously at the iPad again, and with my then near decade old MacBook starting to stutter, I took the plunge.
Three years on, the MacBook is still running, after a couple of resets, and I still love the keyboard (the best I’ve ever used on any computer) and the 15″ screen.
And the iPad?
Well, it gets used less than ever.
In fact really there are only two ways I use the iPad that, for me, makes it a usable and useful device at all.
1. Viewing (and sometimes editing) photographs.
The Flickr app for iPad is lovely, and means you can view photos full screen with nothing else visible, then just swipe left or right to see the next or previous photo in the stream.
It’s about as optimised and tactile an experience there is, for viewing photos on a screen.
Sometimes I edit my photos, which are waiting online in Google Drive.
When I delete one via the iPad app, when I’m online again with my MacBook where the original photos are (uploaded from the camera’s memory card), it syncs and removes those deleted from Google Drive too.
But honestly, I prefer to go through my own photos full screen on my MacBook with the native Preview app, and delete directly on the HD any that don’t make the cut.
This does vary, depending on the site.
Most more modern blogs and websites are an absolute pleasure to read on the iPad, especially in portrait orientation.
Especially those who use a simple single column layout and clean design (or those who blog quietly, as I wrote about last year).
Even blogs with one side column can usually be double tapped to expand the main text column to the full width of the screen.
If I’m feeling especially lazy I’ll use Mantaray to scroll for me too, so I don’t even have to touch the screen.
Again something the iPad misses in comparison with a laptop/desktop computer is simple keyboard actions like tapping the space bar to scroll down a page at a time.
I hate constantly swiping, then swiping back a little because I’ve gone too far.
With older sites though, and those overloaded with too many columns, ads, social media feeds, and other unnecessary clutter, it can be awkward resizing the main text so it’s most readable.
Simple actions like rotating the iPad 90 degrees to read in portrait orientation don’t result in the text automatically and elegantly resizing to fill the available space.
And given my penchant for 10+ year old digital cameras, often the sites that contain information about these are still back in that era too so aren’t too pretty on an iPad.
Plus certain platforms (ahem, Blogger) still look like they did about 12 years ago, and are ungainly even when viewed on a 15″ or larger screen, let alone a tablet or phone.
Why hasn’t Google addressed their platform’s fundamental design flaws to compete with WordPress? I digress.
So as a reading device for sites that are properly optimised for an iPad (by the way the owner has designed it, and by the software that underpins it) is a very enjoyable experience.
But, as I said, it’s hit and miss, as not all sites are like this.
In the past I have also used my iPad for processing photographs.
Apps like Hipstamatic or Snapseed both suit the iPad well with their relatively simple tactile interfaces.
But I haven’t used Hipstamatic for perhaps a couple of years now, and I use Snapseed far less than I did, as I’ve moved every closer to zero processing and using cameras that I can set up to output JPEGs without the need for any post processing.
When I do use Snapseed, my Sony Xperia phone is perfectly adequate for the simple presets I apply.
So post processing is a usage that’s disappeared with the iPad for me.
What fails pretty dismally with the iPad is any kind of writing.
Whilst I use Google keyboard which seems more intuitive and user friendly than the native iPad on screen keyboard (which is shocking, I bought into Apple originally because no-one came near them with user interface), I still find writing any more than a line of text in a search bar pretty painful and frustrating.
When it comes to copying and pasting, and navigating your cursor around a piece of text (both of which are needed extensively in editing blog posts of course), it’s too cumbersome and I don’t seem to have the dexterity or the patience.
I read a few months ago that a fellow blogger wrote an entire novel on an iPad. They need some kind of medal for endurance and patience!
So despite my photographic (and general) needs in a laptop being less than they have been in years, the iPad still doesn’t make much sense as a device for me, let alone as my sole device.
If I was to make the decision to buy an iPad again – or I had a similar amount (around £300) to spend on a replacement device today – I would unquestioningly go with a Chromebook with as good a screen as possible instead.
How about you? Do you use an iPad (or another similar size tablet) for anything photography related? What do you find it’s good (and not so good) at?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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