Can an Apple iPad replace your laptop? Not right now, not even with iOS 11

An iPad may seem like an excellent productivity tool in Apple's advertisements but in reality, that's rarely the case.

Late last year, my i7-powered gaming personal computer died for various reasons. The motherboard was a bit too old and there was no way to revive it, forcing me to push off the system. I haven't switched to a laptop yet. I simply got the data from my hard drives backed up to a portable external drive and began to live a solitary life without a PC, one that at 34 (I know, I'm old) seemed OK, but would have given me a panic attack in my twenties.

Just two years ago, I switched to an iPhone after about 5 years of tinkering with Android. So with my PC gone and a smartphone with a closed ecosystem like iOS, I sure had every reason to panic. But I somehow did not. I began to use my phone as my sole media consumption device, subscribed to online services like Netflix and Apple Music and then got off the whole business of relying on web downloads, video conversions and transfers to keep me entertained from time to time. In short, my life moved from local storage to mobile storage and the cloud with my smartphone as the center of my world.


But there was always one problem.

If I needed to edit a document I always found myself rushing to the nearest PC, or would end up editing them on my office computer (it was always available). And then one day, I came up with the idea of using an iPad Pro to see if it can actually function as a laptop or PC replacement, since it was supposed to work better with the keyboard accessory.

And while it seemed like the most convenient tool for a user whose productivity needs are limited to writing and the internet (for publishing articles online). I strangely found the iPad counter-intuitive and restrictive in more ways than one. The only advantage it had was that I could now view those Netflix movies on a larger display (I only recently purchased a semi-smart TV, so video streaming is off my list of pros as well). So what is it that prevents a reviewer like me from giving the green signal to replace it with a laptop? Well, here goes.

An iPad may seem like an excellent productivity tool in Apple's advertisements, but in reality, that's rarely the case. It's ok if all you want to do is draw on it, write a short document, or send one or two emails. But working on it or replacing it with your laptop is a complete NO.

Pointing device

Coming from an iPhone, I like iOS and its massive ecosystem of apps that are even available for the iPad. But with your finger as the pointing tool, it simply cannot replace your laptop. You see, after a while, it gets tiring to raise your hand, every single time you have make an edit, whether it's tapping the Google search bar to type something, or tapping on the exact alphabet to make that edit in your document. While it's something that's quite easy and intuitive using the trackpad on your laptop, lifting your hand and reaching out to touch the screen every single time becomes a bit a of a problem even if you happen to have a Smart Keyboard cover lying around. This might seem like I'm nitpicking, but try doing that for eight hours a day, every day. It just does not "work" with work because you have to keep lifting your hands from your keyboard to the touch screen display all the time! A pointing device would have been a great solution, but it would go against Apple's ideologies, some of which have already been trampled upon with the launch of the Apple Pencil (a.k.a the stylus).



Next up on my list is the Safari Browser. If Apple wants it to replace your laptop (and its own MacBooks as well) it will need a more capable browser. One that will at least allow you to make edits on an online Google docs spreadsheet. While it renders webpages beautifully, it's not nearly as capable as a desktop web browser on a laptop or a Chromebook with oodles of RAM to spare. Also, if you are into Chrome, there are no plugins available on iOS 11, so good luck with that!

An app for everything

While I like Apple's ecosystem of apps, they work well for a mobile phone, which is mainly used for sending email, clicking photos, and typing text. With an incapable browser, everything you do will need an app. Need to Buffer some tweets? You will need the Buffer app. Need to share something to Facebook? Well, you need to download the Facebook app. Need to edit a Google Sheets doc? Well there's an app for that, but it works terribly. Slack? Well you're better off with an app and not the browser. On a laptop, all you really need a web browser and you can load it up with plugins that will make your work easier, not add extra steps to the process.

Local storage

Agreed that you can now finally share documents with a number of Lightning port enabled pen drives. But seeing all your files in one place (literally) and being able to copy, paste or rename them in batches is something you will never be able to do on an iPad. In fact, the only files you can fidget with on an iPad are basically videos and Photos. Recorded an audio clip using the built in Recorder? Well, you can share it but not use it anywhere else in your iPhone or iPad (not even iMovie). Strange, but true. On a laptop you literally have the freedom to do whatever you want.


File image of iPad Pro

File image of iPad Pro

Well, some might argue that multi-tasking is available on the iPad. But can you open and view more than 4 apps at a time? Well, the answer even with iOS 11, remains no. You can break up two apps, like a Safari and a Notes app for taking down notes from the web page using the Split Screen feature; that's two. Need Telegram? Well you can open that too thanks to floating apps on iOS 11. Need to watch a video while doing all of that? You could fire up YouTube and run the video in PIP mode. And that's about it. Need to open refer to multiple document types all at once? Not possible. You will get tired of switching between apps and you'll be yearning for a proper PC before the day is out.

Not convinced? Go ahead and try it out for yourself!

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