[Editorial] Why I chose the iPad Pro 9.7 as my main tablet

I have been mixing and switching my mobile usage between Android and iOS for a while now. I actually wrote an editorial about why I was switching to Android. I have used Android as a daily driver for the past 5-6 months. This is now changing (again) and it all began with a need to have a very portable machine in my backpack. Here is my take on my decision to get the iPad Pro 9.7″ from Apple.

Portability means tablet

When I am talking about portability, I mean something that is lightweight, switches on immediately and is blazingly fast all the time. If you remember the time when these so called ‘netbooks’ were a thing (something like an Asus EEEPC), devices had a tiny screen and sluggish CPU performance, with most of them running Linux. We are actually seeing a somewhat same kind of trend today with Apple producing the “New Macbook” and also PC manufacturers bringing their takes to the table. Those are still considered laptops and while they offer a lot, they offer too much for my needs. That is the reason I started to look for a new tablet. I have been using the Nexus 9 from the day it was launched and available here. It has been a pretty frustrating time. The tablet seemed very good in specs and design, although in the end we all know the design and build quality wasn’t what it should have been. There were a lot of build quality issues (back plate creaking, volume buttons could be flush with the side etc). Also the accessories, like the keyboard case were never released in Finland. I fought long and hard with the Nexus 9 and I have to admit though, the device did get better with updates but in the end it still was a laggy piece of plastic. Even the N preview didn’t do much, and before someone says “it’s a beta dude”, yeah I know but it just showed me that the hardware was and still is flawed in many aspects. I also was an Android user back then (Nexus 6P), so going to another platform sounded really stupid at that time.

iPad-6p-first

Software that isn’t really for tablets

The another point that struck problems for me with the Nexus 9 was the software. It runs Android 6.0.1 and that is where the plus sides pretty much end. Android just isn’t really ready for tablets. Google hasn’t really shown any love for it in Android and there lies the big problem, as almost all of the apps are total garbage in Android tablets. Most of them are not done or meant for tablets and are mostly blown up versions of the phone versions. Although the same can also be said about some iOS apps, too (Twitter, I am looking at you!). Google has finally realised this and in Android N they are actually doing something about it – they will bring proper multitasking by allowing the user to use multiple apps side-by-side, just like Apple did with the newest iPad Pro and iOS (also works with iPad Air 2). Still the question of apps remains, when will developers actually embrace the tablet side of Android and really think about the UI of their apps when they are run on tablet.

The end result: I went for the iPad

I really wanted a machine that I could easily just throw in my bag when I go travelling and didn’t want to bring my hefty 13″ Macbook Pro with me. When Apple released the original iPad Pro at the end of year 2015, I was actually really intrigued about it and went to my local Apple premium re-seller to test drive it. The problem that hit me after few minutes of use was the size, it’s just too huge and wouldn’t really bring anything better in terms of portability compared to my MacBook Pro.

The biggest thing with the iPad is the Smart Connector and the keyboard support that Apple was adding in the newest iOS. If I really would like the machine to substitute my MBP, it would need to have a good keyboard and support for it. I could have got a Bluetooth keyboard for my Nexus or for my iPad, but I didn’t want another part that I would need to keep charged and I didn’t want to deal with problems with Bluetooth when it decides that it doesn’t want to connect or the connection breaks and so on. I know that people have replaced their laptops with the big iPad Pro but I just can’t see it being a reality for me. When I am at my desk, I want to easily use multiple apps and apps that aren’t allowed or available on iOS. I just think that going full-time iPad would bring so much unneeded frustration to my normal usage that the learning curve isn’t worth it.

ipad-pro-keyboard-pen
Picture courtesy of Greg Morris

So I still waited, and little after the years’ end, we started to hear these rumors about an iPad Air refresh. After time passed the rumors started to say that there won’t be a new iPad Air refresh, but a new iPad Pro but in a smaller form factor. A smaller version of the iPad Pro sounded just the thing I would need. It would be big enough, it would have a smart connector and keyboard, and the biggest plus, it would be much easier to carry around with me. So come mid-April and I finally decided to take the plunge. So I ordered the smaller iPad Pro. I went for the 128GB wifi+cellular version. I need to have Internet connection when I am out and about when free WiFi is not always available, so the cellular version was the only option for me.

What about Google/Android alternatives?

I think I pretty much laid it out in the previous chapters already but the main reason would be that there isn’t really any device that would actually be wise to buy. I don’t want to buy an LG, Samsung or Huawei branded tablet because I would be victim of skinned and heavily modified Android, which means that future updates are slow, if any come at all. Also the same problem with the keyboard, I would need to get something with Bluetooth as most of the OEMs don’t produce any keyboard cases or have a nice way to connect them that isn’t Bluetooth. Google produces the Pixel C but as you already know, but they don’t sell them in my country. So I would have to import one from overseas which would mean the price would take a really big hike as I would have to pay 24% taxes and probably some import fees. Then I would also need the keyboard. So the main thing is I just don’t want to take the extra steps needed to even think about having a Pixel C, and after the hardware there would be the aforementioned problems with software and apps.

pixel-c

The next stop was my smartphone

At the same time I also had started to weight in my smartphone selection. I had the Nexus 6P as a daily driver but also had a 6S Plus as a “backup”. Don’t get me wrong here, the Nexus 6P is still the best Android phone you can buy. Just forget everything else there is, nothing beats the 6P. It’s a perfectly great size and the design is great. Forget the plastic 5X (which is still laggy and performs poorly), or those heavy skinned Huawei/Samsung phones. I also noticed how many of the apps I needed for my work were so much better on iOS than on Android, I really started to ask myself “Do I actually need to use Android for something”. The short answer was “No, I don’t”. I really loved the so-called ‘freedom’ with Android, where you didn’t need to think about what would be the easiest way to do it. What I mean here is that with iOS you sometimes need to take extra “measures” or “steps” to do things because of the strict sand-boxing of apps and the whole system.

Google-Nexus-6P
image courtesy of PhoneArena

Now that the iPad Pro was in my backpack pretty much all the time I was going somewhere, I found myself doing lot of things with it. When I needed to switch to my phone and be able to continue where I left off, I noticed the one thing that Apple actually has that Google still doesn’t: Continuity. One of the great features that Apple introduced a few years back and which we talked about in our podcast. I can switch between my iPad Pro and Macbook Pro easily, but I was left out from the chain with the Nexus 6P. So I did it (again) and started to use the iPhone 6S Plus as my daily driver and I haven’t looked back since.

TL;DR – The End

So am I happy with the decision to get the iPad Pro which then caused me to go back to the iPhone too? That would be a definite yes. There isn’t actually an alternative for the iPad at the moment, at least where I live. Google or any local re-seller isn’t selling the Pixel C here. Yes, the Pixel C really is the only option that would compare to the offering what the iPad Pro provides. Even with the Pixel C, I would still have to suffer with the state of Android apps on tablets and even Android N is not magically going to change that. What Google really needs is to make the app developers realise that specific tablet-UI in apps is actually needed. But, in actuality, developers and the manufacturer need an incentive to create an app for a specific device branch, which Android tablets certainly aren’t proving to be right now.

Before this starts to sound like a fanboy post, I have to say that the iPad and iOS aren’t perfect. It’s far from it. There are lot of things that Apple should and could do to make the user experience better. Most of these are actually pretty basic stuff. It is stupid that you can’t actually drag and drop stuff from one app to another when using them side-by-side for example. But I think this is just a beginning for Apple and we are going to see a lot more changes to how iOS works in the near future. In my honest opinion, this is something Apple needs to do if it actually wants to make the iPad (Pro) a real substitute to the laptop. Will this happen? Probably yes, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for changes to happen very soon. At the current state iPad can, in a way, be a laptop, but if you need to do something more “hardcore” I still would recommend you to use your laptop/desktop. This is how I “roll” when I am at home – I usually do things with my Macbook Pro but once I leave my “study” I will definitely do most of the things with my iPad Pro or with my iPhone.

This post was completely created using the iPad Pro, by the way.

About Juha Uotila

Tech Lover from Finland. Consumes lot of metal music. Consumer of craft beers. Also showing some signs of #phonehoboism.

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