Finding a Use for the iPad

4 minute read

Since 2010 I have been resisting the idea of getting an iPad. Deep down I have always wanted one (as everybody has), but I have been failing in giving myself a reason to buy it. It would not be good value for money either, if I ended up not using it.

I have always wanted a separate device exclusively for reading, since reading long-form texts on a laptop’s screen was never a comfortable experience for me (or good for my eyes). I was convinced that I found the ultimate reading device when I bought a Kindle in 2016, but I sold it to me father shortly thereafter — who, by the way, is not using it for reading.

It became even more obvious to me, that I do not need an iPad, when I bought a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display three years ago, for my studies and work. It also fulfilled my superficial need to acquire an Apple device — I did not need another one. And to this day, that early-2015 MacBook Pro works extremely well.

Things did not change much for my reading experience, though I did notice a small improvement in the amount of texts I read — thanks to Safari’s wonderful built-in reader.

I revisited the idea of getting an iPad when the 10.5” iPad Pro was released in June 2017. It looked as if it were an ideal machine: higher screen refresh rate and a beautiful display, thinner bezels on both sides, great battery life and performance.

I picked up the 10.5” model while been in San Diego, CA last January and since then I have been pressuring myself to find a reason to use it.

Reading

Feedly, Google Play Books, Google Drive and Microsoft Office suite were amongst the first apps I installed upon turning the device on. I am not particularly fond of iBooks since it does not provide as many customisation options as one might expect. Though this statement is subject to change depending on what changes the reported iBooks redesign will introduce.

For now I will stick with Google Play Books, which is more customisable and allows you to upload your own books to your library. Purchasing books from within the iOS app is not supported at the time of writing, but I can easily do that on the web or my Pixel phone.

While the aforementioned reading apps are essential for reading books during a long trip, I use Feedly for my day-to-day reading needs. I have a fair amount of RSS feeds saved on there, which I very much enjoy reading on my way to work.

I discover many interesting readings through these sources, which, depending on where they are coming from, I can then go and read the piece on the dedicated mobile apps of their respective publisher. Apps such as The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New Yorker Today, The New York Times, The Economist, Bloomberg and Hacker News could not be absent from my list of installed apps.

Writing

Writing, though not my strongest suit (especially in a second language), is my preferred means of expressing myself. It gives me more time to think, which then leads to more well articulated thoughts and coherent arguments — much harder to do while speaking.

I downloaded iA Writer, a fantastic writing app, to store drafts and ideas which potentially become blog posts for this very website. I use it also for writing the case studies for the projects I have worked on in my day jobs.

(I am writing this text also in iA Writer!)

I love the simplicity of iA Writer. Plain text files written in Markdown is all I need for now. But there is more: it supports content blocks, which, amongst other things, allow writers to include files in their current document by referencing them using a simple syntax.

Screenshot of iA Writer's custom keyboard

Using Working Copy, I can then push any writing to GitHub where my portfolio is hosted and publish it with GitHub Pages. I also can organise my writing in folders and make it available to other devices via iCloud Drive — even if I have not iA Writer installed elsewhere.

More reading: Marius Masalar has written a comprehensive review and comparison between iA Writer and another powerful writing app, Ulysses. If you are considering using one of the two for writing, Marius’ review should be your starting point.

Work

I would not be making the most out of the iPad Pro if I did not use it for work tasks. I installed apps such as Spark (for email), Google Calendar, Google Drive (for accessing work-related files), Microsoft OneNote (for taking notes during notes), Google Keep (for quick notes), Reminders.app and PDFExpert for annotating pdf files. The long term plan is to get Apple Pencil and use it for taking handwritten notes during meetings and annotating with precision.

What I will not be using the iPad for

If you take a look at my iPad’s screens, you will notice that social media apps are missing. You will not find any messaging apps either, except Apple’s own Messages and FaceTime apps which come preinstalled with the device. It certainly helps that some of these are not optimised for the iPad, but I am not planning to use them here anyway — I will be using my smartphone instead.

Conclusion

I still have a long way to go until I finalise the uses for my iPad Pro. For the time being I will use it for work-related tasks, reading and certainly writing. I have written more than 950 words iA Writers tells me at the top of the screen.

Hm. Maybe there is future for a stable relationship between me and the iPad after all.