There was once a time when the iPad was one of my most-used devices. And yet, despite currently owning two iPads, I’ve hardly used either of them so far this year, and am not even slightly tempted to upgrade when the upcoming new models are announced.

There are five reasons for that – which have seen my former iPad usage almost entirely replaced by my MacBook Pro and a pair of VR glasses …

Why I loved my iPads

While some people use an iPad as a very different beast to a MacBook – using it much more for media consumption or gaming – for me it’s always been first and foremost a laptop alternative.

I’ve always been a Mac guy first, but back in the days when my preferred machine was a 17-inch MacBook Pro, it was good to have a lighter device for times when I wanted to be able to work while mobile and didn’t need a large screen.

It was still a battle between iPad and 11-inch MacBook air back then, but an iPad did have several advantages at the time.

First, and most notably, battery life. Whatever claims Apple made for the battery life of Intel Macs, they were always significantly exaggerated unless you kept the screen super-dim. That was even more so when you were using a MacBook intermittently throughout a day, when the constant sleep and wake cycles further cut the hours you could expect.

The iPad, in contrast, was unique at the time: a mobile gadget which genuinely delivered the promised 10-hour battery life in real-world use.

Second, the instant on/instant off nature of an iPad compared favorably with the slightly laggardly response of a MacBook. That was especially handy during National Novel Writing Month, which I did for several years running. When trying to hit an ambitious wordcount target every single day, then every short Metro hop of just a few stops was a writing opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

Third, built in mobile data. With coffee shop wifi one of the less reliable aspects of modern life, it was both a reassurance and a time-saver to simply switch on your device and be instantly online.

The four main things which changed

First, I moved into central London. That meant that the amount of time I spent on the metro was greatly reduced – both because a typical journey involved fewer stops, and because cycling or walking became a much more practical way to get around. The value of that instant-on/instant-off device, and one which had its own mobile data connection, was significantly reduced.

Second, mobile hotspot usage has become totally practical. It wasn’t always reliable, and mobile carriers often had contracts which limited the amount of tethered usage. These days, however, I find it very reliable, and my contract includes unlimited tethering – so it’s almost as convenient to be online on a Mac as it is on an iPad.

Third, the MacBook Pro has become slimmer and lighter than the machines of old. There’s not now a huge difference in thickness and weight between my 16-inch MacBook Pro and my 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard attached.

Fourth, with the switch to Apple Silicon, the gap between claimed and actual MacBook battery life has dramatically reduced – while at the same time using the iPad with the Magic Keyboard has significantly cut iPad battery life. For typical mobile usage, then, battery life is no longer a factor, and MacBooks have also caught up with the instant on/off nature of iPads.

For all those reasons, if I need to work on a mobile device these days, it’s going to be my MacBook Pro, not my iPad. Just yesterday, I was writing a couple of blog posts on a train journey, and it was my MacBook I used.

Plus VR glasses replaced my iPad mini

When the cute new-gen iPad mini launched, I really tried to find an excuse to buy one, but failed. Subsequently, however, I did decide it was the perfect device for watching a movie or TV show in bed. That isn’t something I do often, but I bought a used one to test the idea, with the rationale that I could sell it for roughly what I’d paid for it.

It was beginning to sell itself to me for this, when I got to try the Viture One XR glasses. I was immediately converted to this as a movie-viewing device – finding that it was the equivalent of an 80-inch TV, in a device that’s more comfortable than holding even an iPad mini.

Watching video, I quickly found myself immersed – and my early impressions are that this is going to be my favorite way to watch video alone. (Though with the optional dock and a second pair of glasses, two people can also watch a video or play a game together.)

That’s because it’s so comfortable to simply sit or lay in any position, and always have the video in front of your eyes. Especially in bed, you can lay on your back or on either side, with no need to hold a screen. On public transit too, there’s no neck-ache from having to look down at a screen on your lap or on a seat-back tray table. The glasses are light enough that there’s no discomfort from wearing them.

I’ve also gone back-and-forth a bit on an iPad as a Kindle, but ultimately the Kindle Paperwhite Signature edition (with wireless charging) ended that one for me.

What’s an iPad?

In trying to persuade us that an iPad could be a computer for many people (and I agree), Apple posed the question: What’s a computer?

The question I now face is: What’s an iPad? Or more specifically, what’s an iPad for? My MacBook Pro is my go-to mobile creation device, and the Viture One XR glasses are my go-to entertainment device.

So my iPad mini will be sold. My 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro is worth such a small fraction of the purchase price that I haven’t quite been able to bring myself to sell it, but the truth is that it sits in a drawer unused these days, so I really ought to.

For now, it seems like the iPad era has come to a close for me. How about you? Has anything changed in the way you use your iPad, or are you still using it in the same way you always did? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash

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