Can the iPad Pro 10.5 replace a laptop for a small business CEO?

Since my first smartphone, the Palm Treo 650, I have been waiting for the killer device: one device that serves as my phone and computer without having to sacrifice capability. The major motivation is convenience and access. If everything I need is on one device that’s ultra portable, I’ll always have what I need to work when I need it.

While the iPad Pro is not that device, it does significantly reduce the amount of stuff and the weight of what I need to carry in order to work. Check out the photos in my last post about this topic to see a comparison.

I tried this experiment before when the original iPad Pro came out. I loved it, but I ran into one major issue. QuickBooks online was absolutely unusable on the iOS version of Safari. So, I ended up returning it. If it couldn’t be my primary “computer,” it was too big to be a secondary device.

Then, Apple released the 10.5″ size along with iOS 11. My interest piqued, and I decided to pick one up to see if the updates made a difference.

My original plan this time was to use iPad Pro 10.5 for 2 weeks. (If you want to read more about my motives for switching to the iPad to begin with, you can go read this post.) While I was not able to make a complete switch, I have been using the iPad Pro 10.5″ as my primary device for about the last 2 months with iOS 11. I say primary because there are still tasks that are impossible and others that are unnecessarily difficult to do without a regular Mac or computer. This post will go over what I like and dislike.

What I like.

I love the size. The portability of this device is incredible. When I put it in my backpack in place of my 13″ MacBook Pro, it feels like nothing is in my bag.

It’s very comfortable to hold as a tablet for reviewing reports, reading email, and taking notes (which I’ll cover later). If I need to type something I just snap on the keyboard, and I am good to go. The screen is plenty large enough for me.

It makes me focus. When I say the screen is plenty large enough. I mean it. Most of time, if I’m using a large screen, I have multiple apps open. I’m not focused on the task at hand. The limited space on the iPad means I am more likely to work on one task at a time. If I need to reference something the new split screen experience on iOS 11 is perfect. I just pull up the app I need, copy or drag-and-drop what I need, and then move the app out of my way.

Drag-and-drop is amazing. So is multi-selection. It’s so much faster to attach files to emails or Slack. It’s not quite “computer” fast, but it’s much better and more efficient than past versions of iOS.

Apple Pencil. This is the killer feature for me. I love writing by hand. I take tons of handwritten notes. I make sketches of new features. I make flow charts for processes and to think through problems and ideas. I have notebooks all over my office and home. I think more clearly with a pen or pencil in hand, but there are two drawbacks with traditional notebooks.Notes are stuck in a notebook. They are hard to find. They aren’t always with me. They are hard to search through.

Any writing I do by hand has to be typed up to turn it into a blog post, memo, email, etc. It’s extra work.

The iPad Pro plus the Pencil solves this. The new Notes app makes handwritten searchable. This is great. There is also an app called Nebo.

Nebo is amazing because it can turn my handwriting into text. Anything I write can be exported to any app that supports iOS sharing, or I can just copy the text and paste it wherever I want.

It forces me to be a better delegator. I don’t know about you, but there are certain tasks I use in order to hide from the work I should be doing.A CEO’s job is to set the vision, make sure the right people are working on the right things, and making sure there is enough money coming in to pay the bills.

Assembling reports, data entry, accounting, printing stamps, etc., these are task I should delegate. The reason they don’t get delegated is because it is easier to do them myself than it is to create a process and teach someone else. When that is no longer the case, or when it’s impossible, it’s a great reminder to delegate.

The keyboard is fast and comfortable. The 10.5″ model keyboard took a few hours to get used to because it’s smaller. Once I did, I noticed I was typing about 10 words per minute faster. The keys are closer together, but not uncomfortably so. They are also very soft compared to MacBook keyboards which leave my fingertips feeling sore.

The tablet format for sharing info in meetings. Two people looking at one laptop screen is awkward. Being able to hand an iPad for someone to review a document feels almost as natural as handing over a piece of paper. It’s a very easy way to share information.

The speakers. They are loud and clear which is great for video and music. I have found this has a great business application: conference calls. Since iOS allows me to make and answer calls from my iPhone on my iPad, I use it on speaker phone when I’m on a conference call with multiple people in the room. It’s clear and don’t get any complaints about echoes on the other end.

What I don’t like.

Websites serve mobile versions of their sites. This is not necessarily Apple’s fault, and I t’s something that has improved since iPads were first introduced, but it’s still annoying. With the screen resolution of modern iPads, there is no reason to serve a separate mobile version. Yes, I can request a desktop version when I load the page, but some sites still check for iOS and then serve an entirely different version.

Can’t access the file system. The new Files app is an improvement, but I still can’t move files around like I can on my Mac. Instead of moving something from Dropbox to my Desktop, I have to save a copy to Desktop and delete the original. It still feels clunky.

QuickBooks Online. Besides having a site that’s a chore to use on an iPad, QuickBooks Online still won’t allow me to export a report to Excel. I know this isn’t an Apple limitation because I have other services that allow this to happen, including my company’s software. So if I need a report fast, I have to wait on someone to get it to me, or grab my computer. Come on QuickBooks!

Battery life and re-charging. The battery has never lasted me the 9 to 10.5 hours Apple advertises. I get about half a day’s worth (4-5 hours) depending on what I’m doing. The real problem comes from the amount of time it takes to recharge. Being tethered to a wall is defeats some of the purpose of working on an iPad.

Conclusion

You can absolutely use an iPad Pro instead of your computer as long as you are willing and able to delegate. It comes with tradeoffs which you need to be willing to accept going in.

I didn’t get rid of my MacBook yet. I still need it for updating website code, editing audio and video, and working inside of QuickBooks. QuickBooks aside, I enjoy these activities and don’t want to give them up.

That’s why my iPad Pro serves as my primary machine, but not my only one. I do believe there will be a day when a version of this device will do everything I need and want it to do.

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