I’m sitting in a meeting with 17 other Quartz editors. Everyone else is typing away (or staring blankly) at their Apple laptops. After the meeting is over, they’ll carry these large, metal machines back to their desks, building up to tennis elbows and strained shoulders over a lifetime of office work. I, on the other hand, have joined the future. I’m writing (and definitely paying attention to the meeting) on my new iPad Pro, a lightweight marvel that has pretty much replaced my laptop in most situations.
I’ve been traveling a lot the last few months, usually dragging with me my laptop and its weighty charger, as I have for years. It’s an annoying reality of working on the road. But for my last few trips, I left my laptop at home and relied solely on my 1-pound iPad Pro. There are minor hurdles to overcome, but it’s really been quite simple.
Since the iPad Pro was first introduced in 2015 (or maybe even since the first iPad came out in 2010), debates have raged over whether the tablet represented the future of computing, or just a nifty distraction. In the intervening years, the reality is that it’s been somewhere in the middle. The iPad has been a robust business for Apple, generating around $19 billion in sales over the last four quarters, but it hasn’t been a growing one. Perhaps because people don’t tend to use their tablets like their phones, they don’t seem to have replaced them as often.
The last iPad I bought (before this Pro) was 2013’s iPad Air. Back then, I viewed the new slim iPad as a great device to take on vacation to read books and watch movies, browse the web, and leave in my living room. That’s where it sat for years, until the battery life got so poor that I had to leave it plugged in at all times (which is still useful, as it now serves as a hub for my smart-home devices).
I’ve wanted to replace my laptop with an iPad for years—I have a bad back, hate carrying a bunch of chargers, and I like touchscreens—but nothing Apple has released has really been able to replace the simplicity of a laptop for work. I thought last year’s iPad might, but it wasn’t quite there. Seeing as Apple seems strangely resistant to putting touchscreens on its laptops when all its competitors already have them, I gave up a couple years ago and just bought a MacBook.
But then I used the new iPad Pro. It was fast, tiny (especially the 11-inch model), and surprisingly fine to type on. I hesitated purchasing one because I didn’t want to fall into that whole “is-it-or-isn’t-it-a-computer-what-even-is-a-computer” debate again. But then I felt a twinge of pain in my back and considered that there’s a 14-day return policy at Apple.
After using the new iPad Pro as my main travel, living room, and office-meeting computer, I’ve generally realized that the iPad Pro really can handle just about everything I need to do.
I’ve written features, lightly edited photos, and even made charts from my new iPad—although that last one was kind of difficult. I have full versions of Word, Excel, Slack, Gmail, and just about everything else I need to get work done. Some things are still frustrating—for some reason, on any iOS device, it’s impossible to highlight text properly in WordPress, which makes editing very difficult—but I’ve found that any tradeoffs are worth it for a device that I can fit in every bag I own.
There are other limitations, such as the fact that you can only have two apps running on-screen at once (or three, if you count the weird floating app thing Apple introduced in iOS 11), you can’t have the windows overlapping, and apps will go to sleep if you don’t use them for too long. Then there’s the Pencil stylus, which is still pretty pointless unless you’re an artist. Other than to show people how it works or to highlight something in the odd screenshot, I’ve barely used it in the month I’ve had the tablet. It’s pretty nifty how it just magnetically snaps to the iPad to charge, though.
But, honestly, I don’t care. It’s a simple-to-use device that lets me browse Tweetdeck, answer all my emails, and even take handwritten notes, with relative ease. The battery feels like it lasts forever—Apple says it will last up to 10 hours of web use, but I feel as if I’ve gotten longer out of it. The FaceID cameras, used to unlock the device, are lighting-fast, and seem to work however I’m holding the machine. Apple even changed the charging connector from its Lighting port (found on iPhones and older iPads) to USB-C, which is what its laptops and many other new devices use, which lets you use all your computer accessories, and even hook the tablet up to an external monitor.
This is not going to be the thing that replaces your work computer—if you need to crunch a ton of data, or edit videos with pixel perfection, get a Mac. But I’m not sure I can see myself buying another normal laptop in the future. The only real sticking point (which is pretty common with Apple products) is the price. The 11-inch model starts at $800, and with the (completely necessary) $179 keyboard case and the (less necessary) $129 Pencil, you’re looking at dropping over $1,100 for the base model. “You could buy a MacBook for that price!” I hear you cry. You’re right, and you probably should, if you only ever use your computer on desks and tables and don’t move around too much.
But if you’re a frequent traveler, or if want something for your home that doesn’t weigh a ton and is easy to use at pretty much any age, the new iPad Pro is likely the device for you. I don’t really care whether it’s the future of computing or what a computer actually is, philosophically (I think we all have powerful computers in our pockets these days, and many have ones on our wrists, too!). I just care that after eight years of trying, it feels like Apple has made an iPad that I actually want to use other than in a few spare minutes on the couch.