Much of the attention after yesterday’s Apple product event has rightly gone to all the new iPhones, Apple’s longtime cash cow, and whether the company’s new subscription services can help it pivot to a future where individual phone sales are far less important.
But a new iPad, announced rather swiftly during the presentation, signals what could be part of an important shift for the average Apple laptop buyer.
Apple now sells three basic iPad models—the standard version, the Air, and the Pro—as well as the cut-sized Mini. They pretty much run the gamut from entry-level to high-end on price. All now share a few common traits: high-resolution touchscreens, the ability to be controlled by a stylus, and keyboard support. With the forthcoming release of iPadOS, the new iPad-specific operating system that bring the tablet experience far closer to the traditional laptop’s, Apple will have three tablets that most people will likely have no problem using as their daily computing device. And for $329 (plus $159 for an Apple-made keyboard/cover) for the base model, you’re spending far less than for the base MacBook Air, which starts at $1,099.
There are two groups of people that won’t be able to use an iPad to replace the MacBook in their lives.
The first is those who rely on MacBooks at work. There are certain things you just can’t do easily on an iPad, even a powerful one like the iPad Pro, as in manipulating large amounts of data and executing fine-tuned design work. However, this group of users is shrinking: High-end applications like Photoshop are now on the iPad, becoming more capable every day, and Safari can now handle the most complicated web-based applications with ease. When on the road, I do all my work on my iPad Pro these days.
The second group who can’t use an iPad to easily replace a laptop include those who like using laptops on their actual laps. Right now, no iPad setup can do much for them. But working with laptop perched on your knees isn’t great for your back, anyway.
Unless you’re getting a work-provided laptop or someone who knows they need the power that a traditional Mac computer can supply, there aren’t many compelling reasons to spend thousands on a new MacBook. The new iPads are lighter, cheaper, and for most people, probably a lot simpler to use. Couple that with the supercomputer you’re likely carrying around in your pocket, and you probably have all the computing power you’ll ever need.
So don’t spend the money on a new laptop just because it’s what you’ve always done. Consider what you actually do on your computer, and if it’s little more than checking email, watching movies, reading social media, checking documents, and browsing the web, you’re going to be fine with any iPad. Apple’s iPad line has largely been free of the issues that have plagued Mac laptops in recent years, such as continually terrible keyboards, or the overheating MacBook Pros. There’s a lot less that seems to be able to go wrong with the small screen and squishy little keyboards of the iPad.