Yes, iPad Pro CAN Replace A Computer

We have seen a lot of talk about how you can get a new iPad Pro but it certainly isn’t a “real” computer. Apparently it falls short in a number of ways, since it doesn’t do Everything A Mac Can Do. Well guess what? Not every user is actually doing Everything A Mac Can Do right now.

iPad Replacement Examples

Let’s start with someone who spends “computer” time looking at web pages, checking email, a bit of social media, and online banking. If that’s most of what they’re doing, an iPad is more than adequate.

E.T. with computer.
See? Even on other planets they just use iPads.

Now let’s look at someone who is producing online audio. Record using anything from Voice Memos (part of iOS) and the built-in mic, or one of many recording apps and a microphone. Then you can edit with apps like Ferrite. I know this to be true, because I have recorded and edited more than one podcast using only my iPad. I have asked more than one person if they could hear the difference and the only person who said they could tell which was which actually chose the recording from my laptop, not my iPad.

If you’re doing video production, you can shoot video up to 4K with the rear camera, and again there are loads of apps to choose from, two popular ones being iMovie from Apple and LumaFusion. Again, you can work with high quality files and publish online immediately. You can capture and produce a finished product and share it with others just as you could if you had a laptop with you.

My final example: Someone like me who spends a lot of time using web tools and assembling words and images into varying formats. Drop a keyboard (Smart or otherwise) in the mix and I can type as fast as I can on my “regular” setup. I have fully functioning iOS apps like Scrivener and/or responsive web pages for tools I use, and while the steps are a bit different, I can still do all the same things.

Not For Me Isn’t Necessarily Not For Anyone

Is this every possible example of user? Not even close. Does everything work exactly the same on iOS as it does on macOS? Obviously not. But that doesn’t negate the iPad as a viable option for a lot of people. I have talked about this for ages: If everyone had a moment of technological honesty, it’s entirely possible a whole lot of people would see that an iPad (not even the latest model) is a more than adequate upgrade. We’ve reached a point where “full” computers aren’t being revolutionized yearly, and the hardware is fast enough now the slowness usually isn’t in the machine anymore. Now it’s the Wi-Fi or the app having trouble, not your computer lacking horsepower.

11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro with USB-C
Take a good long look at what may well be your new computer. You heard me.

I have personally seen more than one person “upgrade” from an old computer to a new iPad who couldn’t be happier. They are gaining speed and portability, and it works just like the iPhone, so they know their way around from the start. When your baseline is a much older computer whether it’s a Mac or a PC, this is a really nice upgrade for a good price.

Be skeptical of these reviews, because “it’s not for me” is vastly different from “it’s not for anyone.” This point of view has gotten more and more common among pundits, who dismiss something outside their perspective then go on to write about how this new thing clearly isn’t popular (and if we’re talking about Apple, why this means they’re obviously doomed).

13 thoughts on “Yes, iPad Pro CAN Replace A Computer

  • I’ve been using the iPad on and off since the first one back in 2011. I’ve got the iPad 9.7 2018 now. It’s great! I thought lack of trackpad would be a problem. It’s not! I write and use it for YouTube and reading articles. IOS is great and 98% keyboard shortcuts for everything. It’s viable as a replacement.

    I am planning on using the iPad as my laptop replacement. For what I do, it’s just fine.

    An iPad Pro would be pretty sweet (quad speakers)>

  • Close but no cigar…
    My sister tried using her original iPad Pro with a keyboard as a ‘real computer’ while taking online college courses as part of her professional development as a teacher.
    It was great for reading textbooks and following along with the online lectures, but she hit a wall when she tried to sign up for a particular course. She filled out the application but there was no ‘submit’ button.
    She called customer support who said you can’t do it from a phone or tablet. It had to be on a ‘real computer.’ When she borrowed a laptop and tried again, this time the ‘submit’ button was there.
    There are still a number of ‘little’ things like this where iOS falls down.

    “Only a Real Computer can run Photoshop.” Well, soon it will.
    iPad Pro will now run Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo so I don’t know how much I even need Photoshop.

    But it won’t run Blender or Xcode which are my priorities.
    I use Perl for text manipulation and analysis, but not on iOS.

    I would love to be able to use an iPad Pro for everything I do, but for now it will only do most of the things I want to do.

  • I’m curious @280 if you have kids in high school because I do. Mine are forced to do their school work on Chromebook which they hate. They’ve asked me many times why they can’t just use iPads. They use iPads, iPhones, and Macs at home and often prefer to do their school work on the iPad or even the iPhone. Yes, my daughter as completed and presented entire Keynote presentations using just her iPhone. Teens are super comfortable with a smartphones to the point where they can do almost everything on them. No, it’s not the “norm”, but they do it. My other daughter has been evaluating my 12.9 inch iPad Pro as a replacement for her aging iMac and has decided she would prefer that to getting a new computer. Will every kid (person) feel the same way NO, but to say ” Go to any teenager that has access to both an iPad and laptop and say you’ll take away their laptop because they don’t need it for school. See what happens. It won’t be pretty.” is making a sweeping generalization. Many teens are “choosing” PC alternatives be it Chromebooks, tablets, or smartphones. There is no longer a one option fits all answer and that is awesome. As Kelly summarizes (and I agree) “…because “it’s not for me” is vastly different from “it’s not for anyone.” “

    1. Adam:

      Your comments about ‘kids’ or even young adults, is spot on.

      My daughter does most of her work on her iPhone, and only really uses her iMac when having to write a long assignment, like an essay. Despite her obvious comfort with, and preference for, working with one iOS device, in this case her iPhone, including for her small business, she won’t use the iPad that I’ve offered her more than once.

      My son, on the other hand, who is working on a novel/graphic novel, does most of his work on the iPad, certainly his drawings. He uses it in school, so much so that he purchased a Cyrillic keyboard (Russian major). He also does about half of his gaming on the iPad as well; all this despite owning my old MBP.

      Both kids have grown up around Apple products, as well as having been exposed to other platforms, including Chrome books, in school, yet their use case preferences are different. What they share is a native comfort with iOS over macOS devices for tasks that their parents would likely do on a Mac.

  • Hello Kelly:

    First, congratulations on a very nicely articulated article.

    I’m pleased to see more articles along these lines that not simply point out the obvious, namely that iOS devices, iPad Pro included, are computers. It should be obvious by now that, in this century, computers come in a variety of forms and, by design, serve different use cases. Additionally, you point out two other general but relevant facts.

    First, what we do with our devices, and how we do those things, affect which devices will be useful to us. Second, that a device does or does not serve our needs has no bearing on whether or not it will or will not serve the needs of someone else.

    I would add, use case for any device is not static but can change over time if that device is an immature technology that is still evolving. This was the point of @dennyhenke’s post.

    My use case for my MBP is largely static because the PC represents a mature technology whose current developmental gains are marginal when not aesthetic, but not sufficiently noticeable that they fundamentally change how I use my MBP. This is not the case for the iPad Pro, which together with iOS, continues to evolve in ways that do affect how I use it, and what I choose to do with it. The bottom line is that I’m now doing things on my iPad Pro that I could never have imagined doing on my iPad version 1.

    Options are always a good thing, at least in my humble reference frame in this space-time continuum.

  • Is it now possible to have different apps as default apps? Like not having Safari as a default browser opening when clicking a link?

    If not, still not a replacement for me.


  • I agree with this analysis, but I think it misses what is a bit of misdirection. The scope of work types that can be done by a computer are generally greater than an iPad. If you happen to only use what is provided for by the iPad. Then great, you’re golden. But if you need greater scope, then it’s not.

    So if all you ever do is open the back of computer tower cases, then a screw driver is all you need. But if you’re working on ferrari’s, youre going to need a tool kit with broader abilities.

    Apple marketing the iPad as a replacement for “what’s a computer” is it sticking it’s neck out as a universal replacement. It’s disingenuous. I don’t support their slight of hand.

    1. “Apple marketing the iPad as a replacement for “what’s a computer” is it sticking it’s neck out as a universal replacement.”

      Even though Apple considers an iPad a computer nowhere do they suggest is it a universal replacement. At least, not what from I’ve seen. If anything, that “what’s a computer” views it as an alternative.

      Problem is, is that people keep confusing them for Macs. They’re not Macs. Using SJ’s car / truck analogy, cars did not replace trucks and last time I checked they still don’t but trucks are still sold for those that need to do that sort of heavy lifting. In other words, the car was not a replacement, it was an alternative form of transportation for those users that were being over-served by trucks. At least, that’s how I view iPad vs Mac / Windows

      Having said that, that doesn’t mean iPad can’t get more capable over time but it shouldn’t do so at the expense of compromising its UI or its simplicity.

      1. I don’t confuse them. SJ also said there will always be a need for trucks.

        We disagree. The entire point of that commercial is showing that the student can do oh-so-much creation for school work as a replacement. It’s not true. Go to any teenager that has access to both an iPad and laptop and say you’ll take away their laptop because they don’t need it for school. See what happens. It won’t be pretty.

        And that’s my point, APPLE is advancing the narrative in posturing the iPad as a universal replacement with “what’s a computer”. It shows a girl writing reports and pasting up a “Bugs of the City” page layout, I guess, for school work. Yea, again, ask a teenager to do a real project/report doing page layout and writing reports on an iPad and see how that goes.

        Right now the iPad is good for what it’s good at. Mostly consumption with some creation around illustration with the pencil. Will that always be the case. Hopefully not! But Apple is the one making it seem like it’s a replacement in full. It’s not. Not by a long shot. Not today.

        Tomorrow, well tomorrow is always a wonderful place full of lots of promise…

      2. John you start in your first comment in agreement with the article but by the end of your second post you seem to be repeating the same idea that actually the iPad is only good for consumption with the the addition of illustration with the pencil. If I read Kelly’s post correctly she’s suggesting that it’s actually capable of quite a lot more than that.

        Speaking in regards to what I do and what I’ve read of others doing with the iPad, I think your view is really off-base. The iPad has been my primary computer for 2+ years now and I create and manage websites. Mostly coding from scratch using text editors. I do the graphics work in Affinity Designer or Affinity Photo, both on the iPad. I’m currently managing around 10 client websites. This is all from an iPad. In addition, I regularly design and layout for print. Everything from brochures to logos to annual reports to promotional postcards.

        And to be clear, I find this all more enjoyable and easier on the iPad. I’m not working harder to do these things. I’ll add that I’ve been using the iPad since the first and yes, most of this was not possible in 2010. By 2012 some of it was but still I used my Mac. By 2014 I’d started using the iPad quite a bit more. By 2016 I’d moved over most of my work to iPad. My point is that I’ve been an active user of both iPads and Macs and made it a habit to compare the tools in regards to my needs and established workflow. As long as the Mac was the better tool I kept using it.

        To be clear, I still use the Mac but only as a local media/file server and for projects that require InDesign. All else is now iPad and I sometimes go weeks without ever touching the Mac.

        If you spend much time online in the Apple user community it’s pretty easy to see that there are plenty of people in a variety of professional use cases that go beyond illustrating with the Pencil.

      3. It’s capable of some more than mere consumption, but much less than a general purpose pc. And it’s closer to consumption only than full of production on that scale of things. Apple pitching it as a replacement is disingenuous.

        Yes I can use a Moped to haul a few select groceries home or ferry a single kid to school, but positioning it as a replacement for a regular car is disingenuous.

      4. Regarding teens, the one dynamic I have observed is this… many of today’s teens (at least in my family) grew up with iPads as their first computer. They associate iPads with being a kid. They observed middle-aged grown-ups using iPhones and laptops. The exception is seeing their grandparents using iPads. I think what’s happened is that they associate the iPad with being computers for kids and grandparents. Teens being teens in 2018 there’s a good chance they have an iPhone now and often get by with just that. But if they need a bigger computer than the phone they don’t want a kid/grandparent device that they’ve already used. They want something new.

    2. I agree John, that it is by no means universally a replacement. But I think there are a lot of people who have been hardwired by The Olden Days to believe that you need a big beige tower and a big monitor and a keyboard and a mouse to do What Needs Doing, and that simply isn’t true anymore for a lot of people. I just want people to stop and think before dropping another pile of money on a computer in the traditional sense when it’s possible to just get an iPad which is lighter and has a nicer screen and is far more portable than that tower ever was.

      You mentioned “the right tool for the job” and I think the iPad is being passed over by a lot of people for whom it WOULD be the right tool and I just want to shine a little light on that. (:

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