Has an iPad Replaced Your Computer?

BY Evan Selleck

Published 2 Feb 2017

The one consistent thought regarding tablets is that folks who own one, or more than one, typically don’t upgrade them as quickly as they do their smartphone.

This is probably the one area where the tablet market is most similar to the PC market. Whether it’s price, or functionality, or whatever else it might be, forking over money every year to get a slight upgrade on the PC in the house, or the tablet for that matter, just doesn’t have a hold on consumers as it does in the smartphone market.

While the iPad lineup has championed the tablet idea, by not only being noteworthy pieces of hardware, but also promoting truly tablet-specific apps, and things started off so well for the family of devices, it always felt like eventually it was going to start slowing down. Which it is. The iPad is Apple’s year-over-year declining product, even while Macs keep fluctuating from quarter to quarter, and the iPhone just saw a huge rebound. Apple’s latest quarterly earnings showed us that the iPad, while still dominating the tablet market in general, is still technically declining.

That has led folks like Marco Arment to ask some interesting questions, like whether or not the iPad really is the future of computing:

“Apple and commentators can keep saying the iPad is “the future of computing,” and it might still be. But we’re starting its seventh year in a few months, and sales peaked three years ago.

What if the iPad isn’t the future of computing?

What if, like so much in technology, it’s mostly just additive, rather than largely replacing PCs and Macs, and furthermore had a cooling-fad effect as initial enthusiasm wore off and customers came to this conclusion?”

It’s a valid question, and I honestly think he’s spot on. Tablets haven’t always been positioned as a PC replacement, but there’s no doubt that Apple, and Microsoft, both see the tablet market as one where they can charge quite a bit of money, throw in some attachments, and then call it good. Both Apple and Microsoft have apps that can be used on desktops on their tablets, and while Microsoft technically has a leg up when it comes to saying “our tablet is a computer,” considering its use of a desktop operating system, Apple’s dominance in the app market has made that almost a non-issue — but only on a case-by-case basis.

The truth is, like so many other things, it all comes down to personal needs. Does your daily routine with your computer typically entail just browsing the internet? Using social media? Maybe answering emails, and even using some apps like Word, or even Adobe-branded options? If that is the case, then you probably could get away with using an iPad as a replacement. All of those things are possible on an iPad, and, in some cases, maybe even better thanks to the highly-polished apps available on the tablet.

Apple has made no hesitation about positioning the iPad Pro lineup as a powerful replacement, going as far as to ask, “What’s a computer?” in ads it launched last year. I truly believe that asking that question will work for some people, and the iPad Pro can work as a replacement. Especially with the inclusion of the Smart Keyboard.

I’ve given it a shot, because I genuinely thought that my routine wouldn’t be slowed down all that much by switching to the iPad. But, truth be told, it’s just not possible. Using the touchscreen is great and all, but I have a few moments where the trackpad on my MacBook is just a better option. I’m also using “only” the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, because I think the 12.9-inch model is way too big for a tablet (this is harder to explain, considering I don’t have any issues with a laptop this big, or bigger), which means doing split-screen things isn’t as great as it could be, so I’m more often than not stuck doing things one at a time, and that really slows down the process.

The iPad sits next to my computer and I use it as an additional screen sometimes, or more often than not I use it as a way to talk to my coworkers and friends through messaging apps, like Slack. That way I can just keep the writing part focused on the MacBook, and the iPad is used for social aspects. This would line up with Arment’s point — that the tablet has been revealed as an additive in most scenarios.


I should note a friend of mine, who, up until last year, had been using only an iPad in his house for just about everything. He didn’t need a computer at all, so he had an iPad Air 2 and some version of an iPad mini in his house, and that worked for him and his wife. But then he started coding, aiming to become a developer, and suddenly getting a computer was essential.

But, I’m curious. Have you or anyone you know replaced their computer with an iPad? Have you tried it and it didn’t work?