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Mac, iPad, or Both?

Both Jason Snell and John Gruber, both stalwarts in the Apple journalism world, have recently weighed in on this topic. Jason says he’s given up on the iPad-only travel dream; John says he keeps throwing his iPad in his bag when he travels, even if he never uses it. I have thoughts on this topic—as you might think, considering I decided to write about it! (Ah, but what device did I use to write?)

Jason kicks off the discussion with a review of his iPad travel usage, which until the arrival of Apple Silicon, was going along swimmingly. Now, with Apple Silicon-powered Macs, things are different:

In the battle between iPad and Mac, I’m a longtime member of Team Both—I use my Mac most of the day at my desk, but when I write elsewhere in the house or backyard, I switch to an iPad Pro in the Magic Keyboard case. And that iPad (in a regular case) is my primary computing device when I’m not in work mode…But here I sit at my mother’s dining room table, typing on a MacBook Air. Something has changed in my approach to travel, and I’m trying to understand just what it is and what it tells me about the trajectory of the iPad as a productivity tool.

John places himself squarely on “Team Mac”, but admits to wanting to use his iPad more:

But for me personally, I continue to find that I’m most productive when I spend my working time in front of my Mac…The reason this topic remains evergreen is that I want to use my iPad more. There’s something ineffable about it. It’s a thrill when I use my iPad to do something that an iPad is actually best at. I honestly think I’d be more productive if I owned no iPad at all, yet I keep trying to find ways to use it more.

Something else John says really resonates with me, though:

But I know I’m best off, productivity-wise, using my iPad basically as a single-tasking consumption device for long-form reading and video watching.

In long-past articles (see here and here), I describe how I classify many of the applications I use into different “use case” categories:

  • Consumption: These are the applications I use to gather (“consume”) information. These would be things like NetNewsWire, web browsers, chat/messaging apps, and the like.
  • Organization: These are the apps for organizing information. Mostly this categories resolves around organizing tasks/items/commitments.
  • Creation: As the name suggests, these are the apps for creating content.

Now, why am I tell you this? I find I am aligned with John—I find myself most productive when I use my iPad in the “consumption” category. It works well for allowing me to do long-form reading or watching videos. My iPad is semi-useful in the “organization” category, where my task management tooling works across both iPadOS and macOS (and iOS, but that’s not part of this discussion). I don’t, generally, find using the iPad helpful with content creation tasks; for me, that’s where the Mac shines.

I would say, then, that I identify with both Jason Snell and John Gruber:

  1. Like Jason, I do call myself a member of “Team Both,” although perhaps in a different way. Jason is—or wants to be—a member of “Team Both” for all tasks but in different contexts. I am member of “Team Both” for different tasks in all contexts.
  2. Like John, I find myself most productive using the iPad as a consumption-focused device.

This should clue you in on what device I used to write this. (I used my Mac.)

What about you? If you have both a Mac and an iPad, how do you decide which device to use when? Hit me on Twitter or on Mastodon and let me know your thoughts!

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