Can an iPad Take the Place of a Computer?

Since buying an iPad 2, one of the questions I’m asked most frequently is if it can completely take the place of a computer. I’m not surprised people are asking that, as it’s the same thing I was asking before I bought it. As a writer, I’m literally on my computer from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. Could an iPad really do everything I need it to?

The answer is that there are still a few things the iPad can’t do, but not many, and once Apple updates the iOS in the fall, that will be even less. Steve Jobs recently promised a PC-free experience, and it seems to be getting closer to that, but still isn’t quite there yet. Here’s a rundown of a few of the limitations I have found.

iPad-Mail

The mail experience is very close to being the same as I have on my Macs. I can have multiple accounts, and send and receive in much the same way. The major difference is in attachments. I can attach photos as well as documents, but I can’t always see everyone else’s. If they send a photo or document, I can view it, but if it ends up being a zipped file, I can’t open it. It might be something that is available with an app, but as it stands with the regular Mail app, I can’t.

iPad-Safari

Browsing the web is very close to what you have on a PC. Most sites are viewed just the same. There are some sites that give you a mobile view instead of a regular desktop view, but usually at some place on a site, it offers the choice of a desktop or mobile view. Pop-up windows open in an additional window. What isn’t good is that Safari doesn’t have tabbed viewing, but that’s supposedly changing in the next update.

iPad-WordPress

There are also other browser apps that offer a sometimes better experience. However, sites that have fields for you to fill in do not work the same. If you type a long sentence that extends beyond the input field width, you can’t scroll through it. For instance, I can’t upload an article in WordPress, because I’m writing more text than fits in the box, and while it puts it in there, I can’t scroll through it to edit. I have found apps that handle blogging, but some other websites I submit articles to that don’t work off a blogging platform don’t work, and I need to still submit using my Mac. Some sites work still and some don’t.

iPad-YouTube

There’s an app just for YouTube which works great for browsing and viewing YouTube videos. However, if you want to do something other than browsing or viewing, it’s not available there. For example, to embed a video, the coding isn’t there. I have found a workaround, though. If i go to YouTube in the browser,  there’s an option there to view it on desktop, and then it has all the regular options like you would have on a normal desktop browser.

iPad-Photos

For most normal photo editing, such as things you do for personal photos, optional photo editing apps work great. However, for photo editing I need to do for websites, it doesn’t offer a good workaround. I have to do my photo-editing on the Mac. I haven’t found an editor that keeps a good resolution.

iPad-iPod
There isn’t anything I can’t do with music that I can do on my Mac, whether it’s buying or playing music. However, I can only buy music via iTunes to have it automatically upload to the iPad. Music that I downloaded from Wal-Mart, that was only available there and not on iTunes, had to be downloaded on the Mac, uploaded to iTunes, then dragged into the iPad.

iPad-Evernote

I do most of my writing in Evernote, or at least I save all my articles in Evernote. But one reason I use Evernote is because I can sync it between my Mac, my iPad, and my iPhone. Even though I’m writing now on my iPad, I know I have to upload via my Mac, so I’ll save it in Evernote, and when I go back to the Mac, it will be there as well. For this experience, there is no difference between the iPad and the Mac.

The answer to the question is NO, at least for me from a writer’s perspective. The iPad does not do “everything” my Mac does, although it does come pretty close. If I was a casual Internet user, it probably would be more than sufficient. Being that I conduct most of my life on the Internet, it doesn’t do everything; however, I still prefer this experience, as it’s a faster and easier experience. Additionally, I know that as they continue to make strides in the mobile experience, my experience will improve as well.

What about you? Has your iPad replaced your computer?

4 comments

  1. Good article from an end user’s perspective. However, I would like to add my view from a developer’s perspective.

    The short answer is no the iPad will not replace computers, not for a long time. Eventually? Probably. But the software and hardware requirements for software development are much more demanding than what the end-user has, except for some gaming. The tools that are used now for development are so robust, by necessity most of the time, that the iPad and other tablets are going to have to have much more robust processors, be able to multi-task very well and have permanent localized storage.

    I think the tablet has its place even in business, if its capabilities are fully taken advantage of, but not for robust development of business applications.

    • You can scroll text areas in Safari on the iPad. Use two fingers instead of one in the text box.

  2. Most of these concerns can now be solved via third-party apps. Atomic web browser can download attachments, open them in other apps (and a zip/rar manager app can open the files to open the contents in the iPad’s default photo/video players), same for music/videos from third parties, if you have Avplayer installed, you can even play non converted media formats.

    No jailbreaking and technical know how required anymore (this used to be possible only to jailbreakers via accessing the file system with apps like iFile).

    I’d guess you only have to fall back to the computer for heavy duty tasks like photo/video editing, and the like. Or if you are a developer like me, then the iPad is no replacement at all. But for almost all of the tasks listed above, it can now work, if you know how.

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