The iPad: My “Hobby” Computer

As a professional nerd, I have many computers. All of which serve different roles in my life.

  • The iPhone is my personal computer
  • The Mac is my work computer
  • The Apple Watch is my health computer
  • The Apple TV is my entertainment computer

Until recently, I didn’t have a clear place for the iPad. I used it a lot, but I could never really explain why I would choose it over my iPhone or Mac.

Now, I think I’m at a place where I have a good idea of where the iPad fits into my life. The iPad is my “hobby” computer.

Context about my point of view

The opinions I’m sharing here are about me, and only me. I know of many people who use an iPad as their primary computer, and I’m not suggesting it can’t be done. Many people do it.

I’m simply sharing my personal experience with the iPad.

Why the iPad Can’t Replace the Mac…For Me

Like many people, there was a period where I had dreams of the iPad filling larger roles in my computing life. I saw it as an “everything” computer that could very likely replace my Mac. 

Especially once Apple released the Magic Keyboard with a trackpad for the iPad Pros.

There was also a stretch of time where Apple was really pushing the iPad as a laptop/Mac replacement. This was before the Apple Silicon Macs. I fully bought into this idea and dove into the iPad Pro determined to make it work.

The thought of this was awesome. A single thin, light computer that could act as a laptop or tablet as needed.

Unfortunately, I learned I couldn’t replace my Mac with an iPad.

I Build Software for a Living

The main reason the iPad couldn’t work as a Mac replacement for me is that I make an iOS app for a living, and I literally can’t use an iPad for that.

The main app I use to build Sofa is Xcode, and it only exists on the Mac. 

I kept hoping Xcode would come to iPadOS in the same way Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro have, but I don’t know if it will ever happen. 

Even if it does come to iPadOS at some point, will it be the full version or a stripped down version that won’t work for everything I need?

Jumping Between Apps Isn’t Pleasant

I personally prefer to use the iPad with a single app at a time. I know you can use split view and stage manager to work with multiple apps at once, but those have never clicked with me.

If I’m doing stuff that requires jumping between multiple apps, the iPad (and the iPhone) just feel tedious. 

This could be as simple as referencing an email while writing a note in Apple Notes. The back and forth between apps on the iPad feels harder for me than on the Mac.

I Love the Mac and MacOS

I’ve been using macOS for close to 20 years and I just love it. I had a Mac well before an iPhone and iPad, and I’m extremely comfortable and efficient using it.

Using the Mac puts me into “work-mode”, which I like. It’s easy to jump between multiple apps, manage windows, organize files, and all the other computery stuff.

If I was forced to use only one computer, it would be a Mac. Even over the iPhone.

Where the iPad Fits

Now that I have a clearer idea of where the iPad fits into my life, I want to share how I’m using it.

Casual Computing

For me, casual computing is anything that isn’t related to work. So, when I’m done working and sit on the couch to relax, the iPad comes out.

This is things like:

  • Browsing the web
  • Triaging emails
  • Writing and referencing notes 

I can, and do, all of these things on my Mac and iPhone, but the iPad gives a nice experience.


Entertainment is the easy and obvious use for myself, and probably everyone who has an iPad. The iPad is literally the best TV I’ve ever owned. I can bring it everywhere and watch anything on it. 

This is things like:

  • Youtube
  • Watching movies and shows

Photo Editing

Outside of work, photography is probably my biggest hobby and the iPad is so great for editing photos. This is one of the few creative tasks I do that I find the iPad to be superior to the Mac.

I use Lightroom, and do edit photos on my iPhone and Mac, but I find the iPad to be the most pleasant for this. The iPad gives me a big screen that I can get very close to, and edit with my fingers. 

Photo editing alone is enough for me to justify having an iPad.

It took me a few years to experiment and learn that the iPad is my “hobby” computer. With this clarity, I’ve come to enjoy using my iPad a lot more. I’m rarely frustrated by its lack of Mac-like functionality, because I’ve adjusted my expectations.

It's the best hobby computer I’ve ever had.

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