Can an iPad replace a laptop?

The short answers is: maybe. I had to survive three weeks without my laptop, so I had to figure out which of my tasks and routines still work on my iPad.

Most of the things I work on are online-based, so being without my laptop should not be a big deal, right? Well, I had to be without my laptop for almost three weeks in the end, because my luck was shit as always. It was not even the fact that I couldn't record my podcast or write the paper with a deadline coming up. It was all the little things.

Apple seems to be aware just how shitty their previous butterfly keyboard is. At least, they have a free replacement program for any Mac that has this keyboard. I have had four replacement keyboards by now—and that's not even counting the defective replacement part they just installed at the shop. Yes, that's right: The shop had my laptop repaired and finished but then realized that the brand-new replacement part was broken, too. So, they had to start over and I had to accept yet another delay.

What gets me most is the unpredictable nature of this. I had chosen the best time to hand in the laptop. I had made sure to publish my podcast right before handing it in. I handed it in when they said they had time. I am on semester break and only have few uni tasks to complete. It's the least shitty time to do this.

And yet... They told me the laptop would be done by mid to end of last week. On Thursday, I called in and was informed that a replacement part had been installed but a new one had to be ordered and that it would take 1-2 days to arrive and 1-2 days to install. On Monday, I called again and the part had not yet arrived. They didn't have any information about anything at all and promised a callback. Turned out that Apple had a backorder problem and the part was not available.

Okay, enough about why I got stuck without a laptop for three weeks. Let's talk about the solutions I found, what worked, and what didn't work.

At first, I was pretty content. I have an iPad Pro with the overpriced keyboard-cover thing that makes it almost a laptop. Almost!

The tasks I had for the first few days were mostly typing and watching things, little thinking, no complicated tasks. That worked reasonably well.

Sure, I got hung up on the fact that I can't edit a workspace or reach most of the settings on Notion for iPad. Sure, I got frustrated by things working a little differently on mobile than on my laptop. But all in all, it didn't got badly.

But as time moved on, I had to do more complicated things like plan the upcoming week. Well, that should not be complicated, right? But a lot of the tools I use either don't exist for the iPad, don't have the view options I like to use, or have missing features that are only available on desktop. Yay.

The pattern seemed to repeat with app after app. Things just didn't have all features on all versions of the platform or tool. Some things only worked on the iPhone (my email program, for example) and on my Mac (which I didn't have) but not on iPad, because that version hasn't been developed yet. Some software simply didn't exist for the iPad. Recording, editing, and publishing a podcast episode or Youtube video turned out to be an almost impossible endeavor.

And then there was the fact that a lot of things didn't work right on the iPad. The feature exited, but things kept resetting or getting buggy. By the end of the third day without my laptop, I was beyond frustrated. I decided to do all the things that didn't require electronics. But there are only so many dishes to be done.

I had treated this time without my laptop as a kind of experiment to see how much I could do without my laptop. I didn't plan to get rid of my laptop but I had considered using it as a kind of workstation for things like editing and moving most other things to the more compact iPad.

While there are some things I really enjoyed on the iPad like writing, journaling, watching videos, and drawing/painting, much of my daily life doesn't adapt well to the tiny screen and limited functunality.

While I am sure some people can get along with just an iPad, I am definitely not one of them. Technology is just not there yet—at least not in the Apple family.

When I received my laptop back on Wednesday, the real fun began. They had installed MacOS High Sierra. Yep, that's the 2017 OS. Yes, that's older than what was likely installed on my laptop when  I first bought it. So, the first hours were spent merely updating the operating system to the current version. I couldn't even start installing all my software until the next day.

I think most things are back to normal now, but I still keep finding little things that are not the way I like them. It will probably be a bit until I get everything back.

You might be wondering why I dind't just install a backup—clearly, a tech-savvy indiviual like me has a backup, right? Yes, I do. I actually have a backup with everything. But as I had been meaning to reinstall the OS anyway to clean things up a bit, I decided not to use it. I will be restoring all my files, but didn't use it to reset my OS to where it was. This was probably not the best time to do that, as I had been without my laptop for three weeks, but reinstalling your operating system is one of those things that it is never the right time for, so I went ahead anyway.

Luckily, I didn't waste the time. Okay, right, I did "waste" some of it to take an actual break, get my brain back at least a little bit, and recharge my batteries. I don't think that's a waste of time, even if we keep acting like it is. I also finished a 65-page physics lab report. I cleaned up all my organization systems, notes, and flashcards. I tidied up the apartment and took care of most of the little things that kept getting pushed off.

It's never too late to start spring cleaning, right?

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand is the writer behind the essays here, author of fiction novels, the creator of the Kate Hildenbrand podcast, and a student of marine ecology. At least, that's her on the surface.