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Lately I've been using my iPad to do a lot of my writing. It's part of my strategy to develop a 'portable life,' in this case to free me up from having to have a full-blown laptop everywhere I go. There are a few reasons for this, as a strategy ...

Laptops are more expensive than iPads—I love my MacBook Air, and as laptops go it's the slimmest and lightest I've ever owned. Coming in from my MacBook Pro, it was like going from carrying a boulder in my arms to sticking a pebble in my pocket. So as far as weight and portability, it's a winner. 

The problem is, as I travel more there are times when the MacBook feels way heavier than it is—in terms of the cost of replacement if something were to go wrong.  

I have insurance. I could probably just pay a deductible and it would be covered. I could have a new laptop in just a week or two. But my iPad could be replaced within the hour, and for about the same cost as the deductible, maybe even less.  

That's a tough piece of trivia to ignore. 

Frankly, I feel safer carrying my iPad and the Zagg Slim Book keyboard in my backpack while I'm gallavating around. Weight-wise and size-wise, they aren't the MacBook Air and the iPad Air 2 with keyboard aren't that different from each other. But cost-wise, they might as well be on different continents.  

I'm online everywhere—I confess, I'm addicted to the Internet. It's the source of all my super powers. And being online any time I have a keyboard in front of me has become so habitual, I feel like something was amputated if there's no signal.  

It's ridiculously easy to find free wifi these days, so most of the time I have no trouble getting the MacBook connected. And then there are those times when something just doesn't work out. The wifi is down in this particular coffee shop, or this hotel wants to charge a ridiculous per-minute rate for usage, or this connection is so slow I could drive to Australia over an intercontinnental bridge of my own design and construction and hand deliver a missive before I could get on Facebook and say hello.  

It's true, when wifi is in short supply I can always use my phone as a hotspot. And I do. But now I'm running two devices for one purpose. There's something karmically wrong with that.  

So the advantage of having the iPad is that it has an always-on internet connection. No dongles to plug in, no need to connect to my phone, no creepily parking in front of someone's house because they left their wifi open.

If I don't get that that little cascading umbrella symbol of wifi goodness wherever I am, I'll usually get at least a couple of LTE-rich bars. Or 3G, in a pinch. The point is, I'm almost always within range of the Internet, thanks to the built in radio of my iPad. 

I get longer run times—The MacBook Air has a phenomenal battery life. I can find a comfy spot and work for a few solid hours without it running down. If I turn off wifi and Bluetooth, I can squeeze even more out of it. But eventually the tank starts to run dry, and I have to go on THE GREAT OUTLET HUNT. This generally involves squeezing past Millenials in hoodies who are huddling over their own MacBooks, watching YouTube. 

It's a complex but beautiful dance that symbolizes new birth. 

It's not that the iPad is totally different on this score. It's just that I can run it for a lot more hours at a stretch. And when it's time to recharge it, I can hook it up to one of the portable batteries I have and get several more hours out of it.  

I can also plug it into my car, and charge it while I drive. Doing this with the MacBook is possible but complicated, involving hooking up my little inverter and wedging my expensive laptop into the seat cushions so it doesn't slide onto the floor if I have to stop short.  

My iPad slips right into my center console. Like a boss. 

I haven't done any official tests for this, but let's say that I can get about five hours out of the MacBook Air, at full use, versus ten hours out of the iPad Air 2. So 2X the work and fun. That's pretty good. 

By the way, shouldn't all electronic devices charge from a USB port at this point? Or, better yet, how about inductive charging? Or even kinetic charging. Honestly, in this day and age I should never have to plug anything into an outlet. Wires are so 20th Century.  

It feels a little more secure—I don't leave my gear sitting around. Even in extreme bladder containment failure scenarios, I can't stand the thought of leaving my laptop in the care of the stranger I just introduced myself to as I did the pee-pee dance. There's a certain amount of social trust involved in working from coffee shops and cafes and other public places, but this is my precious we're talking about. This is my livelihood.  

The MacBook is nice and portable, but I'm often hooked in and wired up. I have the power cable in, but I also generally have my iPhone plugged in (because free charging, natch), and there's probably my backpack or shoulder bag and/or the MacBook's carrying sleeve to fuss over. Basically, just to make a quick run to the restroom means having to extricate myself from the wire hive.  

Aside from avoiding the leave-and-lose-it Blues, though, I feel like the iPad has a better grip on security and recoverability. The MacBook has some nice security features, but ultimately it wouldn't be that tough for someone to disable them and basically make off with a free laptop. The iPad, on the other hand, presents a tougher barrier. 

The fact that it's always online is the key. Even with the screen off, the LTE connection is still active. So if it's misplaced, I can ping it right from my phone, Apple Watch, or even the MacBook. I can get it's general location on a map, and I can lock it, disable it, or even wipe the whole thing clean.  

Heck, I can tell it to start recording video and audio, so I can use that to help identify the thieves.  

With fingerprint scanning and a key code that automatically starts when the screen shuts off, I feel like people would have a tough time getting to any of my data right away. It's possible, obviously. It happens. And none of the security measures of this thing are foolproof. But they're pretty decent for at least slowing crooks down while I have a better chance of recovering my goods. 

I just feel like this is a better security arrangement than what the MacBook offers. So far. 

 ———

This post isn't meant to be a be-all justification for dumping a laptop in favor of a tablet. It's just that as I dig deeper into a portable lifestyle, some of the old tools are becoming obsolete as new and more portable tools take their place. 

I still have to deal with that 1/3 of functions the iPad can't handle, however. For example, writing on the iPad has become something simple and easy to do, and it's much more reliable than it was on the first generation iPad. But so far, I haven't found any acceptible solutions for recording Skype calls on the iPad or iPhone, so I can't use it for conducting interviews for my podcasts. And though it has a lot of very nice audio, video, and photo editing resources, it's light years away from being as good at these tasks as my MacBook.  

I'm not sure why Apple is refusing to make iOS a more robust computer-like operating system. Microsoft has essentially won the day with the Surface Book, when it comes to a mobile tablet and PC combo that does it all. Apple could run circles around them, if they wanted to. But, it seems, they don't want to. They have a pretty decent dual market going with these devices, so it seems likely that profit is the motive.

Until they decide to play in that field, however, I think I've got a 'decent enough' setup going. The work I do 90-95% of the time is writing, in one form or another, and the iPad excels at making this possible on a budget. The other 5-10% of task I need a computer for can be done from my MacBook, which is portable, after all. Just not as portable.  

I can live with that. 

For now. 


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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