The iPad’s “jobs”
There are digital tasks for which the iPad is better-suited than a smartphone or laptop.
For example, drawing on the iPad (with the Apple Pencil) is fantastic. Not so much on the other devices (even if you pair a Wacom to your Mac). Or consider minimalist text entry, for which the “iPad + Smart Keyboard” combo is uniquely suited. The Mac feels over-built for that simple job, and the iPhone’s software keyboard falls short.
Despite these legit use cases, I didn’t preorder an iPad Pro last week. Honestly, the inflated entry price scared me off; sure, I like to draw and to write without distractions, but would I do those things enough to justify that much cash? Probably not.
Other (cheaper) tools for the same job
I’m bummed to miss out on the hotness, but here’s the thing: I can meet these “needs” without dropping $1,200 on an iPad Pro, a Smart Keyboard, and an Apple Pencil. It simply requires some creativity—and some willingness to compromise.
Here’s my recipe for a “$100 iPad”:
Use Case #1: Drawing
- A new 7” x 10” drawing pad. No, I’m not talking about a Wacom device or an Android tablet. This is literally a $7 book of drawing paper!
- A few color markers for “funning up” my line drawings. Total cost for 72 fine and extra-fine colors: about $30.
- I already had some nice graphic pens, pencils for sketching, and a big honking eraser, but you could pick these up for $20 or less.
Use Case #2: Minimalist text entry
The iPhone works perfectly well for distraction-free writing. In fact, that’s pretty much how I took notes in grad school—on an iPod Touch, paired to an old Palm keyboard. That screen was much smaller than that on my iPhone X.
Here’s what I picked up this time around:
- A folding stand from Anker to hold the iPhone upright. Eleven bucks.
- A new folding Bluetooth keyboard. (Unfortunately, I immediately shipped this back to Amazon; its build quality and typing feel failed to measure up. I’m still on the lookout for a decent keyboard that folds into a pocketable form factor. In the meantime, I’ll use this less portable AmazonBasics model, which isn’t awful. It cost $26 when I bought it.)
All told, then, since I already own a smartphone, I can cover the iPad’s core uses for less than $100.
The obvious disclaimer: the real iPad is better
If cost weren’t a factor, I’d rather have an iPad Pro than a bag full of markers and phone accessories. It’s convenient to have one device that can do it all in a portable, compact package. But, as a novice artist who doesn’t need a dedicated minimalist writing device, the convenience of the iPad Pro is not worth $1,000+. ■