The iPad has always struggled to find a place in my computing life. Not that I haven’t wanted to use it, but it’s historically been a much more limited device than my laptop, while lacking the portability of my iPhone. It didn’t help that I opted for an iPad 3, which was a compromised device thanks to the retina display. While it was fine for a couple versions, OS updates only dragged the performance down—and as for the fancy new features? Forget it.
It did find a niche as where I read my RSS feeds in the morning, read comic books at night, and occasionally banging out words on the go. Not that I did much of the latter. The iPad 3 lacked the portability of the previous models—it felt heavy in my bag, so I mostly left it at home on the dining table. In some ways, it felt like I’d spent $500 on an entertainment device that I could occasionally use for “real” work if I wanted to put up with the limitations of the hardware and software.
About a month in with the iPad Air 2, however, and I’m singing a very different tune. Where the iPad 3 was fun to use, it never made me want to use it more, even before OS updates caused it to slow down. The Air 2 is fast and flexible enough that it can not only do a huge chunk of what I can do on my Mac, but it does it well enough that I want to use it more. I understand how Myke Hurley feels about his iPad Pro now. Doing some stuff on the iPad is slower, but it feels… better somehow.
It turns out the Git client, Working Copy, works as an iOS Document Provider. So, I can use a programming text editor, like Textastic to do the editing, and the changes propagate back into Working Copy where I can test in its integrated browser. It’s not perfect: Textastic hasn’t been updated for split-screen multitasking yet, but it works well enough that I was able to push some bug fixes back into my GitHub repository right from my iPad. That’s incredible.
Maybe the iPad won’t have a niche. Maybe it’ll become the computer I choose to do most of my work on. I don’t see that happening any time soon. There’s still too many limitations to iOS and the iPad hardware right now, but that’s a temporary problem. Apple’s shown they want make the iPad into something powerful enough for more than just content consumption. I wouldn’t be surprised in a year or two if Apple releases a version of Xcode for the iPad, if only because I can’t imagine iOS Engineers not wanting to write code for their platform on the platform. Until then, I’m happy with my Air 2 and it’s capabilities—but I’m also eyeing the iPad Pro with more than a bit of gadget lust.