Let’s get one thing out of the way first – we love the iPad and think splitting iPadOS off from iOS is a truly great idea.

The iPad is a computer in a different way that your phone is a computer. And in a different way that your laptop is a computer. But it’s still a real computer – who is anybody to say it's not.

However, while there’s no right or wrong way to use an iPad, there is something wrong with the assertion that the iPad is great for multitasking. Because it's still limited, even in iPadOS. 

This particular writer uses a 12.9-inch old-style iPad Pro and it’s an extremely powerful device, capable of great many tasks. Of course, there are some who use an iPad exclusively – and if you’re typing stuff, using email, browsing websites, using Google Docs or whatever then an iPad can do the job.

But it’s a fact that the iPad is still limited for multitasking between lots of apps. Two apps plus Slide Over? Then cool. iPadOS will also enable you to have multiple instances of the same app, which is great.

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But, at the moment, I’ve got Slack, Photoshop Elements, WhatsApp, two Chrome windows with loads of tabs and two Word documents open on my laptop’s desktop and I’m flicking between them all constantly.

The iPad still is not at this level – though that’s not to say it won’t be in the future - iPadOS does pave the way to better multitasking in future, especially with the potential of iPadOS as a distinct, more powerful operating system than iOS. 

The only machine you need?

But at the moment, I just don’t feel confident taking ONLY my venerable iPad Pro out with me knowing that I can do everything on it that the day throws at me.

Part of this is that it’s still limited for dealing with files – though Apple is fixing this in iPadOS and it’s not something that Macs and PCs are great at either.

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Both macOS and Windows complicate this process – at the moment I’m on Windows, yesterday I was on a Mac. Both have pretty shoddy sharing of content between apps – if I get something in my mail, why can’t I send it to Photoshop right away without saving it locally. iOS (or iPadOS in the future) is actually often better at this side of things.

Mouse support

One of the most interesting features in iPadOS is that there’s mouse support – but Apple doesn’t want it surfaced as a key feature as it’s hidden away in Accessibility settings. The fact it’s there reveals a truth – that a mouse and pointer is far better for heavy use of fine-control stuff like selecting text.

Of course, Apple Pencil is also a good substitute for this, but have you ever tried to type and use Apple Pencil interchangeably?

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In a way, Apple’s new Sidecar feature for macOS Catalina perhaps identifies how to think about the relationship – the iPad as subservient to the Mac. But that’s not what Apple says, of course. And actually, the confusion around the positioning of these devices is Apple’s fault.

The MacBook Pro is for Pro users who want to “make something wonderful” – a performance machine for creatives. But the iPad Pro also “does everything you need” and Apple hasn’t exactly been secretive at touting it as a laptop replacement. The decision is not easy and the way the options are presented is confusing.

One thing is for sure though – the iPad is growing in stature as a computer and iPadOS naturally helps with this. And, as time goes on we’re sure it’ll get even better at multitasking. Certainly no longer can it be said that the iPad is a poor laptop substitute.

In the end, of course, there are many variables. Whether you need a laptop or an iPad or both, which you choose depends on what you need to do and what apps you need. After all, it’s what you create with it that counts.