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Morning Walk #40
How I’m using iPad Pro as my only computer as a Product Manager
Hi. I’m Stepa Mitaki. I’m a product person and an entrepreneur. I’ve been working in 🏙 govtech for eight years and currently work at a UK-based 🏦 fintech startup Silverbird while building a new company in 👩🏼⚕️ health tech on the side.
Morning Walk is a personal weekly newsletter where I share some musings on tech, digital healthcare, working on startups, productivity, some nerdy stuff and an occasional share of reflections on the Ukraine war and how it feels being Russian at this moment in history.
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👨🏻💻 How I’m using iPad Pro as my only computer as a Product Manager
I’m on the road again for the next couple of weeks which means I’m back to primarily using the iPad Pro as my only computer. Limiting myself only to an iPad after using mainly iMac clears out the use cases in which it excels and not so much. I have brought a Magic Mouse to enhance the experience this time around.
Before going iPad-only again for a couple of weeks, I turned to popular iPad-themed blogs and YouTube channels for some tips, tricks, and inspiration on their setup. What limits these resources, I found, is that the authors only talk about their own workflows. And since all of them are bloggers, these tend to showcase only use cases around video editing, writing, text editing, research, publishing, and sharing content. Many people of other professions are going iPad-only, but we don’t know much about their iPad workflows.
So today, I wanted to uncover more on how exactly the iPad fits into the life of a Product Manager and maybe give you some idea whether you, as PM, should switch to one or not.
For me, the biggest reason why I love the iPad is the idea of a true modular computer. It can be a tablet, a laptop if you connect it to a Magic Keyboard, or a desktop workstation if you connect it to a big display. No other Apple device has that ability.
I have to be honest, most of the tasks are still easier to perform on the Mac. It’s true no matter what anyone would ever say to you. Not all of them but most. But I’m willing to sacrifice that convenience from time to time to gain this multimodality of an iPad.
Besides, there is some unutterable joy in using this thing. I can’t explain this. It feels different. Maybe it’s just because I want to feel it differently.
Anyway, let’s dive deep into the tasks I perform most days as a Product Manager. I won’t cover personal use cases (going through your family photos, watching Netflix, and other stuff), as we are here to talk business.
1. Communication (text based)
This is the bread on butter of any manager, I believe. I talk to people a lot. Mainly over Slack, but some other apps might be involved from time to time.
First things first, writing on the iPad using Magic Keyboard is one of my most enjoyable experiences. Even when I’m on the iMac, I will switch to an iPad if I need to write long-form. Why is that? Probably because of the keyboard’s feel and the size of the screen. There are no distractions, and you can entirely focus on this single activity.
Slack app is okay. Its iPadOS version is slightly worse than the Mac counterpart. For instance, it doesn’t have an “All Unreads” section for some reason, and you can drag files to share them, but aside from that, you can get by.
2. Video conferencing
I always use the iPad for work video calls, even when on the iMac. I simply don’t like the angle of the iMac’s camera. It would show my whole room over me, including the bed, while the iPad shows only a part of the wall and the ceiling.
Zoom app is limited at large calls. For instance, you can’t see everyone all at once if someone is presenting their screen.
Google Meet is excellent; it feels like it’s working even better than on the Mac.
You can’t share your screen and simultaneously have an active video of yourself. That’s a bit annoying but not that bad.
The first time I share my screen to someone new, people see the iPad interface, and they are like 😲 It’s fun.
The best part is that I can take my iPad off the Magic Keyboard and walk around my room when on the call (if I turn off the video, obviously). You can get to espace your desk and moving helps me think.
3. Design review
I often need to review designs in Figma. It’s a bit clunky to type comments there, but aside from that, the experience is fantastic. You can quickly draw something over with the Apple Pencil; generally, leaving comments is much easier.
Google Analytics and Google Spreadsheets are okay. It always feels like for analytics, you need a bigger screen real estate, and that’s probably the biggest issue, but once you connect to a desktop monitor, it’s practically the same.
5. Composing documents
This is where you can truly feel the difference between web-based and native apps. And you get to appreciate the latter.
Notion is the worst. Okay, not the worst, it’s bearable, but because it’s a web-based app on the iPad, you can feel why it shouldn’t be that way. If you have an iPhone, you probably know how it feels to use Notion on iOS. You can do stuff, but it’s clunky; it could refresh unexpectedly, you can’t easily select things, and so on. The iPad experience is identical. Oh, and you practically can’t edit anything offline.
That’s the reason I’m trying to switch to Craft app. It is similar to Notion in capabilities, but it’s a native app and thus feels terrific on the iPad. But they still lack many essential features, like people tagging and boards.
The same goes for Confluence and Google Docs. I can create, edit and comment on docs there, but the experience is not that pleasant.
6. Planning and strategic thinking
This is the broadest category on this list, so you can choose whatever tools you want because it is so broad. I stick to a good old-fashioned whiteboard, some markers, and one simple app to put it up together once I’m done. Craft or Miro would do the trick.
This is where the iPad truly shines. You pick it up as a tablet, sit on the couch with the Apple Pencil and start reading and noting stuff.
Muse is one of the most innovative and exciting apps on the market right now and helps save your unstructured research notes.
Miro works okay, but it’s another web-based app and thus doesn’t perform well offline, and you have to wait often while it loads up stuff.
Apple Notes, with its new Quick Note feature, is incredible.
8. Education (reading, video consumption)
Another side where the iPad performs at its best. I especially like how I can quickly make a screenshot with the Apple Pencil while watching a YouTube video and scribble my notes on top of it. It’s phenomenal.
Writing, reading, and research are areas where the iPad shines the most.
It’s incredible how you can instantly switch modes with the iPad. One moment I’m writing a document at my desk, and the next, I can pick it up from the keyboard and lay on the couch to read a long article.
Many apps are limited, not because of the iPad’s limitation but rather the developer’s choice.
Apps limitations are the biggest downside of the iPad. For example, Slack and Notion on the iPadOS don’t support drag and drop. You can’t quickly move a file from Slack to Notion by dragging it across the screen. However, it is available system-wide but not on these apps.
There are plenty of iPad-centered native alternatives, but you’d have to switch your entire workflow around them (and probably your company’s).
You begin to hate web-based apps (e.g., Notion, Google Docs, Miro).
As I have mentioned above, even though there are still many downsides to the iPad, I want to keep using it because of its multimodality and Apple’s commitment to improving it. I believe that by building market demand bottom-up, it would be possible to improve most existing apps to support iPadOS fully.
But besides third-party apps, Apple is on the path to turning the iPad into an entirely new device capable of being your only computer. They’ve added an M1 chip to their latest models and now introduced Stage Manager in iPadOS 16, which significantly enhances the user experience and, in my opinion, might become a turning point in the mass adoption of an iPad as a computer idea.
Things I've been reading/watching/enjoying
👨🏻⚕️ The state of telehealth: digital providers, their communication tech stack & future trends (read)
The title says it’s all—an excellent summary of where telehealth is right now. And I’m pretty convinced we are still at the very early stages, and the complete rethinking of telehealth will happen in the next 5-10 years. Telehealth shouldn’t even be a word. It’s not a new model to receive care, but rather how you could leverage technology to rethink care delivery altogether.
Telehealth breaks the “health care = doctor visit” pattern: As touch points with a doctor become much more manageable, this paves the model for continuous care.
🧩 How to do hard sudokus in 10 minutes (video)
Okay, I have a confession to make. I’ve got addicted to solving sudokus recently. It’s a guilty please of mine, and I like how nerdy it is. It started with a fun app I’ve downloaded to my iPhone to play around with for a bit but grew into watching this kind of videos of streaming solving hard sudokus in real-time.
🎮 Tender: Creature comforts (game)
Another guilty please of mine recently. I rarely play games, but the concept got me hooked immediately. Basically, it’s a Tinder simulator where you swipe through intergalactic profiles, chat with them, schedule dates, and unfold an array of hilarious storylines.
The app is hysterical, but I’m more impressed by how well-crafted it is. This App Store review sums it up quite nicely:
The pacing is slow but I think it really adds to the story in the sense of giving the app a realistic feel to it. I also like how characters are a mixed bag, some are pretty much dead ends or the conversation can’t go anywhere. Not only is this also realistic, but those interactions can be just as fun and entertaining as the gems you find on the app. There’s also a high replayability, I’ve replayed a couple times now and you can not only go after different people but also play around with different conversations and see how responses might change. Looking forward to how they may add to this game in the future, but right now it’s def worth the price for an entertaining story and endearing characters.
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That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Until next week 👋🏻
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