When I was talking about my iPad Pro desktop replacement experiment, I mentioned Workflow, a powerful automation tool I use for tasks of many kinds on the iPad and iPhone. It lets you connect various features of many iOS apps in an easy to use interface that often reminds me of Apple Automator on the Mac, an application that Apple is slowly fading out in my opinion… or at least that is what I thought.
As it turned out, Apple just bought Workflow in March 2017, giving me new hope for more professional capabilities on iOS devices. Right now, the app provides the easiest way to generate workarounds for the various restrictions of many system and third party apps on iOS. For many things that are simple to do on a desktop machine, tasks need to be distributed between several iOS apps and chained together. Doing this manually takes forever, with Workflow it only takes longer than on a desktop machine.
With the acquisition I am hoping for a deeper integration into iOS that would allow for easier usage of workflows within and between apps. Also, I would consider it a good idea to broaden the number of preconfigured workflows to specifically target typical desktop tasks. If Apple is really serious about the iPad as desktop replacement, there is still much left to be done.
So I am looking forward to whatever will happen next.
While staying in Melbourne in February 2017, I chose to buy a mobile hotspot to stay online with the various devices I had with me. As in 2016, I chose Vodafone as the service provider, since they seem to offer the best network, coverage, value for money and data options.
I bought a 4G pocket wifi R216H mobile hotspot with a 30 day 8GB prepaid option for AUD 59 (about USD 45 or EUR 43). Any additional recharge would be AUD 30 for 8GB of 4G data.
During my time in Australia the pocket wifi mobile hotspot never failed me. I used it with up to 4 devices (2 iPhones, 1 iPad Pro and an Apple Watch) both in Melbourne and on the Great Ocean Road. The advertised 10 hour battery life is easily matched and with mobile battery packs this can easily be extended to have a full day of mobile internet access with just one SIM card and one prepaid package.
So for anyone traveling in Australia, I can definitely recommend both Vodafone as a decent service provider as well as the pocket wifi devices they offer in combination with their prepaid data plans.
Well, it has been a few months now and so far I did not regret my decision. I opted for an iPad Pro 9,2″ with an Apple Pencil and a backlit Logitech CREATE Smart Keyboard to explore a post PC setup for professional work once more. The setup is complemented by my iPhone 6S and Apple Watch. I plan to try it for at least 6 months and then decide whether to buy a Macbook/Macbook Pro or stick with it. So far, I think this might in fact change my entire tech outfit.
Back in 2010, when the original iPad was introduced, I was thrilled by the possibilities advertised and switched from my MacBook Pro to an iPad and tried to get everything done on tablet exclusively. Back then, I was working at Scholz & Friends as was involved in project management and corporate change management. I just implemented Google Apps for Work at the entire agency network and mainly used web based tools such as Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Things, some Adobe Products etc.
The main issues back then were performance related (lag when switching apps, unusable clipboard functionality, no multitasking, etc.) and problems while integrating with agency toolchains and workflows with the Adobe Creative Suite, PowerPoint and Apple Keynote. Although the iPad had proven to be a very portable device and great for presenting, it quickly failed the test of being able to substitute a full fledged Mac as a professional working tool. Still I tried it for almost 6 months, so I am pretty confident about what I liked and missed.
When the iPhone 6 Plus came out, I wanted to try it out, so I could get rid of the iPad Mini. Since I mostly used it for reading, it seemed like the larger iPhone might be a good way to reduce the number of devices. I was so wrong. The iPhone 6 Plus was the worst iPhone experience I had so far. I wrote up some notes on that some time ago and couldn’t wait for the iPhone 6S, which for some reason still is my current iPhone. Although far bigger than on older iPhone models, the iPhone 6S screen size doesn’t suit me personally for reading longer texts, so I am kind of back to reading serious texts on my Mac. (I might still try out the iPhone 7S for the dual camera setup, which I think is pretty neat).
The iPad Pro
When the large iPad Pro was announced in 2015, I was amazed by its performance benchmarks and the perspective the device holds for creative professionals. Still, when I took a looked at the device and held in my hands, I was sure it wasn’t right for me. It’s too big, too heavy and doubtful as a game changer to the way I used computers before.
In March 2016 though, Apple introduced the iPad Pro 9,2″, a smaller version of its bigger brother. Without going too much into technical details, it is basically the same iPad in a smaller iPad Air like size. The small iPad Pro comes with some additional features, such as the astonishing truetone display technology and the downside of just 2GB of RAM instead of 4GB in the larger iPad Pro. So what’s the difference for me you ask? Basically, it changes everything.
I must admit, I am not sure if I would love an iPad Pro in even smaller iPad Mini like size even more. Still, I think this is not only the best iPad (and tablet for that matter) that you can buy today, it opens another angle to a post PC professional working environment for me. Among many others, Walt Mossberg to think so too and wrote up the best “iPad as a Laptop replacement” review in my opinion.
What do I do with it?
Nowadays, I read a lot in a professional capacity, ranging from scientific journals and magazine articles to endless project reports, technical requirement lists and strategy documents among many other things. Also, I am more on the move than ever before, traveling a lot, communicating mostly via mail, instant messages/chat (far less #slack as one would imagine) and collaborating on documents with cloud based tools such as G Suite (formerly Google for Work) and more recently iCloud (Keynote and Pages mostly). Since most of my daily tools are highly optimized for mobile usage, I am confident not to miss out on anything over using a desktop machine.
The real benefit comes with reading documents (mainly PDFs). For years I have been trapped again behind my desktop screen, reading and marking PDFs, scrolling through comments etc. all while sitting at a desk or in a somewhat uncomfortable pose with the laptop on my lap. With the Apple Pencil and the high performance iPad Pro, for the very first time it feels like I am actually faster on the iPad than on a regular Mac and in fact faster than on paper.
I especially like Workflow, an app that allows you to choose from or create automation workflows to optimise seemingly long click-thru processes on the iPad. It feels like Automator for Mac, an application than Apple seems to be fading out slowly.
Of course there are more apps I use on the iPad, but they are the usual suspects for communication, media consumption, travel, shopping etc.
Although there is still ample room for improvements for efficient ways to do complicated things on the iPad, there is far more than can be done than I would have expected a few years ago. I will let you know, how it goes from here.
During A/D/A Hamburg I joined new media artist Jeremy Bailey as a mentor for his 3 day Lean Artist seed accelerator workshop. It basically was a boot camp based on design thinking and lean startup principles to create culturally disruptive startups.
On the first day I joined the selected group of 10 international artists with a cynical review of the worldwide startup economy to promote a more creative approach to generating relevant startup ideas. Jeremy kicked the event off with an accelerated design thinking workshop to generate needs and insights for problem statements. Over the course of 3 days the cohort created startup ideas and iterated product prototypes and pitched their artistic business ideas for additional funding on the last day.
Apple has indeed changed very much over the years. I don’t want to talk about what happened in the 80ies or 90ies or how Steve Jobs saved the company. I also don’t want to talk about the iPod or the even bigger iPhone and iPad era. Neither do I want to point out how Apple might be changing since Steve Jobs passed away. That has been said and discussed abundantly. Recently I started thinking more and more about Apple’s rapidly growing software and services business with its subscription models.
“Once upon a time, Apple was a hardware company that also maintained a software and media ecosystem since it helped drive purchases of Macs, iPods and more. But over the years, the software and services side of the business has become increasingly important, and CEO Tim Cook even went so far as to state out right that Apple is “not a hardware company.” Not once, but twice.”
Quite obviously, I couldn’t agree more. iTunes, Apps, movie rentals and recent subscription services such as Apple Music are making up for a substantial share of Apple’s revenue. Most interesting are developments with the subscription models, I think. These services provide a steady and projectable revenue stream and might be very appealing in contrast to regular sales, which are more volatile even for Apple.
That’s probably why Apple is experimenting more with subscription based models for a variety of their products. There is iCloud storage, which is becoming more and more affordable, and Apple Music with family options but thats far from it. Apple also introduced a subscription model for the iPhone, the iPhone Upgrade Program, basically allowing customers to get a new iPhone each year for a premium starting at $ 32.41 per month for the smallest iPhone version. Apple is offering up to 0% financing and leasing models for creative professionals and businesses as well, which could be considered as kind of subscription like as well.
Apple could be offering subscription like models for every product they have, converting much of their regular sales revenues into projectable continues revenues. And since we are talking about Apple, they would not be not aiming for a $ 9.99 $ per month target, not even $ 99.99 if you think about it.
Take into consideration my current Apple outfit, which is far from high end compared im my opinion. I use a high end Macbook Pro 13″ Retina, a iPhone 6S 64 GB, an iPad Mini 4 64 GB, an Apple TV 64 GB, an Apple Watch, another moderately pimped Mac Mini, a Thunderbolt Display and some amount of adapters and software in addition to an Apple Music and iCloud storage subscription. Even if I consider yearly updates for the iPhone and updates for the Macbook Pro and everything else every 3 years (which I consider to be very conservative), it amounts to quite some money.
Based on current Apple product pricing (November 2015) in the US, this would amount to $ 9,137.16 over a 3 year period, not considering potential returns from reselling used products. But in fact, this might not be possible in a subscription model if things turn out the way they do with the iPhone Upgrade Program, where you are required to return the iPhone to Apple when receiving the newer version, as far as I understand it.
iPhone 6S 64GB Upgrade Program = $ 36.58/month x 36 = $ 1,316.88 (basically 2 additional iPhones)
iPad Mini 4 64GB Wifi + Cellular = $ 629
Apple TV 64 GB = $ 199
Apple Watch Sport 42mm = $ 399
Mac Mini 3.0 GHz, 16 GB memory, 1 TB fusion drive = $ 1,399
Thunderbolt Display = $ 999
Adapters & Software = $ 200
Apple Music Family = $ 14.99/month x 36 = $ 539.64
iCloud storage plan 200 GB = $ 2.99 /month x 36 = $ 107.64
This insanely sum would come down to $ 253.81 per month. This is without tax and without any interest for a service offering like this. I would suppose if Apple adds Apple Care and other support coverages, it would be even more. On the other hand, there might be discounts and various other factors, which could reduce sum considerably. Anyway, a conceivable Apple as a Service subscription service might come down to something of a medium 3 digit amount of $$$ per month easily, even with just a moderate Apple outfit. Just consider a creative professional using an upscale iMac or Mac Pro outfit with some additional peripherals.
Taking Apple’s huge profit margin into consideration (up from 1.23% in 2003 to 21.60 % in 2015), Apple might in fact be able to offer services like this for a select group of customers and could provide products in advance, collecting its revenue over the installment of the service.
In any case, it was kind of shocking to sum up the amount of money I spend on Apple products each year. Compared to any other subscriptions I have, this is definitely the most expensive one. But still, I wouldn’t want to miss out on any part of it.
“Apple today announced financial results for the first fiscal quarter of 2015, which corresponds to the fourth calendar quarter of 2014. For the quarter, Apple posted revenue of $74.6 billion and net quarterly profit of $18 billion, or $3.06 per diluted share, compared to revenue of $57.6 billion and net quarterly profit of $13.1 billion, or $1.98 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter.”
Personally, I was absolutely certain I would buy the iPhone 6 when I went to the Apple Store a few months back. For sure, I didn’t want a bulky mini tablet for a phone… so iPhone 6 Plus was out of the question.
When I first tried the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, they both seemed huge in comparison to my outdated iPhone 5S. None of the two I could operate with one hand, reachability feature or not.
For comparison, I tried different apps on both sizes, played with the horizontal mode on the iPhone 6 Plus (a nice gimmick, I might add) and thought about things like battery life and so forth. I couldn’t try Apple Pay, since it wasn’t available yet and probably won’t be for some time in Germany. Although I was pretty impressed by the fact that the iPhone 6 Plus has a full HD resolution display with 1920 by 1080 pixels at 401 dpi, the deciding factor for me was: reading.
I never enjoyed reading any long text whatsoever on any iPhone before. I know many people do, I don’t. No longer – with the iPhone 6 Plus, I could actually read books, I like that. So now, here I am, with my iPhone 6 Plus.
My iPad Mini has been pretty lonely ever since. I used it for reading books and playing games, that’s basically it. I did use it for work and really liked the whole management by iPad stuff, but somehow that changed over the past 2 years. I am not quite sure, whether it is that the Google Apps for Work applications suck or that a 13″ Macbook Pro with retina display can do everything a Macbook Air never could.
Anyway, I decided I won’t be needing any iPad Mini anymore. This definitely justified the investment in the iPhone 6 Plus.
For the reading part, this has been great. The iPad Mini is heavy, the iPhone 6 Plus is not. I like to read in bed, so this is awesome. I have read quite some books on my new best friend, rest assured.
But, there is one more thing that always sucked on an iPhone and didn’t suck that much on an iPad and now I miss it: using a browser.
This goes for any website our there: I really can’t stand shitty mobile UI any more! I want to use the desktop site (with often shitty UI as well) with all its limitation unless there really is a superior mobile interface available. For absolutely most sites, there isn’t. Yes I know, on some sites you can switch to the desktop site, but you can’t enforce this as a default behaviour on Safari or Chrome. This is a real pain and I can hardly stand it when I am on the go and there is no real alternative because of the limited number of devices on me… but wait, there could be: the iPad Mini.
So in the end, I might end up using the iPad Mini again after all, sitting on the couch, enjoying a superior browsing experience.
The reason why I didn’t think of this, standing in the Apple Store, trying the iPhone 6 Plus? I was on the go and mentally accustomed to a shitty internet experience, that’s why.
While I was traveling to the wilds of Germany yesterday, 2K Games released one of my childhood’s favorite games for iPad: Sid Meier’s Pirates!. First I hoped it might actually be an adaption of the first version of the game, which was released in 1987 and I liked best. Sadly it isn’t, but anyway…
Sid Meier’s Pirates is an adaptation of a PC game that came out in 2004, an homage to a much earlier game originally developed for Commodore 64 in 1987. The game puts you in the role of an enterprising young pirate captain as you collect treasure maps, go on missions and rescues, and fight other pirates on the high seas.
The game includes Game Center functionality and promises some iPad specific features, such as improved graphics, additional visual effects and piratizing one’s picture with the iPad 2 camera. The gameplay seems to be as usual, beginning with the game’s setup. All experience levels and more importantly al statt dates seem to be included. With just a few clicks the adventure can begin. On first glance the controls seem to be fitting to the iPad. So nothing stands between me and some exciting naval battles. I certainly know, what I will do this weekend… For those of you who want to join me, take at look at the Sid Meier’s Pirates! microsite.
As I was updating my Keynote for iPad app today, I notices two things: 1 – it now runs on the iPhone, 2 – it supports the Keynote Remote app. I like this app already as it allows me to remote control my desktop Keynote presentations. With the combination of these two apps, the iPad 2 finally becomes a powerful business device. As I have an iPhone anyway I am good to go with my new presentation setup.
Using the video mirroring functionality of the iPad 2, I can show my entire iPad 2 screen on any display or projector using a VGA or HDMI adapter. Also I can use the keynote app to show my presentations without carrying a macbook around. In the Keynote app’s settings remote control can be enabled. You need to pair your iPhone running the Keynote Remote app as you would do with your desktop Mac.
I really like how easy this works. I get all the features I want out of my apps with a free upgrade. I have full presentation control with my iPhone, I can move around and see my notes while the iPad is connected to the projector.
There is just one more thing I need: Airplay for everything. I would really appreciate the ability to stream my entire iPad or iPhone screen to any screen available. Let’s see, where we go from here.