Struggling with mobile options

Too many options?

Too many options?

I use desktop computers at home and at the office and I’ve been struggling to figure out what to use as a mobile solution. I have an older MacBook Pro that has become slow and somewhat unreliable. I’ve been without an iPad since I gave my first generation iPad Mini to my daughter. 

My mobile needs are significantly different than my desktop needs. I’m not looking for a mobile device to serve as my main computer. I don’t need to edit massive files in Photoshop or build complex documents in InDesign. My music and photos are in the cloud and my storage needs aren’t significant if you take those out of the picture.

Of course, most of my computer experience is with the MacOS. But iOS has made strides in the last couple versions that make it a more complete OS. New apps like Ulysses and Adobe Comp make iOS an interesting option. I really do believe that most of my mobile work can be done on either a Mac or iOS device. 

I use Ulysses for most of my writing and I’ve got the app for Mac and iPad. Byword is my go to markdown app for notes and that’s on Mac, iPad and iPhone. I can access Squarespace, Dropbox, Evernote, Wunderlust and Feedly from any device as well. I might occasionally need to present with it and that shouldn’t be a problem, either.

I don’t plan on doing much designing on the device and am not buying a Creative Cloud subscription for the computer so I don’t need to worry about InDesign or Photoshop. The one app I need a Mac for is Glyphs, but most of my type design happens on my home desktop machine so it’s not a deal breaker.

With the way Apple has their current mobile line configured, I’ve got at least six options at a range of price points for Mac or iOS devices that would meet my needs. And I’ll freely admit that I have no idea which direction I will go. As I see it, here are my options for a secondary, mobile computer:

Upgrade my current MacBook Pro. Jason Snell recently posted an article describing the process of upgrading his mother’s older MacBook Pro. Adding an SSD and upgrading the RAM would make the MacBook Pro considerably faster. And I’m wondering if a clean install would help as well. The price is a little less than $200 for making the needed changes and would give me a reasonably powerful Mac that could run everything I need it to. There are drawbacks, though. The older MacBook Pro and its charger is heavy. Believe me, I know when it is in my bag. Additionally, the battery life isn’t close to what is available with other options.

MacBook Air. My wife has an 11 inch MacBook Air and loves her laptop. It would be more than powerful enough to run everything I need and then some. The price point for the entry level MacBook Air is $899, which I think is reasonable for such a small, powerful machine. I don’t need a lot of storage space on the machine so the base model should be fine. The main drawback is that it’s one of the last, non-Retina Macs in the lineup and I’m not sure about buying a new machine that already has an out of date display.

MacBook. The MacBook is thinner and lighter than the MacBook Air. It looks awesome in Space Grey. It’s underpowered, but would be able to do the things I need it to. And it has a Retina display. So what’s not to love? The price. At $1299, you are paying a premium for its small size and Retina display. In a couple of years, the MacBook will be cheaper and more powerful. But for now, it seems a little expensive for a second machine.

MacBook Pro. A 13 inch MacBook Pro starts at $1299, so when I mention the MacBook as an option, I also need to think about the MacBook Pro. But my gut reaction is that a new MacBook Pro is overkill for my second machine.

iPad Pro. The iPad Pro is now in stores and I’m intrigued. I’ve played with it in the store and it’s big, but not too big. It feels like a clipboard or a legal pad in your hand. The Apple Pencil has gotten great reviews and I think I would really love it. I do believe I can do most of my mobile work on iOS. It’s an investment, though. The price starts at $799. But I’d probably get the 128 MB version with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. So the total price there would be over $1,200. Again, a significant investment for a secondary machine.

iPad Mini or Air. I don’t necessarily need to go with a iPad Pro to do my work on iOS. An iPad Mini 4 or an iPad Air 2 would be plenty powerful, just without the awesome pencil available for the iPad Pro. I really do like the Mini form factor and they start at $399, so it’s a more affordable price point. And the iPad Air 2 is an option, too. But I almost feel like I’d spend a little more to get an iPad Pro before I settled for an Air 2.

So what am I going to do?

I really have no idea. I’m leaning toward upgrading my current MacBook to buy me some time to make a decision. The MacBook Air is probably my second choice with the iPad Mini right behind it. I really don’t see spending the money to get a MacBook, MacBook Pro or iPad Pro as a secondary computer.

But I think it’s interesting that I’m considering iOS as a mobile solution for me. Apple is developing iOS into a full-fledged second platform — a second platform that interacts relatively effortlessly with the MacOS. As new apps develop that take advantage of increasingly more powerful hardware, I think iOS will become a better solution for many people.