One of the subjects that deserves an occasional revisit is what I really, truly need a Mac for. My iPad becomes more capable with each passing year, and the release of iOS 9 in late 2015 was one of the biggest leaps forward that the iPad has seen in a while.
I can probably get about 70-80% of what I need done on my iPad Pro; and there are many activities like task management and location look-ups that I do almost exclusively on the iPad. However, there are still a few outlier tasks that I really can’t accomplish on the iPad, and which still require either iTunes, Photos, or OS X to complete.
Full Photo Management
I’ve written a few tips & tricks articles recently about taking advantage of the metadata generated by a Mac and using it within iOS, but the point is that I still need the Mac to accomplish these things. The Mac is the only machine that will let me tag photos with keywords and faces, or filter my photo collection by metadata like the camera make or lens. There’s also one really big advantage to editing images within the Photos app of OS X: you can tap left or right while editing an image to quickly move to the next one. iOS doesn’t have quite as many editing controls (ex. there’s no sharpness or grain slider), but the clincher is that you have to edit photos one at a time, save the changes, and then move onto the next picture.
I’d love for Apple to concentrate on the other side of photography in iOS 10 — the management and manipulation of our images. We’re getting there by covering basics like deleting photos from albums, but adding keywords, faces, and faster photo editing would be very high on my wish list for iOS 10.
Still Tethered to iTunes
I barely ever sync my iPad with iTunes any more; it really only happens every few months when I need to add some files or do a manual backup to the Mac. I do still need iTunes for manipulating metadata on my files, though. iTunes lets me normalize the volume on particularly loud files, or lets me set markers within a file so that I can skip the painfully long intro on a song. I also took a lot of time to tag my songs with embedded lyrics and high-resolution artwork.
None of this can be done on iOS, where management is limited to deleting songs, managing playlists, and adding stars.
Full-fledged video editing
This is by far one of the toughest aspects of working on iOS: the inability to just grab video from my camera and start playing with it in an editor. Final Cut Pro and iMovie on OS X can recognized the Sony .mp4 files on my SD card quickly, and I’m usually up and running within minutes of plugging my camera in.
iOS still continues to struggle with importing XAVC-S video from Sony cameras, and the available features within iOS apps like iMovie and Pinnacle Pro still lag far behind what’s available on the Mac. The biggest struggle here is the obfuscated file system on iOS devices, which makes it difficult to add custom audio and images without importing those files through multiple steps. Long story short: as amazing as the iPad Pro is at processing 4K video, it’s still a pain to work with video at any resolution because the tools just aren’t as powerful.
iOS is Catching Up
The Mac is slowly, but surely being displaced as the device at the center of my Apple digital ecosystem. This is not a narrative about the decreasing need for a Mac or a preference for iOS over OS X, but rather a desire to have each device feel like an extension of the same platform. I like being able to choose the form factor of my device for the task at hand, and many of the things that I still need a Mac for are purely held back by software.
I don’t think the iPad needs to adopt the full file system of OS X to gain this power, but I would love to see re-imagined equivalents to these features hit iOS 10. My ideal would be that I would no longer need the Mac to accomplish a particular task — especially now that iPad Pros and Macs are reaching the same price ranges — but that I would be allowed the freedom to choose which form factor suits me best at the time. The really encouraging thing is that iOS 9 (and especially iOS 9.3) show me that we are getting there.