Main Versus Only

On a bonus edition of the BirchTree Podcast, Matt Birchler had an interesting point regarding the debate about tablets being a viable alternative to the Mac. The thought was sparked by an episode of Versus with Lauren Goode, in which she says “people are wondering, can you use a tablet as your main computer?”

As Matt notes, the distinction of main computer instead of only computer is often lost in the conversation. This isn’t a zero-sum game — using an iPad doesn’t mean you have to remove Macs from your life entirely. Even the most adamant iPad-only nerds continue to use Macs on regular basis — myself included. The frequency might be decreasing as the platform’s capabilities grow, but the Mac still has a place in our lives. Albeit, on a much smaller scale.

When I want to write, read the news, edit photos, manage Initial Charge, communicate with friends and family, or perform most other daily tasks, I reach for my iPad. But I still use a Mac for hosting media with Plex, performing some web development, and working with a large number of files at once. The iPad is my main computer, but certainly isn’t my only computer.

An additional wrinkle within this conversation is the smartphone. Matt would consider his smartphone to be his main computer. He reads the news, plays games, listens to podcasts, checks email, and does most of his communication on his smartphone. And I don’t think Matt’s alone. I bet a lot of people would be shocked at how much more they do on their smartphones than they realize — even all the die-hard Mac users.

I expect I’m probably in that same camp, too. I certainly do a lot on my iPhone and because I’ve built all of my workflows around iOS, just about everything I do on my iPad, I can also do on my iPhone. Some of it is easier on the iPad, because of its larger screen, but all of it is possible.

Even taking that into consideration, though, I still think of my iPad as my main computer. Because of the nature of my job, I don’t have many opportunities to use my iPhone throughout the work day. I’ll pick it up here and there to check Tweetbot for a few minutes or do some quick math in Calzy, but it mostly lives in my pocket.

Of course, I use my iPhone to listen to podcasts in the car or do some miscellaneous computing while I’m out of the house — mapping, comparison shopping, fixing typos on the site, etc. — but the amount of work I do on my iPad while I’m at home vastly outweighs anything I do on my iPhone. On my days off, my iPad is with me from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. And on many of those days, my iPhone doesn’t even leave my nightstand.

But when we’re having the debate of Mac versus iPad, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a binary argument. Most iPad users still find utility in owning a Mac and vice versa. The discussion should be molded around that idea to prevent it from devolving into a holy war. iPads are better at some tasks and Macs are better at others. Let’s collectively determine what each platform’s strength is rather than cling to petty infighting.