Can You Live On Just An iPad?

Image: Apple

With the release of the 10.5-inch iPad and the upcoming laptop-friendly features of iOS 11, soon you'll be able to officially replace your laptop with a sheet of futuristic Apple glass. It's been a long time coming, but I thought I'd take it one step further, and see if you can replace your whole phone and laptop set up with an iPad instead.

The mission? To roll the features of an iPhone and a laptop into a single iPad device you use every day. Sounds easy, but turns out that there's still a few kinks to work out, especially when it comes to integrating the phone elements.

For the record: the iPad was never intended to replace the iPhone. These problems are pretty natural, seeing as how we're trying to force a bit of gear to do something it wasn't engineered to do. I just wanted to do it for a hoot!

Picking a device for the task was complicated, because you need something big enough that it can be easy to work on as a laptop replacement, but small enough that you can still carry it around as a pseudo-phone. To maximise productivity while maintaining portability then, I decided on the iPad Mini 4. Big enough to outshine the iPhone 7 Plus, narrow enough to fit into a jacket pocket or jeans pocket (provided it's a back pocket), and functional enough to still work on stuff that normally would require your laptop.

To turn the iPad Mini into a laptop is easy. Download your most-used apps and away you go. The iPad has come a long way as a laptop replacement device, and making it fit for purpose was simple. Office looks great, the suite of Adobe apps gets you what you need and iOS has always knocked it out of the park as a reading and browsing device.

The on-screen keyboard was sufficient to type on for short periods of time, but a Bluetooth keyboard or Zagg keyboard case wouldn't hurt if you wanted to try this for yourself over an extended period of time. Turning the iPad into an iPhone was a little harder, and in the end it requires you to start changing the people around you rather than changing the device itself.

I took my Vodafone SIM out of my iPhone 5 and stuck it into the iPad, and immediately set about virtualising my phone number so I could continue to receive calls on the device. Turns out this is almost always more trouble than its worth, and will sometimes cost you cash per month to do. Seeing as how I'm trying to do this as cheaply as possible, it soon became clear that this option wouldn't work, and that a little human engineering was required to get around the problem.

Because the iPad Mini 4 doesn't have a voice-based cellular antenna (it's just for cellular data, and it's great for that), taking calls on the thing wasn't going to fly. Instead what I did was put my SIM back into my phone to record a new voicemail message: "Hi, thanks for your call. Please message me on Facebook, Twitter or send me an email to get in touch, as I no longer make cell phone calls".

Very quickly, people got the message, and Gmail's Priority Inbox (recognising my regular contacts) started filtering messages perfectly. If people wanted to take a call, I'd use an OTT service to get in touch. Google Hangouts, Skype, Facebook Messenger and FaceTime Video/Audio all got a workout, depending on how people wanted to talk.

Despite the fact that I couldn't make "traditional" calls, talking to people became so much better because of the quality we were able to achieve via an OTT service. These services also integrate video as well as audio, which meant actually being face to face with the people I cared about on a big, bright screen that I could pocket fairly easily.

During the work week, it's pretty easy to live with an iPad as both your laptop and your phone, but on the weekend, it becomes a little more challenging, especially if you're as attached to your device as I am. You look a real knob taking your iPad (even if it's Mini) out at a pub. You become That Guy.

Honestly, the problem solves itself when you learn to simplify your lifestyle: don't be that dude who's constantly on his phone in the pub when he should really be talking to mates, watching the game or shouting for the next round. Don't be the person who needs to take their phone to the beach constantly: learn to unplug and leave it in the car instead.

One thing that really surprised me about the whole experience, however, was just how much more useful it made my Apple Watch.

The Watch is already something I rely on every day to play traffic cop with my time. It allows me to see if I need to pull my phone out to deal with a problem or just put it in the "do it later" pile. Switching to an iPad made the Watch even more vital. Because taking out your larger device becomes more of a thing when you're living with the iPad, the Watch plays traffic cop perfectly, and even allows you to sync music on the go so you don't have to take a large device into the gym, for example.

So, you definitely can replace your iPhone and laptop with an iPad Mini, but should you? That's up to you to decide.