For the last few years, Apple, Google, and Samsung have thrown around the term laptop replacements when it comes to their tablet offerings. But to date, that has not been delivered. There have been some recent offerings that come close though, with the iPad Pro series, the Google Pixel Slate, and the Galaxy Tab S line all trying to make this dream a reality. This week Apple announced the new iPadOS at their World Wide Developer Conference, but is this enough to make photographers ditch laptops for tablets? Let’s discuss after the break.
A recent post on Engadget highlights the critical features of Apple’s new iPad OS. To be fair, there are some considerable improvements in the software. For too long, tablets from Apple and others have relied heavily on software designed to be run on smartphones. That is something that has been holding back photographers and many other creators from fully embracing tablets as laptop replacements – the functionality in the software.
The new iPadOS features several vast improvements over previous versions of iOS on the platform. True multitasking is one feature that really stands out, as does having the ability to be able to create your own folders and files within the operating system (I know, hard to believe this is just now available). Users can also expect desktop quality web browsing, which is enormous! There will also be baked in support for external USB drives, SD cards, and a mouse! Finally! Some of these features have, of course, been available to users of Android tablets for quite some time, so it is nice to see Apple finally giving users basic laptop-like functionality here. So now that Apple has caught up to others in terms of a tablet OS that provides us with basic functionality, what else will it take for tablets to become bona fide laptop replacements?
For me, (and I am sure countless others) native onboard storage is still a big problem. Sure you can get tablets with up to 1TB of storage space, but my goodness, you pay for it. Manufacturers need to figure out how to drive costs down on tablets before they can become real laptop replacements. As it stands, you can spend three times less on a reliable laptop that is more powerful than a top of the line iPad Pro, which costs $1,879. I would love to be able to carry just an iPad around with me to edit images and to let clients swipe through their pictures, but I can do this on a convertible touchscreen Chromebook which cost $469! Tablets just aren’t cost-effective for most photographers out there, and lack of onboard storage is a significant issue.
Durability is another reason why tablets should not be considered laptop replacements just yet. Even the cheapest of laptops feel sturdier than tablets, and I feel far better about carrying my laptop in my camera bag than I do my iPad. A case in point is when I recently went on vacation and decided to take my iPad along for quick editing purposes. Within two days, the screen cracked. It was in a case, had a screen protector on it, and it was not tossed around, yet it still broke. Fortunately, I know how to replace the screen, so it was a cheaper fix for me. But again, until durability issues are fixed, I don’t think many photographers will happily toss a $1,879 iPad, or $1,399 Chrome Slate in their camera bag.
Peripherals are also another reason why tablets will not replace laptops any time soon; well, not until prices come down. At $179 for a keyboard for the 11-inch iPad pro, $199 for the 12.9-inch version, and $199 for a Chrome Slate keyboard, they’re simply too expensive. Throw in the new Apple Pencil, or the Google Pixelbook pen (tools which really make editing easier), and you have another $299 disappearing from your wallet on top of the price of the tablet.
At the end of the day, tablets need to be much cheaper before photographers and many other creatives take them on as their sole devices. Onboard storage issues need to be addressed, durability needs to be improved, and more professional level photo editing software like Capture One needs to be developed as well (not everyone wants to be caught in Adobe’s web). The cost of peripherals needs to come down too. Don’t get me wrong; tablets are great tools, and they can do the job if you have money to burn, but there is still a little more road to travel before they can be considered full laptop replacements. What do you think needs to change for tablets to become laptop replacements? Let us know in the comment section below.