Last month, disaster stuck as my margarita-drenched Macbook Pro decided to finally give up the fight.
I then nearly joined it after spending a week dealing with Apple’s horrible customer service from a tiny town in Mexico.
However, before I had decided to replace my laptop, I spent three weeks attempting to convince myself that it didn’t actually need to be replaced.
After all, I’d recently purchased a Nexus 7 with my boyfriend and promptly ignored it for the next three months because I had no idea what to use it for.
Maybe now was its time?
Maybe this was all it would take to get me to switch from Apple to Android, from laptop to tablet, from having no control to a device full of viruses because I truly believe that Apple is the best for not trusting me to download whatever I want.
Here’s how successful my foray into all things Android and tablet-based was.
Making the Switch from Apple to Android
Switching from Apple to Android took a lot of getting used to, though not as long as I expected. After four days I had painfully transitioned to my new operating system and was, even more painfully, admitting that I actually quite liked it.
With endless opportunities to customise my tablet, I spent the first day downloading animated wallpapers, placing enormous clock widgets on my home screen and installing new keyboards and themes.
I tried a free trial of SwiftKey for my experiment and found it to be the best keyboard choice — yes, even better than using a Bluetooth keyboard. The split keyboard option made typing much faster — and the fact that SwiftKey prowls your social media and email and learns your writing style in order to predict what you’re going to type next was both creepy and clever.
However, I immediately discovered several huge downsides to my Nexus 7 that had me convinced I wouldn’t be able to ever switch over permanently.
I found the responsiveness of the screen to be absolutely horrendous — at times it wouldn’t register my touch, and at other times it would register my finger as being somewhere else entirely. There were nearly always inaccuracies when trying to highlight text, and occasionally phantom touches would register with random apps opening when I hadn’t even touched the screen. I’m not the only person with this problem and it seems to be a common complaint from Nexus 7 owners.
In addition to touchscreen issues, I found typing on the keyboard to be much slower than on my Apple devices. I’d often type a sentence on the tablet and look up to find that it was only halfway through relaying it on the screen. This was only made worse when I used a Bluetooth keyboard and had a much faster typing speed — I’d often stop typing, look up and see that the tablet was paragraphs behind me.
Other than the screen responsiveness and slow typing, I found my transition to be quick and easy, and I was convinced I could make this work for me.
So, how was working solely on a tablet?
I work online as a travel blogger, freelance writer and editor. My work involves composing blog posts and articles for websites and print magazines. I edit articles for my role as managing editor for a UK print magazine and spend hours answering hundreds of emails.
Composing articles on the Nexus 7 had a steep learning curve.
After researching word processing options for Android, I opted for Google-owned QuickOffice because it syncs with Google Drive. I could therefore edit my saved Google documents and have my tablet-created documents automatically saved to the cloud as I wrote them.
The first problem I came across was related to the responsiveness I mentioned above. The speed at which I could write was noticeably slower, when using either the tablet keyboard or a Bluetooth-connected keyboard that I borrowed from a friend. For much of the time I felt like I had to keep pausing to wait for the tablet to catch up with me.
Speaking of the Bluetooth keyboard, that was a particularly disappointing experience. After pairing the two devices, I would have to keep tapping buttons on the keyboard at regular intervals to prevent them from disconnecting.
Yes, if I didn’t press a button for more than 20 seconds, the keyboard would disconnect and the only way to get the devices re-paired was to restart the tablet or go to the Bluetooth settings, instruct it to forget the keyboard, search for it again and re-pair the devices.
While this ridiculous situation arguably helped with my productivity and encouraged me to write epic stream-of-consciousness-type articles because I COULD NOT STOP TYPING, it wasn’t particularly great for editing or, you know, thinking. I felt that I spent the majority of my time pressing arrow keys every few seconds while I thought about what to type next. Like the responsiveness issues, I’m not the only one with this problem, with it first being reported over a year ago, and still showing no sign of being solved.
In the end, I found typing on the tablet to be faster and easier than using a physical keyboard.
Editing articles was tough because of the tablet’s inability to know where I was tapping most of the time. I’d try and highlight a word and it would highlight the one above, I’d try to drag the cursor to a specific letter in a word and it wouldn’t even get close. Editing articles was slow and painful.
I also needed to download a different app with a word count so that I could copy and paste each article across to see the number of words in each article. QuickOffice did not seem to have this feature.
I use Apple Mail for my email management and so was not able to easily transition towards using an Android service. I opted for using the Gmail app because most of my email comes via Gmail.
Because I was fully intending to purchase a Macbook at some point in the future, I was not migrating entirely from Apple Mail to Gmail. Therefore, I did not invest any time in creating new folders and labels for incoming emails because I would have no use for these a few weeks/months down the line.
I didn’t want to delete any emails and, because I wasn’t categorising them, I was having to make a note of which emails I needed to reply to — otherwise I would have wasted hours scrolling through my inbox.
Had I completely migrated over to Gmail, the categorisation would have made managing future emails simple, but would not have been enjoyable when sorting through past emails. I dread to think what what have happened when it came time to do my taxes and I would have had to scroll through the tens of thousands of unsorted emails in my inbox to note my income and expenses.
Keeping up with my travel blogging schedule was tough, mostly because of my struggles with photo editing and management.
I’ve used Photoshop to edit my photos for almost ten years and looking at the Android app equivalents made me sad. In the end, I decided to write posts focused on destinations I had previously written about, and had already uploaded photos for.
Long-term, my solution would be to buy an attachment that would allow me to plug an SD card into the tablet, transfer the photos across and use an app such as Snapseed to edit those photos.
In terms of composing blog posts, I found this to be fine using the WordPress app, as was replying to comments. I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything super high-tech, such as editing code or making huge changes to my site, but I was able to keep it running smoothly.
All in all, I found that as long as I already had the photos I needed for an article in my WordPress Media Library, I was able to keep to my blogging commitments perfectly.
Is It Possible to Work on the Road Using Just a Tablet?
Would I Recommend It?
While it’s definitely possible to work online using just a tablet, the added time and effort wasn’t worth it for me. Given that I was borrowing a laptop for at least an hour a day for tasks that were too infuriating to do on the tablet, I definitely would have struggled using this as a solution long-term.
I lasted just under three weeks before I decided I was wasting hours each day trying to find workarounds and shortcuts and wasn’t being in any way productive.
I decided to replace my laptop.
Of course, whether you’ll be able to work on a tablet rather than a laptop depends entirely on your use case. It depends on what sort of work you do, as well as the tablet you’ll be using.
Many of the issues I had with working on a tablet were probably device-specific (I haven’t used any other brand of tablet to compare) so I can’t make a blanket statement about how they’re terrible for working online.
For me, though, the Nexus 7 killed my productivity and had me wrestling for 12 hours to finish an article that would have taken three on my laptop. It was slow, frustrating and had me longing to steal my boyfriend’s laptop every day.
Have you ever tried to work from the road with just a tablet? Do you think you could?