Uncanny Valley and the iPad

The iPad is a great machine and has come a long way over the past 10 years. With that said, there are still some things that people who are long-time Mac users will stick their nose up at. Things like advanced multi-tasking and Sandboxing have long been issues Mac Power Users have touted to be inferior on the iPad. Other things like using an iPad as a laptop replacement is argued to be only possible with sacrifice.

While I don’t necessarily believe in all of these claims I have to admit there is some merit to the issues that are raised by long-time Mac users. I have found myself getting more and more frustrated with the iPad. Not because I am doing more with it, I have been writing and blogging on an iPad for some time now and have never changed what I did on that machine. The reason for my frustration to be growing is because of something called Uncanny Valley.

The definition of Uncanny Valley is as follows:

used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.

For me it is more simply when I notice something that is very close to being optimal but isn’t quite there. For a lot of the things I do on the iPad, this term could be used.

Why the iPad is so close, yet so far

I have been touting being iPad only for nearly 6 months until recently. One of the reasons for me to crack open the MacBook Air again was because of how I decided to spend less time making the iPad conform to what I want and just use the Mac because I know it will work the way I want it to in certain situations.

For me, it started with editing a podcast. Ferrite is good but I am so used to Hindenburg that I am really fast on it and I felt using a new piece of software was more of a hindrance than a new skillset. I was so used to editing with Hindenburg that I felt that learning how to edit with Ferrite wasn’t worth the time as I was already pretty speedy on my Mac. It wasn’t a matter of if I could but rather a matter of if I should.

Soon this started to fall into the blogging parts of my life. I could write with Ulysses without issue but I wanted something that I could use to handle my posts after they are published. I wanted to use something like MarsEdit for my iPad. But when the only thing available is the sub-par Wordpress app on iOS I decided to being my blogging over to my Mac as well. I am happy with MarsEdit, but that isn’t to say I can’t use the iPad for writing. In fact I think the iPad is more efficient when it comes to writing than a Mac. I can use apps like Drafts 5 and Workflow to manage my text and format things faster than I could on a Mac.

Where it Stands for Others

Outside of my experience, I don’t think this Uncanny Valley phenomenon is anything new. I think the comparison of the iPad and Mac has been around for quite some time. You can do a quick google search and find articles from several years ago about how whether an iPad is or isn’t qualified to be a replacement for a Mac. However, because the iPad has gained more and more power and functionality it isn’t a stretch to believe that the reason why so many people aren’t team iPad is because it can’t handle the handful of things people use a Mac for over an iPad. Those small, but important, things are what prevents people from moving to the iPad full time. When you are given a microscope you notice the small things a lot more easily, and that is what is going on today with the iPad and Mac comparisons.

It isn’t impossible to use an iPad full time, I would know; but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. They may be minor drawbacks when looking at the whole picture, but they are bigger when you look as close as many do when looking for a new device.

For me, I don’t plan to get a new Mac or iPad even if WWDC does bring some in the coming weeks. I am more than able to get by with my 2015 MacBook Air and 10.5” iPad Pro. Both handle my writing without issue, and both have the ability to edit podcasts without being bogged down. I am happy with both, or either, machines as of today, but that isn’t the case for everyone.


When it comes to automating things like blog posts and show notes for my podcasts I am still using the iPad. It is my bread and butter for formatting things the particular way I want them and I am not savvy enough on a Mac to make that happen as of yet.

Drafts 5, while being a new addition to my arsenal of daily apps, is the biggest factor for me choosing whether to use a Mac or an iPad. It is such a powerful tool that I can’t help but be drawn towards it.

Workflow is also an app I use daily for a multitude of things. From managing my images and having them formatted correctly to using it for converting lists into markdown. It really is a Swiss army knife that allows me to work between apps. Without it I don’t think the iPad would even come close to being a Mac alternative.

What This Means For the iPad and Mac Today

Right now, before WWDC 2018, I think the Mac needs some serious changes to the hardware. Specifically the keyboards. One of the biggest reasons I would move people towards an iPad today is because they don’t have to worry about a speck of dust destroying their entire machine. The iPad Pro is compatible in pricing, and, as I said before, can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. The Mac needs some changes in order to be worthwhile again, but that doesn’t mean the iPad is better overall.

I think the iPad needs changes to the software. The bugs in iOS 11 have been less than ideal, and I think that is one of the biggest issues I have found with the iPad ecosystem as a whole. I am hoping that iOS 12 handles these bug and squashed them once and for all. If that does happen, I expect I’ll be moving more towards the iPad with my work.

Until then though I am enjoying the experiment of finding where my work is better suited for. It is less about what I can do on the devices I own, and more about where my time and attention are better suited for with each thing I do.

Jeff Perry @JeffPerry