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How to Leverage iPads on Your Product Team

It’s 2020, and iPads have found a way to adapt to our changing culture, priorities and behavior to become more relevant than ever. Since the iPad’s release 10 years ago, the platform become less about consumption and more about tools that can be utilized in the workplace. This has resulted in significant market penetration, and a plethora of applications that are tailored specifically for making office jobs easier.

Modern, lightweight operating systems like iOS and ChromeOS continue to evolve and are being adapted by new generations, replacing the archaic x86/x64 operating systems of the past. These systems are enabling powerful new devices, like iPads.

While computers have their place, iPads take the throne when it comes to power and flexibility. Just think about all the ways an iPad can adapt with the simple addition of a keyboard or Pencil! The iPad Pro actually has a processor on par with a high-end laptop.

Keep in mind that you may not be able to throw out your computer quite yet; many companies still require Microsoft Windows, which you won’t be able to access using your iPad. However, if your company has switched over to cloud-based solutions, an iPad might be the perfect solution!

In this post, we’ll look at the perspectives of product managers, designers and developers to discover which applications are ideal for each role and how each team member utilizes their iPad in and out of the office.

Team Interviews

At Crema, one of our core values is Constant Improvement. Our team is always passionately looking ahead and searching for better ways to build great product experiences. Some of our team has adopted iPads into their product development workflow due to the ways they increase effectiveness and efficiency of their work for our clients. Let’s explore how each team member is using iPads in their workflow.

director of product management tucker with photo on purple background

Q: What iPad model do you own and why?

9.7" iPad Pro WiFi + Cellular 256GB -> Bought a refurbished model to save on costs, but definitely wanted the Pro version so that I could use an Apple Pencil. I use it primarily for note taking, research and sketching.

tucker ipad screenshot with black waves background

Q: How does your iPad help you do your work more efficiently than a traditional computer?

It provides a more lightweight, focused experience, so that I can get the task at hand done in a more efficient manner.

Q: What are some of your favorite apps and why?

Nebo - Love this for note taking, especially the handwriting recognition so that I can move my handwritten notes.

Bear - This is my 'catch all' for pretty much everything across my devices. Love this app so much due to it's lightweight nature, but providing just enough functionality for what I need.

Miro (formerly Realtime Board) - This app on the iPad is spectacular for collaboration. It works really well with the Apple Pencil.

Todoist - All of my tasks live here across all my devices. Again, a lightweight app that provides just enough functionality for my needs.

Apple News - This app has come a long way, and I'm excited to see what's to come. This is where I go to read news/articles on the regular.

Q: What excites you the most about the future of devices, like the iPad?

I think the sheer power in such a small device. The hardware is much more capable than the software right now and as both iOS and apps start to utilize more of that power, I think we're going to see a lot more iPads in the workplace.

product manager alison with photo in circle on pink background

Q: What iPad model do you own?

iPad 6th Gen

How does your iPad help you do your work more efficiently than a traditional computer?

I enjoy using it as an aide to my computer. I used only an iPad for 2 business days and definitely learned a lot about what works/what doesn't when it comes to sole iPad use.

It's a great tool to help communicate ideas (visuals) or take notes with. I also love using it as a 3rd monitor!

What are some of your favorite apps?

GoodNotes II

Luna Display


Adobe Draw

YouTube TV

product manager michael on yellow background

Q: What iPad model do you own and why?

11-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi 256GB - Space Gray

I’ve been an iPad user since the first-generation iPad, in 2010. That said, I’ve really fallen in love with the size of the smaller, normal-size iPads. The 11-inch iPad Pro is the best version of this size yet, pushing the screen towards the edges. It blends being both a minimalist (yet powerful) computer and a comfortable, hand-held tablet.

Q: How do you use your iPad in Product Development?

I primarily use my iPad when I need to engage in focused work. By nature of iOS, I find my iPad to be a less distracting computer than my Mac. The screen size of the iPad Pro is just large enough to support whatever I need to do, be it reviewing tickets on Jira’s iPad app, catching up on Slack discussions, brainstorming user story details, or writing content.

As a distributed worker, the iPad has also come in handy to support how I interact with my team in two ways:

First, I am a huge fan of using Miro’s iPad app to remotely collaborate with my team and clients, in real time. While Miro’s web and desktop apps on the Mac are excellent, their iPad app allows me to use the Apple Pencil. This empowers me to be more “present” with my team, as if I was interacting with a physical whiteboard.

Second, I use Luna Display when I’m at my Mac. It transforms my iPad into a high quality, second display. I often use this during remote meetings so I can balance both seeing my team and clients on video and taking notes or interacting with something else.

Q: How does your iPad help you do your work more efficiently than a traditional computer?

The iPad is the realization of the future of computing for power users. The hardware is objectively powerful and flexible: it’s fast enough to render 4K video, yet flexible enough to switch between modes that resemble a traditional laptop, a drawing tablet and a consumption device.

All of this power and efficiency is supported by iOS: I believe modern operating systems like iOS, Chrome OS and Android are evolving to replace traditional operating systems like macOS and Windows. If you need more validation this is the future, look at the hardware primary schools are using today to educate tomorrow’s professionals. Chances are, it’s iPads and Chromebooks; not the big beige boxes I remember learning to type on.

screenshot of ipad with apps

This said, I believe the set of interactions the iPad is based around are what makes it more efficient for me than a traditional computer. There is no doubt a learning curve in transitioning my mindset from a “mouse, keyboard and windowing system” mindset. However, I’ve discovered through this transition ways that the iPad (and iOS, by proxy) is more productive than a traditional Mac by leaps and bounds.

The iOS Share Sheet is a power user’s dream to send content between apps. Drag-and-drop on the iPad is more powerful than a mouse-based approach since you can “pick up” multiple pieces of content. Third-party apps, like Drafts, are incredible and scalable-y productive for manipulating text and actions between apps. And if you can’t get something done with iOS and third-party apps as they come, chances are you can build a powerful and repeatable workflow in Apple’s Shortcuts app to achieve it.

Q: What are some of your favorite apps and why?

Drafts: I’ve used Drafts for years. Paraphrasing a review I saw on the App Store for it, ‘Drafts is my secret weapon.’ At the core, Drafts is an incredibly fast and simple text editor. However, it’s incredibly flexible and extensible. Some users build deep and complex writing workflows in Drafts. Personally, I use it as a digital scratchpad for thoughts, notes, and more. I have a setting enabled that adds a badge count on the app icon to let me know how many notes I have that I haven’t processed yet. This helps prompt me to use Drafts powerful workflow feature to automatically manipulate and send these notes to tools like Evernote and Todoist.

Fantastical: Taking the integrated Calendar app and evolving it, Fantastical offers a handful of additional features that are great for iPad power users. It’s all baked into a great, flexible UI that fits nicely on iOS. While I sometimes defer to the Google Calendar app on iOS, I prefer to use Fantastical for my day-to-day needs.

Spark: I believe Spark is the best mail client on iOS. It’s essentially Google Inbox (RIP), but significantly more integrated into iOS. One of my favorite features in Spark is the ability to integrate it with third-party apps and services: this enables me to more efficiently process my email inbox. For example, if an email requires a next action on my part, I can easily export the email into a formatted task within Todoist. Recently, Spark also started to introduce collaboration features my team at Crema is experimenting with. I highly recommend giving it a try if you want to cut down on the time you spend with email.

Q: What excites you the most about the future of devices, like the iPad?

Devices like the iPad are fundamentally built from the ground-up as modern computing devices. As we exit the smartphone boom, many people have become more familiar with the UX of touch interactions than they are with traditional computing interactions (i.e., macOS and Windows). I think devices like these empower greater software experiences in a way that is more efficient and human. I can’t wait to see how these devices continue to evolve over the next few years.

Q: Anything else you'd like to add about the iPad or your iPad workflow?

While the iPad has seen massive adoption, I believe we are just a bit after the starting line to transitioning the iPad from a consumption device to a productivity tool. Make no mistake: the iPad already is a powerful productivity device. However, with the current generation of iPad Pros, it’s clear that much more lies in wait for the future of these devices.

Take the new USB-C port on the iPad Pros, for example. Right now, on iOS 12, they don’t do much else than you could do with the lightning port and some adapters on prior iPads. However, there is enough power in these devices to power a full, external display-based solution; much like how you can hook up a MacBook to an external display today.

If you have an iPad or are interested in getting one, pay close attention to Apple’s WWDC conference this year. Reading the industry tea leaves, I think software-wise, this will be a revolutionary year for the iPad with iOS 13.

scotty moon mobile developer on black background with photo

Q: What iPad model do you own and why?

2018 iPad Pro 12.9. I wanted to explore the idea of making an iPad my primary computing device. Outside of work, I also do more creative things. The iPad is fantastic for music production and video editing now.

Q: How do you use your iPad in Product Development?

At work, I use my iPad as a third monitor, notepad, and eBook reader. Since I still can't code on it, I use it for all the other things. It's great for sketching ideas and bringing to meetings to capture notes and ideas.

Q: How does your iPad help you do your work more efficiently than a traditional computer?

Sometimes it's easier to just write something down. The iPad is a limitless sketchbook and notebook. There's also something just insanely great about the tactile nature of working on the iPad. You tap, move, and draw all over the thing. I think it just puts your brain in a more creative space than typing on a keyboard.

screenshot of ipad with apps

Q: What are some of your favorite apps and why?

Goodnotes for note taking. I love using it for note taking. I like that I can search through my notes later to find something.

Duet: Having a third display as a developer is just amazing.

LumaFusion and Beatmaker 3 are two apps that I'm spending time learning. I've been so impressed with how quickly I can edit and export video in LumaFusion. Beatmaker is just fun to play around with. The audio ecosystem that Apple has created just keeps getting better and better.

Paper & Paste by WeTransfer are really great apps for sketching app ideas and creating mood boards for application direction.

For productivity, I use Bear for notes and Todoist for my tasks. I like that both of these apps are present on Mac and iOS. This allows me to have all my notes and todos everywhere I am.

The real power of a lot of these things is the Apple ecosystem. iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac working together is a really really great experience.

Q: What excites you the most about the future of devices, like the iPad?

Minimalism and power. My iPad is so fast! I think the future of computing is all about how we interact with our devices. Sometimes it's easier to type, sometimes it's easier to touch. I can see a future where we are not limited to a single user experience or display. Where we can interact in many different ways and the experience morphs based on context. I think the iPad is moving in this direction already.

Q: Anything else you'd like to add about the iPad or your iPad workflow?

I will say that I've been really surprised by how much I use it. It's my primary computing device at home. It's not all roses right now though. There are certain things that you can't do on the iPad. Some websites just don't render properly on the iPad, so it would be nice to have a proper desktop-class browser.

The file system also needs work. Apple will hopefully address the "pro" user in future iOS updates. If they do, then this could/would be a fantastic laptop replacement for most users.

sean connolly product designer with blue background and photo of him

Q; What iPad model do you own and why?

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2nd Generation) - Initially purchased by my previous employer and gifted to me when I left. I was first shocked at just how large it was but knowing what I know now, I would choose this size if I were to buy one. The screen real estate for sketching is amazing.

Q: How do you use your iPad in Product Development?

I don't use it as often as I should for product development. I primarily use it for personal sketching and plinking around in Garage Band. For product work, early stage sketching is nice. I tend to still gravitate toward stickies and sharpies but the iPad gives a bit more fidelity to sketches if it's required.

Q: How does your iPad help you do your work more efficiently than a traditional computer?

It’s nearly impossible to sketch out an idea quickly on a traditional computer.

illustrations of sketch with astronaut and planets on ipad

Q: What are some of your favorite apps and why?

Paper by WeTransfer (formerly Paper by FirftyThree), Procreate, and GarageBand

Q: What excites you the most about the future of devices, like the iPad?

I've always liked the idea of merging devices so there is less to carry around. As mobile/smaller devices get more powerful I like that there will be no compromise in the experience.

screenshot of ipad with apps

The Future is iPad

Our industry continues to drive this new form factor of computing device further away from “consumption devices” and into powerful productivity tools that bring new efficiencies to our existing creative processes. With iPads pivoting toward enterprise and education rather than pure entertainment, you can expect to see students entering the workforce with iPads in their toolkit rather than a bulky laptop. They’ll be experts in these modern computers -- not the beige boxes we grew up on.

What do you think? Do you want to hear more about how Crema is using iPads on our product teams? Let us know!

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