A week ago I was looking for an escape from the autumn weather in my home town Hamburg, Germany. I scrolled through Skyscanner and found a cheap flight to Barcelona. Ok, I thought, let’s go.

The day finally came where I would have to pack my bag and decide what to take with me. Clothes, obviously, but what kind of tech? I was focusing on blogging mostly and I wasn’t using my MacBook anyway. Why not make it an experiment and use my 12.9” iPad for the week exclusively?

Until the departure I still thought about bringing my MacBook but kept strong and only packed my iPad. First observation: my backpack was incredibly light. The current MacBook Pro 13” comes in at around one and a half kilograms. Combined with the 60W power adapter and the extension cord it’s close to two kilos, that I saved in my backpack. The iPad Pro on the other hand is so light, I double checked at the train station to make sure I had actually put it in the bag.

The background story

I am a software developer at heart. Going out without my computer gets me a discomfort I cannot really describe. But aside from being a developer I also focus most of my waking hours on finding ways to get rid of my computer and help other people to achieve the same. I started this project two years ago when I did my first iPad only weekend. I went to my in laws and tried to work on a blog post I had wanted to write for a long time. This was pre iPad Pro, and I had a third generation iPad mini. It was not the ultimate writing machine but I finished my article. Once I was done writing I wanted to upload it to my website, which is Jekyll based. Being a software guy I had this sophisticated setup for my blog. This was where I hit my first obstacle in getting work done on iOS. I had not built my blog to allow publishing from mobile. After doing some research I could not find a way to get my post up using Git, a version control system. Back home I started looking into how hard it would be to build an iOS app that would fulfill my requirements. Six months later and after quitting my day job, I published my iOS app Git2Go. It has done well since then and I had the chance to meet lots of people who find working mobile a compelling thing. From team leaders to CEOs and fellow developers there are people who want to dive deeper into what’s possible on iOS.

Wednesday, Day 1

Back on my way to Barcelona: At 14:45 o’clock I boarded my flight from Hamburg Airport. Of course I had booked it from my iPhone through the Skyscanner app, downloaded the boarding pass into Wallet (former Passbook) and went on board. As soon as the seatbelt signs went off, I began to write this article. Having two hours of flying ahead of me I began to make a plan for the week, on things I wanted to achieve. This is a great way not to procrastinate and to be accountable, even if you are doing it just for yourself.

This ist the list I ended up with:

  • Write three articles for MobileOnly.Tools
    • 5 apps that integrate well with Document Providers
    • 3 VPN Providers that work well on iOS
    • How we write this blog solely on iOS
  • Fix bugs on my upcoming app Velkom
  • Finish this article
  • Lay the ground works for our upcoming courses and begin to advertise them on the website
  • Maybe see a few things around Barcelona

Thanks to the typewriter mode in Ulysses and no emails or notifications distracting my writing the first 630 words and doing the list took only fifteen minutes. Whenever I wanted to work using my MacBook on a plane, I found it to be very uncomfortable as most of the apps are not designed to work offline and the trays of the aircrafts are never deep enough for the screen to fit. No issues with the iPad Pro, the Smart Keyboard fits perfectly on the small tray and the screen angle is superb for my seating position. I could see all my Trello cards without having to connect to a network, began to write using Ulysses and sent photos from my iPhone to my iPad via AirDrop using Bluetooth.

I arrived in Barcelona 18:10 o’clock. Having only hand luggage with me I quickly got out of the airport and boarded the A1 bus towards the city center. I downloaded the bus route using CityMapper on my iPhone and felt prepared. I had the exact change for the return ticket and began my one hour long route into Barcelona. I had never there been before and the main reasons for coming were the warmer weather and seeing a few friends again. One of them is soon leaving her flat for a life as a Digital Nomad without permanent housing. She was also the first one I saw using an iPad Pro earlier in 2016 as a fabric designer using the Apple Pencil and Procreate. I am excited to hear how far she has come using the iPad. Entirely wet from the pouring rain I arrive at my apartment for the week and spent the rest of the day watching House of Cards (still Season 2).

Thursday, Day 2

After having recharged basically all devices during the night using my Anker 5 port charger, an essential device when living in Hotels, which only have one power outlet. I embarked on to finding a shop to buy a SIM card from. I had good experiences with Orange the last time I had been to Spain so, I went on Foursquare to find one. After a small detour trying to find the shop, I acquired a SIM card which had 2GB of data on it and cost twenty Euro. That was ok value for me as I could tether it to my iPad and wasn’t dependent on the coffee shops providing Wifi. After I got the SIM card I went to look for a place to work from and have breakfast. A short search for working on Foursquare resulted in a place that had nice looking food, coffee and Wifi. The place was packed with people having breakfast and many of them working. I took a stool at the counter, ordered coffee and a sandwich. Unable to connect to the Wifi I was glad, I had bought the SIM card earlier.

I was meeting a friend later that day to get some more work done and talk a bit. Later we went for a walk to the water front in Barcelona and it started to pour down on us. I am really glad I invested in a proper bag that is almost waterproof so I wasn’t too worried about my iPad getting wet. Later we found out that it was the strongest rain Barcelona had experienced in a long time.

Friday, Day 3

I really liked the coffee shop I had visited the day before. So after sleeping longer than I wanted, I headed there to get brunch and a coffee to get me started on writing. I prepared my foreword for the mailing list and was shocked that I had only written one article that week. I decided to improve in the following week. While traveling with my girlfriend earlier this year we discovered that it takes around two to three days to get comfortable in a new city and to find good places where to work from. I decided to write a short second article so the first one would not feel lonely in the mailing. The weather improved drastically. Time to go to the beach! Due to the weather conditions the waves were especially high and there were loads of surfers whom I watched surfing before going for a walk. After walking sixteen and a half kilometers I just watched a few episodes House of Cards and called it a day.

Saturday, Day 4

Saturday, the weather held up as expected and was nice and warm, when Slack was showing me a new message. I wrote into the Digital Nomad Slack if someone in Barcelona wanted to meet up for a drink or a walk. There is a Slack channel for almost every city in the world and occasionally people will write in there to meet up. I met Christian for a late breakfast and realised that we had met before in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia through the same channel. We had a nice chat about the different locations both of us had visited in the mean time. Almost all Digital Nomads are workaholics so we talked about work, too. He liked the idea of being mobile only, but was not sold on it yet. Later that evening I met a former coworker and we talked about Barcelona, Hamburg and working from iPad. We also discussed how much of an effort it would be to build a mobile web inspector and decided not to do it.

Sunday, Day 5

In the morning I was answering support messages for Git2Go, checked on our Medium publication which I had started on Friday to reach a larger audience and see how many people would read my articles. The VPN article I had squeezed in on Friday seemed to have found its audience. I decided to take a day off work and met up with a few friends on a terrace in the evening. It is hard to convince developers from being iOS only but I tried my best again. It is important to show people the possible benefits even if they are not applicable to their work, yet. Many people do not code at work and could easily work iOS only. In my experience and also in this experiment you can see that working on iPad and iPhone works for at least a week. Much more so if you “only” write articles, do email, edit office documents, research things on the Internet and read PDFs. My guess is that with more companies moving that direction we will get rid of the large clunky laptops people carry around and finally can enjoy our work.

Monday, Day 6

It was a work day again. The internet was full of pictures telling me how bad I should find Mondays, while I actually love them. They mean it is acceptable to work again. I had a phone call with my mom the day before and she had asked me about Velkom. She really likes that I do something to make the life better for small bed and breakfast owners and she wanted to test it out. It is finally a project she can relate to. I was happy accept her offer since she is part of the target audience. The website still holds a few bugs so I set off to get rid of them. Usually you would start a local web server and serve the website from your computer. This is not working on iOS, but I found a solution. I set up a small Linux server with Digital Ocean and used Prompt and SSH to connect to it. I started the web app on the server and used Safari on iPad to access it. I cloned the files to my iPad using Textastic and worked this way. SplitView comes in very handy here as I can have the code on the one side, beautifully rendered and readable and Safari on the other side. I even found a bug that it was very tricky to find. Developers usually have access to a web inspector of some sort, it is built into Safari, Chrome and Firefox on the desktop but none of the mobile apps. Another blocker, another solution: I found out that Safari had a built-in web console in iOS 6 but sadly it had been removed. As I searched further I found out about Firebug Lite. Firebug is a suite of debugging tools for web developers to make developing applications easier. It enjoys a big audience that seems to like it. The lite version of it is free and open source and works as a JavaScript bookmarklet. This is Javascript code inside a Safari Bookmark. Instead of going to another page when you tap on it, it executes directly in the open tab. This way I can have a web console on my iPad and I could fix the bug. I deployed a new version which I sent to my mom later.

This was also my last evening in Barcelona. I met up with the same friend from the day before to have tapas and a few beers for dinner before packing my bag for an early departure the next day.

Tuesday, Day 7

Last day, I set up three alarms. After waking up at the first one the other two annoyed me by interrupting me while reading my Twitter feed and replying to email. I packed the last couple of things into my bag and was delighted by the light luggage again. I left my AirBnB and got to the metro using Apple Maps on my Apple Watch. I like it because it does not make you look like a tourist. It taps your wrist with the directions. This makes it seem like you know the way even if you don’t. Public transport in Barcelona is easy to navigate with and I quickly found the already waiting airport shuttle bus. The bus was packed but I was able to find an empty seat as some other passengers refused to sit down. I had decided to go to the airport immediately after getting up to have enough time for breakfast and finish writing this article.

I still have to go over my to-do list once again:

  • Write three articles for MobileOnly.Tools
    • 5 apps that integrate well with Document Providers ❌
    • 3 VPN Providers that work well on iOS ✅
    • How we write this blog solely on iOS ✅
  • Fix bugs on my upcoming app Velkom
  • Finish this very article ✅
  • Lay the ground works for our upcoming courses and begin to advertise them on the website ✅
  • Maybe see a few things around Barcelona 📸✅

Not too bad, only one thing I did not accomplish. I figured the review of the experiment was more important than writing the article about Document Providers. You can read about Document Providers all day but still don’t believe that working full-time on iOS actually works. It is 11:00 another alarm sets off and I am on my way to board my plane.

See you Barcelona

I really enjoyed living in Barcelona for a short while. It is such a lovely city, if you have one or two friends living there that show you the hidden corners of it. The food was delicious. I enjoyed the drinks and the beautiful weather. Walking around in October only with a T-Shirt and Jeans has its advantages. I am not looking forward to turning on the heating at home knowing there are other parts of the world I could be where I would not have to freeze.

My iPad only week was a success. I had never worked on my upcoming web app from my iPad before and I enjoyed how easy it was to do so. It wass the finding of the week. My plan is to dig into the Firebug Lite code so it is a bit more pleasant to look at in the browser. It is very unfortunate that I can’t code iOS apps using only my iPad but it will come in due course, I guess. Writing still is an absolute joy using the Smart Keyboard and the big screen. Reading and writing emails is still not my favorite part of my job. Also everything else I wanted to do worked fine and I found only small road blocks that were resolvable. I would highly encourage you to get an iPad and try it out yourself. Get a Pro model with a Keyboard and you will be surprised how enjoyable the future is.