Let's start by clearing one thing up--I'm pretty much as loyal a Mac user as you're likely to find. My main computer is a 2019 13" MacBook Pro, and I have an iPhone 11 Pro. My wife has a MacBook Air. I also use an 11-inch iPad Pro to get work done at least as often as I use my MacBook Pro. We have a range of Apple devices in our home, as well, including an iPad Mini and a handful of Apple TVs.

I say all that for two reasons: First to admit that I'm absolutely biased. I've been using Macs for 20 years. I much prefer macOS over Windows for a variety of reasons. I try very hard to be neutral in my evaluations, but I'm being upfront with you because I'm not neutral. Second, I wanted to give you context around what a big deal it was for me to switch operating systems and hardware, even for a short time. 

But I did.

For a week, I did my best to do all of my work on a Surface Pro 7 and a Google Pixel 3A. The goal was to force myself to use Windows and Android, instead of the familiar OS's and design experience I'm used to.

Now, to be fair, neither of those devices are fair comparisons with regard to their hardware, so this isn't that. The Google Pixel 3A isn't a competitor to the iPhone 11 Pro, and the Surface Pro 7, while an interesting device, isn't a MacBook Pro by any means. That said, the trackpad on the Surface Pro 7 keyboard cover definitely impacted my overall evaluation because it was so small. I ended up using an Apple Magic Mouse, though even that wasn't a great experience because Windows doesn't seem to support the touch commands. 

Still, my main observations are about how my workflow was different using Windows and Android. What happened? Well, basically, I just got work done. It felt foreign in some ways, especially when it comes to keyboard shortcuts (how do you survive without a Command key?), or things like Hot Corners and Mission Control. But in reality, I could get everything done on Windows. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would.

In many ways, it wasn't that different. For example, most of what I do on a daily basis is online. For work, I use Google Docs, Gmail, DropBox, WordPress, and various other Web tools. I use Brave as a browser and had no problem using it on the PC, which meant all of my bookmarks, logins, and history were just as they were on my Mac. I was actually surprised how easy it was to pick up where I left off. I even wrote this post using the Surface Pro 7.

The biggest difference for me (besides those keyboard shortcuts) was in things like the email app, notifications, Windows Explorer, and changing settings. For example, I was able to set up all of my accounts in the native email app, but it felt pretty basic compared to either Apple's Mail app, or my preferred option, Spark. It often came down to a difference in "feel," which is no small thing, but much less of a difference than I had expected.

The absence of Final Cut Pro was a big gap for me, though Adobe Premiere is obviously a worthy substitute. Still, that would have required a major change to my workflow had I had a video project to work on. 

Surprisingly, at least for me, using Android was even less foreign. Almost every app I regularly use on my iPhone is available on Android, with the exception of a few Apple-specific apps. Also, the Google Pixel 3A, while an entry-level phone, was fully capable of handling everything I need to do. In full disclosure, I kept my iPhone for messaging and phone calls, mostly for the convenience of not switching my SIM card or giving people a different number. 

Other than that, I used the Pixel for everything form Slack, Hulu, and Gmail, to apps like Evernote and Otter.ai. I still think iOS is more intuitive, and for me, it's far more familiar, but if you forced me to use Android, I'd survive just fine. The biggest reason I'll stick with iOS is for privacy, which, despite Google's recent steps to give users more control over their personal data (especially location data) is still a higher priority with Apple than Google. 

I'll say this about the Surface Pro 7, which I chose because it best represented a bridge between the iPad and the MacBook Pro, both of which I use interchangeably. As a tablet, it was pretty lousy. It was too big, and the widescreen format was obnoxious, especially when using it in portrait orientation.

That said, as an all-in-one, I actually think it's a far better execution of a pure laptop replacement than the iPad Pro, at least as it currently exists. The iPad Pro is more powerful, and a better tablet despite the fact that its form factor isn't ideal as a primary device. I even prefer iPadOS--even with its limitations--over Windows. 

I'm glad to be done with this little experiment, and I don't plan to give up my Mac again, but I was able to get work done without any problem. Your mileage might vary depending on your work, but for me there was surprisingly little difference.

Published on: Feb 6, 2020
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