Differences between iPad and iPhone

I've been thinking about the differences between the iPhone and the iPad, and I think that with the iPhone 5 arriving and iOS 6 being rolled out this past week, there is now more differentiation between the various iOS devices than before.

I've been a big believer in both for a long time. I've had an iPhone since the first one came out on June 30th 2007. I was a little late to adopting the iPad as I felt that version 1 was a little underpowered.

Whenever someone asks whether they should get one of them, there a couple questions that I ask that hopefully help people figure it out.

  1. What do you currently do on your home computer?
  2. Do you have an E-reader?

The computer question is a big one and here's why- Both the iPhone and the iPad are really just computers. Smaller, more portable, perhaps less powerful, but computers nonetheless. The E-reader question narrows down one usage case.

Here is how I use mine.


iPhone is the always-in-my-pocket device. I have grandfathered unlimited data with AT&T so I don't ever need to worry about what I download, watch, listen-to or send with it. AT&T does have some limits that they've put in place after the fact, but for all practical purposes, I don't need to worry about it. I use the iPhone as an on-the-go device.

I chose the wi-fi only iPad when I upgraded to the New iPad. Primarily because of the way that I use the iPhone. Oh, there's also the fact that I'd only activated and used the 3G one time in the previous year on my iPad 2.

I've put that differentiation in place between my devices. Aside from this, it really comes down to screen size.


I prefer to use my iPad for reading. I still have Reeder, Instapaper, iBooks and Kindle installed on my iPhone, but primarily as a backup or second option in case I don't have my iPad with me or there is something I want to read when I don't have a wi-fi connection.

My wife has a Kindle that I bought for her last year. She really likes it, and a lot of people swear by the dedicated E-reader. I have yet to pick one up and try it out as I don't want to carry another device and the iPad Kindle app is great.


I will occasionally look at email on my iPad, but most of the time it is easier to read and respond to it on my iPhone. There are a few reasons for this. I have always-on push enabled on my phone, so arrival of email is instantaneous. I find that unless I'm sitting down at a desk, I can type faster and less-awkwardly on my iPhone. In fact, with the exception of a couple times a week when I'm logged into Gmail from my Mac at home trying to really clean out my inbox, I think of email as "living" on my phone.


I write notes on my iPhone, but I like to sit down at an actual keyboard when I'm writing anything longer than 100-200 words. Right now, I'm using the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and Byword to write this on my iPad. The keyboard is identical in termsof spacing and feel to my Macbook Pro and my old Black Macbook before that. It's pretty nice from a protability standpoint and I also really like the fact that there's nothing to distract me.

Making Photos

Do I really need to even write this one? I capture photos with my iPhone. I DO NOT shoot with my iPad.

Editing Photos

I use both devices based on which is more convenient at the moment. Most every photo editing app I use is a universal app that works on both, and the interfaces are pretty much the same. Sometimes I'll gravitate towards the iPad app because of the larger display.

Truthfully though, I only really use the editing on these devices for images that are intended for Instagram posting. Otherwise I load it into Lightroom on my Mac. If there were an editing app with the power of Lightroom available for iOS devices, I'm sure I'd start using them for more.


I have my full music collection on my iPad so connectivity isn't really an issue. I usually play music from my collection on the iPad in my office, or at home. In the car, the iPhone, as it's always with me. I don't have as much music on my phone though because of...Spotify.

I recently started using Spotify and have it on both devices. I use the phone in my office where I don't have wi-fi, and my iPad when I'm at home or in a location where I've got decent wi-fi.


I use Tweetbot for Twitter on both devices. I probably use the iPhone more because of the push notifications and the smaller size of the content. The iPad app is great, but it still feels heavier to use so it is my second choice.

Facebook is probably 50/50. I use the iPad when I'm connected and the iPhone when I'm out and about. Because so much of what I do is posting higher reolution photos, I probably use the desktop browser more for Facebook than I do either of these.


I find that while both of these devices are really powerful, they fit different purposes. As the iPad continues to evolve over the next couple years, I predict that it will continue to replace my "real computer" for more and more tasks. It shines best for reading, writing and for anything that requires or benefits from undivided attention.

The iPhone is the exact opposite for me most of the time. It is best for at-a-glance tasks and on-the-go activities. Connectivity is one part of its strength, and though the iPad can be data connected (if you bought the LTE/3G version). It still doesn't feel quite as connected unless you stop and turn it on. I tried it with notifications turned on, but it felt inconvenient and nowhere near as good as the iPhone in your pocket.

I've heard others predict the demise of the desktop as we know it due to the iPad, but I don't think that's how it will happen. I think that we'll continue to see the iPad (and iPhone) become more powerful and capable until it really sits at a point of parity with Macs and PCs. The choice of which one to buy, will have more to do with specialized use cases, and less to do with power.

I like the way these products are developing and hope that they continue to get better and better at their respective roles. Can't wait!