I left Boston for Accra on Saturday and, having made a lot of changes to my device lineup recently, I was excited to see how they’d fare on my (typical) long, complicated journey.

My backpack

I try to travel as light as possible, though not usually with much success. However, this trip marked the first time in almost six years that I was traveling transatlantic without a MacBook Pro, so I was off to a flying start. (I’m so sorry.)

My bag, an Incase Icon Slim backpack, was fitted with the following:

I was also carrying around my iPhone 6s Plus, Apple Watch, and Beats Studio Wireless headphones.

That list is as small as it’s ever been, and I’ve never traveled with a lighter backpack. I do have some notes though:

  • Replacing my MacBook Pro with the MacBook was definitely the biggest contributing factor; the drop from 4.49 lbs to 2.03 lbs was very noticeable. I don’t take my Mac on shorter trips anymore but given that I’ll be home for a month I thought it’d be a good idea to just have it around. I don’t see myself using it much (if at all) though.
  • Going from carrying the iPad Air to both the iPad Pro and iPad mini didn’t feel like much of a step backwards in terms of portability, especially since I had no intention of using the iPad mini during the flights. The Pro slot in where the Air would have in my backpack, and the mini was stowed away in one of the exterior zip compartments. Compared to the weight decrease of the MacBook, the weight increase of both iPads was negligible.
  • While the Anker battery is relatively heavy at 0.79 lbs, this was also the first transatlantic trip I’ve taken without a wall charger for any of my devices. There was very little difference in weight, but I saved a tremendous amount of space by swapping multiple USB wall plugs and a laptop charger with a single external battery and cables for each device. The Anker can charge two USB devices and my MacBook at the same time and, although I ended up not using it at all this trip, knowing it was around if needed was reassuring.
  • I bought the Apple Watch dock because it charges via Lightning so I don’t have to carry around the Watch’s weird charging cable. I’d like to see future Beats headphones switch to Lightning so that I can ditch the Mini USB cable, too.
  • I’ve been carrying the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard case as a crutch of sorts: I don’t use it much — I don’t leave it on the iPad, and I rarely ever use it (I’m typing this on the iPad’s display right now) — but it’s super thin and just slips into my backpack, and I like knowing it’s there in case I decide to crank out a really long article or I’m sitting somewhere I can’t get a good touch-typing angle on the iPad’s display.

The flights

I spent my most of the first flight (Boston to Frankfurt) coloring on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil (don’t judge me), texting my friends, drinking wine, and listening to music.

While in the lounge in Frankfurt, I used the iPad Pro to catch up on Shawn Blanc’s Elements of Focus course, FaceTime with a couple of friends, find out information about my next flight, and let my parents know of my whereabouts. (I also drank beer, of course. When in Rome…)

The second flight (Frankfurt to Istanbul) was much shorter. I spent it listening to music and writing some stuff, including the majority of this article. I placed the iPad Pro (oriented in landscape) on a pillow on my lap and typed in Ulysses using the on-screen keyboard (while drinking Gin & Tonics, mind you - it’s a wonder how I got anything done).

I didn’t have that much time to spend in the lounge in Istanbul. I got in, grabbed some lunch, took a shower, texted my parents, and left for the gate.

Unfortunately, I fell very sick on the third flight (Istanbul to Accra). I received treatment from an on-board doctor shortly after takeoff then fell asleep for almost the remainder of the flight. I started listening to music roughly an hour before landing and didn’t use my iPad at all. Ideally, I would’ve spent this flight watching some movies that I had downloaded onto the iPad Pro, but I can’t comment on that experience in-flight right now.

Battery Life

The Apple Watch lasted the entire trip (from Saturday morning to Sunday night) and only went to Power Reserve mode roughly 30 minutes before I could get home and charge it.

The iPad Pro (and Pencil) lasted the entire trip with over half their batteries still remaining. I was very pleased with that, though not really surprised.

My iPhone had to be charged for at least an hour on each flight. That’s a little disappointing, though again not surprising since it was connected to Bluetooth headphones and playing music almost throughout the trip.

My Beats Studio Wireless needed to be charged twice; while I slept on the first flight and again on the third.

Charging any of these devices wasn’t and wouldn’t have been a problem thanks to twin in-seat USB ports and my Anker battery, but I dream of a day that I can make these two-day trips without needing a charger.

Closing thoughts

In the conclusion of my iPad Pro in the Classroom article, I noted the following:

The iPad Pro wins anywhere you can sit it down; be it on your lap when reading an article, in bed when watching a movie, or on a desk when doing work, its power really shines through.

This trip solidified that claim for me. Setting it down on my lap, I got more use out of my iPad Pro on its first trip than I ever did in two years with the iPad Air.

I was worried that the near-13” display might have been too big to use comfortably on flights but there was no problem whatsoever. However, none of the flights were in Economy Class, so that might have been a different experience. I might potentially have a coupe of those coming up next year so we’ll see how they go.

I noticed on the second flight that I’ve acclimated to the software keyboard in ways I never expected to; I almost treat it like a physical keyboard now, typing with both hands above the display. The two-finger trackpad mode is extremely useful for editing and a big advantage over physical keyboards.

The iPad Pro was at the very least equally capable as an entertainment device, and far and wide more useful as a productivity device. The superior typing experience was paramount to that.

Side note: If you do any writing at all, you should get yourself a copy of Ulysses (iOS, Mac). It’s by far the best writing experience I’ve ever had on any platform.

I’m excited to take a short trip next year and see how things change. I have a weekend in Miami coming up in a month and I’ll try just taking the iPad Pro, my headphones, iPhone, Apple Watch, and their respective accessories (ditching the MacBook and iPad mini).

The iPad Pro has passed almost every test I’ve put it through, and I’m increasingly enjoying working on it as I continue to develop better workflows to make the most of it. I’m completely sold on the idea that this is, or at least should be, the future of computing.