Computer or iPad?

Do you need a full Windows computer or can you do everything you need with an iPad? Let me state from the outset that by “iPad” I mean the iPad tablet made by Apple, NOT a tablet that uses Android. Yes, all of the Android tablets are cheaper because they were designed to be lower cost than the iPad. I’ve explained why I don’t write apps for Android in a previous post. I don’t recommend Android tablets for those reasons, and also because the iOS operating system used by iPads is far more secure than Android.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010 he made the point that most people don’t need the power of a desktop computer for their daily needs. The iPad provides email, web browsing, word processing, calendar management, messaging, and even video. It’s extremely portable, even more so than a laptop computer, and less expensive. The case for a full computer comes down to the need for a large screen, more processing power, or high resolution graphics. In the world of sewing software this is mainly limited to embroidery digitizing software.

Since readers of this blog are almost entirely sewing enthusiasts let’s address how an iPad might be used. The main use of computers in sewing is for embroidery. Designs can be purchased as digital files and sent to machines for stitching. Some machines, such as the Janome Memory Craft 15000 and the Janome Skyline S9, have built-in WiFi. Janome has software that can transmit designs directly from an iPad to the machine. If you don’t have a WiFi-enabled machine you can still use an iPad to manage designs. Nearly all machines with embroidery capability  can accept USB flash drives. USB flash drives with the iPad-compatible Lightning connector are readily available and can be used to move designs from iPad to machine. There are also numerous flash drives that have built-in WiFi and apps that allow designs to be sent to the flash drive wirelessly.

If you have one of the Janome models with WiFi there are a number of free Janome apps that can be used on iPads. Other apps, such as DRAWings Snap and StitchBuddy, provide support for most common embroidery formats. It should be noted that the Janome AcuDesign app is very similar to DRAWings Snap, and supports designs in all popular embroidery formats. The cost of the AcuDesign app includes design editing, which makes it the cheaper of the two.

If you don’t need design editing there are other embroidery apps available, such as the free AirStitch app. This allows designs to be saved in the iPad, as well as DropBox or the AirStash wireless USB devices. All common embroidery formats are supported.

It’s also possible to purchase designs on the iPad. You can have them emailed or download them directly from the website. Online designs are nearly always packaged in ZIP files. To unpack those you will need the free Documents app by Readdle. Once unzipped you can copy the designs to other apps installed on your iPad.

Since the release of the first iPad Apple has traditionally updated the device every year. The recent Pro models offer an optional keyboard that doubles as a cover, as well as the Pencil for drawing. iPad apps have also evolved to be very sophisticated. A good example of this is the Affinity Photo app from Serif. It offers an astounding array of tools for editing photographs, rivaling those of desktop and laptop computers.

Although the iPad is the ultimate in convenient tools, there are some downsides. The main one is probably the screen, which is covered in glass. If you use your finger to operate it, you will quickly fill the screen with smudges. A microfiber cloth is essential for periodic cleaning, although using the Apple Pencil or third party stylus can avoid the fingerprint problem. Dropping an iPad is potentially dangerous, though a number of third party repair shops now offer glass replacement. Finally there is the battery, which is built-in and non-replaceable. At some point it will no longer charge, and the device can then only be used when connected to a power source. This is not too different from a desktop computer, which will eventually need a new hard drive, or a laptop that will need a new battery and/or hard drive. Cheap Windows computers also tend to be largely plastic with minimal memory and processors, so they need to be replaced frequently. In that respect the life of an iPad is at least as long as a cheap Windows PC, if not longer.

To decide between an iPad and a Windows computer you should list all the functions that you need to have available. Use Google to search for apps for those functions. Add the cost of the software you will need to the cost of the iPad, and compare it to the cost of a computer with the cost of the software you will require. This will make it easier to compare. You can also query Facebook and Yahoo groups to get opinions from those who use iPads versus computers.

When purchasing an iPad you will be presented with choices. Some, like screen size and finish, are just personal preferences, but storage size is something to consider carefully. The working memory, comparable to RAM in a conventional computer, is the same in all models. The storage memory is literally that; memory used for storing documents, mail, photos, movies, etc. Price goes up with storage capacity, and you can’t add more storage later if you find you need it. Apple provides 5 GB of iCloud storage free to each user and you can add more for nominal cost. You can also get storage from apps such as Amazon Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. All of these external storage options require a WiFi connection to access, so how and where you use your iPad will factor into your decision. I generally don’t buy an iPad with the minimum storage, just because I want the convenience of having all my files available whether I have WiFi available or not.

Hopefully this will help you decide which device to get for your sewing needs. Questions can be posted to the Online Sewing discussion group.