Using the MacBook and iPad Mini as my daily drivers

Something strange has happened since I’ve been out of work and looking for a new role, I’ve almost completely switched back to using macOS. My setup that I use daily has changed and I’d like to share what I’m now using daily.


The iPhone that I use is still the 2020 iPhone 11 Pro. I’ve been very interested in the 12 Mini if I’m being honest but I can’t justify it given the work situation and the fact that the 11 Pro, whilst not being my favourite form factor still does the job well. I find that I am on my iPhone more these days, which is strange but most of my iPad use has been replaced by my iPhone. The battery is still 100% and it lasts a couple of days now I’m not going anywhere. Form factor aside I don’t see a reason to switch iPhone at the moment at all.


I’m no longer using my 11″ iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard, more on this in a bit but my iPad use has switched over to the latest generation iPad Mini. I have a smart cover and the Logitech Pencil that I use when I feel like taking some notes or need to annotate. This is a lot less now than it was when I was in full time employment when I was annotating infrastructure designs or sketching. I really love the iPad Mini form factor and actually quite like having TouchID back on a device I use daily. The screen is a nice size up from my 11 Pro and it’s large enough for both content creation and consumption It’s the perfect size to sit alongside my guitar amplifier and show me sheet music or act as a recording device via GarageBand. I think if Apple brought us a “Mini Pro” I’d actually be pretty interested in trading in this model and stick to a smaller form factor for my iPad use.

12″ MacBook

I picked up an Apple refurbished 12″ MacBook in 2017 when I started to freelance write more and needed something away from the desk iMac. I used it heavily for 6 months then it went back in a drawer when the iPad Pro became my go to device, this has changed in the last few months. The MacBook is now the machine I grab when I want to do some job hunting, CV work, emails and Zoom calls (interviews etc..). I’ve found that Big Sur has really sped this little machine up and it works reliably for me. I’ve even grown to like the flat keyboard! There are things I don’t like about it though, getting hot on my lap is one of them. I’m starting to look at investing in an M1 MacBook Air, something I didn’t think I’d be doing 6 months ago. The Mac seems to have become my go to machine now when I want to dig into a task like scouring LinkedIn for jobs, attend an interview or go through my tasks. I really could see me upgrading this to the new devices, something running really fast and cooler to the touch.

So my pretty stripped back setup is

  • iPhone
  • iPad Mini
  • MacBook

I’m also planning on writing up something on stripped back apps that I’m now using to manage my day etc…

Creating a smaller community

I’ve been a bit burned out by social media lately so I’ve created a little slack for my blog. Originally I had planned to use it for Patreon but I wanted to share it out to everyone that wants to disconnect from Twitter but not the people they have enjoyed interacting with.

This is an experiment and I’m new to creating slack rooms etc but if you’d like to join in please contact me here.

A minimal iPhone Home Screen

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my creative projects, distractions and using simpler apps in the last few days. This has led me to redo my Home Screen as you can see above.

I’m using the screen to left of home to have a few widgets but I’m mainly keeping them off my Home Screen.

The screen to the right of home is the App Library.

This leaves just the Home Screen that contains the only real apps I’m using on my iPhone now I’ve removed a lot of distractions.

One thing that stands out is Things 3, I’m just using it as a simple to do list whilst I gather my thoughts. Accessibility issues exist but for a view of my calendar and a few things to tick off I’m using it for now.

Streaks is there whilst I figure out good habits to start and bad habits to drop.

I’m using Apple Music just for the songs I’ve purchased, no subscription service. This still gets catered for by Amazon Music.

Not much more to say on this new setup aside from it’s less busy and hopefully keeps me off my iPhone more unless I’m listening to music.

Being more intentional, keeping distractions off your smartphone

One thing I’ve realised in looking at my screen time since I lost my day job was that it’s gone very much in the wrong direction. I’m spending too much time in social media apps like Twitter and Reddit and less time on creating new things.

I’ve decided to make my iPhone use a lot more intentional. Less distractions and finding a new place for a certain activities. What I mean here is that as a first step I’m removing all of the social and podcasting apps off my iPhone.

Social apps are useful for me but I can catch up on my MacBook. I want to stop the habit of scrolling the news feed.

With podcasts I listen to them more out of habit than enjoyment. I don’t commute or travel to client sites so I find instead of relaxing with music I throw on whatever technology based podcast is my queue and end up not even listening to it really. I’m either not interested or just get bored these days.

I’m hoping these little changes help me focus a bit more on what’s important to me, something I’m still figuring out.

A quick take on macOS Big Sur

I’ve been using my MacBook a lot more over the last few months and to be honest I resisted Big Sur for a while but when the machine was running really slowly I thought, what have I got to lose.

After using it for a good few weeks now I wanted to share a few thoughts on using it.

  • It’s fast: yes, on older hardware (2016 MacBook) the whole OS runs a lot smother than Catalina did. Apps launch faster and seem more responsive. On the 2015 iMac 5k with 16GB it flies.
  • Newly designed apps: I like the new design on apps like Mail and Calendar and along with the fresh lick of paint they line up more nicely with iOS and look more modern.
  • Messages is finally good: Been upgraded to be in line with iOS.
  • I don’t like notifications: I really don’t like the way I need to hover and use the little X to close, it’s slowing my workflow down.
  • Less bugs: It feels like I’m encountering less or no bugs in daily use. Where on Catalina I ran into bugs weekly on Big Sur I’m not seeing it.

Overall I’m pleased with Big Sur, it’s a nice upgrade. I’m hoping that Apple move to a two year cycle now and just refine Big Sur this year as I’m finding it nice and stable.

The state of your side projects

This post by Matt Birchler really struck home with me today as I contemplate my own projects. My blog is small and whilst it is growing yearly I’m most probably going to be quieter as I look for a new day job.

I’m also looking at doing something different from writing, learn a new skill. I’m most probably going to put some effort into video more to learn new stuff.

It’s literally a brain dump at this point but I have time to learn new skills so it would be good to do it outside of my comfort zone.

My most used tech of 2020

With a change of working habits and life it’s definitely affected the tech I’ve been using this year so I thought I’d list the tech I’ve used the most and how I’m using it.

My iPhone becoming my iPad

This was a strange one looking back. I broke my iPad Pro back in April time and went without one for a couple of months. What I found was my iPhone 11 Pro became my tablet. I started to watch video on it and do more productivity tasks like note taking and task management. I picked up a 2020 Pro in June and I love it but finding I’m not actually using it that much. Especially since I left work in November.

Back to the Mac

Since I’ve been engaged in job hunting I’ve needed to use a Mac more. The site I use for job hunting support doesn’t work well on iOS and I’m in Zoom interviews and meetings. I found the iPad didn’t get any use for these and I went back to using the 12″ MacBook. This has been a great little laptop and once upgraded to Big Sur the performance got better.

I dropped it though and once I investigate what’s now rattling it may be traded in for an M1 Mac Mini or MacBook Air. I’m not dropping iPad at all it’s just my needs have changed with my situation change.

AirPods Pro

Still one of my favourite Apple releases and get use daily. I’ve often got one in listening to an audio book or both when I’m trying to focus without background noise.

Nintendo Switch

Thanks to Animal Crossing I’ve rediscovered how great this console is. It’s also come in handy with my family playing Minecraft on the TV so I have my own screen to play whenever I want. If it broke I’d immediately replace it with a Lite, it’s become that important for me.

What have you used the most?

Don’t buy the Apple Watch Series 2

I’m still using my Apple Watch Series 2 on and off but based on the last few days I can no longer recommend it. I’m toying with the idea of using it again to help me with my fitness goals but will need to upgrade to a series 4 or later.

With the latest watchOS 6 update it’s just continued it’s downwards slide to obsolete.

  • Watch faces no longer sync between the iPhone and watch
  • Software update checks no longer complete
  • Restarting takes upwards of 3 minutes
  • Loss of pairing to the iPhone several times a day
  • Fitness tracking losing stats

I’m at a point now that I can still get around £50 for my 1300 day old Apple Watch and I think I’m going to take it and get a refurbished model or used.

Which model are you using?

Don’t pay the 5G tax if you don’t get 5G

I know this kind of seems obvious but it’s the main reason I’ve stopped even looking at the iPhone 12. I’ve been so interested in the form factor of the Mini that I lost my way a little. I don’t live in a 5G area so I’m paying for something I’ll never use. It’s the main reason I skipped the first iPhone and waited for the 3G. Why pay for something you won’t get the performance you want?

I live in a rural town and looking at my carrier info I won’t be getting 5G for a while yet and being on WiFi almost all of the time it makes no sense for me to upgrade.

Are you seeing 5G where you live?