Matthew Fitzsimmons

iPad vs iPhone Breakdown

Now that I've had both an iPhone and an iPad for a while, I thought I'd write a little bit about the breakdown between the two devices. In other words, what do I use them for?

When I first got the iPad, I used it a lot for all kinds of things. Now that the newness has worn off, my usage of it is falling into a more steady rhythm, and I'm back to using the iPhone for some things that I had been using the iPad for (although some of this could be the fault of getting a new iPhone 4, from which the newness hasn't quite worn off).

For some of these things, I know the iPad is better but tend to use the iPhone instead because it's almost always in my pocket. I don't always remember to grab the iPad when I leave the office, and don't always feel like going back to get it.


I've mentioned in previous articles that I do my long-form reading on the Kindle. There are some things that I still read on the iPad or iPhone, however. Primarily, this means Instapaper. I like Instapaper on the iPad because of the larger screen, but I like the crisper text on the iPhone 4. Lately, I've been doing most of my Instapaper reading on the iPhone 4 because I'm doing it out of convenience rather than purpose.

What I mean by that is that when I decide that I'm going to read some articles, I'll grab the iPad. But what I've mostly been doing lately is just reading when I'm in the bathroom or have some other available time, and then I use the iPhone because it's handy. I didn't really do this before the iPhone 4, though, so it's probably also a matter of the crisper text.

Writing and Note Taking

The iPad is much more pleasant to type on than the iPhone, in my opinion, unless I'm laying in bed or something. But sometimes I get an idea for a blog idea when I'm not at my computer and don't feel like getting the computer. Or I'll take notes in church in Pages. All of this works better on the iPad than the iPhone. Obviously, it's nicer to type with a physical keyboard, but the iPad isn't bad in a pinch.


Email includes kind of a combination of several other items, like reading and writing and maybe some others. I prefer reading emails on the iPad because of screen space, and most emails aren't optimal for the iPhone screen size.

I tend to write more emails on the iPhone, but they tend to be short and are usually replies. I write longer ones on the iPad, though, because it's so much easier to type.

Also, the screen size makes it easier to read things like the three daily comic strip emails I get. I tend to read these along with my news feeds at breakfast.

The iPad suffers from some usability concerns in the Mail app, though. First is the fact that there is no unified inbox yet (that should come when iOS 4 comes to the iPad), and I've gotten quite used to having a unified inbox on my iPhone. It takes too many taps to go back to another account on the iPad.

But the biggest problem goes beyond that. I have always been obsessive about disabling the preview pane in my email clients. I remember doing this with GroupWise back in my college days. The iPhone doesn't offer a preview pane because of screen size, so I don't have to do this. The iPad, on the other hand, doesn't offer a view with no preview pane.

At first this doesn't seem like a big deal, until you realize that this means an email must always be selected. What happens is I often end up deleting that email from another device (either my iPhone or my computer), and then the iPad sometimes ends up marking an email as read that I haven't actually read yet because it switches from the email I deleted to the next email which isn't necessarily an email that I've seen. I've submitted this as a bug to Apple, but I doubt it will make much difference.

Remote Access

Occasionally I'll use the iPad or iPhone to remotely access one of my Macs or one of my servers. I have an app called iTeleport (which is like VNC, with much better control features than the other iPad VNC apps I've tried) for accessing the Macs, and I use an SSH client for accessing the servers.

Obviously, when it comes to remotely controlling a screen, the iPad is a better choice. The iPhone works in a pinch, but the iPad is actually quite useful. The iPad also works better for SSH, but that's more due to keyboard usability than it is to screen size, although the screen size also makes a difference.


When I first got the iPad, I used Twitter on it a lot. I also used it a lot when travelling. For normal daily usage, however, I find myself almost never using Twitter on the iPad. I use it on the iPhone a lot and on my laptop a lot, but not on the iPad much. I'm not really sure why this is, but that's the way it's settled out.


Facebook on the iPhone has the advantage of having a purpose-built app that's pretty well done. Facebook on the iPad uses the normal Facebook web interface. I probably use Facebook more on the iPhone, just because it's handy for checking things quickly, but I use it fairly frequently on the iPad as well.


The iPad is better for most games just because of the size of the screen. It makes such a huge difference even for apps like Angry Birds that are really not that much different between the two devices. Again, though, iPhone gaming tends to happen a lot when I'm out and about with some downtime, or on the toilet.


Surfing is by far better on the iPad, and I do more on the iPad than I do on the iPhone. But again, if I just want to look something up quickly, the iPhone often wins out because of convenience. Sometimes, though, I think that going and finding my iPad and using it would take less time than dealing with the screen restraints of the iPhone.


I probably do online shopping more on the iPad than the iPhone, although the iPhone Amazon app makes it really easy to do price comparisons when I'm out shopping in a physical store.

I did run into one little problem with the iPad Amazon app the other day, though. I was looking at an item that turned out to be way overpriced. The price was so high, I thought it was a multi-pack before I tapped it and pulled up the full listing. I was about to tap the next item in the list when my other thumb accidentally bumped the one-click ordering button.

I cancelled the order within 5 minutes, but it shipped anyway and I had to return it. Evidently they have to actually have human intervention to cancel the order, and the human wasn't available at the time.


I read a number of RSS feeds, and Reeder on the iPad is awesome for this. This is probably one of the things I use the iPad for the most. I prop it up using the awesome Apple case, sit it on the kitchen counter, and go through my feeds while making breakfast. Then, when I sit down to eat breakfast, I put the iPad on the table next to me and continue reading and eating.

I occasionally use the iPhone for news feeds, but again this is a matter of being out and about. Are you sensing a theme here yet?


I don't do this while mobile often, but when I do I almost exclusively use the iPad. After all, it's all about typing and the iPad is way better for typing than the iPhone. Of course there's SMS. Not really any options for that.

Task Management

I do almost no task management on either mobile device. If I want to do some organizing of tasks and such, the iPad is way better because there's lest switching of screens and such. I usually only use my mobile task management apps when adding tasks. I should probably do more of this. Of course, if I'm out and about running errands and have them listed somewhere, the iPhone is the best option. No need to carry the iPad around the stores with me.


This is one of the key things I use my iPad for, whether it be to watch the latest Futurama episode, or a screencast to help me learn programming or something. I often have it propped up next to me at my desk so I can put the screencast on there, and do my programming on my laptop and external monitor. It's easier than switching back and forth between the screencast and my text editor.

The iPhone is decent for watching video, but the screen is still so small that the iPad is much preferred.


I have most of my music on my iPad because it has so much more storage space than my iPhone. I often use it to listen to music when sitting at my desk since I'm already running so many things on my computer I don't need to run iTunes as well.

Sometimes, if I'm not driving, I'll use the iPad for music in the car. Lately, though, I just use an SD card or my iPhone since both of them integrate into the stereo.


The iPad is excellent for mapping out routes, but so is the iPhone. I like doing this on the iPad more, but I kind of tend to forget I can use it for that. I think it's partly because I've been mapping out routes on my iPhone for a few years already, so that's just an ingrained habit that having the iPad hasn't changed. It probably also has something to do with the fact that I don't take my iPad with me to that many places, so I'm more likely to use the device that I always have with me.


I thought IMDB deserved a specific mention. I mainly use IMDB to look up information on specific actors while I'm watching TV. This is how I do things like verify that the actor who played Bo Duke in the original Dukes of Hazzard series has been showing up on shows like CSI and Leverage as a bad guy in recent years.

The iPad version of the IMDB app is awesome, but I've hardly used it. Why? I guess it's because I already developed the habit of using the iPhone for such things, and I don't have the iPad with me in front of the TV as much as I thought I would.


So as I've been writing this, it's helped me realize one key thing: I often use my iPhone for things that the iPad is better suited for just because I'm more likely to have the iPhone handy. Perhaps I will start to make an effort to have the iPad handier to be better able to put it to use, or maybe I'll just realize that sometimes good enough is good enough, as long as it's convenient.