iPad Pro and commitment issues


I’ll be completely honest with you, my audience. I love my iPad Pro, it’s what I’m using to write this very post. But, in the two months I’ve been using it my commitment hasn’t been 100% unwavering. I’ve checked Apple’s refurbished website (maybe the best place to buy a laptop, full stop) for MacBook Pro options more than once. I’ve read several reviews of the new 16 inch MacBook Pro, and I questioned my friend about his with a noticeable uptick in enthusiasm. I’ve even used my iMac more than I expected, although with lackluster results (have I mentioned how distracting those things are?). The point is, working from an iPad Pro is a large adjustment, and sometimes I just want to go back to my comfortable place wasting time on a MacBook Pro. Here’s what I’ve realized, the feelings aren’t bad and it doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a MacBook Pro.

It’s normal to feel a little nostalgic for the old way of doing things. And it takes time, more than a week or two, or maybe even a month or two, to get comfortable with a new setup. But I’ll say this, after a while, it does get more comfortable. The question of whether my feelings of nostalgia are rooted in some flaw in the iPad Pro or in my own addiction to familiarity is slowly being revealed as the latter. All that stuff I wrote about the focusing power of the iPad Pro? It still rings true. All the capability and portability are still there. I still get more of my most important things done on my iPad Pro, it has forced me to work more intentionally.

So I guess this is my thought: when you commit to something, you probably have to commit to it for more than a few weeks. Change isn’t easy but it’s often better. My iPad Pro experience falls right in line with other good change initiatives, not always comfortable, but ultimately moving me in a better direction.

iPad Pro Work: Setup


I’ve wrestled with this before, to use an iPad or to not use an iPad as a primary productivity machine. I work in financial services, specifically as an investment advisor. I don’t run any heavy-duty programs, I use Microsft’s office suite, a few communication apps, and a lot of web-based programs, so it’s not untenable. But in previous years the compromise has proved too great and my MacBook Pro too trusty.

iPadOS seems to have solved most of the most egregious of those compromises. The addition of the desktop-class browser (almost, Safari extensions are not yet available, but websites do render as desktop sites) is specifically a game-changer for my work. The improved multi-tasking abilities help too, and mouse support opens up a whole new world of possibilities (think, I could connect the iPad to the conference room display for a client meeting and run it from a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse on the table).
So I’m back, I’m giving it another honest try.

Here’s the setup:

• I bought the 12.9 inch variant over the 11 inch. The larger screen offers so much more utility. On top of simply having way more space to work with, it will also give two full-sized apps when running them in split-view instead of the phone versions of those apps. Subjectively, it’s the difference between working on a computer and an oversized phone.

• I chose silver over space gray. Space gray looks awesome, but as soon as it suffers one little nick or dent you see silver underneath. I’d rather the whole device stay one color. Also, silver looks awesome too.

• I chose the WiFi-only model over the addition of cellular. One great benefit of iPads over MacBooks is their ability to connect to cellular data and be always on and always connected. The thing is, I don’t want to be always on and always connected. I like to close my work machine and stop thinking about it for a while. Plus, I still have an iPhone, so on the rare occasion that I’m working and out of range from WiFi, hotspot is still available. The WiFi-only model is also a way to save some money, the iPad itself is cheaper and it won’t incur the extra monthly data cost. This is the one decision I can see myself waffling on in the future, but for now, I’m content.

• I went with 256gb of storage. For people who do a lot with photos and video, the higher storage tiers make sense. For me, 256gb is probably overkill. The only thing that will take up any noticeable amount of space for me is the occasional Netflix or Amazon Prime movie download for watching on the plane.

• Along with the iPad Pro, I purchased an Apple Smart Keyboard, 2nd Generation Apple Pencil, and an Apple Magic Mouse 2. I’ll comment on each of these accessories in the future.

Here goes!

You Should Get an Apple Watch

If you haven’t undergone the Apple Watch experience, and it is an experience, let me tell you how it works:

At its most basic level, the Apple Watch is a fitness device. Sure, it includes all the extra bells and whistles, probably the best bells and whistles, that a modern smartwatch has to offer, like text and email and phone call notifications (so fun to ignore calls from my Apple Watch). You can check the weather which is handy. It’s got a timer app which I use a lot more than I thought I would. The calendar widgets add some convenience. Those things are all cool, but they’re the outer layers of the onion. Keep peeling back and you’ll find a physical activity monster at the core. Apple calls it the Activity app which sounds fun, because who doesn’t like activities? Well, these activities aren’t the fun kind. The Activity app tracks three things: active calories burned, exercise minutes, and number of hours you stood (you don’t have to stand for 12 hours, you just have to stand for one minute per hour, for 12 hours). It also sets daily goals for each of these categories, of which you can only customize calories burned. The exercise goal is set to 30 minutes per day, and the standing goal is for 12 hours (again, you only have to stand for one minute per hour). It communicates your goal progress through one little three-ringed circle. Oh, the agony one little digital circle can cause. As you burn calories and exercise and stand, those three rings slowly fill with color. Your job is to make sure all three are filled up, or closed, by the end of each day.

For the first few days, this is exciting. It’s really fun to watch those little rings close, and it’s way more satisfying than it should be to see the whole circle filled. You can go back to see your history in month blocks, plus Apple offers neat little badge things for miscellaneous accomplishments and challenges. No, not real badges, you can only see them in the Activities app, but still. If closing the rings wasn’t motivating enough the badges will surely get you moving.

After the honeymoon period is over, reality will set in. I’m a competitive person, lots of us humans are, and when one or more of those circles aren’t closed I feel like I’ve lost, which is obviously unacceptable. So every day, my number one priority has become closing those rings; if everything else I do fails, at least I have this. Within the first month or so I began to realize just what I had signed up for. This Apple Watch experience isn’t just about ignoring phone calls from my wrist, it’s actually about taking over my life. In order to earn (achieve? accomplish?) one of the available badges, you literally need to close every ring, every day, for an entire month! If that’s not a takeover, I’m not sure what is.

The Apple Watch promotes a type of maniacal addiction to exercise. I’ve developed habits I wouldn’t have dreamed of five years ago in order to facilitate the obsessive-compulsive urges this device inspires within me. My body hurts, my mind is exhausted, but those digital rings on my wrist are closed and it’s all worth the relentless pursuit. Side note, I’m in surprisingly good shape.

You should get one!

Part 3: The Three-Factor Model

The Three-Factor Model was introduced by Eugene Fama and Ken French in 1991. You might remember Fama from Part 1, he is also responsible for the Efficient Market Hypothesis back in the 1960s. The Three-Factor Model is a sort of subset theory to Modern Portfolio Theory, it takes things a step further. In Modern Portfolio Theory (Part 2) we see that strategic diversification is important for successful investing, The Three-Factor Model deals with the ‘strategic’ part of diversification. This research is very important for constructing portfolios. It means that you don’t want to simply owns lots of different asset classes, you want to own the right amount of the right asset classes to increase returns at minimal risk (volatility). As you might have guessed, there are three factors:

  1. Stocks outperform bonds (market effect). We want to be in the stock market. Bonds are good as you get closer to retiring because they’re not as volatile, but stocks will give the long-term returns that will allow for you to retire in the first place.
  2. Small companies outperform large companies (size effect). Large companies are the popular investment. We hear about the S&P 500, Dow Jones, and Nasdaq in the news almost exclusively; they’re all measurements of the largest US companies. Large companies are cheap to own, easy to trade, and you’ve heard of many of them, they make for a very popular investment. But over time, small companies will give you better returns. An ideal portfolio will not only include small companies, but it will also lean towards them.
  3. Value companies outperform growth companies (value effect). ‘Value’ means that the stock of a company is valued more closely to the actual worth of its assets. The stocks don’t have a built-in premium for growth potential because the companies aren’t expected to grow much. The stock prices of growth companies are much higher than the actual value of the company’s assets because of their potential, their expected growth. They’re also more popular than value companies, examples include Apple and Amazon and Google. Over time, value companies will give a better return than growth companies. Again, an ideal portfolio will not only include value companies, but it will also lean towards them.

The point of all this research is to help construct a better portfolio. Investing is not a shot in the dark or a gut feeling. It’s not even an educated guess about which asset classes or companies will make a jump next year. Investing is an academic exercise. We put these pieces of research together to model a portfolio that will put investors in the best position to capture market returns next year, and the year after, and every year moving forward. There are no pretensions that we know what will happen next year, we simply stay disciplined and diversified, we follow the rules, and we let the market do its work.