Using an iPhone as Your Main Computer

A few weeks ago I had an interesting opportunity to test out what it was like to rely only on my iPhone to get things done. My wife had a business conference in Las Vegas so I traveled with her. While she was in her conference all day during the week I was on vacation hanging out in Las Vegas. The catch here is that my wife wanted to use my iPad Pro to take notes during the conference, which meant I was left with only my iPhone. Even though I was on "vacation" there was still some writing/blog posts and other things I wanted to get done. So I decided to see how well I could get along with just my iPhone.

Equipment

There are 3 main items I used in order to put my iPhone to work as my main computer for a few days:

  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • Apple Magic Keyboard (bluetooth keyboard)
  • Homemade iPhone stand

If you are going to do any significant amount of writing then you will want to use an external keyboard of some kind. I had an extra bluetooth keyboard so that is what I packed. The larger the iPhone you have the better. You can probably get along ok with an iPhone 6, 6s or 7 4.7-inch displays but having the extra screen real estate with the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus made things much easier. Sure, you could even use the iPhone SE's 4-inch display (or older model iPhones), but it starts getting really hard to navigate full desktop websites and do any significant amount of writing on that small of a screen. As you can see from my image at the top of this article, my homemade iPhone holder (which is made out of a solid piece of oak left over from some picture frames we were building) secures the iPhone in landscape mode.

My homemade solid oak iOS stand

My homemade solid oak iOS stand

This works really well with the larger "Plus" model phones because the home screen will rotate and the dock will move to the side of the iPhone. The smaller screened iPhones will only operate in portrait mode (with the home bottom on the bottom). I like writing in landscape mode because the text doesn't wrap around as quickly on the screen and it feels a lot more like you are typing on a full-sized computer. Landscape also helps make reading and navigating through non-mobile friendly (desktop) versions of websites. In case you don't know, many websites today are setup so that if you visit them on a mobile device like an iPhone or an iPad they automatically present to you a different version of their website that is designed specifically for a mobile internet browser. But sometimes you can't get to the content you need from the mobile version of a website and need the full site. In iOS you can do this by simply pressing and holding the refresh button at the top of the web page until a pop up dialog comes up asking you if you would like the desktop version of the website.

How to view a website in a non-mobile "Desktop" format in iOS

How to view a website in a non-mobile "Desktop" format in iOS

Verdict

This wasn't my first time attempting to get by with only an iPhone as my computer. I have traveled overseas for work before and for security reasons I was not allowed to take my work laptop with me. But I was allowed to take my work provided iPhone. In both cases (my overseas work trips and this Vegas trip) I was able to do almost everything I needed to do on the iPhone. This website is published by a service called Squarespace and they have an iOS app that allows me to publish new articles right from an iPhone or an iPad. So that makes posting new content to my site from iOS pretty easy. While overseas for work my main computing need was to take notes during meetings and that is easily handled with an iPhone (but again, a bluetooth keyboard of some kind is highly recommended). While I was in Vegas I was able to publish a few new blog posts on this site as well as do some early Christmas shopping and order faster internet service for my home and schedule the installation date.

Each year the apps available for iOS get more and more powerful, which not only make is feasible to rely on your iPhone to get things done it makes it down right enjoyable. By enjoyable I mean that iOS apps by nature have to be a bit more streamlined in their design than their desktop counterparts due to the smaller screen. So the interface to the application is a bit more simple. Sometimes that means less features, but not always. It really boils down to what your computing needs are and whether you have found the right iOS app for your iPhone to do that task. I was already ahead of the game because I already use an iPad Pro as my main computer. So I already had iOS apps for nearly all of my main computing tasks pre-loaded on my iPhone and setup in such a way that content from my iPad was synchronized with my iPad. So working on my iPhone I was able to start where I had left off on my iPad.

If you are going into a situation where you need to rely on your iPhone to get things done then I strongly suggest the following:

  1. Use an external keyboard
  2. Find a way to prop up your iPhone (preferably a stand of some kind)
  3. Do a little research before hand and make sure you have iOS apps that do what you need. Give yourself permission to spend a little bit of money on a few quality apps, it is money well spent if you really want to use your iOS device to get things done.

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