Microsoft Teams on iPad: boosting my personal productivity

During this summer I had reached the end of productive life-cycle of my few years old Android tablet. The one I had was never the top of the line product and it also reflected on the price. It was a solid packet, but when using it with Microsoft 365 solutions the age was clearly showing up, especially with Microsoft Teams. Yes: it was slow to use and took precious time, and the battery didn’t last that long either. Knowing that I would be using Teams a lot with the new tablet – along with other Office tools – I needed something that hopefully would last long and be also lightweight for travels. The old tablet still has life as a personal and recreational device, I have apps I have bought for Android devices and thus I am not going to waste them – so I still keep using the tablet for some gaming now and then. When traveling continues I am naturally taking only one device (the new one) with me. For budget part I was aiming for a device less than 900 euros.

It was a tough decision between staying at the Android world and getting a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 or jumping to the Apple with iPad Air 2020. Eventually I decided to switch to Apple iPad Air for various reasons.

  • Lightweight and the form / balance when using it / reading. This was apparent when I was able to test both devices at shop.
  • Good battery life. It is quite surprising how well it keeps it’s charge when not used. This may not be a surprise for Apple users, but even when I “knew” this happened it still surprised me positively
  • USB-C port
  • And especially the final big reason was the ability to use and test Microsoft 365 applications, especially Microsoft Teams, on Apple device. Some Teams features are first available for Android only and some for Apple only. This will reflect in future blog articles as well.

It was easy to get started, especially I had an very old Apple account ( I did own Apple iPad 2 many many many years ago) that I was able to use. It took me some time to learn most important UI gestures and features, since my mind had been heavily set for Android experience.

I was quite quickly up to speed after installing the most important apps like Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, Whiteboard, Office apps, Office Lens, Authenticator and Edge. Naturally I also installed Chrome since I use both Edge and Chrome most of the time when browsing. Safari is opening on default in iPad, but most of the time it is just for opening links and so. Being able to continue my work on any device is quite well realized in this setting: Windows 11 desktop at home office, Surface Pro 7 for flexible working environment, Android phone anywhere and iPad for lightweight flexible device that can be used to catch up on materials, reading, viewing videos, testing Teams iOS features and attending meetings & MVP calls. LinkedIn and Twitter are obvious apps that I also use often. ‘

Yes, I have my device set to Finnish. Sorry about that in the screenshot.

Latest iOS 15 came with bunch of widgets that can help to say up to date: I use especially calendar and Microsoft To Do to stay on track. The screenshot was taken on Saturday, so I didn’t have much on calendar and To Do is saying that I don’t have anything on the task list – as it should be on for Saturday 😊

I have the dedicated page for all Microsoft 365, so I can find these apps quickly. On other pages I have grouped some of apps into folders to keep them out of sight and also to give room to those productivity apps I use daily. I still have some cleaning up to do – for example I use Spotify instead of Apple music and Outlook is much better as a mail client than what Apple’s version does. This is just a great example how Microsoft has created tools that work very well in different ecosystems. Google mail app works really well for Gmail so Apple mail is not used on my productivity flow.

I never like to type too much on tablets, because you either have an external keyboard that adds weight and thickness or using virtual keyboard is very slow. Tablet is clearly for more towards consuming information and attending meetings than creating content.

There is an Apple pencil available for purchase, and with the latest Whiteboard improvements & new iOS Whiteboard version coming this month I may finally get one. My handwriting however is quite poor, so most of the time I avoid doing it. But for inking and participating with the new Whiteboard features, inking and commenting docs – it could be more productive. I have Surface Pro 7 I can use as well, but iPad is more lightweight to keep in hand for longer periods – while Surface would be more versatile in features.

Microsoft Teams on iPad Air 2020 – my experiences

Of course the application I use very often is Microsoft Teams. I have multiple accounts that I use with Teams for work, for MVP activities and of course for different demo environments I have. And each account usually have guest networks. The list can be quite a long one.

What I was really positively surprised and amazed was how well Microsoft Teams works on iPad Air 2020! My mobile phone is quite top of the line when it comes to power: OnePlus 8 Pro with 12GB RAM and 256 GB storage but when using Microsoft Teams in it.. the experience is not often the top of the line. Switching between tenants can have some delay – and especially when it updates the content longer than usual. Sometimes it is quick, but then there are moments when it is not that smooth. When using iPad the switch is fast and Teams contents are updated quickly and this exp is constant. The smoothness and painfulness is making me say this:

The Microsoft Teams experience on my iPad has made it so far my mobile preferred device to consume information over multiple accounts and guest networks in Microsoft Teams.

Joining meetings is also a very good experience with iPad, just like on my phone. I never had issues with meetings when using my OnePlus device. Teams just works in meetings.

I decided not to go into a deep-dive and feature comparison. There are slight nuances and some features available only for iOS (or to Android only), but for generic use that I aimed at it is a great application and works better than on Android devices.. except when you bring Surface Duo to talk.

What about Surface Duo vs Surface Duo 2 vs iPad?

I did a review on Surface Duo use with Microsoft Teams focus this spring. At that time I was comparing my OnePlus 8 Pro with Surface Duo and I eventually positioned Surface Duo a more like a tablet device than a multipurpose phone. Microsoft Teams was running really smoothly in Duo. It can be comparable to my experiences with iPad – with the exception that dual screen creates a very different user experience than a single screen tablet. Thinking on the go device Surface Duo would take less space than iPad Air 2020. Two screens would add great possibilities to multi-task (yes, it is also possible to split screen on iPad but I have noticed I don’t do it that often. At least have not done yet since mostly I focus on a single thing when on tablet) in a natural way: like having Teams and calendar open.

For business and work use I still think dual screen will provide a great option but split screen capability can be really close in one-screen devices. Surface Duo supports some dragging options between screens, which makes it more intuitive.

Of course Surface Duo version 1 had limitations. Heavily limitations if you would think to use it as your multi-purpose mobile phone. I have heard rumors that some people even used Surface Duo for calls 😱 (just joking, of course you can call with it!) but there were serious shortcomings.

This all may change with Surface Duo 2.

No, I don’t have any hands on experience in Surface Duo 2, yet. The specifications and demos were quite convincing and gives lots of promise about the potential Duo 2 has. Overall improvements look that it will be the productivity device we tech-loving people would want to test and use. The shortcomings in specs that were in place with Duo are fixed and if the cameras on the device are good enough it could be used as the multi-purpose mobile device, without having to carry a mobile phone separately.

What this has to do with iPad then? And Surface Duo 2 seems to be very expensive device – will it be worth the investment?

The way I see it, from my personals needs and experiences, I think Surface Duo 2 could take the role of both my mobile phone and tablet. This would mean that I would not have to carry two different devices when traveling (although, I might want to have a backup device due in case something happens to the primary) : Duo 2 doesn’t take too much space (yes, it is larger than medium sized mobile phones but smaller than mobile phone and tablet) and can take both devices roles for work use. Probably you could watch movies with it as well to some extent: the screen is smaller than iPad, for example, so in long term the experience might not be ideal.

This comes to the price: paying separately for high-end phone and for quite high-end table costs you the same as buying Surface Duo 2. Until there are more reviews and information about Duo 2 it is impossible to say would it still need a companion tablet or not.

Conclusion

I am extremely happy that I bought iPad Air and it works with Microsoft Teams better than I expected – it has taken the position of my favorite mobile Microsoft Teams device. On Desktop I make the best possible outcome to work with different accounts and guest networks by utilizing Microsoft Edge profiles heavily. My primary Teams Desktop app stays most of the time on my home work tenant (Sulava) while Edge profiles allow me to stay online and active in multiple tenants at the same time. This comes with some hardware cost: 16GB of memory is not enough for my use. 32GB looks like it is the new standard for any future computer for me. I also have a couple of virtual machines that I can use to use Teams Desktop app in other tenants – mostly for demo purposes but nothing is stopping me from connecting audio and camera to VMs so I can use them for calls if needed.

If you want to learn more how to best “survive” multiple accounts and guest networks check my Survival Guide to Microsoft Teams with multiple accounts.

Because I just bought iPad Air 2020 and I have had OnePlus 8 Pro for just a bit over one year the Surface Duo 2 is not on my purchase list any time soon. When I will be updating my devices the next time I will surely take Duo 2 (or 3, probably at that time) into consideration and think how well it would fit my needs then. My experience with iPad has also now added Apple iPhone (some of it’s high-end models, there are close to Surface Duo 2 price actually) to the potential device list. That would also mean I would have to update also my smart watch.. 😂

The future will not be any easier or simpler, but more complex – and may be also more expensive for tech-enthusiast like me. 😂

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