My first tablet was the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the first Android tablet ever, and I still have it and I still think that, for its time it was a splendid piece of technology. I have since moved wholly to the iOS universe where my first tablet was the first generation iPad Air, and today, two years later, I upgraded it to a 9.7 inch iPad Pro, with a spacious 128GB storage, and so far it has been a lovely experience.
The fact that I am typing these thoughts on my new iPad Pro goes to show just how capable this tablet is for “real” work. By contrast, I only ever used my iPad before to make notes for articles, and never to type the articles themselves. But to say the tablet alone is responsible for this would be wrong: it is a combination of iPad Pro, the new Smart Keyboard, and Apple Pencil. In fact, I have come to believe that it is this ecosystem of basic but incredibly capable accessories that makes the whole experience feel worthy of a pro tag.
I do not mean to undersell the iPad itself, but a closer look at its specifications will show that iPad Pro is really a next-generation iPad Air. It performs almost twice as well as its predecessor, the Air 2, and a whopping five times better than my old iPad Air. During daily tasks (read, media consumption) even iPad Air is plenty; and if that is all your usage is, then an upgrade to the Pro device is unnecessary. The specifications of the Pro shine when under stress, because you will find it hard to stress the A9X processor and the 2GB of RAM with any app currently on the App Store. There may be apps that put the device to a real test a few years from now, and this is where the older 12.9 inch iPad Pro wins — a better shelf life — but this 9.7 inch device is not to be dismissed, because in real world performance it is just as good as its larger counterpart with the added perks of being portably and not being ridiculously unwieldy.
The company’s new stylus, the Apple Pencil, is remarkable. It could just be that I am not thoroughly familiar with styluses in general, but this one is extremely accurate and goes a long, long way in making the iPad feel like a notepad. Couple this with apps like Penultimate or, my personal favourite, Goodnotes, and you have a complete solution to take notes, annotate, and maintain texts. On similar lines, with apps like Adobe Sketch, Paper by fiftythree, or the humorously named but powerful drawing app, Procreate, the Apple Pencil takes both dimensional iPad Pro devices several strides ahead of the competition.
The fallacy lies in viewing iPad Pro as a laptop-replacement, a flawed concept that was birthed with (as far as my own knowledge goes) the Surface lineup by Microsoft. Now the Surface is a PC that runs a PC operating system and looks like a tablet. That is completely different from iPad Pro, which is a tablet that runs a mobile operating system. Besides, when Steve Jobs first introduced the concept of a “tablet”, he never advertised it as a PC that is even more portable than a laptop. He intended to fill a void between the mobile phone and the laptop. Something that overcame the small-screen restriction of the mobile phone and coupled it with beefier hardware that allowed you to maintain the same portability while carrying more capabilities around. So iPad Pro, or any iPad in the foreseeable future, will not be a replacement for my MacBooks, but will hold its own place as a media consumption and ntertainment device as well as a text and photo content creation device.
This is precisely how I use my iPad and have been for a couple of years now. However, as far as content creation goes, it used to be my mind palace and notes area as well as where a lot of thoughts sparked. With the new Pro device and its peripherals (not to mention four brilliant speakers with channels that shift based on screen orientation) I have started using my iPad for more serious work: this whole article was typed from start to finish with great ease using Byword on iPad Pro, with split screen alongside Safari, and continuously backed up to my Dropbox. Would it have been impossible on my old iPad Air? Not necessarily, but it would have been cumbersome enough to become off-putting without the new Smart Keyboard.
Speaking of the Keyboard, the travel in the keys is considerable for a device wrapped in cloth that looks so thin. It is neither fragile or unusable. The travel is enough that once you get used to the smaller dimensions of the keyboard (not all that hard) typing is a breeze. The dimensions of the keyboard have been made sufficiently airy by reducing the size of companion keys like tab, return etc., and not by shrinking the alphanumeric keys. My Smart Keyboard had an issue where the keyboard itself would rise and flop around, creating an imbalance in the stand, all of which had nothing to do with the weight of the tablet itself. The guys at the Apple Store were courteous as always and agreed to replace the keyboard for me. I still with the keyboard was backlit and had function keys, but it certainly is good as it stands.
Fortune describes iPad Pro as “the best of both worlds”, because it takes all the power of the 12.9 inch behemoth and makes it portable in a more familiar 9.7 inch form factor. But the new device also brings a much, much better display. Samsung has long been the maker of supposedly better smartphone displays and, of late, cameras. But, as someone who makes a lot of photographs, I have always preferred the more realistic colours on iPhone to the over-saturated mess on Samsung phones, despite better rendition of blacks on the latter. Apple takes the proverbial game to the next level with a much brighter screen on this new iPad, with an improved colour gamut and the same digital colour space as that used by Hollywood, all wrapped up in a nice screen that is much less reflective than previous devices. And a new technology, dubbed “True Tone”, subtly modifies screen temperature with the help of four dedicated sensors depending on the environment you are in, to mimic paper. This felt like always-on Night Shift at first, but within hours I had stopped noticing it — unlike Night Shift.
Apple’s bid to sell an iPad as a “Super. Computer.” seems like a desperate move at this point. The future of the iPad is not threatened because nobody considers it as their next computer, rather because nobody seems to realise it for what it is. It is an iPad. And instead of forcing it to be something it is not, we should all take another look at iPad Pro and appreciate how differently it lets us do intensive tasks — and with ease too — and Apple should take that mindset and begin working on making tablets their own, entirely new class of devices as was originally intended, instead of presenting them as wannabe computers. What must also change is apps, most of which still boast enlarged iPhone UIs, and a file system needs to be made available, not to make iPad more like a computer but because, half-a-decade on, it is time we came up with a whole new manner of working with tablets: if the hardware fills a void between smartphones and PCs, so too must the software.
The best thing about iPad Pro is that it has made me use it a lot more and has reduced my iPhone use. When, earlier, I used to simply grab my iPhone because my iPad was in another room and it made no difference anyway, the Pro device does make a difference. And boy is it thin. Thinner than my iPhone 6S, and sporting a darker space grey brushed Aluminium back, it is a joy to carry around, and is much easier as well. The Smart Keyboard cover does add bulk, but is nothing unforgivable. And my new iPad Pro is fast becoming my device of choice for select tasks, not stealing the limelight from my MacBook, but carving out its own space in my workflow. ❖