Yesterday I received the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro after a bit of a delay. I ordered it in the middle of last week with an estimated arrival date set to the following Monday. I was alerted that there was a flight delay that would be pushing my delivery back by one day; no problem there, it happens. Then a truly horrific event took place at the UPS facility in San Francisco where four people were killed, including the gunman. This caused there to be about a two day delay between when my package was supposed to be delivered and when I received it. When the doorbell rang and I was signing for the iPad, I asked the UPS driver how he was doing in light of recent events. He just looked me and said, “I can‘t stop thinking about it. But I‘m alright, thank you.”
Thinking about it now, I find it crazy that after a terrible event like that, things are back to business-as-usual so soon. Capitalism is a hell of a drug.
Enough prologue and onto the review. I‘ll start by saying that this is the best iPad I have ever used. There‘s so much good to say about it and almost no bad. For some disclosure, I‘ve owned three iPads in the past, the first generation, the iPad mini 3, and the iPad mini 4. The first iPad I owned was my companion to my MacBook at the time. I had only been using a MacBook from 2008 and I loved it so much. In 2010 when the first iPad came out, it was my second big addition to my personal Apple collection. I didn‘t have an iPhone until 2011 or 2012, so for awhile my time was split between the canonical portable Mac and this newfangled tablet device. I used my Mac for almost everything, it had the more robust Safari browser, it had all the apps I was accustomed to, it had a physical keyboard for fast typing. The iPad however, I recall using it almost non-stop whenever I didn‘t have my Mac with me. I would carry my iPad with me in my backpack to school and be playing games or browsing the web (I had the AT&T cellular model with some absurd amount of data allowance, 3 or 5 gigabytes at best). At the time, my Mac was heavy and obvious. If I took it to school, people would notice right away and tell me to put it away. Besides, the school WiFi was behind a few firewalls to prevent anyone from visiting even the tamest sites like YouTube or (at the time) Twitter. But with the iPad, I could have it out on my desk with the polyeurathane case/stand and other kids would know what it was, but the teachers sure as hell didn‘t. They probably thought it was some kind of book or trapper keeper. It was the perfect device to have on me at all times to stay connected to what was happening in the world and communicate with anyone. The only drawbacks were the on-screen keyboard for doing real typing and the limitations of things you could and could not do when compared to using a Mac. All that aside, it was a great device.
Once I had an iPhone, things changed quite a bit in regards to how I saw the iPad fitting into my tech routine. My iPhone was always on the internet, it was already much more powerful than my 1st-gen iPad, and it frankly did more in a smaller package. It was at this point I found myself neglecting my iPad and primarily using my Mac and iPhone for everything, until I decided to pickup an iPad mini. I wanted an iPad mini simply because it was smaller and just as capable as the 9.7-inch version and at this point in time, the software ecosystem for iPad was really taking off. There were more intriguing applications coming out for iPad than before, more reasons to want to have one for more or less ‘leisure-time‘ use. The mini was great for when I didn‘t need to be on my MacBook in this bent over position just browsing Safari or checking Twitter, I could sit back comfortably and swipe between apps easily. This carried over with the iPad mini 4, since I found it to be what I already loved but better. Though after some time, I began to use my iPad less and less. I would carry it with me in my backpack to work everyday, but I often found myself rarely taking it out of my pack simply because I was content with using my iPhone. I liked the iPad mini for playing iOS games, but as time went on I stopped playing games on all my iOS devices in general. My iPhone home screen currently has four games spread across 4 pages of apps. All of those games I‘ve played a little bit when I first downloaded them, but then lost interest. I keep them there just in case I ever get that bored I suppose.
And so as people change, habits change. I eventually sold my iPad mini not too long ago and have been a MacBook Pro/iPhone 7 Plus person since. Though now that I‘m using this new iPad Pro, I‘m starting to see another change that could very well materialize for me. I chose the 10.5-inch iPad Pro because I‘ve handled the larger one before and it‘s just way too fucking big for my needs, even though the display is gorgeous. 10.5 just seems right for my needs because it‘s roughly the same form factor as the traditional 9.7-inch iPad just with a slightly larger display that I can surely benefit from. The days of 9.7-inch iPads were great when they were all we knew, but if you want to be able to get real work done on one, you‘re going to feel a bit cramped I‘ll tell you. For the iPad Pro I opted to get it with the Smart Keyboard and Pencil (it honestly ought to just ship with both accessories, but I digress) so I could really test out all there is to do with it. First impressions with it: the display is amazing. 120Hz refresh rate is absolutely noticeable and changes the game in terms of what a display should be like. True Tone is another win here, it‘s just like John Gruber has pointed out many times before, it makes Nightshift look like garbage. The Smart Keyboard is actually decent. I‘ve only spent a little time with the previous generation Smart Keyboards and from what I remember the keys were more gummy and soft feeling, to the point where you really could not tell if you were hitting them accurately. This new Smart Keyboard feels great. It‘s quiet and offers enough tactile response that makes it feel very solid. I‘m actually very excited to see where the team that works on the Smart Keyboard goes in the future because the opportunities seem very bright.
The Apple Pencil is the same Pencil we saw when the original iPad Pro was released, so nothing new there. The only noticeable difference is that the 120Hz refresh rate on the new iPad Pro makes it feel like there is zero latency when writing or drawing with it on screen. It feels truly one-to-one as if you are writing on paper. I don‘t really see myself taking full advantage of the Pencil as I was never very gifted or confident with my sketching, but it‘s definitely nice to have. Also, the Smart Keyboard case has a little notch on the front where I was able to get the Pencil to sit magnetically, so that‘s pretty cool.
Right off the bat I installed the iOS 11 beta and that‘s when things really started to open up. The fact that these devices are shipping today with iOS 10 almost feels like a mistake and that Apple really should have waited for iOS 11 to be out before releasing them. Though with the trends of people not replacing their iPads very often being true, there is a good chance that come holiday when people start adding iPad Pros to their wish lists, iOS 11 will have been out for a few months by then and a larger majority of people will realize the benefits. Right now though, without iOS 11, these iPad Pros are just barely worth getting. Maybe if you still have an iPad 3 or god forbid, an iPad 2.
Learning the new multitasking gestures did take me a little while to get down, but I feel pretty comfortable navigating the software after only a day‘s use. Half the battle is fighting against actual bugs in this iOS 11 beta, so I have to give it some benefit of the doubt. However, it is so nice to be able to switch between apps just like on my Mac with Command+Tab, type with accuracy and speed on the Smart Keyboard, and drag-and-drop content between apps seamlessly. I really see this replacing the average user‘s Mac, hell maybe even the prosumer‘s as well. The way things are going I forsee desktop computers like the iMac, iMac Pro, and soon the new Mac Pro to be the “trucks” of the computing world and iPads as the “cars.” I really think Steve was right on that one, it just took a few years and a few iterations to really nail down.
Last minute thoughts: I really like the speakers on this thing. They sound great, probably not going to replace your home stereo system but definitely better than most portable Bluetooth speakers. The bass isn‘t really there, but that‘s to be expected I think. And for those who think they‘ll never use an iPad vs a Mac to do “real work“ like Terminal commands and what not: I typed up this whole blog post in vi on the iPad Pro using Transmit from Panic. And when I‘m finished, I‘m going to publish it from here as well. So there‘s that.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. These last few weeks I‘ve been having weird stomach/intestinal issues and been under a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety. Today was the first day I woke up feeling normal again and I hope it stays that way. Apologies for the formatting of this post, I could clean it up but I kind of like it this way, it‘s raw and unadulterated. Take care.