I’ve been using iPad Pro for more than one month now, so I’d like to share with you my long over-due impressions of this device.
Apple’s latest smart device might be most famously known for being a ridiculously huge tablet. Coming from a background where I never really got hooked by any tablets before, I don’t really share this sentiment. On the contrary, I think it’s sized perfectly, and it’s surprisingly light in your hands. With the Smart Keyboard attached however, it does become a bit heavier, although not too much, and it’s still lighter than a 13 inch MacBook Air.
The more I use the Apple Pencil, the more I realize that it’s not here to make the iPad Pro the note-taking tool I was envisioning. The size of the tablet, the absence of a pen holder, the design and accuracy of the pencil, etc, hardly convey a tool designed to let you quickly take notes. I’m not saying that it’s not good for that purpose, but in my opinion the stylus is first and foremost meant to be an artistic and creative tool. The classic pencil tip, the weight, and the extra length makes most sense when you’re drawing. Shading by tilting feels outright natural even without any distracting on-screen cursors, and the extra length let’s you comfortably do so as you can grip the pencil like you would a real one. The whole experience of using it feels very well thought-out.
The Apple Pencil is marketed as being almost lag free and more accurate than the competitors, but I wouldn’t say that it’s immediately superior to Wacom pens, or even the Surface Pro pen. It does however make the competition feel like cheap toys, if that means anything to you.
One thing the competitors have over the Pencil though, is built-in erase buttons at the top. It was probably sacrificed for the lightning connector, but it has honestly not bothered me as much as I thought it would. Some drawing apps offers the option to erase or smudge with your fingers, which I find much more satisfying in comparison to flipping over your pencil. Anyway, being able to perform touch gestures with a pen feels damn good in comparison to any Wacom + keyboard combo I’ve used. It also helps that most apps are optimized to run at silky smooth 60 fps (frames per second).
Hmmm what else is there to say… The palm rejection is pretty flawless, pairing the pencil with the iPad feels surprisingly intuitive, and the only bad thing I can come up with is that the slippery nature of the pencil has made it fall off my hands a few times already.
I chose between Logitech’s Create keyboard and Apple’s own keyboard case. Both sport the Smart Connector, which is a technology that not only allows instant pairing without using Bluetooth, but also provides power as well. I ultimately decided on the Smart Keyboard, even though the third party accessory is also an excellent choice, having an extra row of function keys over the official one. Reason being that I like what’s been achieved in terms of the thickness, or thinness rather, but most importantly the Smart Keyboard is water proof, and I have a feeling that this will be a critical advantage one day…
So how is it to use? Due to the slim design, the keys don’t have much room to travel. They’re still kind of springy, but it took some time getting used to. I really like the feel of the vowen texture on the material.
I use the Smart Keyobard over the touch keyboard whenever I can, but currently there are three big flaws I’d like to bring up:
- No escape and function keys
- Only available in English layout
- iOS is not fully adapted to keyboard use.
The absence of the escape key is pretty annoying, and considering that the keyboard layout is currently only available in English, it will probably take at least one generation before an “upgraded” version will be released.
The third flaw though, is fixable, and my guess is that Apple just haven’t gone all out with the keyboard implementation just yet. For example, there’s a short command – Cmd+Space – for Spotlight (the global search in iOS) but you need to lift your arm up to tap on the screen in order to select and execute/open the results, and you can’t scroll content in most apps yet with the arrow keys. You get used to it, but hopefully you wil be able to perform more tasks the keyboard soon.
The pro aspect
Using apps on iPad Pro is a wonderful experience, and when the apps have been designed for the larger screen, you can really see the potential. The multitasking abilities like split view and picture in picture feel very natural and useful, without being too complex. The iPad experience is however still far from the multi-windowed nature of desktop operating systems. Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, but I have found myself to embrace the absolute focus it’s given me at times; when composing an email, you can’t switch to other emails without first saving and closing it down, encouraging you to focus on actually finishing writing your email before being lured by distractions.
But iPad apps, or perhaps iOS, is not there yet. While I really love some of the apps I use, they’re still far from “pro” in terms of features. It will get there eventually, especially if iPad Pro becomes a great success, but today I often find at least one or two frustrating limitations in the apps I try. Some features are of course held back by the perfectionist but slow-progressing nature of iOS, but another significant reason for the limitations in my opinion is the target market. How many pro users versus casual users are producing serious stuff on tablets versus desktop computers? Whatever the answer is today, I’m sure it will change in a not too distant future.
A proof of my theory, is that some mobile apps are actually more or less free-to-use software produced solely with the intention of boosting larger desktop products or services of some companies. Adobe Sketch for example, is a very nice drawing app that you can download for free, but it doesn’t bloody support layers! Instead you’re encouraged to use it in conjunction with the other apps within the company’s Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystem. I would be more than willing to pay for an in-app upgrade, but the company seems to believe that the only way to make money is to lure back users into the old and proven platforms… Fortunately for us users, there’s always other more sensible companies willing to push the envelope of mobile apps, and you needn’t worry about not ever finding your perfect app. Some of them are already out there, and the future looks very promising.
It’s safe to say that my iPad Pro has survived the honey moon period by now. When used in my regular job workflows it shows glimpses of brilliance, but also occasionally makes apparent flaws and limitations that need to be addressed. When used as a media consumption device, it’s a rather expensive luxury toy, but once I start drawing, making videos, composing music, taking notes, writing blogs, and much more, I immediately realize that I have something very powerful in my hands, and it invigorates me like no other device has in a long time.