It is now well known that before the iPhone, Apple was working on a tablet. While the iPhone was released first, a tablet did eventually get introduced. Since its first introduction in 2010, the iPad has seen some transformations. The original iPad had a screen that measured 9.7-inches, diagonally. In 2013, Apple unveiled the iPad Mini, which had a 7.9-inch screen. It was not until November of 2015 when the direction of the iPad changed again with the first generation iPad Pro.
The iPad Pro, as the name suggests, is intended for professionals; however you want to define the word “professional”. The iPad Pro brought a few new features. The first was a larger screen size, 12.9-inches to be exact. The screen size also brought the ability to use two applications simultaneously, with each app taking a portion of the screen. The apps can take up 33%, 50%, or 66% of the screen. This change allowed users to be more productive on iOS, than they had been previously.
In lieu of using multiple apps simultaneously, the iPad Pro also brought the ability for users to just glance quickly at some information., you could also use another feature, Slide Over, to have an application hover over another application. This could be used temporarily, or a longer term basis; depending on need.
Even with the advancements of the iPad, and its software, the ultimately question is though, what does the 2018 iPad bring to enhance the iPad line? Quite a bit actually. Let us start with the physical size of the iPad Pro.
The biggest change with the iPad Pro is the bezels around the screen. The actual screen size has not changed, it is still 12.9-inches. However, the physical size of the iPad Pro has been reduced, because the bezels around the iPad are now the same around all sides. This means that the height has been reduced by an entire inch vertically. On the sides, it has been reduced by about half an inch total.
After having become accustomed to the 2018 iPad Pro, I held the `d Generation model again and noticed that the weight of the older device seemed much heavier than as compared to the third-generation. Even though the actual weight difference being 59 grams, or 0.13 pounds, it seems like it is actually more than that. I can only attribute this to the physical size difference.
With the new size of the device, Apple has also adjusted the depth of the iPad Pro to be a consistent size, instead of being tapered as it was before. This change does make it easier to grip the iPad Pro. The reduced physical size also means that the iPad Pro has been reduced in weight. This reduction makes it nicer to hold for longer. Even though holding the iPad Pro is much easier to hold, it is likely that you will not always be holding it. For these instances, and as a means of protecting the iPad Pro, Apple has created a new case for the iPad Pro, the Smart Folio.
The iPad Pro has had a cover since the original iPad. With the release of the iPad 2, Apple brought out a new cover, the Smart Cover. The difference with the Smart Cover is that it utilized built-in magnets within the iPad 2 and connected the cover to the iPad itself. The Smart Cover protected the screen and put the iPad to sleep when closed, or woke it up when the cover is opened. This has been a Smart Cover available for each subsequent iPad as well. The Smart cover provided more than just a protective cover. It also doubled a stand. With the stand you could put it into a few different positions.
This is possible through the folds that are along the cover. They allow you to change the position of the iPad to best suit your needs. You can prop the iPad up almost vertically or you can lay it down so it a bit flatter.
The original iPad Pro had a cover designed for it. It encompassed the entire device, the front as well as the back. However, there were no smarts within the cover, it was merely a protective mechanism. The 2018 iPad Pro also has a Smart Cover, but it does more than just cover the screen. It also covers the entire back of the iPad Pro. This is a combination of the original iPad cover as well as a Smart Cover. Since it is neither a case nor a Smart Cover, it has a new name, it is called the Smart Folio.
The Smart Folio allows you to position the iPad Pro as you would with any other Smart Cover, but it encompasses the entire back by using magnets to attach the back of the Smart Folio to the back of the iPad.
There is one additional change, which is a nice touch. When you used a Smart Cover for previous iPads, if you wanted to use the camera on the iPad you would have to hold the cover back the entire time you needed to use the camera. However, with the Smart Folio, and the magnets, the back of the Smart Folio will stick to the back of the iPad Pro, which makes using the camera on iPad Pro much better. On the topic of the camera, let us briefly turn to it.
When you think of the major uses of an iPad, using it as a camera may not be the first ing that comes to mind. The reason for this, for long time iPad users, is because when the iPad was first introduced, it did not contain a camera that most would consider a first-rate camera. They have been functional, but not the best quality.
Through the iPad’s history, it took a while before Apple starting putting better cameras into the iPad. While the rear cameras steadily improved, however the Face Time camera did not really get much of an upgrade, until the first-generation iPad Pro.
The camera on the third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a completely redesigned lens, even though the specs are the same as the previous generation. The quality, on the other hand, is improved.
Here are some examples of the same photo taken with different devices. You can clearly see the improved quality between the second-generation iPad Pro, and the third-generation. The improvement is even more prevalant when you compare the third-generation iPad Pro with the iPad Air 2.
The rear camera is not the only one on the third-generation iPad Pro. There is also the front camera assembly, including the Face ID camera.
As mentioned earlier, the third generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro has consistent bezels around all of the edges of the iPad. Housed within the top edge of the iPad Pro is the Face ID sensor array. The iPad Pro’s Face ID is slightly different than the Face ID found on the iPhone X, iPhone XS, or the iPhone XR. The difference is that the iPad Pro can be used in any orientation. This can be in either portrait or landscape, upside down or right-side up.
With the ability to use any orientation, it is possible that you will be using the IPad Pro in landscape and holding either of the sides. If this occurs, your hand will likely be covering the Face ID camera. If this does happen, a message will be shown indicating that the camera is covered. The message will indicate where the camera is located, so you can uncover it.
Having a consistent experience between an iPad and iPhone is very nice. Instead of having to try and remember that I am using an iPad and that I have to use Touch ID, I can just use Face ID. Just as with the iPhone, it is much more convenient to use Face ID. Just by looking at the iPad Pro, which I am likely already doing, any authentication that needs to occur, can do so automatically.
It would be nice to see Face ID on the iPhone get the same treatment as the iPad, meaning that it can work in any orientation. It is understandable as to why it has come to the iPad Pro first. The primary reason for this is likely due to the iPad being used in landscape orientation significantly more than the iPhone is.
With the iPad Pro, Apple introduced a new connector, the Smart Connector. The Smart Connector is designed to allow devices to be attached to the keyboard, but not over Bluetooth or Wifi. The connector allows devices to draw power from the iPad, which means that they do not need to contain any batteries in order to work. The connector has only been used for one accessory, keyboards.
Apple does have a Smart Folio Keyboard for the 2018 iPad Pro, but I did not purchase one. This is because I prefer to use the Magic Keyboard 2 for my keyboard needs with the iPad. I would like to see a wireless version of the Magic Keyboard 2 in Space Gray, so that it would more closely match the iPad Pro, but unfortunately there is not one available.
I have been using an Apple Keyboard with the iPad since the original iPad. There has consistently been one issue with the iPad Pro and the Apple Keyboards. That issue is temporary loss of bluetooth connectivity. If you have been using the iPad Pro with a keyboard for a while, and if you do not touch the keyboard, the keyboard seems to disconnect. It will reconnect, but you need to hit at least three keys before any keystrokes are recognized. This happens in all applications, Apple apps as well as third-party applications. When it does occur, it usually results in missing letters, so that the word that you were expecting to type does not actually get put onto the screen. The errors can be corrected but it is quite inconvenient and it is not something that should occur, but alas, it does.
I completely get that Apple might be aggressive in saving battery life, in order to provide the longest battery. But this is not the way to save battery. Maybe it is just me, but in a vast majority of cases if you have a keyboard connected it means that you intend to use it; Hence, the keyboard should not disconnect so quickly, or at all. This has been happening intermittently since at least the first generation iPad Pro. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to this, but it can be problematic.
One of the other things that the iPad Pro introduced was a new input method, this time it is with a stylus. Apple calls their stylus the Apple Pencil. Let us look at that next.
The Apple Pencil
The 2018 iPad Pro brought with it a refinement to the Apple Pencil, the second generation Apple Pencil. Apple missed an excellent naming opportunity with the new Apple Pencil, they should have called it the “No. 2 Pencil”, but alas, they did not. But it does not stop me from doing so, and I will.
The No. 2 Pencil has been completely redesigned. It now sports a flat surface on one edge. The edge now helps prevent the Apple Pencil from rolling off the desk when it is put down. The previous Apple Pencil was completely round and would easily roll off a desk. The flat edge actually serves a second function. The second purpose is how the No 2. Apple Pencil is charged. The Apple Pencil magnetically attaches to one edge of the iPad Pro. This is a big difference over the previous Apple Pencil.
The first generation Apple Pencil required you to charge it over lightning, with the ability to charge it in the lightning port of the first, or second, generation iPad Pro. If you did not want to charge it with the iPad Pro, you could use the adapter that was included with the first Apple Pencil and a standard lightning cable. Many iPad Pro users who had purchased a pencil often found that when they wanted to use the Apple Pencil it was not charged, due to lack of usage. I often found this to be the case for myself as well.
The Apple Pencil has had the ability to quickly charge, and it still does. But with the Apple Pencil being able to charge while magnetically connected, it is more likely that when you want to use the Apple Pencil, that it will already be charged. This has been my experience with the Apple Pencil and the third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Because the Apple Pencil has always been charged, I find myself using it more often than before. Additionally, since it is always connected, I actually think about it, and end up using it, way more often than I did with the previous iPad Pros. In order for the Apple Pencil to work, or charge, Bluetooth must be enabled on the iPad Pro.
While the No. 2 Apple Pencil has only one edge can connect, the direction of the point of the pencil tip does not make a difference. It can be facing either left or right. The tip of the No 2. Apple Pencil is the same as the previous generation, which means that if you had the previous Apple Pencil and had the spare tip that came with it, and/or bought some extra tips, you can use those previously purchased ones with the new Apple Pencil.
When you do connect the Apple Pencil to the iPad Pro, you will see a notification on the screen indicating that the Apple Pencil is connected, as well as how much battery power is left. It will be similar to the example below.
I use the Apple Pencil for a variety of things. These include, navigating the interface, using it to interact with items on the screen, scrolling through my twitter timeline, and even playing games, like Plants vs. Zombies, or Dissembler.
There is one more feature with Apple’s No. 2 Pencil, that will make some interactions much easier. In the lower third of the No 2. Apple Pencil, the third closest to the tip of the Apple Pencil, you can double-tap anywhere in the area and you will have the ability to switch actions. These actions can be defined by the application. For instance, with the Notes application it will switch between a pencil and an eraser. Developers are encouraged to provide the different interaction options within their app’s settings.
Overall, the Apple Pencil is a fantastic update, even though it cannot be used with any device, except the 11-inch or third generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The fact that it is almost always charged because it can be connected directly to the iPad means that it will always be available when you need it to be available. The flat edge does prevent it from rolling, and there is no longer a cap to lose, like on the last model. If you were a heavy Apple Pencil user with the previous iPads and you plan on getting a third-generation 12.9-inch, or an 11-inch, iPad Pro, you cannot go wrong with the No 2. Apple Pencil.
My Overall Usage
I cannot say for sure that my iPad usage has changed all that much from a month ago. What I can say is that I have tended to use my iPad more than my MacBook Pro. There are still times when I use my MacBook Pro instead of my iPad Pro. These times are typically when I need to do some development work, but also when I want to watch something on the TV.
I am not that artistic, so using the Apple Pencil for drawing is not something that I tend to do. Although using it for navigation is quite handy, as well as for playing some games.
This entire review, including uploading pictures, and editing all took place on the third-generation iPad Pro. There is one thing that did not take place on the iPad Pro was the stripping of the exif data from the photos. That was done on my Mac.
There is one area that has not yet been tackled, the price of the new iPads. The new iPads are significantly more expensive than previous models. In fact, they are $220 more than the previous models, which is 20% higher. If you include Apple Care, that is an additional $30, or 30% higher. The Apple Pencil, likewise is $30 more, and also 30% higher. This means, that just to get the new iPad Pro, with Apple Care, and an Apple Pencil, you are going to spend $280 more, which is about 22% higher overall.
The increase in price though, is somewhat justified not just by the advances in technology, but also because the devices that are built now last significantly longer than in previous generations. In addition to this, the need to significantly improve with each generation is slightly diminished. It is not that each generation will not bring improvements, they will, but the need to upgrade to the new version with each release is not necessary. Besides not needing to update each to each new revision, the increased price is likely a deterrent for many. Next, let us briefly look at software on the iPad Pro.
No matter how intricate a piece of hardware is, it does depend on software to operate. The iPad Pro absolutely depends on software, in particular iOS, for any operation.
With the new iPad Pro and the new bezels, software will need to be recompiled before they will take full advantage of the new sizes. Software that has not been updated will show a black ring on all sides, both while using the software as well as when looking at all open applications.
Additionally, if you are using two applications in split view mode, and one of the applications has not been updated, then both will have black borders. This is because iOS cannot intuit the expected behavior of the previously compiled application. It will likely take a while for applications to be updated to take advantage of the new screen sizes. You can see a couple of examples below of how it will look if applications are not updated.
Many people may use the idea of future software improvements as justifications for purchasing an iPad Pro. I would recommend against doing this, not just for the iPad, but for any piece of hardware. You cannot know the direction that software will take. It is best to make purchasing decisions based upon what the device can do now, and if the software does improve significantly, then its merely a bonus. That is not to say that software will not get improved, it will. But it should not be a primary motivation in a purchase decision.
The third Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a solid update to the iPad Pro line. If you have a first generation iPad Pro and like the physical screen size, or if you are looking to upgrade from a 9.7-inch screen, you cannot go wrong with the third generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
If you do upgrade, you will enjoy the reduced physical size as well as the consistent bezels. The inclusion of Face ID does bring with it consistency between iOS devices, and signals that Touch ID is legacy and will eventually be phased out, likely within the next few years.
If you need a way to protect your new iPad Pro, the Smart Folio by Apple is not a bad way to go, particularly since it will cover the back of the iPad as well as the screen. The large number of magnets within the iPad, as well as the Smart Folio allows the cover to adhere to the iPad Pro without worrying about it sliding off.
The third-generation iPad Pro is a solid update. If you are coming from a first-generation iPad Pro, or earlier, you will really enjoy the speed as well the new features available. Pairing the iPad Pro with a No. 2 Apple Pencil will create a great portable computing environment that may be just what you need.