Friday, November 13, 2015

iPad Pro and Apple Envy

A few years ago, going into an Apple Store was kinda boring for me. I had a new iMac, a recent iPhone and iPad and an AppleTV. There wasn't much there for me to covet, and even playing with stuff wasn't that interesting because it wasn't customized for me.

Today I went into the Apple Store to look at the new iPad Pro. Since getting my iPad 2 I've wanted a bigger iPad for two principle reasons. First I wanted a full sized on-screen keyboard. The one on the iPad and now the iPad Air is a little smaller. Second, I wanted the page to be a full 8.5 x 11 so that magazines and particularly comics could be seen at full sized. Lots of magazine apps found ways to cope, either by basically being a full page pdf that you zoomed and scrolled around (which sucked) or by doing that and having an Instapaper-like "reading mode" which seemed dumb. If you're a magazine and you need a separate reading mode, you're doing it wrong. Or some, like Entertainment Weekly (best) and Wired (good, at times odd) did a lot to redisign their magazine for the iPad screen. In comics, once iPad's got retina displays I could mostly read the page shown in full, though they also had a mode that zoomed in on each panel with a swipe. Comics are designed to show the whole page at once, so panel-by-panel was a lesser experience.

The Apple Store didn't have a comics app on the iPad Pro so I couldn't check that out, but it seems it does show a full page at full size. Double page spreads are still an issue compared to paper. I did play with the on-screen keyboard and it is definitely nicer than the one on the iPad Air 2. But it's still a glass keyboard with no feedback. I played with the keyboard screen cover and it was surprisingly nice. Definitely an improvement over the on-screen one. If you're going to do a lot of typing, I'd definitely consider it.

I also played with the pencil and as the reviews have all stated, it's great. It feels very responsive while writing, much better than any stylus I've used and I had no problems with palm rejection.

I didn't try the speakers

In general I agree with all the reviews of the iPad Pro I've seen. It's big. It's heavy, though lighter than you'd expect. The pencil is great. The keyboard is good (though there need to be some more keyboard shortcuts). It seems little too big to comfortably hold with one hand, though it's doable and it might get more natural with practice. After having the iPad 2 for several years, the iPad Air 2 is practically ethereal. It would be great to use at a desk, I'm not sure about on a couch.

My iPad Air 2 is just about a year old, and runs great, even better with the new iOS 9 features. So I can wait a few years before upgrading to a Pro. Maybe the price will come down a little, and the weight, and I'm sure iOS 10 and 11 will add significant improvements to it. The on-screen keyboard could be very interesting if they could get the haptic feedback from the new touchpad or Apple Watch.

But visiting the Apple Store I realized there are lot of toys I don't have. I played with the new Apple TV and the remote is pretty nice. Since I'm all in on TiVo and movie channels from FiOS I don't really need to consume TV or movies from Apple. I looked at the Apple Watch again and it's nice. I can still wait for an update or two. While I love my 27" iMac, I'm interested in a small laptop for use when not at my desk (in the living room or while travelling). A MacBook seems like the right device, but I can wait a revision or two for a little more power. The 15" MacBook Pro seemed huge, the 13" seemed nice but a little more than I need. The Air would be pretty good, though a retina screen is starting to be the minimum for me. I suspect Apple will sort all that out in the next year or two. I tried the new keyboard and trackpad and they're nice, but I see no need to upgrade. I do wish they'd make a full keyboard with a number pad.

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