It’s been a long time coming, I suppose. When Apple introduced the iPad Pro in September 2015, the tech world was a mixture of wowed and disappointed.
I fell more in the disappointed camp.
With its new gigantic 12.9-inch form factor and the first ever first-party accessories from Apple with the Apple Keyboard and Apple Pencil, it seemed Apple was trying to reinvent what the iPad was.
Steve Jobs had famously said of the iPad in 2010:
When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm. But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular … PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people.
To Steve, the personal computer could sit alongside the iPad; they served different purposes. Perhaps his view was loosely that Macs and PCs were for creation, while iPads were for consumption.
The Smart Keyboard made its debut, designed to be used much like the Smart Cover for protecting the front of the screen, but including a full-sized keyboard.
While third-party manufacturers had been producing keyboard cases since almost day dot, this was Apple’s first foray into that market, and it showed it was serious about the iPad Pro being more than just a tablet.
Some might say, it showed it was serious about iPad Pro being more than just a car, and a bit more like a truck.
The next way the iPad Pro defied its late overlord Steve Jobs was with the introduction of the Apple Pencil. “Who wants a stylus?” he famously said when introducing the iPhone. But, on stage that September, Apple indeed introduced a stylus for the iPad.
The Pencil, Apple said, had impressively low latency compared to other styli on the market, due to it being designed along with the tablet itself. It could respond to tilt and pressure, amongst other things. And it charged super fast.
So Apple bucked a few long-established trends and conventions with the introduction of the first iPad Pro. And while there was no doubting the machines had serious horsepower, there was one thing which many felt meant the iPad Pro was not ready to become their primary computing device: the tablet software still sucked.
Since the original iPad Pro’s introduction, Apple went ahead and released a 9.7-inch model, complete with all the goodies of the 12.9-inch version like Apple Pencil support and a Smart Keyboard cover.
But they went further, introducing the True Tone display which adapted the screen’s tint depending on the ambient light of the room. And they jacked up the camera quality too, adding an LED flash and improved sensors.
For some, this was enough. Finally, the iPad Pro was a more manageable, mobile size and could be taken everywhere. This was, for many, the iPad that we’d been waiting for.
It wasn’t for me.
I wasn’t happy with the form factor still being the same as with the iPad Air which was very old. I wasn’t happy with the screen size being that little bit too small, where the larger iPad Pro was that little bit too big.
I still wasn’t happy with the software, and iOS 10 did nothing to improve the experience on iPad whatsoever. It still, therefore, was not time to even consider the full-time move to iPad, no matter how much some in tech circles praised it (I follow Federico Viticci’s iPad-only lifestyle closely).
For me, I had to remain using the MacBook Pro I had had for many years. That 15-inch beast with its retina display and macOS and all those things I’d loved for so long. But I knew it was getting a bit unruly. Heating up more and more for simpler and simpler tasks. The battery not doing so well these days. I knew I’d need to replace it sometime. But with what?
I let it sit for a while.
Fast-forward to June 2017. By now, it had been almost two years since the introduction of the iPad Pro. Rumours had been swirling for most of the year about Apple releasing a new form factor for the iPad, and this had galvanised me, stopping me both from buying a new MacBook Pro and splashing out on a 12.9 inch iPad Pro.
And then it came. The new iPad Pro, in 10.5-inches, a first for iPad. The announcement blew me away; the ProMotion display with its drastically faster refresh rate, improved Apple Pencil latency, new Keyboard cover with larger keys (a bug bear of the 9.7in form factor), camera upgrades to match the iPhone 7, big speed upgrades … this machine looked real nice.
But then came the announcement of iOS 11 for iPad. And in that moment, as I watched it demo’d, I knew I was going to make the leap to iPad as my primary device.
The day had finally come.
iOS 11 for iPad is nothing short of the most revolutionary thing to happen to iPad since its inception. The Files app, offering on-device and cloud storage in one file system, brought us closer (and probably as close as we’ll ever get) to the reality of a Finder for iOS. The new Dock, able to hold many more apps, brought us closer to the flexibility of the macOS equivalent.
The revamped Multitasking view, reminiscent of macOS’s Mission Control, showed large live thumbnails in a grid rather than the previously clunky and hard-to-navigate iOS design for this feature. Slide Over could now exist on the left or right of the screen, floating above the windows rather than disappearing when the other app on screen was interacted with.
And Split View itself was totally revamped, allowing super-fast switching of apps visible in Split View without having to close down the view, slide over in addition to Split View, offering up to three apps on view at once, and possibly the biggest introduction of all … Drag and Drop.
By this point I was pretty much close to fainting. Drag and Drop on iPad? Dragging images, text, links from one app to another? Whether in Split View or not? Using the Dock or gestures? Multi-select?
I’d moved on from wanting a new iPad Pro now they’d sorted out my problems with the form factor, to frothing at the mouth with abject longing for the device now its software had been announced.
I knew, for a fact, I would be purchasing it and would be embarking on an exciting journey, adapting my workflows and figuring out ways to achieve all the things I use my Mac for on iPad.
Coming up in Part 2: choosing my iPad Pro setup and getting to know my new primary computer. Follow me on Twitter to know when Part 2 is ready.
Update: Part 2 is now available!