I Returned The iPad Pro

Nov 27, 2015 · 6 min read

I wrote this article after the initial launch of the iPad Pro. Today (21-Mar-2016), Apple announced a new 9.7" iPad Pro. This model addresses my top complaint, the size. At 9.7", it’s “standard” iPad size and can easily be used with one hand. Read more from Apple.

Please don’t revoke my nerd card (*that should be a real thing, the card, not the revocation). Today, I returned an iPad Pro to the store for a refund, here’s why.

It’s simply too damn big.

Here I am holding it with one hand (as I usually do with my iPad Air). I’m 6'3" and can comfortably palm a basketball and still had felt uncomfortable holding the Pro with one hand.

The weight distribution is perfect. It’s well balanced but still the sheer size of it makes one-handed use impossible for anything but quick viewing of content. As soon as you interact with it, you’ll want a second hand or some other support.

For comparion, here’s an iPad Air sitting in the Pro’s case.

iPad Air inside of an iPad Pro case (with selfie stick shadow :-) )

Size aside, the device is stunning. As the screen lights up, you’ll be blown away. It’s a gorgeous display.

Watching videos or reading is a joy. It’s the first iPad you can comfortable share a viewing experience with someone.

The new speaker placement really pays off. The sound is not only louder but also much richer than other iPads.

Apple Pencil is the best stylus for a mobile device yet. Hands down.

Of course that’s not entirely fair to the other stylii out there since Apple adjusted the display to work in concert with the Pencil. But the result for us is the same, it’s fantastic. Gus Mueller’s put it better then I ever could in, “The Hype Is Real”.

The downside here is that I found (anecdotally) that the battery life when streaming via Netflix or iCloud was about 75% of the iPad Air (yes, I have both similarly configured and both with cellular enabled). Most reviews I’ve seen put the battery life at the same 9.5 hours as previous versions. I didn’t do empirical testing but found myself charging the iPad more often.

Quite shocking was the amount of time that it takes to charge the damn thing. Definitely needs to be recharged overnight, every night. As an example, plugged into a fully charged Anker Astro E7 (25600mAh charger), watching a video on Netflix is a neutral battery charge (e.g., it’s stays at the same %).

Ironically it’s iOS 9 that isn’t quite ready for the Pro. Yes, multitasking works best on the Pro (compared to other iPads) but there’s still work to be done.

The iOS on screen keyboard needs work on the iPad Pro

In the above screenshot you can see a 75/25 split with the onscreen keyboard displayed. The size of the iPad Pro makes it difficult to type and the keyboard itself takes a significant amount of display space.

The iOS home screen on the iPad Pro

Notice the difference on the home screen to the left? No? Exactly the point.

The home screen isn’t ready for the iPad Pro. There’s an absurd amount of wasted space between the icons.

This is the exactly same layout as the other iPads. Given that the Pro is basically two of the iPad Air, that equates to almost a full inch between each of the icons.

Another row and column could easily be added without sacrificing usability or aesthetics.

Although simply adding more really isn’t the best use of the space. Perhaps it’s time for additional functionality to be added?

For some other small areas (like the notifications and calendar pull down) have been improved (slightly) to take advantage of the new screen size. It’s only a matter of time before more improvements are made but that time simply isn’t now. Hopefully soon.

It seems second nature to compare the iPad Pro to a laptop. Apple is even doing it although somewhat indirectly. I don’t think that’s fair or even the right comparison to be making.

If you’re evaluating the iPad Pro, do so on it’s own merits. It’s not a laptop and you won’t be align the experience 1:1. You can do a lot of the same tasks that you do on your laptop on the iPad Pro but the experience is going to be different. To think otherwise is ridiculous and sets you up for disappointment.

And I think that’s where the problem comes in with the on screen keyboard. Apple has positioned the Smart Keyboard as a “must have” accessory which indicates they see the on screen keyboard bring used for quick entry.

I want a tablet that’s a tablet. Attaching a physical keyboard should be an occasional activity. If I want to sit down and write a few thousand words or write some code.

If you evaluate the iPad Pro as an iPad, you won’t immediate jump at the productivity gaps that are inevitable given that it’s running a completely different OS from what you’re used to those use cases.

The iPad Pro is still a great device. It just didn’t meet the bar for me since I already have an iPad Air and a MacBook Pro 13". But I could easily see buying next years model (the iPad Pro S? the iPad More Pro? the iPad Pro-ier? ;-) ) as I’m due to retire my MacBook Pro 13" and my current iPad will be 3 years old.

A set of the 27" iMac, an iPad Pro, and an iPhone 6S+ will maximize the display size for each device.

By next year my complaints with iOS on the Pro should be resolved. Now to hit the gym. I’ve only got 12 months to make sure I can lift next year’s iPad Pro comfortably with one hand.

The bad;

  • its size (weight & dimensions) means that you can’t hold it the same way. It’s simply too big for comfortable one-handed use (FYI, I’m 6’3”). This means you’re going to be using the iPad Pro in different ways physically when compared to an iPad Air or iPad Mini
  • the battery isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be. Reports have it steadily coming in a 9.5 hours but anecdotally I found that streaming video from iCloud or Netflix drained it much faster then my iPad Air (yes, they are both cellular enabled and configured the same)
  • the device occasionally fails to respond after charging. This is a known issue with some of the devices. I’m sure it’ll be fixed but it’s still frustrating
  • iOS 9.x isn’t ready for the extra display room…yet. Unfortunately nothing in the development pipeline indicates that this will be resolved soon

The good;

  • the screen is stunning
  • the sound is fantastic. Best unassisted of any mobile/tablet that I’ve heard (and yes, I’ve heard most)
  • Apple Pencil is the best stylus. Period. Only thing close is a full Wacom Cintiq but that’s not exactly portable
  • did I mention the screen? Wow
  • this is the most responsive iPad yet. Very snappy performance

Mobile Lifestyle

When thinking of Mobile Service Design, we not only design intuitive (web) apps for Smartphones, Tablets or Wearables, but for an entire lifestyle. In our publication, we curate the best articles covering the Mobile Lifestyle — written by people that live it.


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Vice President, Cloud Research @TrendMicro. AWS Community Hero. Builder. Working to make security easier for everyone.

Mobile Lifestyle

When thinking of Mobile Service Design, we not only design intuitive (web) apps for Smartphones, Tablets or Wearables, but for an entire lifestyle. In our publication, we curate the best articles covering the Mobile Lifestyle — written by people that live it.

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