Originally published on my personal publication here
The iPad Pro is the new kid on the block and there have been huge expectations by those waiting for the larger beast to hit the shelves. So where should I start? Well, to get detailed overviews you can go over to macstories and you can read until your heart contents, about the ins and outs of the new pro. I on the other hand, want to cover several specific topics.
The Purchasing Experience
I have a number of Apple products, going back to 2007. All my purchases, whether it be in this country (UK) or the US, the customer service has always been outstanding with Apple. I recall purchasing the Macbook Air when it first came out and at the time I happened to be in Florida. I gave the local store a ring and asked them to reserve me an Air if they had one in stock. To my surprise, they just had two come in and told me to come and pick it up within two hours. Upon arrival, I spoke to the assistant who went out back to get my Macbook for me. Several minutes later he came back with a confused look on his face. He rushed over to the till point and stopped his colleague putting through a sale and started apologising to the customer. I took a step closer and realised they were selling a MacBook Air and placing it into the special MacBook Air bag. I could just about hear the conversation and to my amazement, the member of staff was stopping the sale because the MacBook was reserved for me. Wow, that is what you call service and going above and beyond. To Apple, a sale would have come about either way, but to honour their word was more important. I was so grateful and felt sorry for the other customer.To an extent, I was slightly embarrassed. What was even more important about the experience, is that when I got the device home, I noticed a mark and took it back to the store straight away. They exchanged it on the spot without even questioning me and I went away an even happier customer.
Those were the days when customer service was a level that no company could match. Now, we are in an era when Apple tell us their latest and greatest iPad Pro will come in November at some point and then, when they do announce a date they don’t tell you when or where you can buy it. Or the fact that it is first purchasable on the Apple Store application only. Which means, if you want to covert to Apple from an Android, you would not have had a good first experience. Do not get me wrong, I have purchased many Apple products between 2007 and 2015 and think the company is great. I just want to note that the customer experience is no longer the unique selling point Apple used to promote.
I logged into the Apple App, at launch on Wednesday the 11th November just after 8 am. 128 GB iPad in Space Grey, Apple Pencil and Keyboard Smart Cover ordered. Wow, that was quick and painless and the worrying thing is, the whole process was way too quick for my liking. 24hours later the iPad arrived, sooner than expected. No accessories, though.They would arrive between the 19th and the 26th. Waiting for a delivery man between 9 am and 5 pm is bad enough but not know the actual day is just silly. This whole new product launch and delivery process in my eyes has just been a shambles and not Apple as we know them. Right, partial rant over. Now onto the device.
When you first hold the iPad Pro you go “wow”, as it is massive and you feel yourself saying “how the hell are you meant to hold this thing?”. I purchased mine primarily for the Pencil and therefore, no Pencil with my delivery of the iPad did make me feel like “what should i do with this thing”, it is just an iPad. You quickly realise when you start using the split screen feature, speedy photo edits and even the Bose (yes Bose not Beats) like quality of the speakers, make the iPad Pro is a unique device. A device that will only get better when the accessories arrive and more applications come to the App Store.
Exactly a week after receiving the iPad Pro, my notification came through that the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard had been dispatched. Within 24hours I had both in my hand and as I write this, I have only had about 10 hours experience with both accessories. In the time I was waiting for the official Apple accessories, I tried and tested the Apple Smart Cover and the Logitech Create keyboard. The Create is an interesting device and has been given a real bashing by more professional reviewers in regards to the quality and weight. Personally, I think the quality is good and it is finished in premium materials. The shortcuts on the keyboard for music and the esc button are a real bonus. The backlit keys seem to turn a lot of people on, but is not a big deal for me and the actual feel for the keyboard, would be no different to Apples own Bluetooth keyboard. What I did not like was the weight it added to the iPad. It is just simply too heavy and much bigger than Apples version. Getting the iPad into and out of the back case is a real chore. It just felt like that within time I would scratch the iPad as you need to exert so much pressure to get the iPad in and out.
The Apple Keyboard Cover
I had read a number of posts in regards the keyboard and I wish I never bothered with any of them. They are all telling me the same thing, that they think it is not worth the price. Well to be honest with you, they are probably right — but there is nothing else out there that is currently any better as a cover and keyboard or going to even get close in the future. The feel is not cheap but you can tell for sure it is a fabric based keyboard. The origami style folding to use the keyboard is not a big hassle as many make out and the feel of the keys is good in my opinion. The front of the cover is the same as any other Apple smart cover and typing is probably much easier for me than the onscreen keyboard. The Command button gives you a number of shortcut options that you can use depending on the application you are in. You can get more shortcuts from here thanks to Apple and most do actually work. The one shortcut that really annoyed me for being missing, is the double spacebar tap “.” Shortcut. Bit of a ball drop by Apple.
I assume that these can all be overcome through good software updates. The jury was really out on the keyboard for me, as the cost seemed silly. You also start to question the need for a keyboard and if it really is. an essential tool with the iPad. I then used it in the office, in a corporate environment and at home one evening in my lap and realised, if you throw cost and material issues away — it actually is a brilliant accessory.
I can touch type on it without any issues and seemed to be using it as a stand with the right angle to surf the web. Occasionally, switching between touch, pencil and shortcuts on the keyboard to navigate through the apps.
The angle the iPad sits on the keyboard is satisfactory for me and the lack of extra battery requirements is even more beneficial for those on the road. The best thing of all, is I can pick the iPad Pro up via the attached keyboard at the closest right edge to me and even though the keyboard bends slightly, there is no fear of it popping out of the iPad. I hope it stays likes that. I did test this whilst the Notes app was open and it kept on moving the cursor to the next line, so it might have a detrimental effect in the long run. For all the positives, there are also a number of negatives.
1). The keyboard cover will not stick to the back of the iPad magnetically like other smart covers. You have to hold it in place.
2). When you have the cover retracted back like a book and placed it on a table so you can write with the Pencil, the lack of a flat back in the cover can cause the odd bit of movement whilst writing
3). It will not hold the Apple Pencil on the front magnetically when closed and
4). Most will find it an odd keyboard to use if they have not used the latest MacBook 12 inch. As my wife put it, when she tested it out “ it feels funny typing on this thing”. That is literally all she had to say about the matter. Others like her will find it hard to adapt to the keyboard and will not have the patients to adapt.
The Apple Pencil
The main reason I opted for the Pro, is because Apple introduced their Pencil. I recently have tried to become more of a purist and looked and going back to pen and paper. I actually, went a step further and turned to fountain pens only and looked at improving my handwriting too. Cursive is not what it used to be and we just simply do not write enough. Holding a fountain pen and writing on good quality paper feels amazing and it changes your outlook on everything. Through Myke Hurleys Pen Addict podcast, I have even become a bit of an obsessive when it comes to ink and paper quality.
Getting the same feeling on a digital device with a stylus is always going to be difficult. The closest stylus which got to this experience was Pencil by Fifty Three. Yeh, I know everyone thinks they have a right to copyright the pencil. Fifty Three managed to provide an iPad app which just worked well and the function of their Pencil was enhanced in the way the app could become your go to tool for drawing, notes, tracing and even making presentations. The thing is, they did it well and that was about it. The Fifty Three Pencil just felt like another stylus and was shaped like the so called fat finger. Although, it was good and it featured the rubber on the end so you could flip it over and rub out your notes but it would never make feel like i was actually writing o something similar to paper.
Apples Pencil has filled this void. I still will not give up on pen and paper, however; the introduction of the Pencil has changed everything. Apple have created a device that writes more like a pencil than any other stylus I have ever used. My fascination with fountain pens and paper, means I do not care how it is when you draw and only interested in the flow of the tip as letters are written. There is a tapping sound when you put pencil to iPad, which feels like a cheap stylus signing on the UPS man's cheap terminal, but that is on day one. On day 5, you do not notice the sound and just use it as you would any other pencil. To hold, it feels like the material of a knitting needle and visually it is what you would expect from Apple. Aesthetically simple but beautiful to look at and feel in your palm. Most importantly, the Notes App displays my handwriting as it really is, awful lol. There is a lag between writing and seeing your lines and this is made worse by the fact some of the podcasts i listen to mentioned it several times. The normal user will not notice this. My wife picked up the Pencil and used it for several minutes. She looked up and said, “ this thing is like a pencil”. This is where Apple have mastered it. My wife has never used a stylus on an iPad and did not understand the big deal of how well Apples Pencil worked. As a novice, she sees the accuracy as the norm but for the rest of us, we think this is a marvel product because it comes leaps and bounds compared to others on the market.
The pencil on Apples Notes app really is like pen on paper, Rhodia paper to be precise. No feathering and thin beautiful lines — as if I am writing with my Lamy 2000. I have taken things a step further and drawn in my on faint lines to use as a template to feel like you have the guide of lined paper.
The Apple Pencil also charges well via the iPad. Inserting it at 36% it reached 100% without even using a percent of the iPad battery. Pretty amazing stuff. All we need now is more apps to fully utilise the Pencil and its capabilities.
I can’t recommend the iPad Pro, Pencil and Keyboard enough. The iPad itself provides amazing performance, colours, sound and potential with future apps. The keyboard is like marmite (vegemite), you will either love it or hate it. Lastly, the Pencil. It works differently for everyone who uses it and that is because everyone's handwriting is unique. I will keep using them all and provide feedback on my findings again soon.