iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) impressions after three weeks

To say I’m a fan of the iPad would be an understatement. I’ve owned almost every iPad since the original model came out all the way back in 2010. The introduction of the iPad Pro in 2015 (along with the introduction of the Apple Pencil and Keyboard Cover) cemented the iPad as my primary non-work computer. Increasingly it’s becoming my work computer as well, something I’ll write about more in the future.

It should come as no surprise then that I pre-ordered the recently introduced third generated iPad Pro. I’ve been using a 12.9 iPad Pro with LTE for the last few weeks in a variety of environments (at home, on vacation, on a plane, and at a technical conference): here are my rough impressions of the hardware and software so far:

Hardware: iPad

  • The new design is gorgeous and feels great in the hand as well. I’d love to see this retro-future design move across the line to the iPhones next year.
  • It’s not really an edge-to-edge: there’s still a definite bezel (in which the Face ID sensors and front facing cameras are hidden).
  • Oleophobic coating hasn’t changed: the screen is still a terrible fingerprint magnet.
  • USB-C is a good change overall: the spec allows for faster charging times and re-use of dongles from my MacBook Pro. Of course if you don’t already own a raft of USB-C dongles you’ll have to build up a kit.
  • Camera bump is comically large due to the reduced thickness of the iPad. The Smart Keyboard Folio helps hide the bump, but if you use your iPad without a case it sits a bit unevenly on a flat surface.

Hardware: Smart Keyboard Folio

  • Feels much more stable in the lap due to single keyboard/cover piece that doesn’t have a seam like the previous model’s keyboard cover.
  • The downside of the single front cover piece is the loss of the “media configuration” of the old keyboard cover. The previous model could be folded around behind the iPad to enable it to be propped up at an almost vertical angle.
  • Having two keyboard angles is great: the more vertical setting is very close to the “media” configuration I mentioned, but the entire keyboard sticks out now in this viewing angle. Standing the iPad up on a shallow shelf isn’t possible anymore without the keyboard hanging over the shelf.
  • Feeling keys on the cover when it’s folded back feels like playing an accordion (or at least what I imagine it must feel like). It’s not a pleasant feeling, but suffices as the world’s most expensive fidget toy in a pinch.
  • Use of even more magnets in the folio means it’s still super-glued to metal cafe tables.
  • Magnets on viewing angle channels are just a bit too strong: folding up case takes some serious effort.

Hardware: Apple Pencil

  • It’s much easier to grip the new Pencil versus the old design due to flat edge and matte finish
  • Double tap action on the side of the Pencil is taking some getting used to. Due to the way I hold a pencil (pretty incorrectly) tapping the side of the Pencil while I’m holding it is a bit tricky. With practice I think it’ll still be faster than manually tapping an eraser icon in my note taking app (shout out to Notability)
  • Magnetic charging is awesome, but the Pencil doesn’t quite stay on when in a bag. I end up removing it before travel as a result.
  • Battery life seems reduced: I’ve definitely seen the battery dip down below 50% with extended usage. The ease of recharging the pencil by putting it into a storage position on the iPad reduces the real world impact of this however.

Software

  • Face ID feels more convenient than on an iPhone since I almost always have the iPad in front of me at a right angle.
  • Face ID feels faster overall, and the angle it detects my face is seems much wider and farther than Face ID on the iPhone X/Xs/Xr.
  • iOS 13 announcements at WWDC 2019 will really make or break the future of the iPad Pro: now that the hardware is set, the device feels like it needs software features to take advantage of it. Where are Apple’s pro level apps (like Logic and Final Cut Pro) for this device?