My view of the iPad Pro before mine arrived was very clear: this was a corporate device. It’s going to be great for carrying around lots of A4 documents to view at almost full size. It’s going to be a fantastic presentation tool for one-on-one meetings.
But I didn’t see it as a consumer device. It does nothing a standard sized iPad can’t do – though I was sure my colleague Dom was going to be right in describing it as a killer Netflix machine.
But will it, like the Watch, win me over in my arbitrary one-week trial … ?
I was fully expecting my first impression to be that it was big – very big. Curiously, this wasn’t the case. I’d ordered the Logitech Create keyboard with it, and two separate packages arrived. I opened the larger of the two, expecting it to be the iPad, but nope, that was the keyboard.
Even when I took it out of the box, it didn’t look huge. Holding it in my hands, it felt big for sure, but not ridiculously so, as I’d expected. In fact, it was only really when I put it next to my iPad Air 2 that the true size difference became instantly visible.
Which was when I noticed something unexpected: the iPad Pro didn’t look huge, the iPad Air 2 started to look a little small. My wallet was starting to feel a little nervous.
Similarly with my iPhone 6s. I actually stuck with my iPhone 4s right up until the iPhone 6, as I actually preferred the more pocket-friendly size. Eventually I had to upgrade, of course, but I still find it right at the limit of the size I’d want a phone to be. In this company, though, it looked rather small.
It still feels like a slim device, though the Logitech keyboard does make it significantly thicker.
I thought a size comparison with my MacBooks would be interesting. First with my MBP 17.
But the really interesting comparison is with my MacBook Air 11 – the one I was praising yesterday. That’s the top photo (where metering from the screen does some interesting things to the color of the desk due to the white balance), but to save you the trouble of scrolling:
Their overall dimensions, with the keyboard, are not dissimilar. But suddenly the MacBook Air screen feels a little cramped.
Switching it on and restoring from a backup reminded me how clunky this process is. Restoring a new device from backup, whether it’s iCloud or iTunes, ought to be a simple two-step process: confirm you want to do the restore, then enter your iCloud credentials and wait.
It’s really not like that. You have to login to iCloud multiple times, and then login to all your apps. It’s a pain, and Apple really needs to make this process much, much better. But that’s another topic. Back to the iPad Pro …
Once everything was restored, the first thing that struck me was the ridiculous waste of space on the Home screen.
I know Apple doesn’t want to do different grid spacings for every single device, but this is crazy. In fact, to show just how crazy, Benjamin took Jeremy’s iPad Pro Home screen and managed to fit the original iPhone Home screen in the gap between icons!
Apple could comfortably accommodate eight columns by six rows on this size screen with plenty of space between icons – even more for my personal tastes. That would be double the number of apps per screen, something I’d love to see.
Using apps is a very mixed experience. Some are nothing short of fantastic! Reading a magazine in Magzster, for example, is just a joy. You don’t need to scroll or zoom on any page – it’s almost like holding the paper magazine in your hands. This one needs the iPhone 6s in shot for scale.
It’s beautiful. If you’re a magazine guy, and could afford to drop this kind of cash on the Pro, that’s almost enough reason right there.
iBooks too is just lovely. In landscape mode, you have the closest thing you’re ever going to get to holding the paper book in your hands.
In an ideal world, I’d like to see the book use a little more of the width of the display, but it really is a fantastic way to read a book. (Yes, by a staggering coincidence, that is one of my technothrillers.)
iBooks makes good use of the screen size on the library screen, with the covers a sensible size. Kindle doesn’t, and really needs to follow Apple’s lead here – the covers are too big on this size screen.
Netflix is indeed a joy to watch, as you’d expect, but again could usefully reduce the size of the icons for the Pro.
Most apps are not yet optimized for the iPad Pro, so as Jeremy mentioned yesterday, mostly what you see are standard iPad apps, magnified. Everything works just fine, but many do look rather silly.
Optimizing apps to support different screen sizes is a bit of a pain for developers. Mostly they do it for iPhones because the downloads justify it. With iPads, it’s less clear-cut, and given the relatively small proportion of iPad Pro users we’re likely to see, I’m not sure that many will choose to optimize for it – which does limit the benefit of the larger screen.
But web pages … that’s a different matter! With my iPad Air 2, I almost always keep the screen locked to landscape mode. But with the iPad Pro, portrait mode is just fantastic. Webpages start to feel like magazine or newspaper pages. Here’s how much of the BBC news site you can see in portrait model, for example – and on the Pro, the text is all comfortably sized.
It’s the same story with other websites (ours, for example). You see a lot of the page at once, and get a very magazine-like experience.
But by this stage I had discovered one drawback: I was really starting to feel the weight difference. The iPad Pro weighs 1.59 pounds against just under a pound for the iPad Air 2. When you’re holding it in one hand to scroll with the other, you do really feel that weight. When you have to hold it still with one hand to type with the other, then it’s nothing short of uncomfortable.
John Gruber even went as far as to suggest that this is the first iOS device designed to be used on a desktop rather than in the hand. I wouldn’t go that far, but yes, if you’re planning to type on it, you do definitely want it on your desk.
The iPad Pro is also undeniably less portable than its smaller brothers. I have a shoulder bag that accommodates my normal iPad, and this definitely wouldn’t fit.
Conclusions so far
It’s a lovely device. Even in the few hours I’ve had to play with it so far, the size has already started to feel normal – the weight not so much.
I’ve had very little time to play with the keyboard as yet, so I’ll talk about that in the next update. I do like the fact that there’s no messing around with pairing. Immediate impressions of it in use are that it isn’t as nice as a MacBook keyboard, nor the Brydge one I use with my iPad Air 2, but it does the job. ‘Adequate but not great’ would be my immediate assessment.
Which does, of course, raise another issue. If you have a bunch of accessories for your iPad – case, keyboard and so on – then the true cost of upgrading to the larger device are even higher than the rather steep purchase price (I of course opted for the 128GB with LTE).
Am I likely to keep the iPad Pro? Before it arrived, I was confident the answer would be ‘no.’ I have to confess, I’m already less sure. My wallet is currently looking over its shoulder with a very nervous expression.
But I haven’t taken it outside the house yet. Once I start carrying it around, and using it on the move (as I will tomorrow evening), I’m going to get a more realistic perspective. Let’s see.
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