I got a big iPad Pro 2 days ago because Best Buy put them on sale for $100 off (I just checked BestBuy.com and they aren't on sale anymore, so it must've been a 1- or 2-day deal), on account of the 9.7-inch ones are on the way. In my brain, that was essentially like getting a free Apple Pencil, which I've been drooling for since I first saw them announced. I was pretty sure I wouldn't like the giant slab of glass and would return it, because one of my hobbies seems to be trying and returning stuff, but I am shocked to report that I love this giant thing. And the Pencil. And even the Smart Keyboard, which I was like 90% sure I would hate.
What problems am I solving? Allison Sheridan has me well trained to start with this question. I should start by saying that I have no illusions that I need this thing. No one does. Nevertheless, it's filling gaps in my personal gadget lineup.
- My laptop is buggered. I've put too many betas on it and left things trailing all over the hard drive and done too many installs that keep all the bad bits because I don't have the fortitude to do a nuke and repave right now. The hard drive has an issue. I have AppleCare on it so I just need to make the call, but while it's still mostly working I put it off. And I really use my laptop only to sync and store stuff. If they made a Hazel equivalent for the iPad and just a few more automated processes that would be cool. At any rate, I increasingly dislike hauling it around and dealing with spinning beach balls and overly complicated application processes.
- My Mini is not a sweet spot size-wise anymore. I've had a Mini since the size first appeared, and when iPhones were smaller, it was perfect. Now I usually just use my iPhone 6S if I'm mobile or in bed reading because it's big enough to do stuff on. And the Mini is too little to really do anything productive on for me. (I know there will be an outcry, and I know other people are productive on tiny screens, but I'm just not.)
- I was going to hold out for a 9.7-inch Pro until I saw the sale at Best Buy, but I've had a crapton of 9.7-inch iPads over the years and have sold every single one. The size is NOT a good one for me. Too big to read on, too small to act like a laptop. So I'm now glad I didn't repeat that experiment.
I'm writing this post on the Pro, and it zips along like buttah. The split screen feature is fantastic. I've never used it much because if you split a screen on a Mini you can't see anything, but on the big Pro, it's a really useful capability. E-mail on one side, The Hit List on the other; Byword on one side, Safari on the other (as right now); anything on one side and Notes on the other; you get the idea. Obviously you can do this on OS X, but I find my brain works more efficiently with the simplified, faster interface. With the Smart Keyboard, command-tab works to switch out the active window, and it works FLAWLESSLY.
The screen is big enough that reading and annotating documents is not only NOT painful, but also even enjoyable. I'm writing a research article right now, and it's comfortable for me to kick back in my reading chair with the Pro and Pencil and read papers for it.
I should discuss the size more thoroughly because I truly thought I would not like it. It's why I haven't gotten a Pro before now. It IS a giant slab of glass, but for me, it isn't cumbersomely heavy or unwieldy. I would not use it to lie down and read on because I would probably knock myself out, but as I said previously, I read on my iPhone in bed. I've read repeatedly that people don't like the size because it's not even comfortable to use on one's lap, but I've found that for me that just isn't the case.
I even prefer it for plain reading Kindle books in my reading chair. I read so fast that reading on a small screen necessitates a lot of page-turning. I love reading on the Pro, to my surprise, because in landscape two-column view it really looks more like a book, and I don't have to turn pages every 30 seconds.
Writing? The glass keyboard is not my favorite, never has been, but on the Pro I can approximate touch typing and not get so frustrated I want to smash the thing. I have a Smart Keyboard, but I'm talking about situations like responding to a tweet or commenting on Facebook. You don't need a keyboard for that, and it's nice to be able to type stuff without getting frustrated.
The Smart Keyboard has been a pleasant surprise. I've read a lot of bad reviews about it, and as I said, I figured I'd be returning it. But I love it. I have tried a lot of iPad keyboards over the years, and this is the first one I've just been able to start typing quickly on. For my fingers, the keys have just the right amount of travel and are spaced exactly the way my fingers go when I type. I particularly like that the keyboard acts like a Smart Cover when you fold it up. The keyboard part adds surprisingly little bulk. After years of messing with keyboards that are bulky and have to be switched on to use with Bluetooth and have to be charged all the time, I'm really impressed. The no-connector/no-charge thing is a huge bonus. I won't be returning it.
The Apple Pencil is as fabulous as they say. As with keyboards, I've tried a lot of styluses over the years, including the 53 Pencil (tweet me if you want to buy mine!), but I never really ended up using them consistently because they just weren't enough like a real writing implement and I got tired of failed palm recognition.
I'm not much of an artist skill-wise, but I like painting and drawing. I paid $5 for Procreate, and you can endlessly mess around with that and an Apple Pencil. It's wicked fun.
Also, as I mentioned previously, the Apple Pencil just works way better than anything else for plain old underlining, highlighting, and annotating. The screen is big enough that I can easily see a whole page without pinching, zooming, or squinting. The whole process is much more fluid than reading and highlighting on my laptop. It really does approximate having a stack of printed papers and going over them with a pen. (And why not do that? I hate wasting the paper, and I like syncing my documents and having them around when I need them!)
Downsides? Sure. There is the "huge slab of glass" factor. This isn't a tablet you can toss in your everyday carry bag, unless it's a pretty big bag. You can't use it one-handed. It takes a really long time to charge (however, it LASTS when it is charged). I'll probably get AppleCare Plus on it because I paid enough for it that dropping it and breaking it would really make me mad. And speaking of price, the thing is crazy expensive. What with the Pencil and Smart Keyboard, I forked over what I would for a lower-end laptop, and for me an iPad just can't be my only computer. The day may be coming, but it isn't here yet.
Therefore, I kind of now have two laptops, which seems a bit crazy. I can see my buying an Apple Mini in the future when my 3-year cycle on my laptop is running out, because I rarely take my laptop off my desk anyway, and I'm sure I'll do it even less now that I have the Pro; the Pro is kind of shaking out as a laptop that I can lift the screen off and start writing on, and that's cool and handy.
I'll keep this Pro and use it for a while before I decide what to do with my beloved iPad Mini. I hate to get rid of it, but I'm not really seeing a use case for it anymore. If I ever took it anywhere, I would keep it, but phones are big enough now that I don't. We shall see. Tweet me if you're interested in it, anyway (latest model, Silver, 128 GB).
I don't see myself giving up the Pro. It's the first Apple product ever that I was sure I would not like, didn't buy for months, and now would have to have it pried out of my cold, dead hands. Still, I think my original misgivings are totally valid. The big iPad Pro is not a mass-market device (hence the "Pro," I guess!) and definitely isn't for everyone. I'm just excited that I've found this new fantastic tool.