As you probably saw, Apple has announced a new line of iPads, one being a new base iPad and the other being the new M2 iPad Pro. I would say that the responses online are primarily dunking on Apple’s odd decisions for the iPad lineup, and for good reason. I will provide a peek into some of these oddities, but I think these announcements from Apple are the nail in the coffin for many people hoping to see Apple truly lean into the iPad made for “real work.” Instead, Tuesday’s announcements have just reinforced the failings Apple has continually provided to iPad-first users.
As someone that used to do a podcast all about the iPad and made an iPad my daily computer for years, it truly pains me to say that Apple doesn’t care about iPad-first users. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the iPad hardware, software, and the iPad lineup.
Apple announced two new iPads, one being an all-new base iPad with flat edges and a Surface-style folio keyboard, the other being an updated iPad Pro. The new base iPad is an addition to the lineup, making the entire iPad lineup now up to 5 different flavors. All of them have their downsides, but some are just unforgivable.
One of the more ridiculous things I have seen from this announcement is that the new base iPad, which looks akin to the refreshed iPad Air and iPad Pros, still only works with the first-generation Apple Pencil.
What’s more comical is thanks to the new USB-C charge port, you now have to use a silly cable to charge the Apple Pencil on the iPad. So much for USB-C bringing clarity and ease of use for charging.
Also, the new iPad Pro has little to write about regarding what Apple has done. Sure they slapped on the latest and greatest M2 processor, but other than that, Apple hasn’t innovated anything. They cared so little about upgrading the iPad Pro that the display and camera hardware weren’t even updated! Even so, I would argue Apple doesn’t think the iPad Pro deserves a significant refresh because iPadOS will continue to be the throttle holding the iPad Pro back.
However, third-party app developers like those behind DaVinci Resolve have decided to try and beef up the iPad’s abilities as they bring a full-fledged video editor to the iPad. The app is not here yet and hasn’t provided any release date, though, so we will have to wait and see. However, if this kind of app makes its way to the iPad and works well, I think it brings hope that third-party developers will be the heroes the iPad Pro deserves.
I used to flame people on Twitter for saying that the iPad wasn’t a “real computer,” but as I step further away from my iPad, the less I feel like it was ever meant to be a primary computing device. I love my iPad Pro (11" 2020 model), and I use it for several things like podcast editing, handwriting notes, mind mapping, and even using pro tools like Affinity Designer. Still, most of the apps and tools I use on the iPad aren’t from Apple, which should be telling to any pro iPad user.
Apple refuses to port over its pro app lineup like Logic and Final Cut and instead has relied on third-party developers like Black Magic to fill the void. I love the Affinity software and even left Adobe’s costly suite of apps for them, but Apple needs to put its money where its mouth is and show that they believe in the iPad as a “pro” machine.
On top of making their pro apps accessible on the iPad, Apple needs to focus on the features they are making on the iPad and make them more reliable.
Take Stage Manager, for instance. This feature was announced in June and was immediately hit with controversy as they limited it to just M1 iPad Pros, even though the earlier versions of the iPad Pro seemingly had more than enough power to handle the window-management feature. Eventually, Apple (uncharacteristically) listened to their users and expanded it to more iPad Pros. Still, more than four months later, there are continuous bugs and issues revolving around Stage Manager with no indication Apple might pull it from the iPadOS 16.1 launch coming October 24th.
So more people will see just how flaky and buggy Stage Manager is, and I honestly can’t see that Apple cares about the poor experience they are about to give millions of iPad users worldwide.
If we expect Apple to honestly care about iPad-first users, they have a lot to do on the software side of things to make up for it.
The Clunky iPad Lineup
When I look at the iPad lineup, the one word I think of is bloated. There are a ton of options with very few differentiating factors. Hell, even the iPad Air and iPad Pros were the same when they both had the M1 processor.
I think Matt Birchler surmised it best in his post recently:
I think the iPad lineup is kinda weird right now too. There’s not a clear, linear increase in features across the line (which now has 6 distinct models), so even if you have unlimited money to spend, you’re going to have to compromise on something.
Want a webcam in the proper spot? Gotta get the regular iPad (the new regular iPad). Want to also use the latest (4 years old) Apple Pencil? You can’t; now you gotta get an Air, Mini, or Pro. Want a keyboard case? We’d need to bust out a compatibility table to even begin to answer that question.
The Tim Cook era of Apple has seemingly caused the Apple lineup to grow exponentially, leaving many to Google and research which Apple device is best for them, only to compare them all in a table. I am all for having options, but this is getting out of hand.
I also can’t help but think that this expansion in the lineup is spreading the Apple product team(s) too thin. They are so busy trying to ship something new that they don’t have the time or resources to innovate current products in any meaningful way. For example, the flagship iPad Pro should have gotten more than a processor upgrade, and Apple Pencil hover support.
I’m aware it doesn’t help to be pessimistic all the time, but it sure is hard not to be when you take a good hard look at the iPad right now. Still, I hope this device’s future does indeed improve, and I think continuing the conversation is a good start for change.
I hope that Stage Manager gets improved, and I hope that Apple removes the first-generation Apple Pencil altogether and makes app iPads support the magnetic second-generation Apple Pencil.
I hope third-party developers see the potential in bringing truly pro apps like DaVinci Resolve or Affinity Designer and decide to fill the void Apple continues to ignore.
I also hope that Apple does lean in on the pro side of iPads and unleashes the true potential of the iPad, maybe even allowing macOS on it. Something has to be done to enable the iPad Pro to flourish and differentiate from the rest of the iPad lineup. And while they are at it, bring some color to the iPad Pros too.
As I stated from the beginning, I love my iPad, and I hope to one day look at it as my daily computer again. Still, right now, with the current state of iPadOS and the current iPad lineup, I can’t justify grabbing my slab of glass over my MacBook Air.