When iOS 11 and the new iPad Pro were announced at this year’s WWDC, I was very excited and more than a little confused. I was excited because the hardware looked fantastic, and I knew I was going to buy one. I was confused because iOS 11 made me no longer know what the iPad was for.
Long before WWDC 2017, I decided I would use some of the earnings from my iOS app and Mac app (todo.txt task lists, under the name SwiftoDo) to upgrade my iPad Air 2 to the newest model—whatever Apple would release next. I had hopes for a larger-screen, smaller bezel iPad, which ended up being the 10.5” iPad Pro.
Even though the tech press has decried slow iPad sales for years now, I absolutely love the iPad. I use one for music, podcasts, videos, writing, Twitter, web browsing, and reading at least 8 hours every day. (It helps that I work from home.) I love the screen. I love the touch interface. I love driving it with a Bluetooth keyboard. I love how native apps can deliver a superior experience to web pages. I even love developing apps for the platform.
Since I purchased my 2013 MacBook Pro, I have bought three iPads (not counting the Pro model I was considering) and zero MacBook Pros. This year I was not really due for an upgrade, but I use the iPad so much, I decided it was worth it.
Despite my general iPad Pro excitement, I was also confused, because iOS 11 looked to me like a computer operating system, rather than a tablet operating system. iOS 11’s new app launching dock, file-oriented architecture, and extensive drag-and-drop support gave me the impression that it made the iPad more like the next generation of Mac, rather than a tablet.
This is important because, to me, and iPad is way more intimate a product than a computer. I read on it at the breakfast table and in bed. I listen to music all day at work, and sometimes just have it display a big clock or the blank text area of a note-taking app. These are things I would never dedicate an entire laptop to. But a tablet is small, low power, and low stress.
I installed a developer beta of iOS 11 on my iPad Air 2 to get an idea of how the new UI worked. I also visited my local Apple Store to look at the 10.5” iPad Pros the day they were released. I actually walked right right past them; the store had replaced all the 9.7” models with 10.5” models, and I could barely tell the difference. After a minute I found the 2017 9.7” iPad (the new budget/consumer model) and a new 2017 10.5” iPad Pro side by side. The difference in size was more slight than I had imagined. The larger size was obviously an improvement over my iPad Air 2 screen, but it didn’t feel like a big enough difference to warrant an upgrade. I was actually a little upset, because I really wanted to upgrade to the newest iPad, but the 10.5” model did not seem much better than the iPad Air 2.
A surprising decision (at least to me)
What dawned on me at the Apple Store was that iOS 11 would make the 12.9” iPad Pro, which I had previously thought was ridiculously oversized, very attractive. With a keyboard, it would be a much better desktop computer than the 10.5” model. Without a keyboard, and indeed without a case, it would light enough to hold while reading in bed, and not really too large for that either. It would have better software and require less maintenance than my MacBook Pro, and would be a lot more fun to use. So I played with one for a while and decided to buy it.
Now I’m writing this blog post on it, and plan to write more about the other hardware I bought to go along with it, and the changes I made to its software. It’s a wonderful device, and is clearly, with iOS 11 on the horizon, the next iteration of the Mac.