I was so excited, and so let down, by the new iPad Pro.
On Wednesday morning, I paid over $1,300 to get the new 11-inch iPad Pro with the new Apple Pencil, the new Smart Keyboard, and of course, AppleCare+ to insure everything.
On Thursday morning, I was at the Apple Store once again — to return everything I had just purchased less than 24 hours ago.
Given the steep price of the iPad Pro — it starts at $800, but quickly gets into laptop or desktop territory — you would expect it to be able to do laptop or even desktop things. But nope. This is still an iPad, like the one you bought years ago. It’s faster, yes, and prettier than before. But it should not be mistaken for a work computer. You would be a less efficient worker if you chose an iPad Pro for work, compared to many standard laptops and desktops.
The iPad Pro fails at basic tasks
The very first thing I did with the iPad Pro, aside from taking photos of it, was to try writing a story with it. I know it can do movies and books, but I wanted to see how much of a “pro” item it was. I ended up writing this first impressions story about the iPad Pro on said device. But I immediately ran into roadblocks:
Selecting text was a major pain. The first red flag for me occurred when I tried highlighting a single sentence to bold it. I couldn’t select the sentence. I was pointing at the right areas with my finger, but the highlighted area kept shooting around the screen, highlighting entire paragraphs. I couldn’t believe how long I spent trying to select a single sentence. I’ve never had so much trouble selecting text on a laptop, because mice and trackpads are still vastly more precise than fingers and touchscreens.
Multitasking on the iPad Pro was inconsistent and less efficient than a normal computer. One of the most common things I do when writing a story for Business Insider is add a photo. Like most websites, you press an “Upload” button, and either browse for the photo among your files, or drag and drop it into a highlighted area.
On a Mac, adding a photo to a website is a three-step process: Open the browser, open Finder, and drag and drop the file from Finder into the browser.
On the iPad Pro, I needed to open Safari, swipe from the bottom of the screen to activate the Dock, open the Photos app from the Dock to activate Split View, and then drag and drop the photo I want from one app to the other. An extra step, whatever, but dragging and dropping didn’t always work. I’d hold my finger to a photo to select it, but when I dragged it to the second application, the photo changed to a different one that I didn’t select. This behavior could be a bug, but it happened every time I tried adding a photo.
Uploading a single photo to the website was slower, too, compared to my 4-year-old MacBook Pro. And some photos I uploaded automatically rotated 180 degrees. No problem, that’s happened on my Mac before — but altering and saving the photo in the correct orientation, which usually does the trick on the Mac, didn’t work on the iPad Pro. Nothing would work, and I had no way of correcting the photo, unless I did it on my Mac. So that’s what I did: I put my brand-new iPad Pro away and finished my work on my MacBook.
It’s difficult to justify a device that’s as expensive as a work computer, but isn’t one
A big part of my disappointment with the iPad Pro also comes down to the price.
My very first iPad — the third-generation iPad, and the first one with a Retina display — cost $500 to start. Five hundred dollars is really expensive! And that’s before AppleCare and any other accessories, like a case.
But even comparing this new iPad Pro to my iPad Air from 2013, I realized just how little had changed. The new device is obviously faster, but both work about the same.
The iPad Pro has no functional advantage over any other iPad. All iPads run the same operating system, iOS.
It’s not like the iPad Pro has a special edge, aside from faster chips. It supports the Apple Pencil, which you’ll rarely use unless you’re an artist, and the Smart Keyboard, which is massively overpriced for what amounts to a loud keyboard with magnets in it. That’s about it. The iPad Pro is basically an invitation to spend money on a deluxe iPad experience — fun, sure, but yeah, it’s not a work computer.
I insist the iPad Pro is not a real work computer because even trying to perform the most basic of tasks felt underwhelming, and compelled me to use a laptop instead. The fact is, the iPad will always run iOS, and iOS comes with limitations. Yes, iOS is really easy for users to understand, with all those floating apps that you download from the App Store, but the system itself is not nearly as robust or as powerful as a desktop operating system like MacOS or Windows.
The fact that Apple calls the iPad Pro a professional device, but won’t let it work with a mouse, or a trackpad, or external storage, is borderline insulting to customers that need it for “professional” tasks, as the name would imply. But if I can’t select text easily, or multi-task, why would I buy this over a laptop?
The iPad could be great, but Apple is holding it back
Apple needs to stop saying “no” to iPad functions. It’s bizarre, because this iPad Pro even adds USB-C for the first time, which is almost like a signal that this device desperately wants to communicate with other gadgets. But Apple’s implementation here is half-hearted, and it shows. No external storage, and no support for computer-like accessories really hurts the iPad Pro.
Just like it was for the very first iPad in 2010, the main input method for Apple’s tablets is your finger. But Apple needs to realize that people need more than their fingers, or a Pencil, to do professional work in 2018.
We invented the best input methods for computers years ago — they’re called mice, and trackpads. They offer what fingers can’t do: precision. The iPad is a step backwards for trying to insist that people work a certain way, instead of facilitating that work.