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BW Businessworld

More iPad Than Ever

Apple's newest iPad is a 12.9-inch digital canvas. A keyboard and stylus open up creative possibilities. But does it replace a notebook?

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma; Model: Priyanka Chaudhary

I've lived with the iPad Pro for about a month now. Every time I pick it up, I wonder at its size, its brilliant screen and the ludicrous difference between it and my 'regular' iPad. An enormous tablet isn't altogether a rarity: Samsung and Lenovo have both made these. But coming from Apple, it's a different package. What I could tell right away though is that it isn't for everyone. Whether the expensive iPad Pro is worth the money, depends entirely on what you do.

Why So Large?

From 7 inches of iPad Mini, Apple decides to hand us a mammoth 12.9-inch tablet. Why? Well, for one, tablet sales have really been slowing through 2015. For Apple, it's been for the past seven quarters. Tablets have competition from large phones at one end and from hybrid laptops on the other. And the iPad has never fully made it to being considered a work device.

With the iPad Pro, Apple has come up with a device which isn't a lean-back carry-around tablet, but a create machine. You can't lean back and use it to read a book — not comfortably anyway — and you can't just drop it into a bag and be off. The iPad Pro is still portable, but in a different way, more like a light laptop. You can hold it up to surf, read, play, but not for long.

The Cover-Keyboard
The iPad Pro works with a rather nice cover that has a keyboard built into a flap. This is optional only in name. Without it, you'll leave the iPad screen unprotected and will be stuck with typing on glass. You can, of course, buy cheaper keyboards, because this one costs Rs 14,000. But I'll vouch for the fact that the keyboard is really usable, though some reviewers haven't liked it at all. It doesn't look like its flat keys would have enough travel and tactile feedback, but they do. I've been able to touch-type with it at top speed. It clacks a bit loudly though so you better not have anyone around who's going to be irritated by the sound.

The iPad docks into the keyboard very elegantly, with a snap, and acts as a stand, of course. When not in use, it closes up with a soft fabric section being the part that touches the screen so that it doesn't get damaged.

The keyboard also steadies the device quite nicely on one's knees and is wonderful to work with wherever you go. The back of the iPad has to be separately protected with a soft rubber back that matches the keyboard.

The Apple Pencil
Another accessory for the iPad Pro is the Apple Pencil, a big stylus that you can do without, but won't want to. The whole point of the large canvas of this tablet is to be able to use that stylus in some way. That's what brings the device alive for artists, designers, and anyone who puts pen to paper for work. I'm part of a Facebook digital art group based around an app, iColorama, and I can tell you that a noticeable percentage have instantly headed for an iPad Pro and are having a wonderful time with their Pencils.

The Apple Pencil costs you an additional Rs 8,900 and it works beautifully like honey and butter and all that on the tablet's surface. It only works with the iPad Pro. The Pencil is pressure sensitive and responds with more or less ink or thickness depending on how you press down. It works with zero lag. That's what artists, etc., will really love. You can do a high-velocity scribble all across the screen and yet you won't see a fraction of a second's delay.

The pencil charges by being plugged into the iPad's charging port. But here's the extreme awkwardness that really is surprising coming from Apple. When charging, the pencil sticks out its entire length from the bottom of the tablet. It looks ridiculous for one thing but is otherwise also not very practical. The Pencil does charge very rapidly though, with 30 seconds of charge giving you about half an hour of use, so at least there's the fact that it won't look awkward for long. But it's strange that there's nowhere to dock it on the tablet. If you lose it, or the little cap that protects its USB, it's time for tears.

Other than drawing and painting and making presentations and flow charts, you can use the Pencil to write, but not all handwriting apps convert to text. I use an app called WritePad that may not have been optimised well enough for the Pencil and so every now and then it just stops responding to handwriting input. That's the app's fault, not the Pencil's but it shows that apps will need to catch up to this accessory.

Everything Else
My old iPad 3 shows its age next to the iPad Pro. That thinks before it does anything and the iPad Pro does it before you can think. It's blazing fast. You can tell its power when you work with 3D objects in an Autodesk app or edit a movie without a hiccup or even when you do basic things like browse the web or watch a video. Other tablets will absolutely not keep up with the iPad Pro on that account. And it isn't just raw power but highly finessed so that using the device is very smooth. The iOS 9 operating system that it uses allows for multi-tasking. You can split the screen and resize the slip-out window with some apps and you can switch apps quickly. The cameras are nothing special, but for the rest, one can't argue with the iPad's specs and performance. I must add that the iPad Pro has a stellar set of four speakers that are true stereo. When you switch orientation, the speakers switch and play accordingly.

A Laptop Replacement?
The iPad Pro is a powerful machine. And in many ways a stunning and fantastic one. But it's neither a tablet in the sense of being easy to hold, handy, and very portable, and nor is it a complete laptop because the software that makes a PC usable in the way it is, just isn't available for the iPad or any other tablet for that matter. If developers create that software, then Tim Cook could be right when he says the iPad Pro will push laptops (including Apple's) in the future. If you don't need that software, by all means the giant tablet could suit you — if you have the money to spare and are quite sure you don't want anything else. If you take Pro in its name literally, then the iPad Pro is perhaps best for those whose professions demand a product like this one — in addition to whatever else they already have.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 25-01-2016)

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