A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the iOS Notes app and all of the improvements made to it over the last few years that brought me back to it. Now its time to turn our attention to the iOS Mail app, which has also gotten some recent love from Apple over the last two years. Looking back, Mail was one of the lynchpin apps in the early iPhone OS, and once it received Exchange email support in year 2, it really was the standard for email on a smartphone. This would continue for a couple of years, until Google finally got its act together and started shipping a good version of Gmail with Android.
March is just around the corner, and with it comes the wish lists and rumor-mill pre-game shows leading up to a probable Apple Event. The spring time is when we have come to expect new iPad announcements that often include accessories with with some occasional iPhone goodness sprinkled in for good measure. This year appears to be no different. In fact, this year might actually be one of the busiest spring Apple Events in recent memory.
All the usual, mostly reliable suspects are chiming in, and many of them have been predicting very similar announcements. Tops on the list of predictions is the release of a new iPad screen size in the lineup. The size reference to this new iPad size varies somewhat, but it is expected to be in the 10.5″ to 10.9″ range, with the latest supply line leaks suggesting more than likely to be 10.5″.
Over the last few days, Apple has released four new iPad Pro ads that take the messaging for the line in a little bit of a different direction. Where the last ad from six months ago compared the iPad Pro to a computer by showing off ways that it could perform similar tasks, but in a more portable and easier to use package, the new commercials are all about contrasts between the two.
At one time, I had pretty much forsaken the iOS Notes app. Other than taking down to-go orders and a few other random thoughts on the iPhone version, I had pretty much stopped using it a few years ago. I hardly ever used it on any of my iPads. I had Evernote and kept almost all notes that I took there, whether for personal or work use. I even had their paid Premium service for over a year so I could upload more content for work notes. Since it was completely platform-agnostic and easy to get data into and out of, I just assumed at the time that I would stick with them long term.
As we close the book on January, the rumors of a March Apple event centered on the iPad are coming fast and furious now. There are multiple reports of a new iPad Pro in a different size, an Apple Pencil refresh, and potentially some other Apple device updates, as well. With the iPad line progressively trending away from the Air and Mini and toward the Pro line over the last year, this next event should give us some clarification as Apple’s intentions for the tablet category going forward. This will be especially interesting given the continuing declines in year over year sales and profits for the iPad line that we recently learned about during Apple’s quarterly sales call.
It seems like a year doesn’t go by that my workflow sees some sort of major disruption, caused by a new device. Last year’s big shakeup was the iPad Pro, which was large enough that I could finally comfortably write on a tablet for hours at a time. It also held the promise of becoming a full-time computer given the storage space. But given what I’d like to accomplish with a mobile computer — mobile photo editing, writing, browsing, and video editing — the iPad Pro isn’t there yet. I’ve written that word quite a lot over the years: yet.
Touchscreen devices are seeing the fastest growth in terms of innovation and performance improvements, but they still feel inferior to the L-shaped laptops we’ve been using for years. There’s something about resting my hands on the keyboard, looking forward at the screen, and keeping my hands in place as I manipulate content. It is more enjoyable to surf while touching the content on screen, but when it comes to multitasking or batch-processing of tasks and files, the Mac still feels faster to me.
As an update to my previous post on everyday carry, I have been leaving the Smart Keyboard at home and bringing just the iPad Pro around with me. I thought that I’d get into the habit of bringing a stand around with me, but it had felt like just one more thing to bring around. So for the past few weeks it has been just the 12.9-inch tablet and the Pencil for occasional diagrams and a few handwritten notes.
It still surprises me how much more comfortable I find typing with the iPad Pro flat on a surface, or propped up on my legs. A typing stand like the Smart Cover or TwelveSouth Compass make it easier to view my text when there’s glare from the ceiling lights, but on the typing angle also forces me to tilt my wrists upwards. I can type comfortably for quite a while this way, but I inevitably walk way from the experience with some wrist pain or discomfort. Not being able to rest my fingers on the keys just makes typing on glass that much more fatiguing. Typing with the iPad completely flat isn’t as good as a physical keyboard, but it’s far easier on my wrists, and ultimately more enjoyable.
I wrote a few weeks ago that I was going to stop carrying the iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard everyday, and I’ve been following through on that. I also carry a laptop to and from work, and the combination of the two devices is more than a 15″ MacBook Pro and charger.
I have been trying to do a better job of just using and not over-thinking the iPad Pro. That definitely happens naturally at home. I hate to repeat it, but it is a fantastic content consumption device. I use it almost daily for Netflix and podcasts, and I have pretty much stopped using my awesome UE Boom speakers because the iPad Pro already sounds good enough for music in the kitchen.
But when I’m out and about and want to handle longer form writing and messaging, this is where the iPad Pro slows me down when compared to my Retina MacBook Pro.
I like the feeling of being prepared, and having devices along with me is my hi-tech version of a security blanket. I always have my phone, and most of the time, I’ll want to have a device with a larger screen for writing or longer browsing sessions. For the past year, that device has been the 12.9-inch iPad Pro because it was the lightest possible companion at the time.
One of the things I was eagerly awaiting were the new MacBook Pros that Apple announced last week. My current 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is about 3 years old at this point, and I was considering an upgrade to a newer, faster, and lighter model. For reasons of comfort, I was also thinking that, if the new MacBook Pros were light enough, a Mac may once again replace my iPad Pro as an everyday carry item. Macs support mice and trackpads and more keyboard shortcuts, so I can work on them for longer periods without feeling as much fatigue. I’d then leave the iPad at home for more home entertainment, drawing, and cooking-related tasks.
I use my iPad Pro a lot when I’m home. It’s a fantastic media player for the house and it makes it a breeze to edit photos in Lightroom on a gigantic screen. But after having given it some thought, the number of times I actually use my iPad Pro and keyboard at work can be counted on one hand. It’s my go-to device for creating diagrams and I like writing on it because it has Ulysses, but these are conveniences afforded by the iPad — not tasks that require the tablet specifically.
In the meantime, the iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard add an extra 2.3 pounds of weight to my daily carry. This isn’t an issue when I carry a backpack around, but I can definitely feel the difference when I carry a messenger bag (which I prefer to do).
I’ve tried leaving the iPad Pro at home for a few days this past week, and frankly, I can get along just fine without it. My iPhone 6S Plus is big enough that I can pump out a 700-word article on it without too much discomfort. But I also feel that not bringing the iPad Pro around flies in the face of what I bought it for. It’s supposed to be a larger take-everywhere device that trades weight for a lot more comfort during longer work sessions.
Last week’s post about the 12.9-inch vs. 9.7-inch form factor got me thinking about the what would make the iPad more comfortable for long term work. I came back to the idea of a mouse and how it enables me to use more complex sets of on-screen controls, without all the overhead of remembering a ton of keyboard shortcuts. I do love my keyboard shortcuts, but they’re not a do-all replacement for controlling apps.
It struck me the other day that one (seemingly) simple change to the iPad, especially the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro, could be the addition of a pointer. Mouse or trackpad support would be fine.