Apple was doomed. Then they set stock records and became the most valuable company in the world. Then the price fell and they were doomed again. We were assured that they couldn’t innovate anymore. Then Phil Schiller told us Apple “can’t innovate my ass” (ironically while announcing a computer that would go three years without an update).
As we close in on the month of March, which seems almost certain to hold the promise of an Apple Event, the rumors of new iPads continue to abound. However, in the last week or so, they seem to have taken a turn. While there is growing certainty that there will be an event in March, whether we will actually get iPad hardware that soon is now being called into question.
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.
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.
Before Apple’s stock price soared to even greater heights this week thanks to strong iPhone sales, growing services revenues, and rumors of spectacular devices to come, we got the bad news about iPad sales. During Apple’s quarterly sales call two weeks ago, we learned that sales were down 19% percent and revenue down 22% over last Q1, meaning not even the impressive iPad Pros have been able to overcome the forces of market saturation, slow upgrade cycles, and the encroachment of large screen smartphones.
Tim Cook keeps telling us that Apple remains committed to the platform, and to their credit, Apple has kept adding form factors and features to the lineup (and we hear more are on the way). However, the iPad’s glory days seem a distant memory, and it is now clearly a secondary device to the company’s true money maker- the iPhone.
I got a few comments on my original article from Flipboard and Twitter that touched on details I thought were interesting and worth bringing back to the site. Before diving in, thank you to all reached out, and I hope to hear from you again.
First off, the consensus among users I interacted with was that OneNote has a really strong feature set, especially considering that it’s free to use on iOS. However, the responses were mixed on sync performance. Most reported that it worked great for them, but a few others had similar experiences to me. Any app, especially one as flexible and widely used as OneNote can work great for most users, while the bugs and pitfalls hit the rest of us. Considering the widely positive reviews of the app, my experience is more likely an outlier. However, after problems strike a couple of times, the old saying applies- “Once bitten, twice shy.” However it is good to bear in mind that BOTH can simultaneously be true.
Second, I had several commenters mention the relatively new note taking app Bear. I have to admit that one slipped by me on its way to the App Store.
However, it has garnered a fair amount of acclaim since its release early last November, including an App Store Editor’s Note from Apple on its App Store page. After reading the comments and a few reviews, I am going to give it a go myself. I’m not thrilled about paying for the ability to sync, but at only $1.45 monthly, I’m not going to complain too much. Evernote Premium was more expensive and I paid for it for over a year. I will post my own review of how Bear stacks up against iOS Notes and Notability in the near future.
One of the last comments I got came to my Twitter account (jhrogersii), and was the most interesting of all of them. The commenter also mentioned the Bear app, and that he had switched due to recent sync issues with iOS Notes. I have never been affected by any sync issues with Notes, and frankly hadn’t heard anything about this, so I was intrigued. When I asked him what he was referring to, the gentleman sent me a link to a forum thread at macrumors that detailed iCloud sync issues that evidently plagued a LOT of people for a long period of time. It was pretty eye-opening.
It looks like these problems have been cleared up for most users in recent iOS updates, but such an issue calls into question one of my primary points about going back to iOS Notes. I made a big deal about how dependable it was. My exact quote was, “It NEVER fails.” Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. At least not for all iOS users.
If you are a user of Bear and have some good tips as I get started with it, or if you were also affected by Apple’s recent Notes sync issues, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to give me a shout in the comments section below, on our Flipboard page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog or @jhrogersii.
Like so many smartphone and tablet accessory categories, stands have become exceedingly commoditized. If you don’t know what I mean, I dare you to search for “iPad Stand” on eBay or Amazon and see how long you can stand browsing the never ending list. Half of what you will find there probably comes out of no more than 5 factories in East Asia.
For all the difficulty in finding a good device stand that is versatile and stands out from the crowd, it’s an accessory we all find ourselves in need of at one time or another. I’ve had several over the years, but they all had flaws. They didn’t last. They would only work for certain devices, or in certain use conditions. Frankly, I had never owned one that I was really all that happy with. That changed when I got Lynktec’s 360 Gripstand.
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.
I have to admit to feeling a bit like Goldilocks while writing this. I skipped the very first iPad in 2010, but since then I’ve tried iPads of all sizes in an attempt to find the right fit for me.
The iPad Pro joins Apple’s previous gallery of tablets, which means there are a total of three iPad sizes to choose from. Each size also has different models which vary in speed, features, and capacity — which can be quite confusing to those who haven’t been watching the lineup as it grows. The good thing to know is that these are mainly differences in CPU speed and Touch ID integration. All iPads in the lineup now features Retina screens.
Here are a few key things to know about each iPad and its price point, discussed in the same order that Apple uses on its website.
Images of a scaled-up software keyboard in iOS 9 from developer Steven Troughton-Smith hints at the existence of a larger iPad. This new keyboard has more keys, larger key sizes, and more symbols and numbers available at the surface level. The conclusion most people are making is that this layout could only feasibly be executed on a larger screen than the iPad has now.
This is interesting news on its own, but it got me thinking that a real breakthrough would be a software keyboard with a localized implementation of Force Touch (which is used on the Watch and new MacBook). One of the things that makes typing on the iPad different is that you can’t place your fingers on the keys when you want to rest them, and I think Force Touch could be an interesting solution to this issue. Imagine if you could rest your fingers on the area of the screen displaying the keyboard, but no keystrokes would be registered unless you apply more deliberate pressure to the screen.
The caveat here is that I don’t know if Force Touch could be designed to only work for a portion of the screen (depending on what’s displayed), and this kind of input would probably need some form of haptic feedback to help me feel when I’ve applied enough pressure to actually trigger a key press. The iPad has also never had a vibrating motor, let alone haptic feedback, and it could prove too noisy with the iPad on a desk.
However, if we’re going to see a larger iPad and a modified keyboard to suit it, I’m hoping to see more of the innovation that went into designing the keyboard and trackpad on the new MacBook be applied to the input mechanisms on a larger iPad.