Photo Source: iDrop News
I guess this was inevitable. Right on heels of the release of the iPhone X, we now have rumors that Apple will roll out a new iPad with Face ID, no Home Button, and a bezel-less design. My first reaction upon seeing pictures of a mock-up of this potential device from noted leaker Benjamin Geskin (courtesy of iDrop News) was to drool a bit.
Maybe it was the afterglow of playing with my iPhone X for the last week. Maybe it was the thought of a slimmer and slightly more compact 12.9” iPad Pro. Maybe it was my satisfaction with Face ID so far. I guess it was a combination of all this, plus the prospect of getting another iPad Pro refresh so soon. However, with a little time to think about this potential device since I first saw the rumors, I’m starting to have some doubts.
How Will Face ID Work?
Right now, Face ID is locked to portrait orientation on the iPhone X. This isn’t a major issue, as that is the most used orientation for a smartphone. Also, the X is a continuation of the iPhone 6/6S/7/8 line, rather than the Plus form factor, so it makes sense that Apple would forgo some of the landscape interface enhancements that came with the Pluses.
The iPad Pro is a VERY different story, though. It is a device that can see equal use in either orientation, and is designed to work equally well either way. As for me, since I use mine in a keyboard case, I’m in landscape most of the time. However, there will be others who use theirs almost exclusively in portrait. It just depends on what you are doing and which apps you use the most.
It’s hard to guess how Apple will handle this based on what we know of Face ID today. Maybe Face ID is fully capable of working in either orientation, and Apple just limited it to portrait on the X as part of a measured rollout. If so, then this will be a non-issue for the iPad. However, if the tech is still locked to one orientation, then how will Apple implement it in such a way that it doesn’t become a hassle for half it users? I set up each thumb in three different angles of TouchID, so it currently works as well in landscape as it does in portrait. If Face ID doesn’t match that, there will be some unhappy users. If an iPad shows up with Face ID locked to portrait, then I would be one of them.
It all comes down to what Face ID is capable of right now. If it can’t handle scanning faces in both landscape and portrait orientations, then rushing it to a platform that demands more flexibility will be limiting. If this is the case, no matter which one Apple picks, it will be an inconvenience for some users. And based on what we’ve heard about the expense of the components and the time the TrueDepth Camera takes to assemble, going with two in a single device seems completely unrealistic.
The bottom line is, after the way they handled Face ID on the iPhone X, I completely trust Apple to handle this situation right, as well. If they release an iPad Pro with Face ID, it won’t be limited. They won’t make that mistake. If anything, I am just questioning the validity of the rumors based on what we have seen of Face ID so far.
This is the next area of concern with the rumored new iPad. There has been a good deal of continuity between accessories since the original 12.9” Pro was released back in 2015. Many of the original accessories don’t fit the newer model’s camera setup, but most are still usable. The rumored new device would necessitate replacing all case accessories for both Pro models.
I understand that this is the reality of technological progress. As devices get thinner and lighter, we all have to adjust. However, it is rare that it happens after with Apple form factors after just one year. 2016’s 9.7” iPad Pro is a notable recent exception, but I still have trouble believing that Apple is going to shift iPad form factors this quickly.
Another area to watch will be if the new iPad is completely devoid of bezels The rumored design shown pictured above retains a small band. However, if they were cut back more, accessory manufacturers may have a challenge on their hands. The issue isn’t that there is nothing for cases to hold to, as the sides are still there to fit, it in the case of rigid cases, snap around. The problem is staying out of the way of an edge to edge screen on a device that depends on geatures that come from the edges. I’ve already had this issue at times on my iPhone X with the Reachability gesture.
This is eventually going to have to be hashed out one way or another. There is overlap between the gestures used on both the iPhone X and the iPad in iOS 11, and adjustments will have to be made when the Home Button is removed from the iPad. It’s just a question of whether this is the year to do it or not.
While I am already a big fan of the gesture interface of the iPhone X, I’m not sure taking something so new and mashing it up with the iPad Pro’s also fairly new gestures is something I look forward to yet. The primary gesture on the X, the swipe up to return to the Home Screen, is awfully close to the swipe up to bring up the Dock on the iPad. Considering that the Dock itself is anchored to the bottom of the screen and that the bottom bezel could be gone, how do these two gestures get sorted out so they aren’t in constant conflict? I suppose the bar that denotes the Gesture Area could be moved upward, but that will encroach on territory that App developers use.
The when and how of this is a question for someone smarter than me to answer, and that’s where having some trust in Apple is key. Again, I’m not worried about them getting it wrong. As far as I’m concerned, they absolutely nailed the changes to the iPhone X under considerable pressure to deliver. The shift away from the Home Button and integration of iOS gestures on the iPad is inevitable at some point. It’s just a matter of whether now is the ideal time, or another year or more down the road. The rumors always assume everything seen in the supply chain is coming right away, but we will see if Apple thinks this year is the right time soon enough.
A discussion of Face ID wouldn’t be complete without talking about the iPhone X’s notch. It certainly draws attention and opinions from all corners. Like me, a lot of X users aren’t really bothered by it, but I think you would be hard pressed to find many who actually like or prefer it.
I understand that, no matter what you think of the notch, it is Apple’s answer to the problem of fitting Face ID into a small form factor device with no bezels. Yes, there were other possibilities, but that’s the one they chose. Whenever we do see Face ID come to the iPad, I will be very curious to see how Apple handles it on such a different device. The iPad doesn’t have anything close to the size constraints of the iPhone. The removal of the bezels on a phone maximizes the screen real estate of what has to be a pocketable device. While shaving size off the iPad Pros is all fine and good, no one is putting them in a pocket. It’s a completely different use case that doesn’t directly benefit as much from completely removing the bezels.
This fact makes the way Apple handles Face ID on the iPad interesting. They can get away with removing the Home Button, but still leaving some bezel around the edges to work with.
The aforementioned iDrop News article on Mr Geskin’s rumor has mockup pictures that do not show a notch. Mr Geskin’s report doesn’t address the notch, either way. Also notice that the rumored device shown here retains a small bezel. This size might be enough to hide the TrueDepth camera without a notch. However, this is just a fictitious mockup, so don’t read anything into it.
At the end of the day, there is no reason that Apple needs a notch on an iPad to maximize screen size. The question is whether they want one. If there is a branding aspect to the notch, Face ID’s arrival on the iPad will tell us.
In my opinion, this could be the biggest negative impact of the inclusion of Face ID on an iPad this year. It will definitely add to the price of devices that are already well outside the impulse purchase range. This could severely undercut the value of the lower-cost iPad, which is the reason I don’t expect to see it on that device for a couple of years. TouchID is good enough for the value option of the iPad line until the price of the TrueDepth Camera comes down.
As for the iPad Pro, adding anything to the already high starting prices of $649 and $799 is asking a lot of buyers. While I trust Apple to get their technologies and features right, my belief is a bit shaky when it comes to price. We all know they are going to make their money, and if the price of the bill of material goes up, that will roll downhill to us users. Apple loves including cool new security features, but they have no problem asking us to pay more for them, as evidenced by the iPhone X. I am more than willing to wait an extra year to get Face ID and the TrueDepth camera at or close to the current price.
When I first saw the reports of rumors of a new iPad with no Home Button and Face ID, my instant reaction was, “I want.” After some thought, that has changed to. “I can wait.” For the last time, I DO trust Apple, and if they release a new iPad Pro with these features this year, then it means the tech is good to go. Who knows what the price will be, though. Even if the tech is there, why risk the potentially negative impact to iPad sales that have increased two quarters in a row after being stuck in the doldrums?
So, count me on board with waiting a year to get this mythical iPad beast. The current iPad form factor is working just fine, the device is plenty fast and responsive, and I don’t want to upgrade after one year just to get the latest security feature and lose and inch or so of size. An extra year will bring an even bigger processor bump, bigger Camera improvements, and maybe even some more new Apple-produced components, since they keep bringing more of their chip designs in-house. Also, there will be a better chance of paying the same $640 to $1279 prices to get one. For now, my money is on the rumors being a little off and Apple revealing these changes somewhere between late 2018 and mid 2019.
What do you think of the rumors of a new iPad design with Face ID and no Home Button so soon after the release of three new iPad designs? Are you all-in, or good with waiting a bit? Or would you prefer to see the iPad left as it is for a while? Let me know what you think in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.