Photo Source: 9to5Mac
Rumors and reports on the coming iPad Pro updates have been few and far between over the last eight months, but 9to5Mac and Macotakara have brought a little more information to light over the past few days. Some of it is expected- no headphone jack. Some of it is good- removing the bezels will give us a little more screen real estate on the current 10.5″ model, and a smaller overall size on the 12.9″. However, there is one very concerning bit in yesterday’s Macotakara report.
The inclusion of Face ID on these new iPad Pros has been rumored since late last year, so that is certainly nothing new. However, it has been assumed for a while that Apple would be enhancing Face ID after a year in the field on the iPhone X so that it could better handle the more versatile nature of the iPad. While you can get away with Face ID being locked to potrait orientation only on the iPhone, which is small, held in the hand, and can be manipulated pretty easily, the iPad Pro is a different story. Both models are quite a bit larger and heavier, and there are accessories and use cases that require you to prefer one orientation over another.
If Macotakara’s report is correct, then Apple has NOT perfected Face ID the way many expected by now, and it will be orientation locked the same way that it currently is on the iPhone X. While thinner bezels and no more Home Button are welcomed, a locked down Face ID will not be convenient for many iPad Pro users.
The strangest part of the Macotakara report is the claim that Apple will be moving the Smart Connector on the new iPad Pros near the Lightning Connector. This would mean that, not only would Face ID on the new Pros be locked to portrait orientation, but the Smart Keyboard would also have to be redesigned to hold the iPad in portrait for typing. Yikes.
I have made no secret of the fact that I don’t like the Smart Keyboard. However, my current keyboard of choice is the Logitech Slim Combo, which also makes use of the Smart Connector. This is best keyboard solution I’ve ever used with an iPad, and I have been testing and reviewing them since the early ones that were available for the iPad 2, so I would hate to see the designed tossed out the window for such an arbitrary reason.
As excited as I always am for new iPad hardware, Apple fundamentally changing the way that I use my iPad everyday just because of Face ID’s current limitations would be pretty disappointing. It’s one thing for Face ID to only work in portrait. That would be a little irritating, but I would be fine with just going back to entering a passcode while using my keyboard case. However, Apple fundamentally altering the design of the iPad just because Face ID only works a certain way would be a poor decision, in my opinion.
All that said, this report just feels off to me. While Apple has made decisions that put aesthetics and “progress” over practicality in the recent past, this sounds like a bridge too far to me. Switching the MacBooks to USB-C and the Butterfly-style keyboard and removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and the Home Button from the X came with their inconveniences, but none of these fundamentally changed the way a device was used. Moving the Smart Connector and re-designing the Smart Keyboard would.
Most of us who use an external keyboard with the iPad Pro do so in landscape for a very good reason- it allows us to get the full benefit of the split screen enhancements that Apple added last year. Apple shifting that just a year later because of potential Face ID limitations, again, just feels off. Let’s hope that Macotakara is off base on this one, and Apple either has Face ID ready for use in any orientation, or at least doesn’t move the Smart Connector if it is still limited to portrait. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a pre-announcement rumor turned out to be completely wrong.