It actually never felt completely natural for me to hold an iPad up in bed to read because it felt too heavy to hold. Only the iPad mini 2 (around 0.75 lbs.) ever reached that weight threshold that felt forgettably light. But one way I’ve worked around that with the heavier iPad Pro (1.5 lbs.) has been to rest the entire device on my chest in portrait mode, for comfortable evening reading. I scroll so that text is always on the top third of the page, and there’s very little fatigue because I’m just angling the iPad, not holding it.
However, because I now use the iPad Pro in bed so often, I’ve run into another issue: it’s downright difficult to type on when you’re using the iPad in portrait mode. You definitely won’t write long messages (fair), but it’s not even suited for quick messages or URL in Safari.
I miss the split keyboard that was present in most every iPad before this one. The split keyboard was never a very elegant design: you had to start it by pulling the keyboard apart width-wise, or by holding down on the button to hide the keyboard until a prompt appeared. This feature simply wasn’t very discoverable, and there were no tutorials to show you how to put it back together again, if you’d accidentally triggered it. I’m sure a number of people went to the Apple Store just to have their software keyboards “put back together”.
Apple removed this keyboard option with the introduction of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but I think they should have simply relegated it to some sort of extra keyboard option. The 12.9-inxh screen is actually so large that you can struggle to type on it in portrait mode, unless you have some distance from the screen — and that isn’t the case for me when I’m reading in bed.
That made me wonder: what is the portrait keyboard actually designed for on the iPad Pro? The landscape keyboard was clearly designed with touch typing in mind, and Apple even took advantage of the extra screen real estate to add a row of number keys. But the portrait keyboard seems to be there “just cause”. It would be ridiculous for the iPad Pro not to have a portrait keyboard option, but I’m really curious as to why Apple killed the split keyboard and left iPad Pro users with this shoe-horned design. My iPad Pro is too wide to hold in two hands and thumb type in portrait, and it’s so large that it’s difficult to hold the tablet in one hand and tap out a URL with the other.
The solution I’m hoping Apple will turn to is something they’ve been experimenting with on the Apple Watch: handwriting. I don’t need to do anything long form when I hold the iPad up in portrait, it’s just quick text messages or things I want to search. Handwriting seems like it would be perfect for this, especially if I could write anywhere on the screen once I’d activated the mode.
Whatever it is, I’m crossing my fingers for a more suitable input method for portrait on the iPad Pro. The strength of the device is that it’s supposed to be usable in any orientation, rested on a desk or in-hand, and that isn’t really true when you view the tablet length-wise.