The rumor mill is churning hard and fast now as we get closer to an inevitable Apple Event. However, with most of the stories just repeating variations on the same models and basic features, this is a good time to step back and see what other new features that users may be looking for in the new crop of iPads. Whether hardware, software, or both, there is no better time than a hardware refresh to consider what we hope Apple is cooking up in Cupertino.
Pencil This In
I have a few fairly modest upgrades and features I would like to see Apple release in the near future. I’ll lead things off with a very small but useful feature that should be a simple add for all iPad Pros, not just the newest models. I want to see Apple add a battery status for the Apple Pencil to the Status Bar any time it is connected to an iPad. I know there is a way to view the battery level via a Battery Widget that can be added to the Notification Center Widget Screen, but that’s always two swipes or a press and swipe away from where you are working. There is no reason that Apple can’t add a battery indicator next to the Bluetooth icon, similar to what we get with other Bluetooth 4.0 devices such as headsets and headphones.
This feature request is obviously on the less ambitious side, but for anyone who uses the Pencil often, it would be very useful and much more intuitive than the current method of monitoring battery life, especially during extended use. Come on, Apple. Pick the low hanging fruit.
Touch and Go
My second request, which is both more common and more difficult, is the addition of 3D Touch to the iPad.. I’ll preface this by saying that I personally believe we will get 3D Touch on the new 10.5″ iPad Pro. With the coming 10.5’s newer design and edge-to-edge screen, there is at least a decent likelihood of this feature finally making it to the iPad lineup. Also, this fits with Apple continuing theme of slowly rolling out new features, such as Retina Displays, TrueTone Color, and TouchID, as component costs and the supply chain allow. Well, at least allow within Apple’s target profit margins.
Unfortunately, I have my doubts that the rumored refreshed 12.9″ and 9.7″ models will get the full 3D Touch makeover. I hope they do, but I’m not convinced that it will makes sense to roll out past the one model this year. This won’t matter to a lot of users, as many dismiss the usefulness of 3D Touch as a gimmick. However, I actually enjoy using the 3D Touch features, especially the quick access to widgets on the Home Screen. I think this feature specifically would be very useful with the larger screen of the iPad.
Making a Connection
My third suggestion is for Apple to move to an improved Smart Connector design. I won’t dispute that the concept of this feature is solid. Unfortunately, I believe that the design and execution have hamstrung what should be a strength of the iPad Pro lineup to this point. What makes me say this? Just look at the Apple accessory ecosystems for some of their other newer hardware designs. They have already met with robust support from third parties. The Apple Watch has no shortage of band and docks available. The Apple Pencil has covers, clips, and holders galore. How many third party accessories have we seen that support the Smart Connector? The lack of support relative to other Apple products speaks volumes.
This was easier to dismiss when only one iPad Pro supported the Smart Connector feature, but that reasoning doesn’t hold water anymore. Slowing sales of the iPad could also be to blame, but there are still plenty of cases and other accessories for the Pros. I think the fact that ZAGG, Brydge, and New Trent, all longtime iPad keyboard case manufacturers, decided to stick with Bluetooth for their iPad Pro designs is telling. There have been reports and rumors floated that it is difficult to make accessories work with the connector, as the alignment has to be perfect, and the connection absolutely stable at all times. Considering that there are plenty of other accessories for the iPad Pros, I think this theory carries more weight.
Despite the initial struggles with the Smart Connector, it is definitely a concept worth Apple investing in and improving. If they could tweak the design to be more forgiving with charging docks and keyboard cases, and make a solid case to accessory manufacturers on how these improvements will make their designs sucessful, I think adoption would quickly pick up.
Also, another welcome addition would be allowing third parties to design swiveling hinges for keyboard cases, with a stationary Smart Connector in the center. This would make a case with the same positioning options as the ZAGG Slimbook possible with the Smart Connector’s direct connection to the iPad. I would absolutely LOVE to see this, as the ease of adjusting the iPad’s angle while docked is a big reason why I stick with my Slimbook. However, Apple will have to loosen the reigns on their on their design requirements before that happens.
These are just three modest feature and upgrade suggestions that come to my mind, These are things that would make my iPad Pro more of a pleasure to use than it already is, and ultimately, those are the kinds of things I want to see Apple adding over time.
How about all of you? What kinds of hardware or software improvements or upgrades would you like to see Apple roll out in the coming weeks, or even as far out as WWDC as we move toward iOS 11? Inquiring minds want to know. Drop us a line in the Comments section below, on our Flipboard channel, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog or @jhrogersii