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 2 felt good, but it was still a bit too heavy at 1.3 lbs. for the one-handed reading I had in mind. My wrists would start to hurt after a while, and it was difficult to turn the pages in iBooks while balancing all of that weight. The big revelation for me was the Smart Cover: I was blown away by how much function was packed into that simple Origami-inspired design. It was a screen cover, a viewing stand, and a little keyboard prop — all in one. The original Smart Covers for the iPad 2 were heavy, but I loved that they included a leather option that really lent a touch of class to the whole device. No Smart Cover design since has been quite as luxurious (though they’ve somehow managed to get more expensive).
When the first iPad mini was announced, I snapped it up because I was absolutely obsessed with reducing the weight of my everyday carry. The first iPad mini was 0.7 lbs. and much easier to hold in one hand for reading. It worked well for books and web pages, and it could fit right into a coat pocket. I loved all of those aspects.
What I didn’t love was the writing experience, and I was doing a lot of writing back in 2012. Placing the keyboard on the desk required me to keep the iPad mini at a certain distance, and there was always a struggle between typing comfort and basic screen legibility. Keeping the iPad mini on the desk was easier to read, but less comfortable for typing. Pushing the screen farther away made it easier to type on my attached Bluetooth keyboard, but much tougher to read more than a few lines of my text.
The Air solved all issues of comfort for me. I owned both the iPad Air and the iPad Air 2, and they were similar in terms of weight (around one pound) and size (a 9.7-inch display). The first iPad Air felt miraculously light for its size, and the Air 2 improved upon that with more speed and the addition of TouchID. Pairing the Air 2 with a Bluetooth keyboard was a dream for mobile writing.
These iPads didn’t have anything wrong with them hardware-wise — but it was ultimately the introduction of iOS 9 and Split View that drew me away from the 9.7-inch form factor. There were so many ads about how great it was to be able to work in two apps at once, and the taste that I had during the iOS 9 summer beta whetted my appetite for a vastly improved computing experience on iOS. I had been spending most of my time over the last few years on the iPad, treating it like my primary computer, and I felt like I was on the cusp of something amazing. Multitasking was going to get way better on the iPad once all the developers embraced the magic of Split View, and that’s really what got me to trade up to an iPad Pro.
My biggest, most expensive bet was this 128 GB 12.9-inch iPad Pro that I own right now. It was heavier, but still light, considering the sheer size of the screen. I felt positive that developers would get excited about the new possibilities of the platform and embrace extra panels and Split View arrangements. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen — and as of January 2017 — still hasn’t really happened. Apps like Google Hangouts and LINE still load up in full screen, even though they have iPhone apps that help form the basis for a functional Split View mode. Facebook still doesn’t display properly on the larger screen. As much as I still enjoy using iOS, it’s exasperating to see amazing new features demoed in betas, and then have only a small portion of the developer community actually embrace them.
I’m still tempted to downgrade in size when the next set of iPads comes out, but don’t feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth from this current iPad Pro yet. I’ve used it for photo editing, written close to a hundred articles on it, and have used it as an all-around entertainment system at home. However, given the sheer price of the kit ($1700 for the iPad Pro, Pencil, and Smart Keyboard), I think I’ll be sticking with it for at least one more year. My bet on multitasking and a larger screen hasn’t paid off in the long term for my own productivity, so I’m going to give the iOS development cycle a while longer to catch up.
If Apple is going to start treating and pricing iPads like full-fledged computers, I should start treating the investment like that as well. I don’t trade up in MacBooks every single year (it’s usually every three years), so I’m thinking this iPad Pro will be my tablet until at least 2018.