Tag Archives: Apple Pencil

Music Notation App StaffPad Brings Pro-Level Composition to iPadOS

In what sometimes seems like another life, I was a music student and then a professional musician (for a little while) and a teacher (for longer). I was a percussionist all through middle and high school and absolutely loved it. I won some awards over the years and made several honor bands, including All State my senior year. I got scholarship offers to several schools and ended up attending Louisiana State University for four years to study music. I got a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance and then got my Masters’ Degree from Florida State after that.

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A Decade of iPad

We are just a few hours from the close of another decade and it’s a natural time to look back and see just how much things have changed in the last ten years. One of those big changes for Apple fans like myself has been the iPad.

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Apple Pencil Patents Point to Interesting Future Possibilities

Photo Source: Patently Apple

I tested more capacitive styli than I care to remember back in the early years of the iPad. I always loved the idea of using a tablet as capable as Apple’s as a digital drawing pad or notebook. However, those early products, no matter how good or expensive, always had tradeoffs associated with them and were usually exercises in frustration.

As such, once the Apple Pencil was released, I was all over it. Apple’s own stylus was a perfect match with the iPad Pro, with virtually no latency, accurate pressure sensitivity and a smooth and easy stroke. I may not be an artist, but you don’t have to be to take advantage of its versatility paired with a compatible iPad.

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The 2019 iPad: More of the Same, But in a Good Way

Back in March of 2017, the iPad lineup was a total mess. You had the iPad Pros, which touted Apple Pencil support  and the option of a larger screen as primary features, and had the high price tags to match. The iPad Air 2 was far too close to the 9.7″ Pro in both specs and price, crowding the top of the lineup. Then you had the iPad Mini, which was languishing at the bottom of the heap. It was still too expensive for a low-end model and was suffering from neglect.

With the announcement of the new iPad on March 21, 2017, Apple started to change all that. They created a better low-end tablet by updating the processor, but going backward from the Air 2 in terms of size and screen. The result was a more competitive entry price of $329, renewed interest and Apple finally stabilizing tablet sales, which had been in freefall for a couple of years. What we have gotten in the two years since is a slow but steady progression that keeps this value option relevant and quite popular.

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Can a Case Render Will iPhone 11 Pro Pencil Support Into Existence?

The short answer is probably not. We know pretty much everything there is to know about the iPhone 11 Pro at this point. The heavy hitters have weighed in and given us all kinds of inside scoop, with Mark Gurman of Bloomberg polishing it all off with a detailed report last week. However, other than a single mention from a lone analyst with no track record, Apple Pencil support hasn’t been among the credible rumors.

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Apple’s Free In-Store Classes Are Worth Taking Advantage Of

If you live near an Apple Store, you may already be aware of the fact that they offer free courses covering all kinds of topics. Whether you are interested in learning more about your devices, investigating new things like coding, or maybe looking for something more creative or artistic, Apple has you covered. If you weren’t aware that these programs were available, I would definitely suggest that you take a look. There is a schedule for your nearest store at Apple.com and in the Apple Store app under Sessions.

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Living with the New iPad Pros- First Impressions

For whatever reason I can’t catch a break when it comes to my job and Apple events and device releases lining up. I got both the 12.9″ and 11″ iPad Pros and the new Apple Pencil yesterday, but all I had time to do was record an unboxing video. I set both devices up, restored them from backups and tested them for just a few minutes, but unfortunately, that’s all I had time for. I ended up working until the wee hours, so I didn’t have a chance to share any first impressions of Apple’s latest and greatest

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Details of Apple’s New Pencil Leak Ahead of Tomorrow’s Event

Photo Source: Ben Geskin on Twitter

I’ve got to hand it to Ben Geskin. The man waited until the last minute to play his card and ruin a big reveal. Apple had a solid surprise still left in the bag until today and company execs may have thought they were home free…until they weren’t. The Apple Pencil 2 has been rumored off and on, but no real details have come out up until Mr Geskin’s big scoop. Now it looks like we know everything.

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A Month with the Surface Go: Hardware Design and Build Quality

As I mentioned in a previous post, I picked up the higher end of the two Surface Go models right after release, along with a Type Cover and a Surface Pen. I’ve taken my time with the device, and used it in different situations to try to get a feel for it. Being that I am already a Windows user at work who’s had a Lenovo Yoga (original), Yoga 2, and Yoga 720 spanning the last five years, the experience certainly isn’t unfamiliar. The Yoga has been a very good touchscreen ultrabook line since the original, and I have no complaints with it as a laptop.

The Yogas can also be used as tablets, although that experience certainly leaves something to be desired. Frankly, a LOT to be desired. Ultimately, my ambivalence toward touch on Windows based on my experience with what is a good, high-end touchscreen convertible device kept my interest in Microsoft’s Surface products low over the years.

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Education Aside, Expect the New iPad to Sell Very Well

While the new 6th Generation iPad was framed almost exclusively in terms of its usefulness and capabilities for the education market at Apple’s release event this week, the reality of its appeal promises to be FAR broader. Between the current focus on education and the robust features and specs of the iPad Pros, it is easy to forget about the iPad’s more general reach. However, it was the release of the new iPad’s predecessor and its new focus on delivering solid features at a more competitive price that finally reversed the fortunes of Apple’s tablets last year.

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Apple Made Up Ground in Education Yesterday, But Still Has Plenty of Homework- Part 2

In my previous article, I covered some of the advantages that Apple and their new 6th Gen Pencil-compatible iPad holds for the education market. However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Apple still has plenty of catching up to do, and if they are serious about continuing to be a player in the education market, then yesterday is just the first step in that process.

Let’s take a look at some of the challenges that Apple still faces in the education market.


Total Cost

I don’t think the price of the iPad alone is as much of a disadvantage for Apple on its own as some do (more on this below), but the total price of the tablet, case, and a stylus is still going to be an issue for Apple in the education market. Despite Apple’s price cut for schools systems, the addition of Apple Pencil support, and even the option of the less expensive Logitech Crayon, you still need a case if you don’t want an iPad to be smashed inside of a week. Also, will the on-screen keyboard be enough for general use, or do you have to fork over more for a Bluetooth keyboard, as well?

This total cost of ownership will be enough to scare away some school districts, especially when it comes to use with younger kids. Apple needs to prove that its support and management tools are as good as the say to partially offset this pricing disadvantage. It would also be smart for Apple to create some all-inclusive hardware packages that cover all of the options, so that schools don’t have to “roll their own” solutions with cases, keyboard, and the like to make iPads work as a practical, everyday school device.

Now, this was not announced at the event, but it was revealed afterward that Apple’s education department will directly handle the sales of Logitech’s new Rugged Combo 2 keyboard and case combo and their Crayon stylus, so that could ease some of the burden on schools in putting together solutions that work. However, the bundled price could still be a big problem for many. It is also interesting that neither of these products will be made available via retail. They are Apple Education offerings ONLY.


Price aside, the fact that the iPad comes in so many potential pieces is a barrier to adoption for use with younger students. Between the device, a charger, a Pencil or Crayon, a case, and maybe even a keyboard, there is a lot here that can be lost. The older the students are, the less of a concern this becomes, but it is still a potential barrier to adoption.

iWork Still Needs Work

I was wondering how much Apple would improve iWork, but it does seem that their updates are more than just window dressing. Pages looks especially good and capable now.

However, in the past Apple has been guilty of swooping in and delivering what they bill as a big update to iWork, with little to nothing other than security updates for a year or more after the fact. That isn’t going to cut it against Google and Microsoft anymore. If Apple wants to be more competitive in education, these apps have to improve even more, and Apple needs to KEEP moving them forward. They have a lot to prove here based on their past track record.

Apple’s Student Discounts Don’t Go Far Enough

I see a lot of people complaining about the discounts and pricing that Apple is offering to school systems, but I really don’t think that is as much of a problem as some make it out to be. There are school districts that have already been able to negotiate better pricing that what we saw yesterday, and I’m sure that will continue to be the case.

The primary issue for schools is less about the hardware cost alone, and more about the cost of support. What Apple showed today looks like it should close that existing support gap significantly, but they have to deliver. In the past, we have seen Apple put on a good show only to stumble when it came time for the actual release, so we will all have to wait and see how the product works in the field before saying that Apple has succeeded here. Time will tell. If the support and management software is greatly improved, then Apple will see greater success in education sales.

All that aside, while Apple’s efforts for schools themselves are solid, it would be even better if they extended a little more support to individual students. Only Homeschooled and Higher Education students are eligible for any direct discounts at this point. I understand that there is a lot of room for abuse opening up even a small window of opportunity for such a wide age range of students to get a modest percentage off of an iPad, a Pencil, or even a MacBook Air. However, such a discount would go a long way toward helping Apple gain a better foothold in the education market again. The more pervasive Apple products are in the homes of students, the more apt school systems will be to support the use of their devices, even if they aren’t providing the hardware themselves.

Even if Apple only extended a direct discount to Elementary and Secondary students in districts that have adopted Apple products for use in their schools, it would still make a difference. The more of these students who buy and use Apple hardware at home when they are younger, the more that will continue to use them as they grow up and start making purchases on their own. If Apple cares as much about hanging onto a share of the education market as they seem to, then they need to offer more direct discounts to show it.

The Competition Isn’t Sitting Still

Apple is going head to head with Google and Microsoft in the education market. Neither of these companies is going to sit still while they make a move to get back into the game. Both companies have a lead in cloud computing and data storage. Both also have a superior suite of productivity apps (well, at least Microsoft does. Some of Google’s apps besides Docs aren’t all that great). Both seem to be committed to winning in this market. Both have considerable momentum at the moment, especially Google.

One Apple event and update isn’t going to move the needle against such committed competition. Apple is going to have to commit to a much faster pace of updates and roll outs of education-focused services to keep up. As I showed in my last article, Apple does offer some clear advantages, so there is a strong case to be made for them sticking with this market and continuing to spend the time and resources necessary to truly compete. That said, they would be better off abandoning this market than just paying it lip service while their two biggest rivals continue to eat their lunch. That is a very bad look, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. They need to prove that yesterday wasn’t just talk.


Apple is in a better position in the education market today than they were yesterday. How much better remains to be seen. We know what the iPad and the Pencil can do, and there is little doubt that this combo is going to sell very well in general at a $329 price point. But will it sell well directly to school systems? That is an entirely different matter.

Since the iPad and its hardware compliments are known quantities, the questions really are, how meaningful will the updates to iWork and other software be in reality, and will the management and support tools work as well as Apple portrayed in the event? If Apple has the right answers to both, then they should at least be able to stem their losses in the education market. Is that enough for them?

As good and positive as some of Apple’s moves were, this event wasn’t enough to put them back on the offensive in an area that used to be one of their biggest strongholds. Tim Cook tells us how much they love education, just like Steve Jobs before him, and we have seen that love displayed with actions in the past. What about now?

For this event to look like more than lip service designed to hold the status quo, there will have to be more coming, and it will need to come by this time next year. More updates and upgrades to iWork. More and better services. More support. More apps like Swift Playgrounds. If not, Apple won’t be able to hold onto the share of the education market that they have left, much less reverse the current trend back to growth. Will Apple still love education by the time WWDC rolls around, or will it slide back down the list of priorities? Only time will tell.

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