3 Weeks with the iPad Pro: First Thoughts

From Windows 3.1 through Windows XP, I was a Microsoft man.  Then in 2001, as if someone threw a switch, in the midst of fighting against XP for some task that I though should have been simpler than it was, I decided to jump ship.  The Mac suite of products wasn’t an option for me since I didn’t have the money to abandon my hardware just yet, so I became an Ubuntu Linux user almost overnight and almost solely. I quickly learned that my frustrations could not be blamed solely on Windows–anyone who familiar the hours of work that result from broken applications due to a Linux kernel update will understand.  I also learned, however, I shouldn’t let the platform drive my options. That is, I shouldn’t have to let Windows, or Ubuntu, or even Mac tell me how to develop my workflows. My workflows should drive my choice of platform.

It’s for this reason that I haven’t been a big fan of iPads.  I first used one many years ago on a trip to an academic conference in Zurich, Switzerland, to experiment with how well it could support my needs while traveling and doing all that one does at such conferences.  My conclusion was that it was a good consumption and idle-time on-the-airplane or awake-all-night-because-of-jetlag device.  Reading books was a mediocre but tolerable experience, but Angry Birds at 2am? Now that’s where I finally found a good use for it.  My conclusion remained the same for several years through pretty much every iteration of the iPad.

Until now.

After three weeks with the iPad Pro, which I approached as an experiment but with the full expectation that I would need to continue carrying my MacBook Pro with me along with it, I am pretty certain my MBP is getting lonely and (justifiably) feeling rather insecure and threatened.  So, as if my opinion really matters all that much, my general thoughts of pro and con are listed here.  My thoughts on how well the iPad Pro met my needs in specific workflows and spheres of life as a university administrator, academic researcher, Christian minister, and occasional sufferer of insomnia will come in subsequent a posts over the next few days.

I helped a friend order an iPad Pro for his wife last Christmas. I specifically remember telling him, “If she will want to use it on her lap, get the Logitech keyboard that makes it more like a laptop rather than the keyboard that comes with the Smart Cover.” I hope he doesn’t read this because now I owe him money.  Aside from the slight awkwardness of learning how this keyboard Smart Cover folds up on itself, making me look like one of those ridiculously inept infomercial people, I haven’t wished for any keyboard other than this one. Just the opposite–I wonder if those other keyboards don’t just get in the way when the need arises (or desire–it’s that good) to tuck the keyboard away and write on the screen with the included pencil.  Maybe he will leave a comment here and let me know.  The bottom line is that the keyboard makes this iPad Pro a content creation tool that is as pleasant to use as my MBP.

So save the extra money for a different keyboard and put it toward the pencil.  Yes, it’s worth it. Most reviews on the pencil seem to say that it’s great for artsy types, but that most people won’t need or want it.  But trust me, get the pencil.  I’ll tell you why in greater detail in my next post, but get it.  Just don’t lose it, something that is all too easy to do and is its greatest (and only?) weakness.  If I’m not wearing a shirt with a pocket I’ve nowhere to put it.  No magnetic attachment to the iPad, no sleeve or slot on Smart Cover. That design conversation must have been a doozy.  I suppose that because the pencil is an additional accessory, they chose not to design the iPad itself to accommodate something that not everyone would buy.  Still, though, get the pencil.

Only three things come to mind for why the iPad Pro is not quite ready to be an MBP replacement, for me at least:

First, the battery drains much more quickly than I anticipated. At first I thought maybe the location services from some app was draining the battery, but the only app for which location services are constantly enabled is the remote management application my university for mobile device management.  Off course, it could just be that the iPad Pro’s A9X desktop class processing chip and 12.9″ Retina display with 5.6 million pixels need a lot of juice.  The jury is still out on this, but the higher than anticipated rate of battery drain, together with the slower than anticipated battery charging, make me hesitant to go mobile without a charger.

Second, if you want to go whole hog with the Apple ecosystem, you will lament with me the continued lack of an iOS solution for iBooks Author.  You can create with iMovie.  You can create with Garage Band.  But to create a multi-touch book for the iBooks part of the inter-operable Apple ecosystem, you still have to go with OSX whether it be a MacBook, iMac, or even a Mac mini.  That’s a big drawback for me.

Third, printing.  But that’s not such a big problem nor a big surprise.  Printing from an iOS device like the iPad pro can certainly be done rather easily with an AirPrint enabled printer, but if you are on a company network that has yet to make such a transition, a workaround is needed.  I just the document to myself (as a PDF to avoid any formatting problems) via Air Drop, email, or even Messager and print it from another computer.

Finally, and this is not a limitation of the iPad Pro so much as a reflection of its incompatibility of my photography workflow and camera gear, but am Nikon DSLR shooter.  That means I need to buy yet another piece of gear if I want to easily get my photos off my D7100 and onto the iPad. No big deal, just yet another thing to buy. I guess I’ll pick one up while I’m buying that new printer I apparently need.

So there you have it. I have never really liked iPads but I love the iPad Pro.  Well, after three weeks anyway.  Coming soon are the pros and cons of the iPad Pro as university administrator, academic researcher, Christian minister, and occasional sufferer of insomnia.

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