The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro with its larger display and prodigious A10X six-core CPU and 12-core GPU power is an appropriate and welcome addition to the iPad line, more clearly differentiating the Pro machine from the $329 entry level 9.7-inch iPad than did the now discontinued 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
However I’m even more excited by the forthcoming iOS 11 operating system software that the iPad Pro and other recent to middle-aged 64-bit iPads will run than I am by the new/refreshed models themselves.
I’m a huge iPad fan, and I already use mine extensively as a productivity tool, but at this point moving to the iPad as a pproduction platform is not a satisfactory option because there are things I need to do that the iPad and the iOS either simply can’t do or demand too much compromise and inconvenience in working around.
Apple has been pitching the iPad as a laptop replacement for enterprise users for several years, especially after entering the MobileFirst iOS business if they’re really serious about courting productivity users in the enterprise and others, the problems I noted above had to be addressed, and now at least some of them have been.
New features in iOS 11, coming this fall, will include — finally — a new app called ‘Files’ that will function in iOS devices as a substitute for the macOS Finder, allowing users to browse, search and organize all of their files in one place, with a dedicated space for recent files. Files will provide centralized access to individual files, whether they be stored locally, in iCloud Drive or on other cloud services like Dropbox, Mega, Box, and others.
Another huge iOS 11 advance will be Multi-Touch Drag and Drop, the ability to move selected documents, blocks of text, images, apps, and other files from one app window to another anywhere on the screen using tap and hold without the need to switch apps. These capabilities will compliment and amplify the usefulness of the enhanced multitasking features Split View and Slide Over that were introduced with iOS 9 back in 2015, making it possible to have three windows open at a time and user choice as to which side of the screen the first two (the third one floats) appear on respectively.
iOS 11 also gets a new customizable persistent Dock that can be toggled from any screen with a swipe to provide quick access to frequently used apps and documents, and a redesigned app switcher that brings macOS Spaces/Mission Control type functionality to iOS, making it easier to move between apps or pairs of active apps opened in Split View and Slide Over.
iOS 11 supported iPad models include all iPad Pros, the current entry-level 5th-generation 9.7-inch iPad, and other 64-bit iPad models that include the original iPad Air and Air 2, and the iPad minis 2, 3, and 4.
Overall, these new iPad multitasking features, at least on paper, represent a major leap forward in supporting the tablet as a productivity device, checking several boxes on my long-running wish list. But will they make the iPad an acceptable substitute for a Mac or Windows PC? Maybe for some users, but for me, and I assume many others, unhappily not. The new iOS 11 features and capabilities are much appreciated, but there are still some important boxes left to check.
High on the list of as yet unfulfilled needs is mouse support. Why Apple is so stubborn about adding bluetooth mouse driver software to the iPad is beyond me. It should be relatively easy to do software-wise since there’s already Bluetooth support for external keyboards, and it would not in any way need to inconvenience those who prefer touch input. The Apple Pencil stylus is simply not a satisfactory mouse substitute for some of us, and it also remains to be seen whether the new iOS 11 iPad features and multitasking enhancements will be adequately flexible to bring productivity performance closer laptop territory. For example, reportedly iOS 11 will still only support a maximum of three windows open simultaneously (or four if you count a Picture-in-Picture video). Files is also a bit of a question-mark. It sounds good, and light-years ahead of the iOS’s file management capabilities up to now, but the inference is that it still falls short of a fully user accessible file directory system. Time will tell.
Other remaining unaddressed priorities include either replacement or augmentation of the proprietary Lightning port with a standard I/O port — logically at this point USB-C, an SD Card slot, and macOS Spotlight style content level document search.
Happily, it appears that Apple is finally listening to production oriented users’ criticisms of the iPad and iOS’s shortcomings as a serious workhorse platform. Hopefully that receptiveness will continue, and the remaining issues will be resolved.
Based on a raft of 10.5-inch iPad Pro reviews out this week, the new model and its refreshed 12.1-inch sibling have plenty of processor and graphics power to support professional grade computing provided the professional grade app software you need is available for iOS. The 10.5-incher has seriously whet my appetite for an iPad hardware upgrade for the first time since I bought this iPad Air 2 back in 2015. If you’re running an original iPad Air or older tablet, the 10.5-inch Pro will represent a dramatic performance improvement. It will be interesting to see how iOS 11 performs on the iPad Air 2, earlier model iPad Pros, and the 5th-generation 9.7-inch iPad.