iOS 11

One Week with the New iPad Pro

I’ve been using the new 10.5 inch iPad Pro a lot over the past week and thought I’d share a few thoughts:

That Screen

Wow. 

The screen refresh at 120 timer per second is immediately noticeable. Everything is snappier. Maps zoom faster. Apps and folders leap off the glass. It plays with your mind. As I write these words, it even seems the cursor is jumping across the screen faster than usual. The screen is also noticeably brighter than my existing iPad Pro. My best summary for this new screen is that it is hyper-real. 

Maybe at some point I’ll get used to this but then again it may just delight me for years. (Retina screens still make me giggle.) Speaking of retina screens, I think the jump from non-retina to retina was a bigger deal than this, but not by much. This tech is pretty remarkable. One clever bit to all of this is that the screen isn’t always driving forward at 120 frames per second. Instead the iPad is smart and only amps things up when needed. If there is no movement going on with the screen, the frame rate slows down to conserve battery.

10.5 Inches

While the feel of the 10.5 inch iPad is about the same as the prior 9.7 inch iPad Pro, Apple managed to add some additional pixels. They did not, however, make the 10.5 inch iPad match the pixel count of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. Doing so would have allowed us to see two full sized iPad apps on the 10.5 inch iPad but also make everything on the screen smaller. I used to make fun of people that didn’t use the smallest possible typeface on their screens. These days I actually prefer text a little larger. Apple’s decision to keep the same pixel size (so text doesn’t shrink) but just add about 20% more screen real estate with the 10.5 inch iPad works for me. However, 20-year-old me would have preferred smaller pixels and two full-sized iPad apps. 

As for my existing 12.9 inch iPad, I have yet to determine its fate. The big iPad currently taking a sabbatical while I attempt to do all of my work on this 10.5 inch iPad to see how it goes. I'll revisit and report back in a month or so.

There's another piece to this larger screen: the keyboard. When I first started using the new 10.5 inch iPad, I didn't feel the keyboard was any different than that for the 9.7 inch iPad. Now that I've spent more time typing on the Smart Keyboard and the glass, I can report this slightly wider keyboard is more comfortable than I expected it to be. Just that little extra width makes a significant difference.

The Pencil

In addition to a faster screen render, the new iPad also provides a faster scan for the pencil at 240 times per second. You won't notice any difference when drawing quickly. The first time I tried it, I made broad fast strokes on prior generation iPad right next to this 10.5 inch iPad and couldn't notice a difference. Then I got thinking about the times I try to use the pencil with precision and I started doing some tests. I use the pencil to make very small and detailed annotations on PDFs. I also use the pencil to write music in NotateMe. It was with that second test that I really got religion. NotateMe allows me to write music on my iPad with my pencil. It transcribes the music as I write it and even gives me a little preview. I like using the application to sketch of ideas for songs and solos. This task gets a lot easier with a higher scan rate on pencil. The application gets a better reading and, as a result, gives me better response. No longer do my eighth notes turn into quarter rests. One remarkable part about all this is the fact that I did not have to buy a new Apple Pencil. The iPad improvements were all that were needed in order to give my existing Apple Pencil these new powers.

Other Nerdy Bits

  • If you spend any time in Safari, you'll notice the additional memory (4 GB).
  • The weight feels exactly the same as the 9.7 iPad Pro.
  • The speakers sound about the same to the 9.7 inch iPad Pro
  • There is no discernible difference in battery life. About 10 hours.

What about the Software?

For months I've been writing that the problem with the iPad isn't hardware, but instead software. Apple fixes a lot of my complaints (and a few I didn't even think of) with iOS 11. I'm currently running the iOS 11 beta on my 10.5 inch iPad and will have a lot more to say about that when it gets closer to shipping. The point, however, is that Apple has improved hardware and software. When iOS 11 ships, a lot of people will be able to get work done on iPad. September can't come soon enough.

WWDC Reflections and Future Hopes

Now having returned from WWDC, I can't help but take a few minutes to reflect upon the general mood in San Jose this past week. Developers were a lot less surly this year and I spoke with several developers inspired by Apple’s work to go and create the next big thing.

Why wouldn’t they? We got new Macs, iPads, and the software updates addressed many priority issues, like iPad productivity. I can't really put my finger on it but it seems like Apple just has its eye on the ball better this year than it did last year. Talking to folks around San Jose, one explanation was that Apple had a lot of focus on the new building and the car project. I'm not sure if that’s the case. It may just be that the features they announced this year took longer than expected. 

Indeed, it really doesn’t matter why it suddenly seems Apple is addressing these issues so much as the fact that they are addressing these issues.

The iPad gets a lot better with iOS 11. I have a long list of critiques having used it under fire for several days but, fundamentally, the iPad gets more useful when iOS 11 ships.

The bottom line is people are generally happy with what Apple announced last week. Now let’s keep the the momentum rolling. I’ve got three hopes for the next year:

  1. I'd like to see that Apple is listening to feedback particularly on the iOS 11 iPad improvements. Beta users have some great ideas and I'd like to see the best of them make it in before iOS 11 ships.
  2. I would also like to see Apple continue to do incremental updates to the Macintosh hardware. The fact that they upgraded the MacBook Pro to the most current processor in less than a year is a great sign. That is, however, just one data point. I hope that they continue to upgrade hardware as soon as the appropriate upgraded chips are available.
  3. With the improvements of the iPad and the iPad operating system, we now need a healthy ecosystem where developers can spend the time necessary to make professional iPad applications and then sell them for enough money to justify the effort. Hopefully Apple can work with developers to find a way to make that happen.

A Little iPad Productivity with iOS 11

I'm writing this post sitting in San Jose Airport. I didn't have any WWDC plans today so instead I arrived at the airport ridiculously early, found a comfy chair and did about a three hours of real work on my iPad running beta one of iOS 11. I did this not wearing my MacSparky hat but instead my lawyer one. I wrote contracts, sent and received emails (with multiple attachments no less!), tracked changes in Microsoft Word, scheduled meetings in Fantastical, took notes with my pencil in Apple Notes, and otherwise made myself productive.

It's still early days. This is the first after all. I wouldn't recommend loading this early beta on your production iPad. I know of at least one person that managed to severely crash his iPad with the beta. Also, the battery life running the beta is about half what it normally is. (That's normal for early betas.)

What I can say is that once iOS 11 releases, people that want to be more productive on an iPad most certainly will be. iOS 11 is very kind to iPad power users.

Initial Thoughts on iOS 11 iPad Improvements

I took a lot of notes this morning watching the WWDC Keynote right up until the point they started talking about iPad improvements. At that point I was completely absorbed by the presentation. That's a good sign. I'll be writing/podcasting more about this in the coming days but in the meantime, here are a few thoughts:

  • It's a Mac ... in a good way. So many of the features were very Mac-like. Spaces for instance is very similar to what we already have in macOS but probably even more useful with a touch interface
  • Selecting between multiple pre-arranged spaces is a feature I've always wanted without verbalizing.
  • The redesigned control center is a significant improvement over the iOS 10 three-page version. I still would have preferred to exchange stock apps for better third party alternatives, like switching PCalc for calculator.
  • Files. Amen. My biggest white whale on iOS is dealing with multiple files. Often I'm required to work with multiple documents and until today this was a huge pain point on iOS. With the Files app and Drag and Drop, my iPad got a lot more useful.
  • They only demonstrated iCloud in the Files app. Will we get "favorites" from third party cloud document providers like Dropbox?
  • Does the existence of the Files app indicate they'll make it easier to open and save files to cloud services directly in Apps? That's still pretty clunky.
  • The new 512GB iPads may make sense if you can locally store massive amounts of cloud data locally on your iPad.
  • Multiple file selection with gestures? Yes, thank you.
  • The Dock is another super-useful feature for power users. I need to get hands on this before saying more but that won't be long now.
  • I have a feeling we are going to be wanting app suggestions in our iPhone docks before long.
  • They went through the multitasking stuff very quickly. There's a lot there but it looks like a much-needed improvement.
  • I like the semi-transparency on drag-out multitasking. It really makes the old system feel pedestrian.
  • I am impressed with the scope of Drag and Drop but want to get my hands on it before saying more.
  • Interesting how much focus there was on Apple Pencil. It looks like we'll also still be able to use the Apple Pencil to navigate but we'll know soon enough as the beta gets out.
  • There were significant new improvements to Notes. I didn't expect that.
  • Scan and Sign looks really clever. I hope it works as well as demonstrated.
  • The new QuickType keyboard looks pretty useful. How much time have you spent switching between keyboards on your iPad? Related – the 10.5 iPad software keyboard does not quite appear to be the awesome monster that the 12.9 iPad software keyboard is.

iOS 11 Musings

As Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) approaches, a lot of folks are thinking about what Apple will do next with iOS 11. I am particularly interested to see if they can push the ball forward for iPad. It has been two years since the iPad got any significant love, and an iPad-heavy iOS update is long overdue.

I've been writing about this a lot here at MacSparky, and I'm not alone. Federico Viticci at MacStories wrote an interesting "wish list" for new features in iOS 11, and it is primarily focused on iPad. Viticci and Sam Beckett put together a remarkable concept video for some of their favorite ideas for the new operating system on iPad.

I like nearly all of their ideas. One in particular that makes sense is the idea of the shelf. They've created a drop-down shelf where you can temporarily store files and data. I do something like this already on my Mac with an app called Dropzone. This idea makes even more sense on iOS where moving data between applications is harder than usual. Something like this could alleviate a lot of the bottlenecks that come from working with multiple files on iOS.

Either way, it's been two years, and I sure hope Apple is as ambitious as Viticci and Beckett were. I’ll be at WWDC in a few days and will report back here.