The iPad’s Sins

Federico Viticci did an outstanding job cataloging ways in which getting work done on your iPad is still difficult in 2024. What’s most frustrating about this list is that many of these points could have (and were) written about ten years ago.

It is frustrating when you consider the untapped potential of the iPad. With different stewardship, it could have been so much more by now. I keep coming back to the conclusion that the iPad didn’t blossom into something more because Apple is not interested (or interested enough) in doing that. Even more so with the recent Mac renaissance, Apple, through its actions, is saying, “The iPad is for people with simple tasks who don’t want the complexity of a Mac, and the Mac is for all that complex work.” If you just look at the sales spreadsheets, you could argue that that is the right approach.

But as an Apple fan, that isn’t satisfactory to me. Apple has often been the tech company with both the vision and temerity to blaze a new path. With the iPad, all the pieces are there. The hardware is innovative and cutting edge, but when it comes to software, Apple just doesn’t seem interested in taking the training wheels off of iPadOS.

Hypothetical M4 iPads

Mark Gurman is now reporting that the new iPad Pro we’ll get next week may include the M4 chip. Because that particular chip is expected to have new AI features, the argument is that adding it to the new iPad Pro would help boost sales as Apple goes deeper into AI at WWDC in June.

While I think Apple will turn the M4’s AI features into a selling point, I find it hard to believe we’ll get one next week. They still haven’t released the M3 chip for all the existing Mac hardware. Wouldn’t it be strange if an iPad had an M4 while the Mac Studio was still on an M2? The good news is we don’t have to wait long to find out.

Does iPad (and Mac) Reliability Explain Slowing Upgrade Cycles?

Apple didn’t release any new iPad hardware this year, but according to Ming-Chi Kuo, that’s changing next year with iPad updates across the board, including the long-awaited OLED iPad Pro.

That’s good, and I hope that’s all true. But I also know how easy it was to go a year without iPad upgrades. I routinely hear from listeners and readers wanting to know about future iPhones and Macs. Questions about upcoming iPad hardware are a lot more rare.

To me, this is a better indicator of Apple’s success with the iPad than its failure to ship new iPad hardware in 2023. Now, the iPads are so solid and reliable that folks are waiting a long time to upgrade.

I purchased my iPad Pro in 2019. It still works great, and I don’t expect to buy an OLED iPad in 2024. For a nerd like me, four-going-on-five-year-old Apple hardware says something.

To pile onto this point (and I’ve been saying this on the podcast for a while now), I think we’ll get to the same place with the Apple silicon Macs. Apple has done an excellent job of figuring out Mac hardware, particularly with the arrival of their M-series chips. I expect we’ll be happy and hang on to them for a long time. That’s one of the reasons why I think Mac shipments (as reported by Apple last week) are down. The hardware is excellent and lasts a long time. That results in slower upgrade cycles, and that’s good!

I also expect this will be no surprise to Apple which partially explains why services are becoming such a big deal to them.

My Current Relationship With the iPad

Last week Jason Snell and John Gruber weighed in on what they’re doing with their iPads these days. I, too, have a much-simplified relationship with my iPad.

For years, I tried to turn the iPad into a production machine. I still love the idea of sitting down with a piece of glass and getting real work done. But there were just too many hoops to jump through for much of my work. I remember at one point sitting in a meeting as a lawyer while we were discussing the purchase of a company. An accountant in the room sent me ten spreadsheets to review. I had an iPad Pro and thought to myself, “How am I going to keep up with everybody in the room trying to process these files on an iPad?“ The answer, it turns out, is that I didn’t.

The real turning point for me was a dinner conversation with my children. Both were in college and using their iPads and were very happy with them. They explained how they used them to take class notes, work on outlines, and make themselves flashcards. It sounded like an Apple commercial.

I realized as I listened to them that they were using the iPad just like Apple envisions it. They were not looking at edge case uses but instead using it for what it is good at. That is when the switch flipped in my brain, and I changed my relationship with the iPad.

People will tell you that if you’re in a relationship with another human and think you can change them, you’re on a fool’s errand. I feel like the same goes for the iPad. You have to accept it for what it is to enjoy using it.

It’s been several years of me using the iPad as Apple intended instead of as I wanted. I can tell you the relationship is a lot healthier. I still use it all the time (indeed, I am dictating this blog post on my iPad mini.), But I’m not trying to get it to record podcasts or perform any task that requires me to do silly things like setting up server connections or gimmicky Rube Goldberg-based automation schemes.

The iPad remains a production-plus-consumption device for me. I write on it, research on it, and plan on it. But as soon as I meet any significant resistance, I set it down and pick up a Mac.

So, the iPad and I are settled and at peace with one another. I still wish Apple would give the iPad more horsepower. There are many ways Apple could make these devices, which run on Apple silicon, take on Mac-type work. Until then, I’m done swimming upstream. I use my iPad as the maker intended.

Getting back to those posts by Jason and John, I usually bring my iPad mini and MacBook Air when I travel. I generally find nothing I can’t do without those two machines. 

Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad

For many years we’ve been asking for them. Now we are getting them. Apple explains these apps are designed for a “touch-first” interface. Interestingly, while we’ve been waiting for these apps on the iPad, very credible pro-level video and audio apps have already established themselves. Both apps will release on May 23. I’m looking forward to seeing how they work.

Separately, it is curious that Apple will release these apps before WWDC. Could that mean Apple’s dance card is already full for the WWDC Keynote? If so, we may get more interesting announcements in the weeks leading up to WWDC.

The Rumored iPad Pro 2024 Revamp

Mark Gurman is reporting that our next major iPad revamp will be next year with a design overhaul to the iPad Pro, possibly with a glass back, instead of the current aluminum design.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m always interested in new designs, but I dig the current design. And an extra 11” (or 13”!) piece of glass would be heavy and much more prone to breaking than the current aluminum back.

There have also been rumors of bigger iPads up to 16 inches. I’d like to see that. The iPad needs a Hannah Montana to Wrecking Ball sort of transformation, and a bigger one would help that along. Personally, a larger iPad on my desk acting as a Sidecar screen/Universal Control device/status board would be cool.

And while the hardware team continues to march forward, we still have all these questions about the iPad software stack. It could be so much more.

iPad Keyboard Shortcuts

I’ve linked to Jeff Richardson at iPhone J.D. before. What you may not know is that Jeff not only loves his iPhone, he largely uses his iPad in lieu of a laptop. That’s why I was interested to read his recent post summarizing his favorite iPad keyboard shortcuts.

Because historically the iPad wasn’t much of a team player in terms of keyboard shortcuts, it’s easy to forget that is now a thing. You can work a lot faster on your iPad once you get these under your fingers. Perhaps, most importantly is that you remember that long-pressing the command key should get you a list of available keyboard shortcuts in most of iPadOS and iPad apps.