Apple iPad (2018)
THE LEAST EXCITING IPAD UPDATE YET, ALTHOUGH STYLUS SUPPORT ADDS A SOUPÇON OF EXCITEMENT
We’re used to Apple launching products in darkened halls, with the hush of an expectant crowd only broken by the generous distribution of adjectives. “Magical.” “Wonderful.” “Amazing.” “Cool.” By contrast, Apple’s keynote unveiling of the new iPad felt positively downbeat. The keynote wasn’t even in a glamorous location: Apple chose Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago.
This signals a gear change for the iPad. Apple is clearly aware that it’s already reached the vast majority of home users and professionals who are going to buy tablets, and it’s switching its gaze to potentially the biggest market of all: schools. This is the rst iPad to be aimed at students, and that’s re ected in a lower price plus further discounts for educational establishments.
It’s a welcome development, but Apple needs something else if it’s going to schools – and all other potential buyers – interested.
POINT OF DIFFERENCE
There is, if you’ll excuse the pun, one key point of difference: this is the rst non-iPad Pro device to support the Apple Pencil. Nor has Apple scrimped by removing the excellent tilt and pressure-sensitive features that made the $145 Pencil such an excellent adjunct to the iPad Pro.
If you don’t fancy spending a third of the price of the iPad on a stylus, Apple has opened up its technology to third-party manufacturers. The rst of these will be the Logitech Crayon, which was announced alongside the new iPad; it sells for $49 in the US, but we haven’t yet heard what the Australian price will be.
Whether you choose the Apple Pencil or a cheaper alternative, it’s education-focused apps where such a stylus comes into its own. I’ve used the Pencil to draw pictures and take notes in meetings in the past, but the new Smart Annotation feature on Pages feels almost revelatory: you quickly forget you’re annotating a digital le on a touchscreen. Of course, you don’t get the same feedback as a pen on paper, but it’s very close.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
Elsewhere, the new iPad is much less exciting. It’s identical to the previous iPad in terms of looks and physical attributes, right down to the dimensions and weight. Unsurprisingly, it feels the same in the hand too, with an excellent display and a highly responsive touchscreen. The screen is vibrant and colour-accurate, while the contrast ratio is slightly better than the previous model at 1,023:1. Brightness reaches a peak of 507cd/ m2.
It must be said, though, that the iPad’s 9.7in, 2,048 x 1,536 display looks dated alongside the edge-toedge displays we’ve seen on many recent phones, tablets and laptops. The bezel is huge in comparison to rival tablets. This unchanging design does bring advantages, in that existing accessories will continue to work, but history may well suggest that this was the year Apple should have either reduced the size of the iPad or boosted the size of the screen.
The cameras are similarly old-school. On the rear you get an 8-megapixel f/2.4 camera accompanied by an f/2.2 1.2-megapixel “HD FaceTime” camera at the front - the exact same offerings as last year. As before, the front camera is only good enough for FaceTime, but the rear camera remains a strong inclusion for a tablet – although, with no ash and mediocre low-light performance, it’s for use in good conditions only.
There’s still a Touch ID button below the screen (phew) but no Smart Connector for hooking up an external keyboard. Considering students do a fair amount of typing that’s a baf ing omission. That doesn’t mean you can’t use a keyboard at all. For schools
“This is the first iPad to be aimed squarely at students, and that’s reflected in a lower price plus further discounts to schools”
speci cally, Apple is relying on Logitech to provide rugged keyboards and cases that can be dropped from a height of 4ft and shared among students.
Although there are internal upgrades, there’s nothing to get particularly excited about inside the new iPad.
An Apple A10 Fusion processor runs the show, backed by 32GB or 128GB of storage and a choice of either Wi-Fi only or a pricier 4G version. The A10 Fusion chip is a signi cant upgrade on the 2017 model, but falls signi cantly short of the A10X seen in the iPad Pro. This isn’t so much a criticism as an FYI– the different iPads do vary wildly in price after all. The charts on p59 illustrate the difference in performance.
Battery life, unfortunately, isn’t as long as previous iPads. In our standard battery life tests, the 2018 iPad lasted 8hrs 43mins, which compares unfavourably with pretty much every recent iPad. Even modern Windows 10 laptops, such as the Dell XPS 13 on p53, have overtaken it. Although Apple will point out that nigh-on nine hours of life is more than enough to last a school day without charging, in this respect the school report reads “could have done better”.
While Apple has stuck to its hardware guns, it has overhauled the core iOS apps. What’s more, students buying the new iPad now get 200GB of free iCloud storage rather than the measly 5GB they got before.
Firstly, there are new versions of the Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps, complete with extensive support for the Apple Pencil. In addition, there are a whole host of education-focused apps, teacher aids for use in the classroom and an IT management suite, and Apple Pencil-focused updates for apps such as GarageBand.
Pages, in particular, could easily become my go-to notes program now that I can use it with the Apple Pencil, and the Smart Annotation features are such an obvious, welcome addition, it’s a surprise they haven’t been introduced before. Building on the existing markup and annotation features, Smart Annotation lets you select whole chunks of text, mark them up and move them around the page. This is handy if you’ve edited a chunk of text and then want to move it further down the document, for example. Tapping the document with the Apple Pencil brings up the controls along the bottom of the screen and they’re amazingly straightforward to recognise and use.
With the addition of Apple School Manager and the new Schoolwork app, which lets teachers assign homework and track progress, the new iPad is better suited for use in schools than ever before. Only teachers will be able to truly test the effectiveness of such apps, but common sense suggests they will streamline complex processes such as managing more than 30 students and their varying abilities and progress.
MUST TRY HARDER?
I don’t want to be too hard on Apple’s new iPad. It’s the cheapest 9.7in iPad ever, it works with the Apple Pencil and, with a more education-focused software offering, it will have greater appeal to teachers, schools and students than ever before – especially with that generous iCloud offering.
But what about everyone else? At $469 for the 32GB, Wi-Fi-only variant, the new iPad is Apple’s cheapest tablet, undercutting the iPad mini 4 – which is only available with 128GB of storage – by $110. The stiffest competition from an Android tablet (still) comes from the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, which, although a little old, costs $446, is gloriously slim and slight, and includes a fantastic AMOLED display.
However, Google still can’t rival Apple for the ecosystem of apps and add-on hardware available for the iPad. Yes, it’s disappointing that the sole hardware improvement is a slightly faster processor, while the added stylus support is only useful if you hand Apple yet more of your cash, but you’ll be hard pushed to
nd a better tablet anywhere for this price. It fully deserves its place on the A List.
Quad-core 2.34GHz Apple A10 Fusion processor • PowerVR Series7XT Plus graphics • 2GB RAM • 9.7in IPS display, 2,048 x 1,536 resolution • 32GB storage • 8MP/1.2MP rear/ front camera • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 4.2 • Lightning connector • iOS 11 • 32.4Wh battery • 240 x 7.5 x 170mm (WDH) • 469g • 1yr warranty 32GB Wi-Fi, $469 • www.apple.com/au
Apple intends to woo teachers with a comprehensive set of tools