MATT BOLTON…

sees both the agony and the ec­stasy in one place on his new iPad pro, and its abom­inable key­board case

Mac Format - - APPLE CORE -

As es­tab­lished else­where in this is­sue, the new iPad Pro is very nice in­deed. I have the 12.9-inch model, and the im­pres­sive thin­ness com­bined with how small it feels de­spite the size of screen make it feel like we’re get­ting a fa­bled bit of Ap­ple ‘magic’ in the tablet for the first time in years.

The flat front, sides and back give it an in­ter­est­ing feel­ing, like it’s an in­ert slab that im­ages mag­i­cally ap­pear on, rather than a de­signed ob­ject with er­gonomics and tech­nol­ogy. The un­blem­ished smooth­ness gives it an ex­tra air of qual­ity – flaw­less alu­minium and glass.

And then I put the key­board case on it and it sud­denly looks like a notepad bulk-or­dered by IBM for peo­ple to carry around with their ThinkPads in the 90s.

I can’t work out whether I’d find it as of­fen­sive if it didn’t cost £199, but it does, so who cares. If it was made of leather and came in rich blue and deep red, I could prob­a­bly take it at that price. But it’s so un­remit­tingly grey. It’s the colour of peat bog. The hue of the in­side of an ex­haust pipe. It’s what I imag­ine peo­ple with synaes­the­sia see when John Ma­jor talks.

It has a su­per-plain ex­te­rior, with only a sin­gle crease where you fold it for typ­ing, which I would find ap­peal­ing if there was any­thing to ac­tu­ally look at. In­stead, its per­fect flat grey­ness ac­tively re­jects the eye’s gaze. You can barely fo­cus on it, like an oleo­pho­bic coat­ing for hu­man in­ter­est. I mean, it’s a per­fectly good key­board, but then I’ve used other per­fectly good key­boards that did not cost as much as my last MOT.

The dis­con­nect be­tween th­ese two ob­jects feels so vast, I keep won­der­ing how they can come from the same com­pany. Do the ac­ces­sories cross Jony Ive’s desk? Surely the Pen­cil has his prob­a­bly-some­how-to­tally-smooth fin­ger­prints all over it, but does he just check out the sec­ond keys are in­volved? Be­cause I can­not imag­ine him tak­ing his new iPad Pro to show his buddy Marc New­son, proudly wrapped in this grey abom­i­na­tion, crow­ing about what a beau­ti­ful and pris­tine ode to the tone of tar­mac it is.

The thing is, I feel like this kind of de­sign is­sue is start­ing to ap­ply to more Ap­ple prod­ucts. That old iPhone bat­tery case with the square pack stick­ing out of the back springs to mind.

When Ap­ple only made a hand­ful of prod­ucts, and a few ac­ces­sories to match, it felt like ev­ery­thing got the same metic­u­lous treat­ment. Even iPod socks, though kinda weird, were im­pec­ca­ble colours, with vis­ual in­ter­est from a two-tone fin­ish.

But now Ap­ple makes seven phones, five tablets, nine Macs, I can’t count how many watches… it feels like some things don’t get the same keen fix­a­tion on beau­ti­ful de­sign, even if the qual­ity is still ex­cel­lent.

But then, it’s only as bad as the orig­i­nal iPad’s case, and Steve Jobs in­tro­duced that.

It’s so grey – it’s like an oleo­pho­bic coat­ing for hu­man in­ter­est

This just makes me sigh ev­ery time I see it. What a big clean can­vas to do ab­so­lute­ly­noth­ing with…

Tech21 joined up with the store Lib­erty to put the lat­ter’s fa­mous fab­ric de­signs on phone cases.

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