Di­gest­ing the ru­mors: Where’s the ipad Pro go­ing next?

Sift­ing through what’s pos­si­ble and what’s not.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY JA­SON SNELL

If the ru­mors ( go.mac­world.com/iprm) are true—and they are of­ten, if not al­ways—ap­ple is pre­par­ing to re­lease a new gen­er­a­tion of ipad Pro mod­els this fall. I bought the first-gen­er­a­tion 12.9-inch ipad Pro back in 2015 and still use it as my pri­mary por­ta­ble com­puter, so I’m ex­cited at the ru­mors of a ma­jor ipad Pro re­design. Let’s sift through the ru­mors and re­ports and see if we can fig­ure out where the ipad Pro is headed next.

GET­TING BIG­GER AND SMALLER

Ac­cord­ing to sup­ply-chain sleuth Ming-chi Kuo, the new ipad Pros will fea­ture 11-inch and 12.9-inch screens ( go.mac­world.com/129d). This con­tin­ues a trend of

up­siz­ing the smaller ipad Pro model, which was in­tro­duced in early 2016 as a 9.7-inch model (the tra­di­tional ipad size), then re­placed with a 10.5-inch ver­sion in 2017.

Ap­ple’s done a good job of sep­a­rat­ing the stan­dard ipad from the ipad Pro in the last cou­ple of years, drop­ping the price of that model while re­tain­ing the clas­sic 9.7-inch size. Up­grad­ing the smaller ipad Pro with a larger screen helps keep the two dis­tinct, and adding a half an inch of di­ag­o­nal screen space to the new model will give ipad Pro users even more room to work.

Be­tween up­grad­ing the smaller model and re­tain­ing the larger one, Ap­ple’s set­ting up a dy­namic that’s re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to a cal­cu­la­tion the com­pany made about the proper sizes of lap­tops a few years ago: In the hey­day of the Mac­book Air, there were 11- and 13-inch mod­els—and we’re on the precipice of hav­ing the same be true of the ipad Pro, give or take a tenth of an inch.

But de­spite the up­grade in screen size, all the ru­mors point to de­vices with dra­mat­i­cally shrunken bezels. Con­sider these ipad Pros as up­grades in the style of the iphone X: small bezels, no more home but­ton, and the in­tro­duc­tion of a

Truedepth sen­sor to sup­port Face ID. That means that the smaller model shouldn’t grow too much de­spite its screen up­grade, and the larger-screened model should ac­tu­ally get smaller. I love the 12.9-inch ipad Pro, but there’s no deny­ing that it’s big. Ev­ery mil­lime­ter that can be shaved off of the larger ipad Pro will ap­pre­cia­bly im­prove it.

SMART CON­NEC­TORS AND KEY­BOARDS

The orig­i­nal ipad Pro mod­els in­tro­duced a new con­nec­tion type, the Smart Con­nec­tor, a mag­netic pe­riph­eral clip placed on the de­vice’s wide edge. It was added so that Ap­ple could cre­ate a key­board ac­ces­sory, the Smart Key­board, that at­tached to that edge and could both get power and trans­mit data across the Smart Con­nec­tor. It was a great move by Ap­ple to ac­knowl­edge that some users need to do a lot of typ­ing on their ipad

Pros, and that an ul­tra­portable key­board that was al­ways with you and never needed to charge or be paired wire­lessly was the per­fect so­lu­tion.

So what to make of the (some­what fuzzy) ru­mors that the smart con­nec­tor is be­ing re­lo­cated ( go.mac­world.com/smlc) to a spot on the nar­row side of the ipad Pro, just be­hind the Light­ning con­nec­tor ( go.mac­world. com/bhlc)?

My first re­ac­tion is, quite sim­ply, dis­be­lief. You at­tach the Smart

Key­board to the ipad on the wide side be­cause the wider you can make a key­board, the more full-sized you can make the keys. Also, while dif­fer­ent use cases can vary, I use my ipad Pro in a hor­i­zon­tal ori­en­ta­tion more than 90 per­cent of the time…it’s pri­mar­ily hor­i­zon­tal in the same way that the iphone is pri­mar­ily ver­ti­cal.

I’m still not en­tirely con­vinced that this ru­mor is true, but if it is, that prob­a­bly sug­gests Ap­ple is up to some­thing rad­i­cal, some­thing that in­volves a back case, not just a front cover. Ap­ple used to make a Smart Case for the ipad that snapped on the back and wrapped around to the front—my wife used one for years and is still sad that Ap­ple doesn’t make one for her 10.5-inch ipad Pro.

Could it be that Ap­ple’s think­ing of of­fer­ing a key­board that’s in­te­grated with a Smart Case? It’s not a bad guess, though that strikes me as be­ing not enough of a rea­son to relocate the Smart Con­nec­tor to such a strange lo­ca­tion. My dream ac­ces­sory from Ap­ple is one that con­verts the ipad Pro into a more

tra­di­tional lap­top shape, with a key­board that can lay flat in my lap while hold­ing up the screen. I use an ac­ces­sory like that ( go.mac­world.com/br12), but I’d imag­ine that Ap­ple could make some­thing even bet­ter if it wanted to. (And while I’m fan­ta­siz­ing, can I sug­gest it fea­ture a track­pad, too? I’m not in the camp who be­lieves tablets with­out point­ing de­vices aren’t “real PCS,” ( go. mac­world.com/smbz) but I’d still like to move the IOS text cur­sor around with­out lift­ing my hands up to the screen.)

Still, I keep feel­ing like we’re hear­ing hoof steps and think­ing ze­bras here. To me, the most log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion is that what­ever ap­pears in those ru­mor-gen­er­at­ing CAD draw­ings is ei­ther a sec­ond Smart Con­nec­tor or some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. If Ap­ple ditches the sim­plic­ity and ex­cel­lence of the Smart Key­board for some­thing that man­dates a back shell or makes dis­con­nect­ing and re­con­nect­ing the key­board a has­sle, that will be an un­for­tu­nate re­gres­sion.

EV­ERY­THING ELSE

The 2017 ipad Pro mod­els are pow­ered by the A10X Fu­sion chip. While it’s a safe bet that this fall’s iphones will be pow­ered by an A12 chip—when in doubt, in­cre­ment by one—i think it’s also a safe bet that the ipad Pro will be pow­ered by an A11X, an adap­ta­tion to the chip in the iphone X and iphone 8. The A10 was a four-core de­sign, and Ap­ple adapted it for the ipad Pro by adding two cores to the A10X. With a larger bat­tery than the iphone, the ipad’s needs and power pro­file are a bit dif­fer­ent than the iphone’s.

Then again, it’s pos­si­ble that Ap­ple’s chip de­signs have be­come so pow­er­ful that some­thing like an A12 could be the per­fect chip across the IOS prod­uct line. But if I had to place a bet, I’d guess that Ap­ple will build an A11X chip that’s a vari­ant of the pro­ces­sor in the iphone X, but tweaked for the par­tic­u­lar needs of the ipad Pro.

I men­tioned the re­moval of the home but­ton and the ad­di­tion of the Truedepth cam­era. On the iphone X, Face ID only works in ver­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tion, but the ipad is a de­vice that is very com­monly (I would say pri­mar­ily) used in hor­i­zon­tal ori­en­ta­tion. Speak­ing as some­one who is not in­ter­ested in ro­tat­ing my ipad ev­ery time I want to un­lock it, I am go­ing to guess that Ap­ple has ei­ther placed a pair of

My dream ac­ces­sory from Ap­ple is one that con­verts the ipad Pro into a more tra­di­tional lap­top shape, with a key­board that can lay flat in my lap while hold­ing up the screen.

front-fac­ing cam­eras on the ipad Pro, or more likely has im­proved the Face ID soft­ware so that it can read a per­son’s face in ei­ther hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tions.

An­other bit of spec­u­la­tion about the new ipad Pros is that they may fi­nally fol­low the iphone in send­ing the stan­dard 3.5mm head­phone jack into obliv­ion, re­quir­ing a Light­ning adapter if you want to use wired head­phones. It cer­tainly wouldn’t sur­prise me if this hap­pened, though I’m skep­ti­cal that it’s re­ally nec­es­sary—the ipad is very large and space isn’t quite at the same pre­mium as on the iphone. I use wired head­phones to edit pod­casts on the ipad Pro all the time, and while these days I carry a Light­ning adapter in the same bag as my wired head­phones, it would be un­for­tu­nate if I could no longer charge my ipad or at­tach an ac­ces­sory while also lis­ten­ing.

In the long run, I do won­der how the ipad Pro is go­ing to ap­proach ex­ter­nal ports. The more the ipad Pro be­comes com­puter-like, the more it be­comes a fair ques­tion to ask if it might not be a bad idea to add a sec­ond Light­ning port, or even a USB-C port, to the de­vice. That’s not a chal­lenge for Ap­ple’s hard­ware team, though—it’s a chal­lenge on the soft­ware side, be­cause ios’s sup­port for USB de­vices (cur­rently via a Light­ning adapter) is pretty mea­ger. If you can’t at­tach a hard drive or con­nect a card reader and see the con­tents na­tively in IOS, why even bother with USB?

I’m ex­cited about where the ipad Pro is (ap­par­ently) go­ing. It’s one of my fa­vorite Ap­ple prod­ucts of the last five years and it fits into my life so much that I rarely crack open my Mac­book Air. The re­turn of the stan­dard ipad to the prod­uct line also frees the ipad Pro to get more pro, with­out fear that new fea­tures will push the start­ing price of the ipad line too high.

What I’m say­ing is, while I’m con­fused by a few of the ru­mors sur­round­ing the next ipad Pro mod­els, I can’t wait to see them. The whole world will be watch­ing in Septem­ber for the de­tails of the lat­est iphones, but I’m go­ing to be cheer­ing the loud­est for a new ipad Pro. ■

Note: This is­sue of Mac­world was com­plete prior to the Septem­ber Ap­ple Event.

The Smart Con­nec­tor is cur­rently on the wide edge of the ipad Pro. Will that change this year?

Will you need Ap­ple’s Light­ning-to-3.5mm head­phone adapter with the new ipad Pro?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.