It’s time to start caring about the iPad again.
Apple’s iPad is no longer the sexy thing that had an entire episode of Modern Family built around it. It’s rounding the bend toward a decade in the marketplace and has seen sales declines for most of the last half-dozen quarters.
But something happened on Monday during the WWDC 2017 keynote. The iPad’s big brother, the more powerful iPad Pro, became something else. It’s still not quite a laptop, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to say it’s just a tablet.
No one was surprised to see a 10.5-inch iPad, a model that sits nearly between the giant 12.9-inch original and the more traditionally sized 9.7-inch model. What did surprise, though, was all the attention Apple paid to the iPad in the update to its mobile platform: iOS 11.
1. That new Mac-like dock
With a bigger display than ever, there’s no reason why the dock should be limited to just a handful of apps. Now, you can add a lot more apps to that dock and easily access it from within any other app. The dock is also contextually aware: the last app in the row will change depending on your habits.
2. Drag and Drop
Since the beginning of iOS, one of the most irritating features has been that stupid magnifying glass interface for copying and pasting. The new iPad Pro doesn’t eliminate it entirely, but the new Drag and Drop feature may make you forget (almost) all bout it. Now, with Drag and Drop, you can move photos and blocks of text between apps with just a couple of gestures.
3. Smarter Multitasking
The app switcher looks a lot more like Spaces on macOS. You can see all the apps you have open, along with Control Center shortcuts, and rearrange their order and customize their appearance.
While Apple previously added multitasking features like Split View, the new app switcher shows Apple is embracing iPad productivity in a whole new way.
4. Refresh Rate
The last time consumers really thought about refresh rate was when they bought an HDTV and even most of those companies have stopped talking about how many times per second their screens refreshed (anything lower than 60Hz and the screen flickers, sports stays smooth with 120Hz). No one’s been talking about these rates in the context of computer monitors in ages, and it’s never been a part of the tablet equation.
Now, though, with the iPad Pro, it’s a thing.
Apple’s new iPad Pro 10.5-inch auto adjusts refresh rate based on task. Not only might dynamic refresh rates make action movies and games look better on the tablet, but there could be battery savings based on lower refresh rates for less intense activities.
Sure, it’s a bit of an unusual bet by Apple, but it’s also worth watching. Will other manufacturers start talking refresh rates again?
5. Better Apple Pencil
Yes, there’s a silly new $29 case that you probably don’t really need, but the Apple Pencil has learned a few more tricks.
While Apple has spent the last year and a half touting the artistic capabilities of Apple Pencil, most of the updates Apple showed off on Monday relate to productivity, which makes sense when you think about how hard Apple is working to make the iPad Pro a new kind of laptop.
With the iOS 11 update, what you write with Pencil in Notes will instantly become searchable text (no words on the limits of legibility), and you can also add inline drawing to text documents.
In addition, some of the tablet component and software updates should make Pencil drawing, note-taking and markup even more fluid.
These changes help transition the iPad Pro from simply the iPad’s bigger, stronger brother into a MacBook cousin one that is lighter, has excellent battery life, and an interface that with each iteration becomes more and more recognizable to macOS fans.