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iPad Pro 10.5 Early Impressions

I was genuinely torn on size this time. It took me a while to warm up to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro when I got it in the Fall of 2015, but eventually I learned to appreciate it. I still very much like the 12.9-inch size, especially for stage use. But the better portability of the smaller version—the one-hand ability of it—proved too much of a temptation.

If Apple had kept the smaller Pro screen at 9.7-inch, I probably would have stayed with the larger variant. But that little extra boost to 10.5 was enough of a difference to at least make me want to try it. Who knows? Maybe next time I’ll go back to the bigger screen. It really is a matter of preference, and I totally understand anyone who wants either size.

It’s nice that both models now have feature parity, so you don’t have to compromise anything else when choosing the screen size you want. I wish the same were true of the MacBook Pro.

Other impressions:

  • Although the 10.5 iPad Pro is visibly a little bigger than the 9.7 when you put them next to each other, it doesn’t feel any bigger. The weight is basically the same, which is what matters most in an iPad.
  • The higher refresh rate is cool, but not earth-shattering for me. I notice it most when launching apps in the smoothness of the animation. But for regular scrolling, it’s a minor difference to my eyes at best. I’m not heavily into games, so I guess I’m just not very attuned to higher frame rates. This is nowhere near as impactful as Retina, by any measure.
  • Speaking of Retina, I am a bit bummed Apple didn’t go with the higher pixel density and keep the pixel dimensions of the 12.9, as some had predicted. To me, the iPad’s 264 ppi has always been a disappointment. Not high enough to avoid seeing pixels, for my better-than-perfect near vision. (Look at the W on the on-screen keyboard, for an obvious example of the jaggies.) I’d much rather have the iPhone’s 326 ppi on iPad, just as it was on the Retina mini, even if that meant slightly smaller touch targets. It would offer more UI real estate for two-full split-screened apps. As it stands, the extra screen real estate is minimized by the lower pixel density. It’s not at all unlike the difference between the iPhone SE and iPhone 6 or 7. Yeah, you can see a few extra lines of text, but who cares? At least in this case, it didn’t make the device harder to manipulate or carry, so it’s still a net positive, unlike the iPhone.
  • I will miss the 12.9 when it comes to watching video. Man, that large screen was immersive. The 10.5 is still great, but it’s not quite the same experience.
  • The pencil lag. Oh, my. Now this is a true improvement. Forget scrolling. The pencil lag is now just about non-existent, and it makes a huge difference. If I were an artist who used my Apple Pencil very regularly, I’d run out and upgrade without hesitation, even if I had last-year’s Pro 9.7.
  • The new Pro is fast. Nothing in the UI skips a beat anywhere that I can find. But no iPad since the Air 2 has felt slow, so this isn’t that big a deal. Still, it’s nice to know Apple keeps pushing the boundaries of what the hardware can do. More RAM and faster CPU can only help bring more pro software to this thing that much faster. (I can’t wait to get up to 8GB of RAM on one of these.)
  • I never got fully used to typing with the larger 12.9 on-screen keyboard. I’m actually faster and more accurate on the 9.7. The 10.5 is only slightly larger than the 9.7, so I’m back to my full typing capabilities. (I never use an external keyboard with iPads. Sort of defeats the purpose of a tablet to me.)
  • This is my first iPad with True Tone. I approve. I will have to turn it off while testing color in designs, but for day-to-day use, it’s very nice.
  • I went with cellular again. People disagree with me on this, but the bottom line is that T-Mobile offers very reasonable pre-paid data rates, and Personal Hotspot is just not reliable enough. It usually works fine once I get it going, but getting it going is often an exercise in frustration. Not to mention, it burns down my iPhone battery needlessly.
  • I’m still running iOS 10—for now. I suspect I’ll cave and install the beta of iOS 11 when the second or third version gets released. I do want to start testing all my apps with the new multitasking features over the summer. I suspect I’ll be even more thrilled with this iPad when I do that update.

Overall, I’m excited. Along with iOS 11 improvements, the new iPad Pro should allow me to do more of my work without having to lug a MacBook around every single day. And since I’m planning on moving to a larger 13-inch MacBook Pro soon, the smaller size of the 10.5 will be welcome when I do still want to travel around the city with both.

I suspect a lot of people with older iPads are finally going to upgrade this year. Certainly, if you have an iPad Air or earlier, it’s time. iOS 11’s multitasking won’t be nearly as useful unless you’re at least on an Air 2.

Here We Go Again With iPad

When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPad in 2010, he described the tablet as a product that sat somewhere between the laptop and the smartphone, excelling at tasks like browsing the web, reviewing photos and watching videos.

Five years later, Mr. Jobs’s successor, Timothy D. Cook, took the iPad a step further. Unveiling the iPad Pro, a souped-up tablet that worked with Apple’s keyboard and stylus, he remarked that people would try the product and “conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.”

(via the New York Times)

I wait for these silly articles every time a new iPad arrives. It marks the passing of time, like the equinox, or a new season of the Simpsons. Comforting, really, to know that some things just keep happening no matter what else goes on in the world.

Never mind that people keep conveniently leaving the word “many” out of that Tim Cook quote to make it sound like he made a bold prediction about all of computing that turned out not to be true. The fact of the matter is, for many people, an iPad is all they need. That doesn’t mean iPad can only win if no one ever needs a PC ever again.

As I wrote two years ago, what Steve Jobs said about iPad in 2010 is as true today as it ever was. At certain specific tasks, iPad is both better than a phone and better than a laptop. There are plenty of use cases, as evidenced by the millions of people using iPads professionally daily, to keep iPad in business for a long time to come.

If you spend a few days working with the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and your big gripe is the keyboard, you're missing the point entirely.

Information Density and the New App Store Design

I’ve heard rumblings from some in the iOS community about the new App Store design regarding density of information. “There are fewer things on screen, so there’s less being featured” is the gist of the argument.

Uh, no.

By definition, to feature something is to make it stand out. The more items you “feature” on a screen at once, the less effective any one of those features will be.

There may be fewer featured items on any particular screen, but these larger featured items are far more likely to grab the customer’s attention, in other words.

Looking at the current App Store now, especially on iPhone, I’m not surprised at all that “being featured” isn’t bringing in the downloads as effectively as it used to. It’s very easy to get lost on any screen in that sea of icons and small banners.

My impression of the new App Store at first glance was “Finally. This looks like an Apple Store, not a bargain basement.”

Others have compared the layout to a nice high-end magazine, which makes sense, given the design language borrowed from the News app. The point is, the new App Store is clean, beautiful, and focused. And just like the Apple Stores, it invites people to come and hang out, not just run in when they need to buy something. It’s somewhere you want to visit. To learn. To engage. And then maybe to shop.

This is a good thing.

Apple learned a great deal while becoming the world’s most successful retailer. And that knowledge has finally made its way to this new digital storefront.

And about that “featuring fewer things” argument: It ignores another important fact about this new App Store.

If it’s not obvious from the title of the first tab, the store will for the first time now be getting updated, at least in part, daily. That’s a big change from the weekly update schedule Apple has maintained since the beginning of the App Store. You can’t name something “Today” and then not update it every day. So instead of a few new items getting featured once a week, something new will be featured every single day. There are also different categories of features, including profiles with developers, tutorials, curated collections, behind the scenes looks, and more. Apple also says it will be refreshing content all over the store every few days. This is going to take a tremendous amount of work to maintain, and Apple has staffed up in order to maintain it. That’s big news.

Apple has been known from time to time to put one or two people on important projects and expect too much from them. From what I’ve heard from little birdies around WWDC this week, App Store Editorial is getting resourced appropriately for this new increase in curated content. They are committed to it.

What this means is that there will be many more features than ever before, not fewer. And people will have more incentive to visit daily and take a look at each feature.

And it’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily need to be a giant company with insider access to get featured (though I’m sure that doesn’t hurt). Visit appstore.com/promote and tell Apple your story. Impress the editorial staff, and you have a decent shot at getting into one of these features.

Time to hone those sales pitch skills, indies.

Currently, App Store is an app you only use when you already want to buy something, not a destination unto itself. This new design aims to change that. Only time will tell if it works, but I think Monika Gromek and her team have done a tremendous job with it. I’m sure they will adjust and refine the design over time as it gets out into the wild.

The more people there are hanging out in the App Store to read about featured content, the more likely they will eventually buy something. That’s retail 101. If you give people a reason to visit daily, you will increase sales organically.

I have a lot more to say about the App Store redesign, and I’ll be talking about it more in the coming weeks, both here and on the podcast. If you have apps on the App Store, go watch every WWDC video related to App Store, iTunesConnect, and StoreKit. I know all that Machine Learning and AR stuff is tempting, but your slick new app won’t be going anywhere if you don’t present it effectively in this new store.

More on Facebook

Some folks had a little fun with me yesterday, when I posted about not outsourcing your online presence to Facebook. Once the link was tweeted by Marco Arment (thanks, Marco!) my site promptly got bombarded. And because of poorly configured cache settings on my part after a recent update (long story), my entire server crashed hard.

Maybe you should have posted that to Facebook?

This wouldn’t have happened on Facebook!

And so on.

Fair enough. I deserve that.

Here’s the thing, though: In the face of this issue, in fewer than 24 hours, I managed to move that post, along with my entire blog, onto a new server1, using a completely different blogging engine, point my DNS over to the new server, and maintain the same link retweeted yesterday, so that article can now continue to be read for years to come. And I can do that again whenever new technology either makes that necessary or desirable.

Try doing that with a Facebook link.

  1. Shout out to Curtis Herbert for helping me configure the new site for maximum robustness. And it looks pretty spiffy, too.

Outsourcing Your Online Presence

The original post by Marc Haynes was public, which I know because I do not have a Facebook account, but here’s what it looks like for me without being a Facebook user — a full one-third of my window is covered by a pop-over trying to get me to sign in or sign up for Facebook. I will go out of my way to avoid linking to websites that are hostile to users with pop-overs.

(via Daring Fireball)

As someone who hasn’t logged into Facebook for more than three years, I have to say, I totally agree with the sentiment here. Whenever I follow a Facebook link, and the crap banner pops up trying to get me to log in, I immediately hit the back button and curse the jerk who tricked me into clicking.

Look, I get that I’m the nut who doesn’t want to use Facebook. I’m not even saying don’t post your stuff to Facebook. But if Facebook is the only place you are posting something, know that you are shutting out people like me for no good reason. Go ahead and post to Facebook, but post it somewhere else, too. Especially if you’re running a business.

The number of restaurants, bars, and other local establishments that, thanks to crappy web sites they can’t update, post their daily specials, hours, and important announcements only via Facebook is growing. That’s maddening. Want to know if we’re open this holiday weekend? Go to Facebook.

Go to hell.

It’s 2017. There are a million ways to get a web site set up inexpensively that you can easily update yourself. Setting up a Facebook page and letting your web site rot, or worse, not even having a web site of your own, is outsourcing your entire online presence. That’s truly insane. It’s a massive risk to your business, and frankly, stupid.