Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The New iPad Pro Models Are Iterative Updates on the Last Generation, and Everybody Really Wants to Try the New Magic Keyboard

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

The first reviews of the new iPad Pro have hit the web and we’ve rounded them up below.

Given that trackpad support is coming to all modern iPad models with iPadOS 13.4, set to be released later today, the actual hardware changes to the 2020 iPad Pro are rather minor. Reviews confirm that the device’s new A12Z Bionic chip has very similar CPU performance as the previous A12X chip, and beyond that, the only additions are an Ultra Wide camera, LiDAR scanner, and better sounding microphones.

John Gruber:

In short, if you’re an AR junkie, you should jump all over the new iPad Pro. If you’re not an AR junkie — which is to say the overwhelming majority of you — well, it’s not that big a deal. I don’t mean to be dismissive of AR and ARKit. I think an AR revolution is coming, and the whole “use your iPhone and iPad as ARKit devices” effort on Apple’s part — and it’s a massive effort — is laying the groundwork for an AR-first device to hit the ground running with developer support from day one. But are there really people for whom ARKit-powered apps are so important right now that they’ll upgrade to a new iPad just for lidar support? I suppose the answer is yes — for example, developers working on ARKit apps and games. But for most people the answer is clearly no.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another time when new camera hardware or features from Apple debuted on a non-iPhone device.

In his review for the Verge, Dieter Bohn says that lidar is cool, but it’s one more piece of hardware for a software world that doesn’t exist yet. The new iPads also maybe possibly have 6 GB of RAM apiece, too — not just the high-end models. Both of these things continue a years-long narrative about the iPad as a product category: the hardware outpaces the software by years. There’s a good argument to be made that, because people will be using these things for a very long time, it makes sense to give them hardware that will allow for plenty of growth. But it also means that there’s little to try this new stuff out of the box, and its future viability depends on developer support.

That includes Apple. It has released an updated version of ARKit that allows developers to take advantage of the special qualities of the lidar sensor in these new iPads. Presumably, some new iPhones released later this year will have the same capabilities, and it looks like it makes a huge difference in the accuracy and reliability of augmented reality software.

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:

Currently, iPadOS is still too closely tethered to the sacred cow of simplicity. In a strange bout of irony, the efforts on behalf of the iPad software team to keep things simple (same icons, same grid, same app switching paradigms) and true to their original intent have instead caused a sort of complexity to creep into the arrangement.

The current system of inscrutable gestures and indeterminate window focus reads, to me, like a lack of confidence in the iPad’s ability to grow and change. I don’t know that Panzarino’s ideas are the correct solution, but they are an idea that helps solve multitasking on the iPad for its unique context.

The trackpad and mouse support in iPadOS 13.4 is, similarly, a change that shows renewed confidence in the iPad as a discrete platform. It is a welcome upgrade to a project that began as an accessibility feature that combines references to traditional computer interfaces with a smart reconsideration of how it ought to behave in a touch environment. I don’t think I would want an iPad-style cursor in MacOS, but I also would not want to see a Mac-style cursor on an iPad. Neither makes sense outside of its context.

On that note, a consistent thread in all of these reviews is that the new Magic Keyboard accessory is the real news in iPad World. But, because it won’t be shipping for several weeks, and there is no way to do a remote hands-on area for equally remote press briefings, nobody has tried it yet. The good news is that, unless you need lidar hardware, there are few changes over the 2018 iPad Pro models, which you can pick up for a significant discount. And the Magic Keyboard is compatible with those models as well.