For that demographic, Apple has framed the big tablet — which has an optional keyboard and stylus — as a possible replacement for the laptop. (Well, for PC laptops, anyway. Apple's not about to diss its own Macs.)
So, to test it, I did just that. For the past several days, I’ve been using the iPad Pro that Apple provided to The Post instead of the laptop that I typically use for work. In fact, I'm using it to write this article, right now. At a base price of $800 — that soars to $1080 if you want cellular coverage — it's not a small investment to make. So I put it through some real world tests to see if it could indeed handle the burdens of the modern workday.
The iPad Pro performed much more smoothly than I thought it would. Perhaps its best feature is the screen. It's a stunning display that is great for watching movies, particularly given the iPad Pro's four speakers. But the screen really shines in the work context — staring at it all day long is not a horrible experience. It is bright and crisp for a reading experience that is easy on the eyes. And yet it doesn't seem to suck up too much power. I was easily able to get through an average day at work — mostly writing and chatting with colleagues on the tablet — though I did have to plug it in on particularly long work days.
Beyond that, the iPad Pro addresses some of the annoyances of using a tablet at work. Part of why I've always been reluctant to go with a tablet in the office is the fact that I'm an incurable multitasker. And whooshing through open apps is hardly conducive to serious work. The latest update to the iOS operating system, which comes standard on the iPad Pro, helps some of that. You can have two apps open side-by-side, and even keep a video playing in the corner if you want to watch something from iTunes while you work.
I still had to do some app-switching when I needed more than a few programs running simultaneously — at one point I was watching an event online, taking notes and chatting with co-workers — but not nearly as often as I would have if I were using Apple's older operating system. Even comparing the new iOS 9 using a normal iPad vs. the iPad Pro, the bigger screen makes a huge difference. I could use the split screen mode easily without squinting at what I was typing or watching.
There's no doubt that the best way to use the iPad Pro is with its accessories. The keyboard, which costs $170 and doubles as a Smart Cover, is much easier to type on than Apple's on-screen keyboard. Even though the iPad Pro's on-screen keyboard is nicer than the normal iPad's, you still wouldn't want to compose anything too long on it.
And then there's the stylus, which Apple calls "the Pencil." This handy $100 gadget is, quite frankly, great fun. Plus, the iPad Pro is smart enough to know the difference between your fingers and the Pencil. So you can use either for navigation, or even have them work in concert. For example, when you sketch in Notes, you can put down two fingers to use as a ruler while using the Pencil to draw perfectly straight lines.
What the accessory reveals is that this tablet really has the potential to shine among the creative professionals that Apple has long coveted as a demographic. (It is a company at the intersection of art and technology, remember?) For those folks, it is important that the stylus and iPad feel as responsive as a pencil and paper.
To test that, I tried taking handwritten notes on the tablet during an interview — I was recording the chat as a backup — and found that my chicken scratch worked just as well as it would have on my trusty legal pads. I'm not sure I'd rely on it all the time, but it likely would be useful for outlines and meeting notes. There are also some features built into the stylus that would obviously be better for someone with a greater artistic inclination — the Pencil can sense the angle at which you're writing and how hard you're pushing, and adjusts its lines accordingly. (Artistic ability is not a metric by which The Post evaluates its reporters. If it were, I'd be out of a job.)
One final, random thought on inputs: When I did head back to my laptop, I often found myself trying to tap the screen — apparently, I really missed that option.
There are still some limitations that tripped me up while working — though they're not necessarily Apple's problems. Because the tablet is an iOS device and not a computer in the traditional sense, I was often sent to mobile versions of Web sites when I wanted the full desktop option, especially since the iPad Pro's screen is, in fact, larger than my laptop's. This happened most often when I was multitasking, and sites were reading the smaller window size as a mobile site. When I adjusted to full screen, the Web sites sometimes responded and gave me a full version. Other times, though, I would get just a big, stretched-out mobile layout. That was frustrating.
The fact that the iPad Pro is a tablet also means that you're obviously using tablet apps instead of full-fledged programs (Apple designed the iPad Pro's proportions to work with apps and sites designed for the iPhone and the iPad). Apple's app game is strong and the computing power in the tablet handled everything I threw at it. But there are still lots of programs out there without fully featured apps for mobile devices. Again, that's not Apple's fault, exactly. Its own apps work as well on the Pro as they do on a computer.
Over time, developers are likely to build more sophisticated apps, and this problem will diminish. But if you're thinking about buying an iPad Pro today, it's something to think about.
So will I give up my laptop? Not yet. Maybe I'm stuck in my ways, but I like the way that my work flows on a traditional device. For most consumers, especially once you tally up the cost of the tablet plus the keyboard, a Mac may hold more appeal. But if I were someone who worked more visually — with diagrams or drawings instead of words — there would be a definite benefit to having a big digital sketchbook. When I tried out video editing, for example, or drawing apps, the iPad Pro felt purpose-built for that kind of work. Even fiddling around with GarageBand was more fun.
Overall, the iPad Pro is a strong product, and one that executes on its vision. Tablets are a funny category nowadays; most people still use them for consumption, with an occasional burst of creativity. As the market evolves, and more businesses consider tablets, it makes sense for Apple to offer a device with the portability of a tablet and the power of a laptop. Microsoft has already seen some success in this space with its Surface tablet, as have other PC makers in the hybrid tablet-laptop business. Apple's entry into the market is arguably the strongest offering in this space — and packs a lot of potential to lure businesses into the tablet world.