The iPad Pro has been an exciting development for graphic artists, granting a killer combination of responsiveness, exceptional screen quality and portability. For artists wanting to draw on the move, it really is a no-brainer – plus, from entertainment to emails, there’s plenty more beyond drawing the iPad Pro is capable of.
Having always wanted to delve into the world of digital art, I was thrilled to get my iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) earlier this year, and my first few months with the tablet have me pretty excited for the next generation.
Coming from a background of having little-to-no experience in digital art (barring making my eyes gold in Photoshop for Twilight edits when I was a teenager), I’ve found the iPad Pro to be supremely user-friendly, flexible and inviting.
However, there are some areas where the iPad Pro still can’t quite live up to conventional graphics tablets for artists. Here’s what I’d like to see from the next generation, as a digital artist:
1. Better pressure sensitivity
Pressure sensitivity is the low-hanging fruit on this wishlist, but it’s a key attribute that artists will always will seek out best-in-class performance for.
My iPad Pro and Apple Pencil (2nd Gen) together offer a smooth, realistic drawing experience, thanks to the iPad’s palm rejection and the Apple Pencil’s tilt sensitivity. Both devices respond well to pressure when I’m trying to vary my line thickness, and while Apple hasn’t released the Apple Pencil’s sensitivity data, it feels comparable to other mid-range styluses.
For a majority of digital artists, the current levels found in the iPad Pro are manageable, but when I’m trying to do any fine detail or line work, I’ve noticed that I have to take a lot longer, be more considered and repeat strokes until I get what I’m looking for.
While Apple easily outclasses its main computing rivals in terms of tablet pressure sensitivity, the iPad Pro still doesn’t offer anywhere near the granularity found in dedicated graphics tablets, and it’d be great to see some improvement on the new iPad Pro in this regard.
2. Apple Pencil 3rd Gen
I know, this isn’t technically something I need from the iPad Pro itself, but for digital artists, the Apple Pencil comes hand in hand, so it’s worth mentioning.
The 2nd generation Apple Pencil made some decent improvements on the 1st generation, and not only because of its wireless charging. Its new design made the stylus a lot less prone to rolling off of desks, and also added double tap gesture control; allowing you to quickly switch between tools.
However, Apple certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel, and once more, there are areas in which the Apple Pencil finds itself lacking when compared to drawing tablet styluses. For instance, some have an array of nibs to offer a wider variety of strokes – it’d be great to see this remedied in a new Apple Pencil.
In terms of innovation, a new generation arising with some of Apple’s renowned user interface design ingenuity would be good. A story from one of our sister sites, CreativeBloq, highlighted a patent that suggests the new Apple Pencil could feature a rotating top, which could allow for further gesture controls.
3. Better battery life
Apple’s claims of ten-hour battery life on the iPad Pro 12.9 ring true in testing, but as with any device, this can vary depending on what kind of applications you’re running, how bright your screen is, et cetera.
To get the benefits of the bright, clear Liquid Retina XDR Mini LED screen on the current 12.9-inch Pro, you sacrifice battery life, and if the rumors of the new iPad 11 getting Mini LED ring true, battery life could become a problem for all devices in the next-generation iPad Pro.
Drawing applications and software can also contribute to faster battery drain, especially if you’re switching between tasks and running background applications. Generally, I’ve found my iPad Pro lasts just shy of seven hours, which has rarely led to any issues, but if you’re prone to taking your tablet out for long days and use it into the evening, you might face challenges.
Still, if the new iPad Pro charges as quickly as the current generation, battery life isn’t too much of a drawback (although faster charging would be nice too, Apple).
4. Lightweight design
The portability of the iPad Pro is far superior to any drawing tablet, especially when you factor in screen quality, price, user experience and app availability.
However, it’s still pretty hefty. The iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) weighs in at 682g, and that’s without considering cases and any other accessories. The 2020 and 2018 models were noticeably lighter (641g and 631g respectively), but even then were still weighty.
Even to hold in your hand, the iPad Pro can become uncomfortable to handle over long periods, which takes away some of the flexibility and maneuverability offered by the tablet form factor.
For some artists, this can be pretty crucial, and it certainly is for me. I personally like to get up close and personal with my work, and I’ll often find myself picking it up for a quick sketch session only to find my wrists fatigued after 30 minutes.
With new additions like the M1/M2 chips, Mini LED screens and beyond, the next generation could get even heavier and looking at previous trends in Apple’s design cycles, the models that follow 2021’s heavier iPad Pro should focus on slimming back down again.
If the new generation of iPads does indeed see Mini LED screens come to the 11-inch model as rumoured, artists could be tempted to switch to this more lightweight, smaller screen, in favor of portability.
Personally, I really love the 12.9-inch screen as a canvas, so I’d rather Apple gives us a more lightweight model in the larger size. I hope that’s the case with the new iPad Pro, if not only for the sake of my wrists.
5. MagSafe for iPad
This might be less of a conventional consideration for artists, but I strongly feel that the addition of MagSafe could be huge for the iPad Pro.
While some MagSafe accessories feel fairly ubiquitous now – like wireless charging or wallet cases – there are still really creative uses for the technology hitting the market for iPhones, like the Moment Mobile Filmmaker Cage.
MagSafe could be fantastic for artists using the iPad Pro, from MagSafe easels and tripods to mounted charging stands and beyond; this could be a space where MagSafe accessory manufacturers get really creative.
There are, of course, plenty of wacky and wild innovations Apple could pull out of its hat that would excite me as a burgeoning digital artist – perhaps an Apple Paintbrush or a true-to-life eyedrop tool to replicate colors, when I’m recreating a real scene.
For now, however, the improvements listed above are well within the realms of possibility; some are even reliably rumored to be true.
Apple’s core artistic audience for the iPad Pro consists of people like me; we’re not quite in the place to invest in an expensive graphics tablet for the sole purpose of drawing, but we want something that’ll give us the best possible experience, while also delivering added value as more than just a graphics tablet.
Plus, with other rumors suggesting additions like reverse wireless charging for other gadgets, an M2 chipset and increased storage, the next generation could take the iPad Pro from a cool slate to a bona fide studio in itself; pulling even more experienced and professional artists to Apple’s side.
Until we know for sure what the future of the iPad Pro brings, however, I’ll get back to drawing my doodles rather than drawing conclusions.
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Josephine Watson (@JosieWatson) is TechRadar's Managing Editor - Lifestyle. Josephine has previously written on a variety of topics, from pop culture to gaming and even the energy industry, joining TechRadar to support general site management. She is a smart home nerd, as well as an advocate for internet safety and education, and has also made a point of using her position to fight for progression in the treatment of diversity and inclusion, mental health, and neurodiversity in corporate settings. Generally, you'll find her watching Disney movies, playing on her Switch, or showing people pictures of her cats, Mr. Smith and Heady.