Sitting in the auditorium of the new iPad launch, listening to the new features it brings, I was struck by one thought: why would anyone want an iPad Pro any more?
Sure, you’ve got the Smart Connector and an insane amount of power under the hood, but most people won’t ever come close to using all that raw grunt, and the Smart Keyboard is rather expensive on top of what is already a very costly tablet.
The new iPad (2018) uses the Apple Pencil, which is one of the key selling points of the Pro range. Side by side, would the slightly larger display on the 10.5-inch Pro device be enough to convince users to pay double the amount if one of the top features is now available on the bottom-spec 9.7-inch device?
It’s hard to imagine so, but then again Apple doesn’t need to shift high volumes of the iPad Pro. The ‘budget’ iPad is the biggest seller by far, and the Pro range are the halo devices. The Macbook Pro, the Mac Pro… they’re all vehicles for introducing top-end technology before it filters down to the mainstream range.
So with that in mind, it seems like the launch of the new iPad is actually the harbinger of a new iPad Pro – one that would push the tablet into new territory, and convince users to spend hundreds more on a digital slate.
The time is right for a new iPad Pro too. We’ve been used to seeing a new iPad each year for a while now, and there’s still a lot of headroom that Apple can move into to create an impressive slate. It seems rather unlikely that it’s going to make a cheaper tablet than the current iPad, so the only option for differentiation is to keep making a slate that’s powerful, usable and capable of being a real alternative to a standard laptop.
What would the new iPad Pro look like?
The rumors around the new iPad Pro are pretty thin, which means we’re unlikely to see a new version at WWDC 2018 in June… it would be a little too soon after the launch of the iPad Pro 10.5, which was the subject of some meaty leaks before it appeared.
The main features are likely to be based on what the iPhone X chipset offers: the Face ID technology that phone features could be brought to a larger device, which would obviate the need for a fingerprint sensor at the bottom.
Rumors of a bezel-less tablet, in the same vein as the iPhone X, are likely wide of the mark, as the bezels on a tablet are needed to enable the device to be held two hands. That said, losing the home button would allow the top and bottom bezels to be greatly reduced in size, creating one of the most attractive-looking tablets we’ve yet seen.
A larger screen, around 11 inches in size, would be something that would really set the new iPad Pro apart from the new base-level iPad.
Whether Apple could add in the other more technically advanced features that distinguish the iPhone X from the standard iPhone range remains to be seen (an OLED, 3D Touch-enabled screen seems like too-lofty a technical challenge right now) but the fact that the X and 8 iPhones coexist suggests that the same could work in the tablet space.
Why make a new iPad Pro at all?
The tablet world is a tough environment at the moment. Apple knows its tablets aren’t breaking down at a rate that forces users to upgrade them regularly, so it needs to create some lust-worthy tech at the top of its range to keep the halo glowing.
The iPad Pro might not be used to its full potential by every user, but there’s something impressive about even the potential to do the things it can do, and to see just what Apple’s design and engineering teams are capable of and want to buy into that vision.
It’s a ‘premium’ move that Apple’s been using for years, and the cutting-edge technology it creates for its premium devices trickles down to the lower end of the range in subsequent years; development costs are absorbed by the more expensive devices, and a few years later the tech appears in more budget-friendly versions, thus renewing the whole ecosystem.
So the simple act of adding the Apple Pencil to the cheapest iPad might seem like cannibalization… but it could herald the launch of a much more impressive tablet down the line.