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Bigger on the Inside.

It’s been a long three weeks.

Three weeks since I last had the 10.5 iPad, and I’ve come across so many issues when I had to use my MacBook Air during this time.

But last week, my new iPad Pro arrived. The 12.9″ 256GB Cellular model.

Before we continue, the below will be some impressions on how I use the iPad, and how the new features have benefitted me. The last part will be two incidents I’ve been running into, and I wanted to show the perspectives of both and my wishes for them.

Let’s go.

Here’s the previous posts of the saga of my impressions with the new iPads at the time:
iPad Pro 12.9” in 2015.
iPad Pro 9.7 in 2016.
WWDC 2017 iOS 11 iPad Thoughts.
iPad Pro 10.5” in 2017.

Ever since I decided to primarily use the iPad to create content with back in 2015, I’ve gone up a size with every upgrade. This time, my mind was set on the 12.9. Before, the bezels were far too big and it was much better suited to artists. But now, I feel as though the reduced bezels has allowed this size to be better suited for writers and podcasters, especially with improvements to certain apps since last June. The design reminds me of the iPhone X almost.

First of all, Matt Gemmell said it best in his review; it’s like a TARDIS. When you first lift the iPad from your coffee table or desk, you know it’s big. But once you unlock it, it feels smaller, and just like a TARDIS. It sounds crazy reading that back, but if you try it in an Apple Store, you may know what I mean.

Having split-screen with two full-sized apps is great. I can browse the web in full on one half (or two Safari windows!) or have Overcast and a full-sized Mail at once.

This is also the first iOS device I’ve owned that has FaceID, so the past few days has been moments of sending random Animojis to people. I’ve mentioned this before, but it seems better suited here than on the iPhone. Countless times I’ve now sat at a desk, I press the space bar on my keyboard, the screen shows, it unlocks, I press it again, and I’m back to what I was doing.

This is my favourite so far. Especially when I want a KFC.

Even the new method of buying apps and ApplePay with double-pressing the power button. I like this method, but I suspect, because it’s also the same on iPhone, that it’s worse with the smaller size.

Taking screenshots with the power + volume key took some practice, but I’m used to it now. I could do with a switch in Settings where I can use the power switch to switch it off rather than summoning Siri, but otherwise there’s no issues.

USB-C is a great change here. Not only can I use my 2003 Apple Wired Keyboard with just a small USB-C to USB adapter now, but I can also charge my AirPods and iPhone, something which became very useful on Sunday when my Anker Power Pack failed on me. I’m looking forward into what else this port will bring to iPad.

This was a godsend. 5 minutes later and they were charged.

I’m going into more detail further below, but I bought only the folio case this time. I find the Keyboard Folio worse. It doesn’t offer multiple angles as before, I don’t see the point for the extra viewing angle it offers, and I don’t like having to feel the keys when it’s folded back. With the folio, I feel like I’ve got the best of both worlds here. It covers the iPad, offers multiple angles, and with me now using a bluetooth keyboard, which has usable function keys, that solves another issue for me. I can change the brightness, volume, change apps, without reaching for the screen or the buttons across the iPad.

Overall, this is the best iPad I’ve owned. Again. This all-screen 12.9 iPad makes it seem as if I’m holding a slightly bigger 10.5 inch to me, and I can see more content as I work, alongside amazing battery life.


Of course by now, you’ve probably read and watched all the impressions, and the above are merely my observations in using it for me in the last few days.

So here’s a couple of topics that I really want to raise that, as far as I’m aware, I haven’t seen discussed.

Apps that don’t support the 12.9.

There’s five apps that I download first above the rest.

  • Ulysses
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • WordPress
  • Spotify

Out of these five, three fully support the 12.9 screen, while the others have a letterboxed view, and some where even the assets in the app haven’t been natively supported, giving a blurred look. Spotify comes off worse here, so you’re looking at great album artwork but marred by a blurred effect, while YouTube suffers most when in split-screen, especially as Spotify doesn’t support this view.

Here’s an example:

I can have Ulysses and YouTube in split-view, but because YouTube doesn’t support the 12.9, it relegates Ulysses to the compatibility view, especially when you have YouTube covering two thirds of the screen. The only way is to have another supported app and Ulysses in split-screen, while having YouTube as the floating-app. In a sense this works better, especially when I’m writing and need to quickly look up something. But if I want to watch a video in a bigger view, I have to make do with compatibility-view.

I find this baffling, and this makes me think that this can’t just cover the 2018 iPad Pro 12.9, but the previous generation devices as well. When you factor in Spotify to this, especially when it doesn’t support split-screen, it makes for a marred UI experience. I’d love for this to be focused across the developers. I’m noticing it on a lot of apps I’m re-downloading, especially with games. Baldur’s Gate even has the top part of the UI cut off!

It reminds me of games back in the day. When you’d play a PAL game, you’d have these thick, black borders at the top and bottom of the monitor, while on an import version, it covers the display. You can see this below.

Left: Split-Screen. Right: Two apps optimised for iPad 12.9, with YouTube in the float-over UI.

 

To someone who doesn’t factor an iPad into their daily life, this may be a minor thing. But we all remember when we first owned an iPhone 5 or an iPhone X, and we experienced those thick black borders on our favourite apps, and it was distracting. The same applies here, and I’d like more attention paid to this.

iPad Accessories.

As mentioned earlier, my mind was set on the 12.9, so deciding between sizes never came into it. The famous ‘Buyers Remorse’ has also not set in, I’m happy in what I’ve bought.

What I was considering more, were the cases and keyboard. Which ones? And, would I be buying the Apple Pencil at last?

The iPad is my machine to do work on completely. With that, I need a keyboard that helps me with this. The Smart Keyboard, although solving two needs, does it half-hearted.

I’m not keen on the two angles, where one in particular I just haven’t seen it used in any use case. The fact that you can’ fold it so that it works at an angle anymore, is a great shame, and also that when you fold it back, you feel the keys. If you rest it on a table that hasn’t been cleaned, it could be exposed to dirt and crumbs without you realising.

The final point, is the price.

Two Hundred Pounds. For the reduced features it brings, my time with the Smart Keyboard is over for now. So instead, I bought the Folio case, and even though it did cost a hundred pounds less, it still covers the front and back, and has the different angles as before.

When it’s in the office, I use a 2003 classic keyboard, thanks to this small USB-C to USB adapter.

I love it, and I have a Magic Keyboard on order, which will be with me for whenever I take it with me. I have a spare bluetooth keyboard I’m currently using, and even with that, the function keys allow me to control the volume, brightness, launch apps, pause and play YouTube videos and music tracks, without ever touching the iPad.

But this also brings me to the drawback of iPads and games.

The below image brings it into context:

Why.

This is Sonic 2. One is running on the MacBook Air, where you can easily control it with the keyboard.

The other forces you to use the controls on the screen, and no keyboard will work with this. I even plugged in my 8BitDo SNES controller with the USB-C cable, but it only charged it, nothing was recognised. I find this a more obvious and requested feature than what others are hoping for in external storage support. Games on iPad are a strange beast to me. They seem better suited to iPhone in my opinion. But for games from long ago, such as Sonic, Tomb Raider, and the ones that have since disappeared from the App Store such as Doom and BioShock, they seem perfectly suited to the iPad, hooked up to a controller or keyboard. This seems so obvious to me, and maddening, now that you can essentially buy a random USB-C fan from Amazon, and the port will recognise it.

Games would benefit massively from this I feel, and if they want to show the power of iPad even more, show a demo at a future event with 2018 games that can be played with just a keyboard or a gamepad, plugged into the USB-C port.

  • Hitman.
  • Crash Bandicoot.
  • Spyro.
  • Burnout Takedown.
  • Tekken 7.
  • Fortnite.
  • Tony Hawks.

Lots of potential here.

In my bag I have my Switch in a case too, alongside the 8BitDo controller. To have it pair to the iPad, much like the AirPods and Pencil, would be amazing to me. To further improve this, having two or three controllers paired, alongside the keyboard, would enable local multiplayer. Have it connected to a TV with HDMI, and you’ve got a powerful gaming machine already, without looking at the AppleTV.

Finally, we’re brought to the Apple Pencil. Every time I found myself at the Apple Store in the last few weeks, I would try out the pencil. I came away impressed, and I can see myself using it to sketch out layouts for the new site design, or new cover-arts for podcast episodes. I found the swipe, or ‘right-click’ on this Pencil to be awkward though, as it seems to be placed too further down the device to me. I’d love to see a mechanical top where you can click it to change the modes instead for instance.

For me, almost every purchase has to justify itself to me. Of course, the iPad does, but the Pencil never did to me. I did wonder earlier this year whether we’d see it work on the bigger iPhone, which turned out to be the iPhone XS Max. That turned out to be a no, and I still think it’s coming, just not yet.

The current plan is to hold off until January to decide whether it really can fit into my workflow.


I’ve said in previous episodes of The Outpost Show, but I believe these iPads were developed in tandem with what was originally meant for iOS 12 before the focus of reliability and speed was made a priority, delaying iPad-focused features for a future release.

Because of this, you have an incredible, powerful iPad, but with software currently better suited for the previous generation.

Of course, I don’t believe iOS 13 will be the holy grail some people are expecting here. Features will be introduced and others will be improved upon to take advantage of these iPads, but these will be steps to improve the experience and also answer some wishes.

But for me, going to a bigger size, experiencing full-sized apps in split-screen, alongside having FaceID for the first time, and USB-C, it’s already a worthwhile upgrade. I’m very happy with how it works for me, and as far as I’m concerned it’s only going to get better.