How do you kickstart flagging iPad sales? If you’re Apple, with a new, supersized, 12.9-inch iPad Pro model, shown off on stage Wednesday at the company’s media event in San Francisco.
The Pro expands on the iPad template while borrowing features from rival platforms.
Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller was on hand to emphasize the advantages of the new slate in Apple’s lineup: lots more screen space for apps (and app developers) with 5.6 million pixels, a better media experience, and of course the ability to make the most of the new split-screen features in iOS 9.
The new iPad Pro isn’t just about a bigger screen though: It has internal components that put it at a desktop level of performance, according to Schiller, including a new A9X processor (1.8x faster than the chip inside the iPad Air 2). Apple claims the iPad Pro is faster than 80 percent of PCs that shipped in the last year, with graphics performance that’s faster than 90 percent of those machines. (Those are Apple’s own statistics, and haven’t been run through third-party benchmarks.)
Audio gets an upgrade in the form of four speakers that automatically balance the sound depending on how the tablet is being held. The device weighs in at 1.57 pounds and is 6.9mm thick (a little more than the 6.1mm iPad Air 2).
There are a new accessories too: first, a Smart Keyboard cover to quickly turn the slate into a laptop beater. iOS adapts depending on whether or not the keyboard is attached, a distinctly Windows 10-esque feature, and it’s exclusive to the iPad Pro for now.
Then there’s the Apple Pencil, the stylus that Steve Jobs disliked so much. (Actual Jobs quote: “Yuck.”) The iPad Pro screen has been engineered to accept both finger and stylus input, and it opens up a whole new way of interaction for digital creatives and app developers alike.
Apple’s built-in iOS apps have already been configured to accept Pencil input, and Schiller said other developer partners were working hard on apps intended for an iPad with stylus input. Microsoft’s Kirk Koenigsbauer appeared on stage to show off Pencil support in Office for iPad, while Adobe is another company making iPad Pro-specific apps. Apple has clashed with both of those companies in the past, but it seems to have put those past rivalries aside to ensure high-performing apps for the Pro.
Speaking of Microsoft, it was difficult not to think of the Surface during Apple’s presentation, particularly with the Smart Keyboard attached to the iPad Pro. The new device also flies close to the new MacBook’s territory—thin, light and built for productivity on the go.
The small print: The device starts at $799 for the 32GB model, $949 for the 128GB model and $1,079 for the 128GB model with cellular connectivity. The Smart Keyboard will set you back $169, while the Pencil costs $99. The iPad Pros, together with both accessories, are on sale in November.
In the immediate aftermath of an Apple event, it’s always difficult to see the big picture for its new products. The iPad Pro certainly gives Apple something significantly different (and more expensive) in its tablet line; whether it’s enough to rekindle interest in the range remains to be seen.
Images via Apple