The iPad Pro 2021 is real, and it looks set to be the most powerful Apple tablet every made. To the point I’d argue it’s not even fair comparing it to Android tablets anymore.
I expected Apple to take some inspiration from the fantastic M1 chip it debuted in the recent MacBook Air for the new iPad Pro 2021 – but I had not expected it to simply take that chip and slot it inside a tablet. I also didn’t expected RAM options up to 16GB, 2TB of internal storage or Thunderbolt 4 connectivity.
These specs have more in common with the current MacBook Pro than the previous iPad Pro and it signals a massive shift in what exactly the iPad can be. Well, that’s the idea anyway.
I’ve been using the previous-gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro on a daily basis pretty much since its release. When the butterfly keyboard on my MacBook Pro fell to its flaws, I switched across to the iPad and its Magic Keyboard. I’ve loved using it and, in many ways, it offers more than even the best laptop ever could. But it often remains frustrating for a few reasons, and I don’t really see these spec updates fixing these issues – yet.
The iPad Pro’s problem has never been specs. The 2020 iPad Pro is as fast, capable and skilled as any of the other best tablets on the market. It also outperforms the competition in benchmarks. The problem is that the iPadOS software remains far too limited to be a true laptop replacement.
This feeling has only grown since using the iPad Pro as a real laptop replacement. The way multitasking works is bizarre and restrictive – with such a large screen, why can’t I have apps open in windows? Why can’t I have Zoom open alongside Google Docs? Why is the Files structure still an absolute pain? And my biggest annoyance is that the iPad Pro still can’t fill an entire external display without hefty black bars on the sides. These might not sound like deal breakers, but when they’re things I need everyday the frustrations they bring quickly pile up.
Apple has clearly lived up to the Pro name with the new iPad’s specs but the software lacks that Pro finish – at least for me. Whether you’re choosing the basic, cheapest iPad or spending over £2000/$2000 you get pretty much the same software experience.
With all these MacBook-level specs and features announced at the Spring Loaded event, I was expecting Apple to follow it up with the news it was bringing some of its Pro apps to the iPad. Final Cut Pro, for example, or Xcode. This was not mentioned at all.
We did get a developer montage from big iPad app makers, those from the likes LumaFusion and Procreate, praising the skills of the M1 and teasing updated apps and games that will take advantage of the power. But if Apple could show it was itself bringing the full desktop version of Final Cut Pro to the M1 iPad it would prove just how powerful the slate really is.
Now, there’s likely a reason for this and I am sure they are coming. Apple is holding its WWDC event in June and this where the next version of iPadOS (along with iOS 15) is likely to get its grand reveal. Considering the sheer power now available on the iPad Pro, it would make sense for the software that powers it to get a big update to really make the most of that M1 chip.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
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