Apple's long-rumored iPad Pro made its debut today. The 12.9-inch iPad has upgraded internals, a smart keyboard accessory and a don't call it a stylus "Apple Pencil." It's Apple's most direct answer to the Microsoft Surface.
The iPad Pro is much bigger than any previous iPad, with its 12.9-inch, 2,732 × 2,048 display (around 264 pixels per inch, the same as recent 9.7-inch iPads). The Pro is sized so that the width of its display is the same as the length of the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2's display; in landscape mode you can view one iPad Air-sized app alongside a second one (though the second one will have a slightly crunched width), all courtesy of iOS 9's new split-screen mode.
The iPad Pro is a bit thicker than the iPad Air 2 (6.9 mm, compared to the Air 2's 6.1 mm) and weighs 1.57 lb (712 g). It has a familiar-looking aluminum unibody design, mostly following the cues of Apple's current iPads.
Much like a Surface, your iPad Pro purchase only gets you the tablet itself. But Apple is also selling optional (but likely essential) keyboard and stylus accessories.
The Smart Keyboard connects to the tablet via connectors on the side of the iPad, transferring data back and forth and drawing power. Similar to the Smart Covers that have been around since early 2011, it folds behind the iPad to prop it up, only with the keyboard jutting out from the front, creating what should be the most laptop-like iPad experience yet.
Apple calls its stylus accessory the Apple Pencil (in what could be a branding effort to maintain some consistency, after Steve Jobs so famously dismissed the stylus back in 2007). Apple showcased the, erm, "Pencil's" ability to draw thicker or thinner lines depending on levels of pressure (this alone isn't unique to Apple's stylus, though it's possible there's some new or unique tech making it happen), with sensors also measuring the angle and rotation of the stylus.
Apple describes the experience of using the Apple Pencil as low-latency, and close to the experience of using a real writing utility.
The Apple Pencil has an internal battery, and on removing its end you'll find a Lightning dongle, which can plug into the iPad Pro's corresponding port to charge the accessory.
The iPad Pro runs Apple's latest silicon, the A9X chip, which the company says has up to 1.8x as fast processing and up to 2x as fast graphics processing as the A8X found in the iPad Air 2.
Apple estimates up to 10 hours battery life for the new iPad, though in the event it didn't specify what conditions that estimate was under.
The iPad Pro is a bold attempt to rekindle interest in the iPad, and reposition it as a work-focused mobile PC – the same train of thought Microsoft has been building on since its first Surface in 2012. We may have already seen the limits of how much the iPad in its original form can usher in the "post PC era" Apple used to talk so freely of. You could say the iPad Pro is Apple's modified vision, its Take Two that acknowledges the declining success of that original plan.
If the iPad as a simple slab of glass and aluminum can't completely replace a PC, then perhaps bringing a bit more of the PC to the iPad will do the trick. It will likely eat into MacBook sales, but Apple has never been a company to shy away from cannibalizing its own products when it felt the timing was right (like the original iPhone in relation to the iPod).
The iPad Pro will launch this November. It starts at US$800 for 32 GB of storage (not a huge amount for a work-focused machine). A much more ample 128 GB of storage will ring up for $950, with a 128 GB/cellular LTE model costing $1,080, pushing it into MacBook territory.
The Smart Keyboard will cost $170, with the Apple Pencil ringing up for a cool $100.
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