I had planned to write this column about digital cameras and the use of digital photography in practice, but I received enough inquiries about the iPad Pro that I felt compelled to devote this column to a discussion about this new tablet. For those of you interested in digital photography, I will get back to that topic in a later column.
Just in time for holiday sales, Apple finally released its iPad Pro in November 2015, changing the iPad lineup considerably and taking it into a new direction. Since the iPad was first released, it has evolved to a more and more useful tool. The device has grown thinner and lighter with each succeeding iteration while increasing the power and maintaining the same basic dimensions in terms of display size. Several years ago Apple’s “thinner and lighter” design school came up with the idea of the more diminutive iPad mini and immediately proceeded to make each succeeding generation thinner and lighter than its predecessor (although also increasingly powerful).
Last year, the world changed. For the first year since its inception, Apple did not upgrade the full-sized (9.7” display) iPad. It did upgrade the iPad mini, bringing its power into approximate parity with the full-sized iPad. Instead of introducing a thinner and lighter but more powerful version of the full-sized iPad, Apple chose to super-size the iPad and came up with the larger and heavier iPad Pro, sporting a 12.9” display (roughly 78 percent larger than the iPad Air 2). The Pro is so much larger than the full-sized iPad that if you take two full-sized iPads, you can lay them next to each other on the Pro’s display. The Pro also introduces a considerably more powerful chip set and a larger battery to go along with the larger display and increased cost of the Pro. (Pricing starts at $799; for more details, go to apple.com.) The more powerful chip set enables the Pro to do more than its smaller siblings and to do the same things they can do, but do them faster.
Interestingly, Apple introduced a case with a built-in, fold-out keyboard and—of all things—a stylus, which Apple chose to call the “pencil,” likely as a result of Steve Jobs’ antipathy toward the use of any stylus other than the tip of a finger. Comparative sizes are: Pro (12” x 8.68” x 0.27”), iPad Air 2 (9.4” x 6.6” x 0.24”), and iPad mini 4 (8” x 5.3” x 0.24”).
Some people who have looked at Microsoft’s Surface Pro line, with its keyboard, case, and stylus, have concluded that Apple developed the iPad Pro to compete with the Surface Pro (actually, I have wondered about the fact that they both carry the designation “Pro” as a part of their name). Although this rumor may have some truth behind it, an examination of the two devices reveals some significant differences. The differences lie in the developers’ perspective. The Surface Pro is a computer that can function as a tablet, while the iPad Pro is a tablet that can function as a computer. The Surface Pro allows you to run almost any software you can run on any laptop computer tethered to the Windows world. The iPad Pro, on the other hand, runs no computer software per se but only such software as has been built as an app for the iPad. Conversely, more and more developers have started offering iPad app versions of their software, including both Apple (which offered most of its programs from the get-go) and Microsoft, which now offers the full Office Suite for the iPad.
Further analysis of the iPad Pro and its features reveals that, in addition to providing a far more powerful processor and chip set (Apple’s A9X with an M9 motion coprocessor), an improved display (2732 x 2048 resolution at 264 pixels per inch), and a larger battery to allow the same estimated ten hours of web surfing using WiFi and nine hours using cellular connections as the other iPads, Apple worked with software developers to generate substantially enhanced graphic capabilities for the iPad Pro. When I first looked at the Pro and its features, I thought that it was something that a graphic artist would crave, but not necessarily the most useful tool for an attorney. After exploring one for a month, I have concluded that while a graphic artist would likely want it more, it does have some features that also make it attractive to an attorney.
The Pro for Laywers
The large (Apple calls it “huge”) display size makes the Pro a much better vehicle for watching a video or viewing a picture than the smaller iPads. In a small room with a few people, it works admirably for showing PowerPoints, pictures, and videos, allowing you to avoid the need to bring and set up a projector in many cases. Additionally, if you are presenting and using a projector or working with an online presentation, the larger display size makes it easier to see and effectively use and control a PowerPoint presentation with the Pro than with a full-sized iPad or iPad mini.
The Pro offers no advantage and suffers no disadvantage in memory capacity as the largest configuration of each size of iPad is 128 GB. As always, I recommend you get the largest capacity you can afford as memory size is static and what you get is what you have as long as you own the iPad. I have moved my iPads to 128 GB and find that manageable, but I still have to shuffle information on and off the iPad.
The Pro weighs six-tenths of a pound more than the full-sized iPad Air 2 and about nine-tenths of a pound more than the iPad mini 4. This weight relates just to the Pro and does not include the extra weight of the keyboard case, should you add the keyboard (and if you get a Pro, you should add the keyboard).
The size and weight differential of the three sizes of the iPad makes the Pro the least mobile and the most cumbersome to carry and use. It is interesting that we think of a device that light as “cumbersome,” but by comparison to the mini or the full-sized iPad, the Pro is more cumbersome. As someone who likes the iPad as a trial tool, I can tell you that while I would not hesitate to use the Pro to control a projected display or for my trial book in a trial, I would prefer the full-sized iPad or the mini for my notes when talking to the jury in an opening statement or closing argument. When I am standing up and talking to the jury, the bulk of the Pro necessitates the balancing act required with a binder rather than the unobtrusive, one-handed style possible with the full-sized iPad or, better yet, the iPad mini.
The introduction of the Pro coincided with the release of iOS 9. While the rollout was initially troubled, Apple introduced a couple of quick updates to correct the problems, and iOS 9 now appears to work very well. The problems with the initial release appear to have only affected upgrading devices and not new devices sold with the system already installed. At any rate, iOS 9 now offers substantial enhancements to its predecessors, and the Pro takes especially good advantage of some of them. In particular, the improved ability to run multiple apps side-by-side in iOS 9 works better on the Pro than on smaller displays, which simply lack the real estate that makes this feature work so well for the Pro.
One Tablet to Rule Them?
So, what’s the verdict? I have all three sizes of the iPad and use each for different purposes. I like different things about them and would have a hard time choosing just one. If I had to choose one, it would likely be the full-sized iPad. If I was going to get two, I would get the mini 4 and the Pro. I suspect that Apple may be gravitating in this direction anyway. Given that it failed to upgrade the full-sized iPad last year and introduced the Pro instead, the thought crosses my mind that we may have seen the last upgrade of the full-sized iPad. I suspect that Apple will wait to see how the Pro does in terms of sales before making a final decision on whether and when to upgrade the full-sized iPad. As an attorney wanting to use the iPad in court, I would not want to have just the Pro. On the other hand, the Pro moves the iPad into a better position to substitute for a laptop; and while I am not yet ready to use just the iPad and not have a laptop, I will admit that the Pro brings me closer to that point.