TL;DR—It’s taking some adjustment, but I’m going to stick with the 10.5-inch iPad. Here’s how it’s gone so far.
I’ve been working towards an iPad-only lifestyle since around the original iPad Air. I thoroughly enjoy the iPad as a device and its advantages over classic computers. I also generally appreciate iOS, and I’ve been thankful to watch it evolve and gain many of the tools and workflows it needs to serve more customers.
When the 12.9-inch iPad Pro debuted in fall 2015, I eagerly switched from an iPad Air 2. I was curious about the potential of a larger iOS device and a nearly full-sized touchscreen keyboard. It’s mostly been my main machine, as I usually only need my Mac these days for apps or services that are dragging their feet in transitioning to mobile.
I really liked my 12-inch iPad Pro. The extra screen real estate was a joy to use for every task, especially typing. But over time, I ran into too many little situations where its size got in the way. I generally couldn’t fit it on train and airplane trays, and when paired with most iPad keyboards (assuming you could find one for the 12-inch), its weight could hit or exceed three pounds. That’s 13-inch MacBook Pro territory, which negated some of the mobile advantages that attract me to the iPad in the first place.
When Apple announced the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, my interest piqued. I thought maybe it could be a good compromise between power and size, with potentially better accessory options considering what I expect will be popularity.
My 10.5-inch iPad Pro (512GB, Space Gray, Verizon) arrived on June 13. As tempted as I am to try the iOS 11 beta, I rely on my iPad for my content and consulting business and some of my hobbies, like reading and photography. I’ll stick with iOS 10 at least until the initial public beta ships, but possibly even until it officially ships in the fall and I’m comfortable that most of my apps have updated.
Holding, carrying it around
When it comes to carrying the iPad like a book, or sharing something interesting with a friend by handing it over, the 12.9-inch iPad never stopped feeling just a little too unwieldy and awkward. It’s a little thing, but the iPad’s portability and ‘naturalness’ makes a difference to me.
I appreciate the 10.5’s slightly greater screen size in use. But that natural feeling when carrying or sharing the device is back for me, unmistakable from the 9.7.
The on-screen keyboard
This one’s going to take some adjustment, as I really got use to the 12.9’s comfortable, MacBook-sized on-screen keyboard. I had my off days, but I could type upwards of 80-95 WPM on that thing—a little slower than a hardware keyboard, but certainly acceptable by my standards.
Even with its larger screen compared to the 9.7, the 10.5 iPad Pro doesn’t get any sort of unique touchscreen keyboard. It’s the standard 9.7 keyboard, just a little larger.
It’s a drawback for me, but not a dealbreaker; I’ll get over it. Plus, since accessories are more popular for this size, I can augment with a hardware keyboard.
Little Split View changes
Split View on the 12.9 is a dream. That big screen had ample room to run, say, Ulysses on the left, Twitter or Messages in a right column, and a PiP window of The Venture Bros in one corner or another. But some days, I’d run two apps side-by-side, each getting half the screen. In that mode, both apps would behave like a full-sized iPad apps. I’d get the full view, all tabs, or whatever interface I’d typically see if the iPad was in portrait.
Not so on the 10.5. For example: on the 12.9, Safari would continue to display a tab bar at the top even in Split View at 50 percent space. At that size on the 10.5, it falls back to an iPhone interface, with a toolbar and tab button at the bottom.
While I find this a bummer, it isn’t a deal breaker either. Looking back, I didn’t run apps at 50/50 very often, so I see that perk as more of a luxury anyway. I’ll live.
More accessory options is nice
This deserves its own mention, because I find it bittersweet. The 12.9 is a great machine, but by itself, it’s already at 1.5 pounds. Add something like a Smart Cover, a detachable keyboard, or a full-on folio or case, and you can easily push past 2.5 and 3 pounds.
Exacerbating the problem, the 12-inch iPad is about as wide as a 13-inch MacBook Air (wider than my 12-inch MacBook!). That pushed it out of the realm of most compact day bags that I previously preferred for my iPad, and into standard backpacks and messenger bags. Again, it was a portability killer.
For a while, I just dealt with the bag thing. But it slowly great into a deal breaker of the 12-inch, since it greatly diminished the iPad’s portability for me. Being a commuter in Chicago, I like to bring a small day bag with me almost every time I leave the house. This meant that, in the past, I could bring my iPad almost everywhere with me. The 12-inch broke that.
On the flip side of that coin, though, it was just plain difficult to find accessories at all for the 12-inch. It was pitched as a pro iPad during a time when Apple has struggled to convince some portions of the pro market to try the iPad at all. I wager many companies simply didn’t want to take the risk.
I expect the 10.5 iPad to be pretty popular, and thus score a myriad of accessory sizes and styles. When it comes to bags, its actual footprint isn’t much larger than the 9.7, so most bags should be fine there.
Happy so far
I’m glad to be back at a more hand-able, share-able, portable size with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro (I’ll put my 12-inch on eBay tomorrow, but reach out if you’re interested in buying it). This thing is stupid powerful, too. I notice it most when photo editing in Enlight or Pixelmator, then opening another app in Split View, or playing Vainglory and putting Discord in Slide Over to check on things while I wait for a match.