As someone who uses an old iPad Pro as their main computer (yes, I am the person Apple were targeting in their infamous “What’s A Computer?” commercial), I am always on the lookout for what the Silicon Valley giant have coming up in the next refresh of their tablet lineup. Having eked out as much use as I possibly could have from my current (and now aging) 2nd generation iPad Pro 12.9 inch, I am eager to see what the next line of iPad Pros will bring, especially since the last refresh in the M2 was quite the underwhelming affair to say the least.
Well, it looks like I won’t have to wait too much longer because in a post earlier this week well-known Apple analyst, Mark Gurman, wrote that we should expect Apple to unveil their next batch of tablets in 2024, fitted with their new chip in the M3. Leaks from around the web also suggest that we might get some notable design changes to boot. Some of these changes may be welcomed ones for some, but they don’t strike the right chords with me, which may lead me to explore Apple’s refurbished store for one of their older (and still great) models for my next upgrade. So, kindly indulge me as I rant about some of the things I’d like to see for Apple’s future tablets, and others that I can do without.
Want: More Desktop-Grade Apps & Games
A lot of people point to the M1 as being the chip that really set Apple apart from the competition when it comes to performance and efficiency. And though much of that is true, I’d argue that it was around their A9 chip all the way back in 2015 that we started seeing serious performance gains. I can still boot up my wife’s old 5th generation iPad and use it for most basic tasks, and even some light photo editing or gaming if I’m feeling adventurous.
Power is not an issue for the iPads. If anything the M2 chip inside the current iPad Pros are severely under utilized. Case and point: I’m not in the market to upgrade my current Pro due to power—this thing is still capable of handling everything from photo/video editing to playing Genshin Impact on medium/high settings—I’m in the market primarily because of storage and battery life (also because I want to and can’t help myself).
Where that power can be utilized, however, is in software. For as good as LumaFusion is as a video editor, it’s no Final Cut, an app that video editors have been pining for and one I’m very glad has finally made it over to the tablets. I’m glad that music producers finally get access to Logic Pro, and that photographers have had Photoshop and Lightroom for a while now—albeit with many standard features still missing. As a screenwriter I depend on Final Draft to do my work, and though I appreciate the low cost of the tablet app, it’s a laughably stripped version of its desktop counterpart. This seems to be an ongoing trend with Apple’s supposedly “Pro” tablets—everything you’d want from a laptop is here, but never without some weird workaround or quirk.
Playing games on the Pro’s 120hz ProMotion display is such a joy, but the library is lacking. There are a bevy of videos on YouTube that showcase the power of the M1 and M2 MacBooks and their capabilities in gaming, even with odd workarounds needed to run games on MacOS; yet so many of those titles never see the light of day on iPads. This might be less to do with Apple and more to do with developers not willing to port their games onto a line of products that are still somewhat niche. Also, tablets are still unfortunately tied to mobile gaming, a market where its audience is still unaccustomed to purchasing apps—especially if its one north of the $10 mark. Still, the M3 is going to be on Apple’s 3nm process, bringing in huge performance gains. My hope is that Apple can convince devs, like they did with Kojima and Death Stranding, to bring more titles to iPads.
Want: Better Stage Manager
Even though I’ve yet to properly use Stage Manager on a day-to-day basis, the little I’ve tinkered with it at Apple Stores was enough to let me know that Apple still have a ways to go. It’s great to finally be able to have proper multi-window multitasking, but the inability to scale each window to the exact size of your liking is an odd choice and makes for a frustrating user experience. Also, switching orientations from landscape and portrait proved somewhat awkward with windows not scaling the way I’d expect them to.
Lastly, for as much as I know people (myself including) have wanted proper multitasking like this, I can’t help but feel it makes the iPad experience…messy. One of the reasons I love using an iPad is for its streamlined, no-nonsense experience. To the point where going back to using MacOS genuinely gives me anxiety. So on one hand Stage Manager brings much-wanted functionality that I hope continues to improve, but I also hope it improves in ways that make it more iPad-centric, instead of more like a MacBook. Which, in fairness, I think Apple’s approach thus far has proven that this is and always has been the mentality for the tablet.
Want: More Versatile Magic Keyboard
The Magic Keyboard is absurdly expensive. It’s also the best keyboard case available for the iPad Pro. No other case comes close in terms of build quality, functionality, and aesthetic. It’s still laughably expensive, though. Problem is, it stops making the iPad feel like an “iPad.” I use my iPad the way I’m using it right now: on a desk with a bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad. But I also use it to edit photos with an Apple Pencil while lounging on the couch with my feet up. And propped up on the counter to watch videos as I cook. And a number of other scenarios that I couldn’t do with a traditional laptop. The Magic Keyboard only allows you to use it one way: like a laptop. It’s not even as versatile as the old Smart Keyboard (not the new one), which allows me to put my iPad in all those aforementioned positions without the keyboard getting in the way.
The iPad is a tablet-first product, and it’s better because of it. So I hope Apple introduce a new Magic Keyboard alongside their M3 lineup that allows for more versatility—some water-resistance wouldn’t hurt, either.
Don’t Want: Thinner Design
Some leaks suggest that the next iPad Pros will receive OLED panels, which in turn could allow Apple to make them have an overall thinner design. I really hope this doesn’t end up being the case. I have no problem with them having thinner bezels—although I think they’re perfectly fine as is—or even being lighter in weight, but a reduction in depth is very much unnecessary. We all remember JerryRigEverything’s video where he snapped a 2018 iPad Pro nearly in half with seemingly little effort, yes? Granted he would do the same as a part of his durability test for the M1 iPads and this didn’t happen, but some of that—I assume—was because of their slightly more beefier design and added depth. We’re at a point now where thinness isn’t really a ‘wow’ factor anymore in modern hardware. So please, Apple, don’t emaciate your tablet any further.
Don’t Want: Larger Display Size
Many leakers and analysts alike, from Gurman to Ross Young, have suggested that Apple are working on larger iPads. Everything from a 20-inch iPad/MacBook hybrid, to a simple upgrade to 14 and 16 inches for the two existing models. Like I mentioned previously, I like using my iPad as an iPad, and I feel 12.9 inches is the absolute limit for me to be able to do so with any level of comfort. Actually, I find my current 2nd generation 12.9 inch Pro—which dawns the old, home-button riddled design—is unwieldy and awkward, though I make due. Having played with the existing 12.9 inch Pro, I find it to be the perfect design and size for me to use both as a laptop and tablet.
The most up-to-date leaks as of writing suggest that the upgrade in size will be incremental, moving to 11.1 & 13 inches for the respective models, which I assume is due to the slight reduction in bezels. This I’d be more than fine with, though of course nothing is certain until Apple finally make the announcement.
We’ll see how the next iPad Pros actually turn out, but the one thing that I’m hoping we can count on is that this refresh will be a far more significant one than the last. I’m excited to finally upgrade, so let’s just hope the prices for these things don’t see an uptick—though this is Apple we’re talking about, so I guess I should keep my eyes more focused on that refurbished page.