Technology: About the iPad in 2023

Aople 12 9 M1 iPad Pro + iPhone Pro Max

The 2022 Six Colors Report Card reminded me that I needed to write something about iPad. Here’s the excerpt:

The iPad took a precipitous fall to its lowest score in the history of this survey. There was some praise for the iPad 9th generation, but even that product got dinged for its confusing Apple Pencil story—and the fact that its new features make the rest of the product line feel antiquated. A treading-water update for the iPad Pro and the rough introduction of Stage Manager seem to be the biggest culprits in the bad mood of our panelists.

And this tidbit from Josh Centers:

“I don’t think Apple knows what to do with the iPad. High-end iPads are as expensive as Macs, but less capable. The iPad is just kind of there.”

I have owned almost every iPad generation until Pro became a thing then I largely ignored subsequent mini, air, iPad basic, et all. I’ve always bought the highest specification in the middle of the road storage tier and I’m on a bi-annual upgrade cycle. My last 3 iPads were the iPad Pro 9.7 (2016), iPad Pro 2018 and iPad Pro M1.

Magic Keyboard: I’m skipping the M2 and likely M3 but I’ll be replacing my Apple Magic Keyboard for the 3rd time at some point this year. That’s right, my Magic Keyboards never last more than a year or they always last one year then the warranty expires and I have to go buy another one. I’ve given Apple probably $1500-$2000 in my cash just for keyboards in the last 6 years. They’re too GD expensive and they don’t last. Sometimes they stop working (key presses start to fail), other times it’s wear and tear like the hinges and moving parts stop working. I’ve never dinged Apple for this because I do motorcycle travel with my iPad wrapped in a keyboard (smart or magic) and so my keyboards take a lot more abuse than most but still, $350 for a keyboard that attaches to an $800 iPad and the iPad lasts 5 years but the keyboard just 1 is unacceptable even with my admitted abuses. 

Software: The second issue is software and I’m not going to beat that horse here. Millions of gallons of digital ink has been spilled but what I’ll say is that I have reached a point where I can work from the iPad for short periods of time without many issues. I’m not doing my day job on it, nor am I doing any creative work. I would still pick Mac over iPad but I can safely say I have lived for up to 10 days with only an iPad and have gotten my jobs done just fine with the convenience of a small, light, 5G enabled tablet and apps like Slack, AirTable, MS Office, Zoom, Adobe and more are all there and I don’t skip a beat. It’s slower than a Mac (software wise) but the portability is fantastic. When I’m on vacation, I don’t have a laptop with me and I do just fine. However, the software needs to be better. Multitasking should be made more intuitive and less buggy and I want more professional features out of these apps without sacrificing the usability and simplicity of iPad. It’s a hard thing to solve but I want Apple to be a steward and introduce Final Cut Pro and Logic on iPad and I want them to make iWork better and really stretch out their arms with what iPad can do as a computing platform. I can’t tell them how to do it but that’s what I want. However, you have to still make it a great place for folks who are not power users to browse the web and call with FaceTime. It’s a hard challenge for Apple.

Finally, hardware and I can only speak to iPad Pro’s current design since 2018 or so and not the other current models.

I am not happy with iPad Pro M1/M2 in 2023. I wasn’t happy last year or the year before. I’m just not happy. Here are the top reasons:

Battery life. iPad Pro M1 discharges at an alarming rate and has since day one. On a Saturday at a park browsing the web, writing a blog post and making phone calls or texting a friend, I discharge from 100% to 60% in about 2 hours. The 5G antenna, ultra bright ProDisplay XDR (13” model) and multitasking drives the battery life down to about 5 hours. Two days of use in the evenings on my couch at home on Wifi and the iPad is dead. It’s been this way since the beginning of the M1 generation and Pro Display MicroLED. It’s half of the battery life of almost every previous iPad except the 3rd generation iPad that was both short battery life and got so hot you could make a grilled cheese sandwich on one.

Display. The iPad Pro 13” with its XDR display has taught me that I will never for the rest of my life purchase a MicroLED display. I covered my issues here a year ago. It continues to be an issue and I notice it every day. It’s a huge aspect of buyer’s remorse. If the M1 and the 13” form factor weren’t so great, I’d have downgraded to an 11” iPad Pro a long time ago. I went from 2018 iPad Pro 11” to the 2020 M1 13” and I hate the screen. I think the screen is also why my battery life stinks so much. My wife has an 11” M1 iPad Pro and she has no ghosting or light flares and it’s a huge disappointment. Every time I read about the move to OLED, I breathe a sigh of relieve. OLED iPads can’t come soon enough. My 16” MacBook Pro has the same issue and I hope Apple never uses MicroLED ever again. The only thing that would cause me to upgrade my iPad would be a move to OLED. The same goes for my MacBook Pro. I think the only reason most people aren’t complaining about this more often is because no one runs their displays at 100%. I do and always have and in dark mod so the white blooming and contrast issues are very pronounced. I refuse to curb my computing style to make up for what is a hardware defect.

Camera. When I do use the iPad Pro to take a picture, it’s so disappointing. I don’t do it often but it’s just a bad camera. I’d prefer Apple eliminated the rear camera from iPad completely. Luckily, it seems people have stopped using iPads to take pictures which is a good thing. I was seeing them at concerts for a while which still makes me laugh. I think for the price, the annual iPad should have the iPhone Pro’s cameras.

Aspect Ratio. The MacBook Pro is 16:10 aspect ratio yet the iPads are 4:3. This has been the case for as long as I can remember on iPads. It’s most pronounced when I plug in an external display to iPad or AirPlay screen mirror to our TV where you have very comically large black boxes on either side of the screen. I think wider is where iPad needs to go for professional work on the pro models

Bi-Latteral charging. The iPad’s battery is huge and while I don’t personally get great battery life, when I am traveling long distance on a motorcycle, I’d love to stick the Apple Watch or AirPods to the back of it and charge up. I charge the iPad Pro in my saddlebags while riding all day and then at night, I’m bringing 2 lightning chargers to charge up my devices and would love to charge them on the back of the iPad instead which is at a full charge at night.

I hope iPad software keeps getting better but I’m doing work on mine no problem and since I have no intention of selling my Mac, it’s fine that the iPad has software shortcomings. However, the battery life and display are deal breakers for me. The iPad Pro M1 is great compared to every other tablet out there but I think Apple can do better so I’m giving today’s M1/M2 iPad Pro 13” models with a Magic Keyboard (and it’s terrible reliability) a 2.5 out of 5 and the 11” iPad Pro a 4 out of 5. 

If you’re curious how I’m using my iPad, here’s the past 7 days of usage by time & percentage. I feel like Apple has optimized these devices to be used primarily on WiFi at 50% brightness watching video or reading (books, news, etc) but 60% of my usage is Safari, Reddit and my RSS Reader (Reeder) so we have a lot of javascript and internet data usage so when I’m at a park in Safari clicking around on 5G with max brightness, it just destroys the battery. 

IPad Pro M1 Battery UsageIPad Pro M1 Battery Usage

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