Last year, staff writer and long-time Windows user Malcolm Owen moved back to using a Mac after a five-year absence. Recently, he has made another similar switching decision, this time migrating from his Android tablet to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. In this post, Malcolm explains the experience that Android users will most likely go through when making the switch to iOS.
Change happens for a reason...
If you remember my Back to the Mac
series last year, where I bought a Mac mini and used it as my work machine after five years away in the world of Windows and PCs, you'll find this to be a slightly different situation. While yes, I'm paying a hefty amount of my own money to buy one of the fastest tablets to ever come out of Apple, I have far less experience with using iOS than I had with OS X before the switch from PC to Mac. Sure, I write about it all the time for a job, and I've even spent small amounts of time on an old iPad mini with a thoroughly cracked screen borrowed from a family member, but I've not actually owned an iPad for myself.
What's driving the switch this time? Part of it is certainly a need to know about what I am writing about at a deeper level, but another is that my existing tablet is close to death. The version of the Google Nexus 7 I have is too old to get newer versions of Android, and the latest version of the operating system it can actually run makes it run way too slow to be of much use for anything than an alarm clock. It is an ancient tablet far past its prime, and needs to be sent to digital Valhalla.
The Nexus 7's replacement is certainly not a tentative step into the world of iOS, as I could have easily got a second-hand iPad mini, but instead I opted for the 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro
. Less a step, more a cannonball into the deep end of the pool. On that pre-order Thursday, I gave Apple my card details and hoped the purchase of a 128GB Wi-Fi model in Space Grey would go through fine with my bank's overzealous anti-fraud protections. Amazingly, it was accepted without complaint, even with the accessories pushing the price up more than the current value of the neighbor's car. This is the second-most expensive "thing" I had ever ordered on the internet, and it felt weird.
Waiting for the iPad Pro, weighing up the iPad Pro
As much as I want to say I played it cool while I waited the week for the order to arrive, the Slack work chat can attest the peace didn't last for long. Rather than bundle everything together into one order, Apple sent everything separate and as soon as stock was available. This meant that I was stuck in possession of the Smart Cover and Silicone Case for the iPad by the Saturday, and the Apple Pencil came through on Tuesday, with no iPad to use them with. When the iPad Pro finally arrived, on the day Apple declared it would be available, I didn't get it until the evening, and even then I didn't open it until late that night as I had work to do. Like William before me, Mike tasked me before I could play.
Opening the box up, I was greeted with a wrapped iPad Pro, with a plug and charger, a Lightning cable, documentation with Apple Stickers, and... that's it. It was very neatly packed, as Apple has managed to perfect, but I was expecting more in the fairly thick box, like a pair of earphones or some other doohickey to fill up space. While slightly disappointed in the lack of doo-dads, I had other things to look at.
The case and cover were nice, with a soft lining where each would come into contact with the iPad Pro. Both were pretty neat and were packed in a minimalistic fashion, not much need to do anything too special for these accessories. I will get to the Pencil later.
The iPad Pro looked like pretty much any other iPad I had seen in my travels. Normal iPad size and weight, and in a similar feeling I had when I bought the keyboard to go with the Mac mini, thought you could seriously injure someone if you smacked them on the back of the head with the thing. All quite reassuring and pretty to look at, even if it was going to be protected by expensive covers.
Once clamped into the velvety embrace of the cover and case, I discovered that the cover was indeed worthy of the "Smart" title. Sure, you can fold it into a triangular tube to stand the iPad up or to give it a gentle incline, but I didn't know it used magnets to keep itself together in that setting, and also used surprisingly stronger than expected magnets to stick to the iPad in the first place.
Starting up and thinking differently from Android
Turning it on, the setup was fairly simple to undertake. I could have taken the order confirmation email's advice and booked a set-up and walkthrough one-to-one video session with someone who knew better. I could have used the app Apple released for Android to help people switch over. I didn't, because I wanted to go through this properly. There's years of experience sitting here, looking at this mirrored slate. It couldn't be that hard, and it wasn't.
Apple ID? Yes, I have one of those. Set up iCloud? I suppose so, but I haven't really used the service, instead preferring to abuse Dropbox. Touch ID? It seemed to be a bit of a hassle, placing and lifting the finger all the time, and then doing the edges as well. It wasn't until afterwards that I realized doing the thumb first would have made more sense, since it would be in a more opportune position for scanning when the iPad is held, but I've since registered my pointing fingers and my thumbs on both hands for unlocking duties.
Unlocking and authorizing items using my thumb is fantastic. While it does have Apple Pay, it only uses it within apps, and not over the counter. My dream of buying a sub from the shop across the road by smacking a tablet against the hapless point-of sale system will have to wait a bit longer...
The iOS itself has a fairly straightforward interface -- but you know that already. Equipped with a bright screen and with a stupidly high resolution, far better than my previous mangled first generation iPad mini, everything looks crisp and clear, and dare I say it, impressive. Entering the App Store and getting my previous purchases (read: things I "bought" from the App Store while they were free, in preparation for a future iOS device acquisition) was a quick process, and getting essential apps I usually use on my Android smartphone wasn't difficult to do, especially since many simply pulled my existing accounts from the app's servers, saving me from having to set them up too.
I note one quirk of iOS I will have to work around is the lack of an app drawer, the area of the Android interface where you can find every app installed on the device. It appears iOS doesn't do that, instead placing every app's icons on the home screens, so I will need to get used to organizing the ever-growing pile of icons myself, or delve into the wild world of app launchers.
Looking closer at the "Pro" elements
In terms of iPad Pro 9.7-specific things, I have to say I'm impressed by the speakers. While I don't have much experience with older iPads, I do know that those four speakers kick out a decent amount of volume compared to my phone and existing tablet, so I don't think I'll be supplementing the sound with a Bluetooth speaker anytime soon. I'm sure True Tone is a great thing to use for most people, and I can certainly see the difference between the yellow tint it currently has under my room's light and the blue of the "standard" setting, but I haven't used the iPad enough to know if it's really a good thing.
Why didn't I go for the keyboard cover, the one announced at the same time as the iPad Pro? My order was expensive enough without pushing it closer to four figures, and Apple doesn't do that cover with a UK layout yet. Typing on the screen isn't my thing, as I love tactile feedback when typing, so I will be investing in some form of Bluetooth keyboard at some point, just one that isn't insanely priced.
I did spring for a Pencil, as I figured one of the main draws would be that accessory. When in use, it makes sense and works well, with little to no visible lag when drawing, and it has a decent heft to it as well, making it worthwhile in the limited time I've spent with it so far, but there are quite a few downsides.
First, charging it by plugging it into the iPad Pro's Lightning port looks silly. It makes sense to charge it from the massive portable battery supply that is the iPad Pro itself, but there's no getting away from how fragile it at least appears. The cap covering the Lightning connection on the Pencil also seems pretty easy to misplace, so that is a worry. I'm also struggling with where to put the Pencil when it's not in use. There's no hook, loop, or sheath for the Pencil in the official covers, and while it is slightly weighted on one side to reduce the chance of it falling off the table, I'm not comfortable leaving it in the open. I've taken to leaving it in the box it arrived in when it's not required.
In the brief few days I've gone through as an iPad Pro owner, my worry that this was an expensive purchase that may not be an efficient use of my money has been put slightly at ease. I've fiddled with the screen far more than I thought I would, and I can certainly see the potential of using it in my work. I am, however, still in that ownership phase of "I have a new and expensive thing, I must play with it a lot," so I can't really say if it will fundamentally change my way of working or how I live my life. In about two weeks, I'll sit down and offer some more practical advice about the so-far-painless switch-over, once the shine has dulled a bit.