ACL Consumer Intelligence Review: Apple Special Event September 2015 Part II – iPad Pro & Apple Pencil

Welcome to Part II of our Consumer Intelligence Review covering the recent Apple Special Event which took place on September 9, 2015.  Today we will take a look at two new complementary products which were proudly introduced by Apple, Inc. CEO Tim Cook, the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, both of which will become available to the public starting in November.  If you missed Part I, be sure to check it out for an in-depth look at the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus here.  While there’s no denying the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil combine power, technology, and elegance to provide a unique and versatile interface, it remains to be seen if consumers will find the investment value every product line needs to be a long-lasting market success.  Let’s dive right in, starting with the iPad Pro.

  • Upgrading from previous iterations of the iPad line, the iPad Pro stands apart with a larger, 12.9 inch (diagonal) Retina display sporting a 2732 x 2048 resolution with 264 pixels per inch.  I can’t argue on this note; the specs indicate the graphics quality will be stunning.
  • Unfortunately the iPad Pro will not feature 3D Touch technology but rather maintain the previous generation Multi-Touch.  I feel this is a little bit of a let down, especially after all the hype Apple has been generating about 3D Touch for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.  This alone may be a reason to not shell out money when the base iPad Pro model (32 GB WiFi) starts at a daunting $799.  Why not wait until the next model which will most likely integrate 3D Touch?  This is a tough decision, for sure.  The Apple Pencil’s pressure sensitivity may make up for this missing feature, but it may not; we will have to wait until release.  It could even be possible that the Apple Pencil’s pressure sensitivity conflicts with 3D Touch use, only Apple knows.
  • Lightweight design:  The iPad Pro will weigh only 1.57 pounds, making it slightly heavier than the original iPad 1.  This is astonishing for the powerhouse that it is; however, it may restrict the audience which uses the device.  To compare to the latest models in each iPad product line, the iPad Mini 4 weighs 0.73 pounds and the iPad Air 2 weighs 0.96 pounds.  For the casual or mobile user, those models will probably be a better fit than the iPad Pro.  Honestly I see iPad Pro suiting more niche audiences at least for now, from graphics design and video production companies to artists.  It is the first step in bridging the gap with MacBook, finally providing a touchscreen interface to meet the demands of desktop-level power users.
  • While it may be heavier than the iPad 1, the iPad Pro is 6.9 mm thin while the iPad 1 was 13 mm thick.
  • Performance: This is where the iPad Pro shines, featuring a 3rd generation A9X processor with 64-bit architecture, an M9 motion coprocessor, and 4 GB of RAM (not confirmed by Apple, but mentioned in a press release by Adobe, so probably true).  With these upgrades, the iPad Pro provides 1.8x the CPU power, up to 2x the GPU (graphics) power, and double the memory of the iPad Air 2.  To compound my comments above, this certainly begins to measure up to desktop-level standards.  Apple also claims on its website: “Despite this barrier-breaking performance, the A9X chip’s underlying architecture is efficient, ensuring that there’s only one way in which iPad Pro isn’t massive – battery consumption.”  This remains to be seen; I am skeptical that battery consumption will measure up when subjecting the iPad Pro to performance heavy multi-tasking involving video editing, 3D gaming, etc.
  • Cameras and Video Recording:  I feel like Apple dropped the ball here; these features are in line with last year’s iPhone models, not this year’s.  iPad Pro has an 8 MP iSight rear camera (iPhone 6s & iPhone 6s Plus have 12 MP iSight rear cameras with newer technology) and a 1.2 MP FaceTime front camera (iPhone 6s & iPhone 6s Plus have 5 MP FaceTime front cameras). The video recording on the iPad Pro cannot handle 4K like the iPhone 6s & iPhone 6s plus either.  Why introduce the latest and greatest in tablet technology, a veritable graphics productivity powerhouse, without updating the “graphics input” devices to the same level as the corresponding generation of iPhone models?
  • Storage:  The iPad Pro comes in 32 GB and 128 GB WiFi models and a 128 GB WiFi+Cellular model.  Apple really needs to upgrade local storage; I understand they want to promote and monetize the cloud storage route but not everyone has 24/7 access to broadband internet. A gigabyte stores a lot less than what it used to a decade ago, a LOT less.  This level of local storage will certainly be an issue when 4K movies are the standard.

Let’s now take a quick look at the iPad Pro’s revolutionary counterpart, the Apple Pencil (it’s so much more than a stylus).

  • First it’s important to mention that Apple Pencil only works with iPad Pro; it will not work with other Apple devices at this time.  Sorry iPad Mini 4.
  • Apple Pencil can detect pressure, angle, and orientation as applicable from the user, providing the utility of a traditional writing or artistic instrument, unlike your typical stylus.  A lot of apps are already integrating this advanced functionality to enhance user experience and create new levels of interaction.  Very cool…where was the Apple Pencil when I was 10 years old?
  • Apple boasts that the Apple Pencil is highly responsible and virtually lagless.  I haven’t had any hands-on experience but if this is true it would be groundbreaking; I’ve never been able to replicate with a stylus what I can do with a standard graphite pencil.
  • Plugs right into the iPad Pro for easy charging.  15 seconds of charging = 30 minutes of battery life, with a maximum of 12 hours of battery life.  Does that mean you can fully charge the Apple Pencil in 6 minutes?  If true, that’s awesome.
  • Apple Pencil will be available in November 2015, most likely simultaneous to the iPad Pro release.

So what’s the ACL verdict?  The iPad Pro is a step in the right direction, although I feel there could be better execution of the concept.  You’ve got to update your cameras and video recording to the latest capabilities, there’s just no excuse.  Personally I am going to wait until the next iteration of the iPad Pro to pull out my checkbook.  The Apple Pencil is just downright revolutionary; with all the tablets floating around these days I can’t comprehend why someone didn’t build this thing sooner.  If I could use it with other Apple devices, I’d get it right now.  So are you going to dish out the cash for the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil this November?  Let me know your thoughts by commenting below!  And stay tuned for Part III where we look at the Apple TV and the evolving TV landscape in general.  Until next time…

Disclaimer:  The independent editorial content presented here has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Apple Inc.

Trademarks:  Apple, FaceTime, iPad, iPad Air, iPad Mini, iPhone, MacBook, Multi-Touch, iSight, and Retina are trademarks or registered trademarks of Apple Inc. 


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