Apple's 13-inch workhorse is finally here. The iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Smart Keyboard all bring with them the promise of enhanced productivity.
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Apple said Monday the iPad Pro will be available online beginning Wednesday, Nov. 11 and will reach Apple Stores and other select retailers later this week. The Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, accessories for the slate, will be available for sale, too.
The iPad Pro is a key addition to the iPad lineup and takes aim at the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
The iPad Pro's defining characteristic is the 12.9-inch screen. Apple's full-sized iPads have been capped at 9.7 inches since 2010; the iPad Pro is the largest iPad yet. The Retina display has a resolution of 2,732 by 2,048, or 5.6 million pixels. Other key specs in include the A9X processor, which Apple says delivers almost twice the performance of the iPad Air 2's A8X chip. The iPad Pro is the first Apple tablet to sport stereo speakers, and it also includes Touch ID, an 8-megapixel camera, and a bevy of sensors and radios.
The Apple Pencil is an optional stylus for the iPad Pro. It costs $99. The rechargeable pen can plug directly into the iPad Pro for pairing. Apple has tasked its developer partners to create new and interesting software for the Apple Pencil.
For example, Adobe has updated its Creative Cloud mobile apps with Pencil compatibility and says the stylus is ideal for editing in Photoshop Fix. Similarly, Paper developer FiftyThree says that the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil is ideal for storyboards, photos, notes, and sketches. Beyond the obvious creative uses, Apple has education and gaming developers working on ways to take advantage of the Pencil, as well.
The Smart Keyboard is another optional accessory. It costs $169. It does not use Bluetooth. Instead, the Smart Keyboard has dedicated magnetic connectors that secure it to the iPad Pro, while they also transfer power and keystroke data. Like the Surface Pro 4's optional keyboard, Apple's Smart Keyboard is meant to help people use the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement.
It detaches easily, but also serves as a protective cover for the screen. People who choose to buy the iPad Pro without a keyboard will be able to protect the screen just the same with magnetic covers from Apple that sell for $59. The iPad Pro's screen can display a nearly full-sized software keyboard for typing.
"The early response to iPad Pro from app developers and our customers has been incredible, and we're excited to get iPad Pro into the hands of customers around the world this week," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing in a statement. "iPad Pro is the most powerful iPad we've ever made, giving users the ability to be even more creative and more productive."
Beyond the apps and accessories, one of the key components of the iPad Pro's appeal is multitasking. iOS 9 introduced split-screen multitasking for the iPad for the first time. The iPad Pro's larger screen leaves plenty of room for owners to run two apps side-by-side. Developers who allow their apps to take advantage of this feature will be of more use to professionals.
Like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, the iPad Pro is priced more like a laptop than a tablet. The starting price is $799 for the WiFi-only mode with 32GB of storage. That's $300 more than the iPad Air 2 and twice as much as the iPad Mini 4. Want LTE? It'll cost you. The LTE model is priced at $1,079, but it also quadruples storage to 128GB. Buying the LTE model together with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard will set you back a hefty $1,347 -- or about the same price as a 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro.
Apple didn't say exactly when the iPad Pro will be available in stores, but, according to reports, you can probably pick one up at your local Apple Store on Friday.
Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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