Fascinating research note by Neil Cybart on iPad sales and Apple's new iPad strategy:
Apple is making its iPad sales pitch to two groups: existing iPad users and long-time PC users. According to my estimates, there are 100M users still using older iPads (iPad 1, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad mini). A significant portion of these users are using devices that don't even support the latest iOS release. Management thinks simpler storytelling and an aggressively low $329 price will entice these users to upgrade to the new 9.7-inch iPad.
The fact that 100M people are still using older iPads demonstrates that the product provides value. Apple is also confident that users will see the significant improvement between the latest iPads and models from five to seven years ago. As for PC users, Apple thinks the iPad Pro line is capable of handling the vast majority of tasks currently given to laptops. Apple looks at the iPad Pro line, which includes Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, as a better solution for consumers than even the Mac. This is quite telling as to management's long-term motivation.
Strong iPad updates in this year's iOS release would certainly help Apple steer the iPad's narrative in a new direction.
Pixure is Louis D'hauwe's excellent pixel art studio app for iOS that lets you create retro-styled illustrations. Pixure was already best suited for the iPad's bigger display, but the latest version 2.2 adds PanelKit – a UI framework created by D'hauwe himself to turn traditional iPad popovers into floating panels.
Popovers are a staple of the iPad's interface, and I was skeptical when I saw the first details of PanelKit in February. After testing Pixure on my 12.9" iPad Pro, though, I think D'hauwe is onto something – when the app is in full-screen, it's nice to be able to re-arrange a palette of tools so it doesn't hide your content. The best part, in my opinion, is that panels can be converted back to sidebars by snapping them to the edge of the display, which is a fantastic use of the iPad Pro's large screen. There's an argument to be made about PanelKit bringing the cognitive load of desktop window management to the iPad, but I believe that, for some apps (such as graphic editors like Pixure), floating controls that you can re-arrange around the canvas are necessary.
I'm testing a few iPad apps that try to optimize for the iPad Pro's screen with additional popovers and sidebars, and none of them feel as flexible or as intuitive as D'hauwe's app. If you're an iPad user, you should check out Pixure.
Today Apple added support for five new languages to its Swift Playgrounds app for iPad: Simplified Chinese, Japanese, French, German and Latin American Spanish.
In its announcement, Apple quoted Xiaoming Bao of Hangzhou Foreign Languages School:
"Swift Playgrounds is the perfect app to help our students learn to code, and I’m very excited students in China are now are able to use it with Simplified Chinese support...Last year, we created an optional coding class for my students to learn fundamental coding concepts using Swift Playgrounds. I had no previous experience with coding, but the engaging and easy-to-learn app, along with the comprehensive teacher guide developed by Apple, made me confident that I could inspire and facilitate my students to learn to code, and understand coding as a way of thinking that can be applied to other subjects and everyday life. Chinese language support will make the learning experience with Swift Playgrounds even easier for students.”
Swift Playgrounds is available on the App Store.
Following a 5-hour downtime of its online store this morning, Apple announced a new base model of the 9.7" iPad.
Starting at $329 for the 32 GB Wi-Fi version and simply called 'iPad', the new device appears to be a lower-cost replacement for the iPad Air line as the company's iPad lineup now includes iPad mini 4, the new 'iPad', and the iPad Pro in existing 9.7" and 12.9" configurations. Neither iPad Pro model received any update this morning. The iPad mini 4, on the other hand, now offers more capacity for the same price: the 128 GB Wi-Fi model is now priced at $399, while the 128 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular is available at $529.
John Gruber on what may be coming next in terms of iPad refreshes:
What doesn’t make sense to me is a new 10.5-inch model. The idea makes sense — keeping the physical footprint of the current 9.7-inch models but reducing the bezels and putting in a bigger display. The ideal form factor for iPads and iPhones is just a screen, like the phones in Rian Johnson’s Looper — reducing the size of bezels and moving toward edge-to-edge displays is inevitable. Even the pixel density math works out for a 10.5-inch display.
What doesn’t make sense to me is the timing. I don’t see how an iPad with an exciting new design could debut alongside updated versions of the existing 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPads. Who would buy the updated 9.7-inch iPad Pro with the traditional bezels if there’s a 10.5-inch model without bezels? No one.
If Apple is going to position both the second-gen 12.9" and 9.7" iPad Pros as the high-end models, I don't see where a simultaneous release of a drastically different 10.5" iPad Pro would fit. But if the second-gen iPad Pros (with the current form factors) move to the low end of the lineup, that means the 10.5" iPad Pro could introduce an edge-to-edge design with no Home button before the iPhone gets such treatment (supposedly) later this year.
That idea always seemed odd to me. Traditionally, the iPad doesn't get major hardware changes before the iPhone. The iPad hardware tends to follow the iPhone. True Tone and the four-speaker system were iPad Pro-first features, but they weren't fundamental platform changes such as Touch ID or Retina. Both of those came to the iPhone first. (I won't even count the Smart Connector here.) An edge-to-edge design with no Home button is a major platform shift – particularly if it includes new developer APIs, which would have to launch in the Spring before iOS 11 if the rumor of an imminent iPad Pro 10.5" is to be believed. At this point, I find that somewhat hard to believe.
Instead, I think spec-bumps across the entire iPad lineup would make more sense in the short term. I can see Apple bringing consistency to the product line (True Tone, USB 3 speeds, and fast charging for every iPad Pro model) and adding faster CPUs/more RAM for powerful iPad-only features coming with iOS 11. I'm curious to see if Apple will revive the iPad mini by making a 7.9" iPad Pro and if iPad accessories will receive substantial improvements at all (it'd be nice to get an upgraded Smart Cover or a Pencil with superior battery life).
LiquidText is one of the few apps that feels uniquely built for the iPad. There is currently no desktop version available, nor iPhone version, and though that may be a negative in some ways, the positive side is that every new feature and enhancement is focused exclusively on iPad use. As a PDF reader, LiquidText has always provided tools that make its reading experience something you couldn't get with a physical document. This is perhaps why it was recognized by Apple as the most innovative iPad app of 2015. But today, with version 3.0, LiquidText not only offers a reading experience that's uniquely digital – it does the same with note-taking and annotation. And the Apple Pencil is a big reason for that.
As I wrote in my story on one year of iPad Pro, I consider cloud services a necessity for managing files on iOS. Dropbox and iCloud Drive make it possible to keep the same sets of documents and app libraries synced across devices, but, more importantly, they help overcome iOS' file management woes through centralized storage spaces. In the article, I espoused the flexibility of Documents and its tight integration with Dropbox, noting how Readdle had built the missing iPad file manager with features Apple omitted from their iCloud Drive app.
Since early January, I've been thinking about my larger writing projects scheduled for 2017 and whether Documents can scale as a reference and research tool. Looking back at 2016 and the time I poured into organizing and referencing files for my iOS 10 review draft in Scrivener (which I covered here), I realized that neither Scrivener's built-in file manager nor Documents could meet the basic requirements I have set for this year's review. These include the ability to search different file types with advanced operators as well as a system to reference individual files and folders throughout iOS with local URLs. It was during this meta-research phase that I decided to try DEVONthink To Go again.
Drawing and sketching apps present difficult interface challenges. On the one hand, they should maximize the space reserved for their intended use – drawing. On the other, they need to include sufficient tools for users to create what they envision. It’s a balance that many apps get wrong. Some are too simple, forcing too many constraints on users, while others are horribly complicated and intimidating to new users. Linea, a new sketching app for the iPad from The Iconfactory, is exceptional because it manages an ease-of-use and approachability that is rare while maintaining just the right set of tools.
Linea is a sketching app, not a full artist’s toolbox. It won’t replace a more complex app like Procreate, but that’s not its purpose. Instead, Linea is focused on delivering the best possible sketching experience whether you are drawing, prototyping an app interface, storyboarding, taking notes, or something else. The point is to get visual ideas down with the least amount of fiddling, which is exactly what Linea delivers.
Rumors have been swirling about Apple working on an iPad that falls inbetween the 9.7" and 12.9" sizes they currently offer in the Pro lineup. John Gruber and Jim Dalrymple briefly discussed this on the latest episode of The Talk Show, with Gruber saying: “It doesn’t make any sense to me.” (discussion at 1 hour 41 minute mark). There is, I believe, one explanation that makes too much sense not to be true.
His numbers check out. An iPad with the same footprint of the 9.7" iPad Pro but a bigger display with the same pixel density of the iPad mini sounds like a very compelling iPad to me.