What we think we know about the iPad Pro 2018

While most attention is directed at next-gen iPhones, there are lots of reasons to think about Apple’s pro tablets.

Apple, iPad, iPad Pro, iPad Pro 2018, Face ID, new iPads
TeroVesalainen (CC0)

Apple is about to backload 2018, introducing a host of new products, including its new iPad Pro range. And while most attention is directed at next-gen iPhones, there are lots of reasons to think about Apple’s pro tablets.

Bringing iPhones and iPads closer

At time of writing, it seems likely the new iPad Pros will offer Face ID and will come without a Home button. iOS 12 suggests this because the iPad’s user interface is so similar to that of the iPhone X: You invoke Control Center, access App switcher, and jump between apps using the same gestures.

You can see how Apple thinks about this.

To avoid fragmentation, Apple must offer the same user interface across all its devices. Familiarity is important; developers want to be able to build consistent product interfaces.

This logic implies the eventual introduction of Face ID and loss of the Home button across all Apple mobile products. 

Face ID makes sense

Expectation that Apple will introduce Face ID in its next-generation iPad Pros is speculatively confirmed by changes in iPad’s iOS, which (as well as iPhone X-like user gestures) also splits the status bar between the left and right of the display.

With this in mind, I find the lack of a notch in the leaked icon interesting — to me it suggests Apple has taken some steps toward hiding the Face ID system behind the display, which is something the company was reportedly working on pre-iPhone X but couldn’t pull together in time. Is it possible that the larger form factor of an IPad Pro has made this possible? We’ll find out soon enough, though it is nice to predict a new wave of animoji karaoke.

Big screen affair

Now with more rounded corners, expect two new models, most likely an 11-inch model to replace the 10.5-inch and a 12-inch top of the range device. (Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted a 12-inch model back in July.)

The big change is in the display used on these devices, which will offer more active screen space and ultra-thin bezels, as an icon found in an iOS 12 developer beta suggested. That leak also hinted at the loss of a Home button (there isn’t one in the icon). Search online, and you’ll find plenty of image mock-ups that suggest what to expect: Short version, the 11-inch model will deliver much more screen for the size, while the 12-inch model will be smaller but will deliver just as large a display as before, which will make it much easier to lug around.

No headphone port

Apple tries to be consistent, so a move to eliminate the bezels and remove the Home button puts the future of the headphone port in doubt. On the bright side, you can anticipate some HomePod-driven speaker design improvements inside these things, so they’ll sound pretty good. And everyone wants AirPods, don’t they?

Performance and battery life

The current iPad Pro devices boast Apple’s A10X Fusion processors, the higher-speed variant of the chip used inside the iPhone 7 line in 2016.

It’s reasonable to expect a bump to an A11 variant. It also remains possible Apple intends to ramp up its performance advantage in the tablet market by putting a souped-up 7-nanometer A12 chip inside these tablets. (The A12 is the super-powered mobile processor Apple’s expected to put inside of its next-generation iPhones.) Either chip would deliver significant performance gains.

Smart Connector

A recently published iPad case design appears to have a new cut-out on one side that could be for a relocated Smart Connector. This might mean two Smart Connectors— one for portrait and another for landscape use. Alternatively, an earlier claim that Apple has been unable to make Face ID work in landscape mode may turn out to be true.

Battery life

iOS 12 delivers better performance, stability — and battery life.

You’ll feel this in the  new iPad Pros, particularly as the new processors impose lower power demands for better performance. This slight gain may be offset slightly by the increased RAM in these systems and anticipated higher capacity.

iOS 12 productivity

Apple has over a dozen new solutions expected to ship by Christmas 2018, including new Macs. When it comes to the iPad Pro, Apple clearly expects its tablet to become an even more effective PC replacement, particularly with key creative apps coming to the platform next year.

iOS 12 promises significantly faster performance where it matters (launching apps, sharing items, and a more responsive keyboard), along with ARKit improvements and sophisticated security protection. Siri Shortcuts should make iPads quite sophisticated tools with which to automate repetitive business tasks.

No iPad mini

A real pity, as I am certain there’s strong demand for these.

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