As part of the continuing journey, from computer to tablet, Apple’s 10.5″ iPad Pro in particular, today, I thought I would share my experience of the main peripherals designed exclusively for the iPad Pro:
Apple’s Smart Keyboard and of course the Apple Pencil.
Disclaimer: This entire post, was created on the iPad Pro, in split screen, using the new iOS 11, drag and drop, from Safari (for the Apple links contained in the piece) on one side and the official WordPress App, on the other side of the screen, in a 50/50 split view, as shown in the screen shot below:
Several screen shots were taken then inserted into the WordPress piece, prior to publishing the finished article.
If you look closely in the smallest split screen image (bottom left hand corner), you will see the space between the text, where I left room for the screenshot image to be placed. All on an iPad Pro, using `Drag ‘n’ Drop, between Safari (for links) and the Photos App for the Screenshot. Clever huh?
Can’t be productive on an iPad Pro? Think again.
I have touched on my first impressions of using these devices in earlier pieces, but thought that they deserved a more detailed article, covering whether or not you really need them.
Here in the U.K, the Apple Smart Keyboard 10.5″, will set you back a tidy £159.00 and the Apple Pencil, adds an additional £89.00 to your potential purchase.
The iPad Pro 10.5″ starts at £619.00 for the base WiFi model, with 64GB of storage and comes in Silver, Gold, or Rose Gold, with white bezels around the display, or Space Grey if you want black bezels surrounding your display.
I went for the Black bezels of the Space Grey model. It is in my opinion, the nicest looking and more importantly, the one which offers me the least eye strain / distraction when working.
You can purchase the iPad Pro direct from Apple at the following link:
Here are the direct links to Apple Store for the Smart Keyboard for 10.5″ iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil:
If you opt for the base line iPad Pro @£619, the Smart Keyboard @£159 and the Pencil @£89, you’re talking about spending a whopping £867.00. Minimum. If you want a model with higher storage, that figure rises very quickly.
So, as you can see, the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil are not cheap add ons. They are both beautifully made, as is normal for Apple products, so their overall quality can’t really be questioned, but, do you really need them?
If you’ve read I my earlier articles, I hope that they have conveyed, that the move from using a computer, to using an iPad Pro, as potentially, your only computer like device, is actually easier than I first thought.
If you haven’t read them, you can find the first one, which asks the question “Is It Time To Kill The Mac?”, here:
My iPad Pro, first impressions, here:
My initial experience / decisions behind “Giving up a laptop, for an iPad Pro”, here:
And, finally, adapting your workflow with new Apps, here:
Now, these are quite lengthy posts, so get yourself a cuppa and make yourself comfy before setting out on the ‘big read’.
All caught up?
So, the Smart Keyboard and that Pencil. Essential, or, Expensive dust gatherers made only to take more cash from your wallet?
The short answer is, they are really expensive, but it really does all depend on what you plan on doing with your iPad Pro.
For me, they are essential. I blog, I keyword, I tag, I do a lot of written stuff, despite my main task being image editing on the go. It is surprising how much I actually write. In fact, I think I have written more since getting the iPad Pro, than I have written previously on the MacBook Pro (which has now been sold) in months.
Writing on the Smart Keyboard, is initially an odd experience. The keys don’t have the ‘usual’ mechanical feel that we have all come to recognise and feel familiar with. This has been documented in many reviews, which pretty much all say, they hate typing on the Smart Keyboard.
I can’t really comment on how other people feel about the thing that they are typing on. Each to their own and all that, but I do think too many people write reviews, without spending enough time with the thing that they are meant to be reviewing.
This is why, I have ‘subconsciously’, decided to do an almost ‘running commentary’ on how my transition from computer to iPad Pro is going. I didn’t plan on doing it this way, but things have changed a bit, as some things, become crystal clear to me, during my own transition to iPad Pro:
People are too set in their ways.
People give up far too easily.
People are lazy.
The reviews that I have read, and I have read a lot about the iPad Pro, are mostly click bait, sensationalist, early as possible, blah, blah, blah pieces, which do make some important points, but never suggest how to get around any problems they may have encountered.
My take is, having researched the hardware and looked at hope the ‘market’ is likely to go, transitioning to a more efficient and light weight on the go solution, is better started sooner, rather than later.
So, reviews of the Smart Keyboard, usually include comments or findings like: “you can’t seriously type on a Smart Keyboard for extended periods”, or, “I found the experience strange, not what I was used to, so reverted back to using my MacBook”.
That last comment “I found it strange, so reverted back to using my MacBook”, really does say it all. People give up too easily.
When I started using the Smart Keyboard, yes it felt strange. It was a slightly different typing experience to the one I have become familiar with. It’s not a bad experience, it’s just different.
All the posts I have written after the initial Is It Time To Kill The Mac, have been written on the iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard.
Now, I am no speed typist and I am no touch typist. I’m old school and mostly need to look at where my fingers are going instead of what is appearing on screen, which is why there are often mistakes to be corrected at a later date.
But, these blog posts, have not been short. They have I hope, been informative and useful, with enough information / experience in them to help inform your own choice, should you be wondering about making the transition.
It’s all too easy, for people, to buy something, review it after 5 minutes of use and do the expected “nice device, but stick with your laptop for serious work”. They then sell the gear on or return it to their sponsors and move onto to to the next ‘click bait’ piece in the never ending pursuit of trying to further their online presence.
But, when you fork out your own money and decide to document your own experience of transitioning from what we currently call a computer, to the next evolution of what a computer is, you aren’t going to win friends or increase your online presence in any way. Especially when your experience, is different to the 5 minute user experience of loud and shouty, self promoters out there.
I’m not affiliated with, sponsored by or work for any of the companies, I do reviews or blog pieces about. I hope my reviews cover the main things people care about, when thinking of splurging their own hard earned cash on something.
I never try to get too bogged down with technical stuff. Depending on the product I am reviewing, there may be no significant reference to the technical stuff, because in my opinion, it really doesn’t matter. It’s how we use it that is most important.
The Smart Keyboard, is different. It has a strange fabric covering, which is water repellent and stain proof, over the upper layer (the bit with the keys on it). The underside, which when folded up, lies against the display of the iPad Pro, is the usual, lovely, velvety, Micro fibre-y inside covering anyone familiar with other Apple cover, case linings, will be know and love. It feels great.
Is that water repellent or stain proof? I have absolutely no idea, I can’t find anything which says definitively, one way or the other.
As for being ‘Smart’, I haven’t found anything the keyboard does beyond being a keyboard. It doesn’t make coffee, close curtains etc, but it does allow you to type on the iPad Pro, with the entire 10.5″ display available for content being worked on.
Typing, takes a little time to adjust to the physical key sizes. Each key is slightly smaller than on a traditional keyboard, but has quite a bit of space between them to help reduce mis-hits. A consequence of this space decision, is that the normally larger keys, like Return, Shift and Caps Lock etc. Are smaller then they would be on a normal sized keyboard, so when starting out, missing them altogether is quite normal, but, with regular use, the typing on the Smart Keyboard, I find to be perfectly easy and mostly accurate (human error allowing).
The key press is soft, but has enough travel to let you know that a key press has been registered. It lacks the same mechanical feel, but you get a mechanical feedback, which feels quite satisfying.
After over a weeks use, I find no problem using the Smart Keyboard and enjoy using it exclusively, to write everything I want to write. The iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard, I find the perfect carry everywhere companion.
This brings me back to what I was touching on earlier. People generally speaking, are resilient to change. We become too familiar in the ways we do things, so when something revolutionary comes along, there are always the early adopters (usually me), who see the possibilities on offer as the future road map. After a few years, a larger amount of people have followed suit until finally, everybody has one.
I remember when Apple launched the iPhone back in 2007. I was one of the few, who stood outside the O2 store and paid, with real money, for an iPhone. My friends and family, not to mention complete strangers, thought I was absolutely mad.
You see back in 2007, everybody was used to getting ‘free’ phones with their network contracts, not realising that they were actually paying for their phones, as they paid their monthly contracts. So, actually paying up front for a mobile phone, was completely alien.
I was mocked. The iPhone was mocked, but by the time the iPhone 3G came out a few months later, where I was given a free upgrade for being an early adopter, a friend wanted to borrow my old (a few months) original iPhone. He loved it and when his contract was duke for renewal, he grabbed his first iPhone the 3Gs.
And year after year, smartphones became more widespread, to the extent that now, everybody has one. If you see someone using a phone with a physical keyboard, it looks like something from the dark ages.
As I have stated in a previous article, I honestly feel that the time has arrived, in regards computers and how we regard what a computer is, just as it did with smartphones and digital cameras before it.
A rather brief and overly generalised trip, down memory lane. . .
A computer originally, was a huge mechanical device with engravings and clockwork mechanisms. They were then developed for more electrical operations with components that would fill and entire home. They then became smaller and would instead only fill an entire floor of a typical sized home. They shrank even more and became cabinet sized, then finally became the desktop sized models we all grew up with and now regard as ‘a computer’.
Apple changed that dynamic with the Mac, where they created essentially, the model for the all in one desktop. Removing the separates being connected by wires, to a single device that sat entirely on your desk.
Then of course came the shrunken embodiment of that all in one, known as a laptop, which sat in your lap, or on your desk. As capable as a desktop, but with a trackball, eventually trackpad, that required a certain amount of adapting to if you were used to using a mouse.
The iPad Pro, is that next obvious step of the evolution. An all in one, which you can use in your hand, on your lap or on your desk. You can use a physical keyboard or a touch keyboard, you can physically touch the screen with your finger, similar to using a trackpad, or you can touch and point the screen more accurately, with the Pencil.
It’s all just a matter of perception. The iPad Pro, with the Smart Keyboard is, as I am finding out, just as capable, if not more so, than a stand alone laptop. But, it is up to each and every person to evaluate their own needs for what they want to be able to achieve. The Smart Keyboard lets me work productively on my writing projects and the Pencil allows me to edit my images, accurately and quickly, something which can’t be done on a laptop without an additional graphics tablet and stylus.
Natural progressions, along the computer’s evolutionary timeline.
But, I digress. . .
This is the important bit about deciding whether or not you really need the Smart Keyboard. If you are planning on doing a lot of work, with documents etc. The answer is a resounding yes, you will benefit from buying the Smart Keyboard.
“But I could buy a Bluetooth one cheaper”!
Yes you could, but, that’s just another thing that needs to be charged and connected etc. When you want to get on and work. The Smart Keyboard is powered from the iPad itself and never needs charged, so potentially one less thing to carry and worry about when out and about on the go.
If you only ever type a bit, or infrequently, the on screen keyboard will probably suffice in the majority of cases, so you should save your £159.00 and use the onscreen keyboard or buy a cheap and cheerful Bluetooth keyboard for those rare occasions you do need a bit more room to work with onscreen.
If you do not type that often or prefer using the onscreen keyboard, there is absolutely no point in buying the Smart Keyboard. If you want the official Apple add on, buy the standard Smart Cover for £49.00, which comes in a variety of fantastic colours, to suit your own personality.
As for the Apple Pencil, this is a really easy one. If you edit video, images, draw, design or create art electronically, the Apple Pencil is a MUST HAVE ITEM. It is phenomenal. It’s awesome and it is so much fun to use.
The increased refresh rate on the second generation iPad Pro, combined with the new laminated display, makes for an instant response on screen when using the Pencil. It is as close to drawing on paper that you can currently get.
I’ve used the Pen on the Surface Pro 4, which was excellent, but in a direct comparison, the Pencil’s weight, shape and responsiveness, just has that extra ‘zing’ in use, which in my opinion, makes the Apple Pencil, the best stylus experience around.
If you prefer or need more accurate control onscreen, than a finger tap can achieve, the Apple Pencil, is a must have device. The increased resolution of the 10.5″ (as well as the existing resolution of the 12.9″), when editing curves / sliders etc. on images or when accurate pin point accuracy is required for video edits, the Pencil gives you that improved accuracy.
If you take notes, or screen shots, use the built in camera and want to add some hand written / drawn ‘effect’ onto your work, the Pencil is a must.
If all you want the iPad Pro for is reading, web surfing, eMail and other non creative, in the conventional sense, tasks, save your money and buy a non Pro version of the iPad.
If you get the 2018 model, which now supports the Pencil, should you every feel a drawing or artistic ambition in the future, you could always grab a Pencil later on and make use of the Pencil compatibility.
I know this has piece has gone off on a few tangents in places, but I hope it basically conveys the user experience I am having and in some way, hope you can relate to it.
So, going back to the original question: Smart Keyboard and Pencil, are they ‘essential or just expensive add ons to boost Apple’s coffers?’
For me personally, they are essential and both are great to use.
Depending on what you intend to do with your iPad Pro, you need to weigh up the cost to the benefit each product will bring you.
If you’re one of those people who just want it because they are the latest and greatest Apple currently has to offer, but really know that they will never be used, buy the Smart Cover for £49.00 and give the £199.00 price difference saved, to a good cause.
If however, you know you’re going to be image or video editing and writing, I would say that both, are essential add ons, which really do, open up the diverse capabilities and productivity options, the iPad Pro offers.