Finally Caved In: iPad Pro as Main Device Now with Mouse

in GEEKZ5 months ago (edited)

I remember laughing at the initial announcement of the iPad Pro 12”9. While the tech pundits and Apple Fanbois could only think of this slab even bigger than the original iPad to become their main device, here all I could come up with as perfect use for the new series was “Greatest Scrabble and Monopoly Board Evah”.

And, honestly, that was all it was. It was an overblown iPad with just as much on the screen as on an iPad Mini. Just larger, bigger, heavier. Things would soon change though as Apple followed up the 12”9 iPad Pro with a smaller 9”7 Pro and the excellent, first Gen Apple Pencil. In a smaller format, the grid of the iPad’s Home Screen made more sense and apps didn’t loose themselves in too much white space. The original Apple Pencil was a game changer — especially when playing Hitman: Sniper — I couldn’t resist any longer, of course. That I was still using a non-retina iPad Mini 2 also helped my decision. Finally there was an iPad I wanted again. Sorta.

Not being a digital artist, or videographer, most of the benefits of the iPad Pro escaped me and my iPad Pro use was not very dissimilar from previous usage. It was the same but with an Apple Pencil to aim better when playing Hitman: Sniper. Nevertheless, the iPad Pro 9”7 lasted me quite some time and was replaced only last year when the battery had caved finally caved in from the tropical heat. I had already sold the Apple Pencil because I didn’t really have any use for it and its charging method was rather ludicrous. I now work from an iPad Pro 11” (First Gen) without Apple Pencil. Space Gray, of course.

A regular work setup with the old iPad Pro 9”7

One thing had changed. Not having to wait anymore to load open apps and manage multiple tabs, thanks to the excellent A9X CPU, I had slowly started to replace my MBP with the iPad Pro as my main device. Slowly but surely.

With the addition of a Logitech K480 keyboard — with tablet slot — I had started what would turn out to be a rather gruesome conversion. I’m a heavy multitasker and when I say “heavy” I mean heavy. I’m also a heavy Alfred app user who had practiced his muscle memory over years to an optimized semi-automated workflow. With lots of hot keys, shortcut combos and that oh so sweet [cmd]+[space] to trigger Alfred app.

Being a power Alfred app user, I never was — and still am not — convinced by Siri Shortcuts, no matter how handy and sometimes nifty they can be. Nothing beats the speed of [cmd]+[space]+[shortcut]. And thus, to this day, my conversion is still ongoing and while the iPad Pro is now my main device, I still don’t benefit the same fluidity.

iPadOS was an improvement to iOS on iPad, also because it introduced new keyboard combos. On the more recent iPads FaceID is like living in a new world compared to TouchID. Slowly but surely Apple is moving towards making the iPad (Pro) a compelling hybrid device.

Mouse and Trackpad Support for iPadOS

Earlier this year, Apple introduced iPadOS 13.4 which added “Cursor Support” or finally an option to extend your touch device with yet another input device: the mouse or a trackpad for those who prefer. A pointing device for a touch and touch first device.

iPadOS with a new addition, the cursor

Contrarily to before I didn’t jump on the release, despite running iPadOS Betas on my iPad Pro 11”. Having become an iPad only user, I had grown accustomed to slide with my right hand when reading all while keeping my left hand on the keyboard as it allows me to reach most hotkeys I use. Mouse? I don’t need that.

Of course, I should probably admit that I dug through the “tech box” in the cupboard but could find neither the Apple Magic Mouse nor the Apple Trackpad I once had. Problem solved and curiosity kicked back in the corner.

In recent months I have been ogling the ridiculously expensive iPad Magic Keyboard which was announced at the same time as iPadOS 13.4. The one with the cantilever design. And the scissor keys. And the trackpad. But without function keys row.

The curiosity mainly driven by my still not fully healed eyesight and an inability to work in a dark environment without turning on the lights to full brightness. Being your typical night owl, of course, I prefer dim lights. Not being a perfect typist, sometimes I need to look at my keyboard to make sure I start slamming that keyboard with the right first key or the whole sentence ends up in a new variety of ROT13. In other words, to extend my working day and maintain the ideal focus windows my brain is trained for, I need backlit keys. Which the iPad Magic Keyboard offers.

For a whopping $299 for the 11” iPad Pro.

iPad Magic Keyboard

At $299 it’s not the easiest call to make and unless you write for an Apple News site you probably will think twice, thrice even before splashing that amount of dollars. I don’t belong to that category (anymore) and having the latest newest upgrade is nothing which interests me anymore nowadays. But I do know that in some weeks I will be asked what I want for Christmas and be sent the equivalent amount of money to buy it locally. The obvious answer would be the iPhone 12 mini to get away from my phoning home Android, my phone is still great and will last another year or two. Despite being so large I can’t properly control it with one hand.

Working all day on my iPad, the iPad Magic Keyboard would clearly make more sense. And also be cheaper for those who insist on giving me something. But while having read many reviews — also from your not usual fanbois — there still is a degree of hesitation. That darned function keys row is pretty useful, ya know. Especially to control the backlight of your keys. And your media player.

I wouldn’t call myself keyboard agnostic — some keyboards truly suck and are better used as flying saucers — but I can generally adapt to most models. While Apple’s scissor keys are awesome, the Logitech’s K480 slightly rounded and rather loud keys work fine for me. Thus the iPad Magic Keyboard’s trackpad would be an important decisive factor in my decision making. Not necessarily the trackpad but how Apple integrated a pointing decide in a touch and touch-first device.

I decided it was time to appeal to Shenzhen and order a rechargeable Bluetooth mouse to discover whether a pointing device would upgrade my experience. After few minutes on the local Amazon alternative, I had found a rechargeable Bluetooth 5.2 (ZOMG!!!) mouse, with even a USB receiver. And free shipping. Way too many LEDs too but for less than $6 all included I wasn’t going to be too fuzzy. Nor expect that BT would be stable or last longer than few months. Only 3 days later my mouse arrived — a delivery performance many local stores less than 5 miles away could learn from.

It isn’t an Apple Magic Mouse or an awesome Logitech MX mouse. It also lacks the multi-finger gestures of a MacBook trackpad, but I have been impressed in the few days I have been using the mouse with iPadOS 14.2 (Beta).

Apple has indeed achieved to improve the experience and they’ve done in a way probably only Apple could.

The first thing anybody regularly typing on their iPad will rejoice over the ability to finally easily and quickly select text. It only took 5 years. Finally.

But Apple went further and totally rethought and redesigned how we think about mice and trackpads. Apple didn’t just try to bring their functionality to the iPad but instead converted the iPad’s touch experience to work with a pointer device.

This starts with the iPad’s cursor which isn’t the usual arrow but a round button, more representative of your finger. The cursor also morphs into the buttons it is traveling to. Additionally, traveling moving your cursor out of the screen will activate your notifications, control center, or take you to the home screen or activate the “Exposé1” window depending on where you travel your cursor to.

All this happens with gorgeous visual feedback, although at times the animations can feel slightly overdone.

There is no doubt that Apple has delivered with its Cursor Support. The mouse support is excellent and multi-touch trackpad users will enjoy an even better experience2. If you have an iPad and use an external keyboard, a mouse is now a real upgrade and definite improvement to iPadOS. Finally. It only took 10 years3.

About that Christmas Present

The truth is I am still not fully convinced about the iPad Magic Keyboard. Not at that cost. There’s no doubt that it is an excellent keyboard with an awesome trackpad — despite slightly smaller keys — but I do think that for $299 users do deserve a function key row.

Additionally, the smaller size compared to my Logitech K480 keyboard — which does have a function keys row for less than $20 — may make it a less stable experience when on my lap or with legs pulled up. Most reviews also mention that the combo can be rather top heavy and they regularly hold their iPad with the hand. But most reviews are about the iPad 12”9 where that issue is probably bigger.

I also work quite some time every day from my bed, with a small bed “breakfast table”. Sue me I can easily improve the vision at night on that setup with a rechargeable LED clip light which costs only few $.

So it does look I may opt for the iPhone 12 mini after all.

One More Thing

Since iPadOS 14 Siri Shortcuts suggestions are now integrated in the systemwide search function4. Thanks to Apple’s on device AI the suggestions are quite good as well, but it’s still more work than the awesome Alfred App.


1 Multi-tasking window
2 As a longterm Mac user I have grown to love the multi-touch gestures of Apple’s trackpads on MacOS
3 Since the iPad’s launch
4 Which can be called upon via [cmd]+[space]

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Damn, buying an apple pencil just to aim better at Hitman: Sniper. The dedication!! 👏

I also got my iPad pro recently and ever since I got this, I've been spending more time on this than my PC. In fact, I never opened my PC for days this week. I only need my PC when writing a post or doing transactions.

I don't have a magic keyboard (or any keyboard) but I don't see myself buying one even though iPad pro is becoming my main device now. I've never had any iPad before, nor a Macbook (only iPhone) so I can't compare, but woah reading this made me go YES I REALLY JUST MADE THE RIGHT DECISION BUYING THIS 1000% more. The convenience it gives me is really just a top notch experience.

It is an exciting device. Its extreme power (for artists and video editors) and portability are very compelling.

Did you get a Pencil with yours?

Btw it is entirely doable to write long-form posts with the virtual keyboard. I've often done it for Hive.

!ENGAGE 30

Veryyyy power. Yes I got a pencil as well and I do my paintings here now and ditched my pen tablet LOL! I haven't tried editing a video here yet but I bet it's so exciting! No more "I CANT PAINT MY BACK HURTS ATM" with this hahaha.

Yeah and I find it very comfortable to type on screen as well! I haven't done it yet atm cos I don't have my keys there now, but for sure I will and it will be epic cos I can just do it whenever

Btw I recently played Hitman Sniper on this iPad, with my finger. I was sooooooo slow. 🤣

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Would you say it's as good as a Mac Book Air for functionality, which is what I now have to rely on, with my Desk top stashed in storage!

I've got an ipad, but it's not a pro, it's about 4 years old, still going.

IF the ipad pro can be used as a reliable computer, I might just upgrade my current ipad to a pro and rely on that as a back up machine.

It certainly sounds like it's good, sounds like you've had a whale of a time sorting out a key board too!

It truly depends on how heavy a multitasker you are.

Even after three years, I still lack "fluidity" in my work flow. But I was a power user and multitasker.

If you only have few tabs open and then switch to chat from time to time, it is a viable alternative. But keep in mind that the MacBook Air does have a full-size keyboard (I assume you have the 13") and a decent trackpad.

TL;DR: It can be an alternative and serve as main device but it's still not there. A cheap BT keyboard and mouse definitely improve the experience of the alternative setup. But it's still not a laptop

What keeps me, power user, at it is my ongoing quest to simplify and focus more. And the ability to switch between ever improving desk functionality and extreme portability.

!ENGAGE 20

Edit: It's not an option for you yet. There's no Metamask app yet and Trust Wallet on iOS doesn't have a dapp browser anymore. But I would definitely integrate it in my flow if I were you. Evenings on the deck with beer and an iPad instead of a laptop. 👌

Cheers, I am only thinking of a back up in case I get my Mac stolen, or it breaks, something to tide me over for a week or two!

Oh it's much better than that. Obviously, I use it as my main device.

Btw unless you have video or AR projects, I would look at the new iPad Air (4th Generation). You will get the 256GB LTE version for less money than the iPad Pro WiFi version. Differences between both are minimal.

OK cheers, although I'm kind of reluctant to upgrade the current one, it's still working just fine! But I'll certainly use all this info when I do upgrade.

Apple products do just work - my landlady's got the same mac book as me, essentially, its been going for 7 years!

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