I’ve been a loyal iPad user for years. Never mind such shortcomings as the inability to use even Bluetooth mice with iPads—a huge dissing of writers.
But my expectations were low when I upgraded from a 10.5-inch 2017 iPad Pro to an 11-inch 2018 model with cellular and 512GB of storage. Except for the screen size, I anticipated only small improvements.
Forget all the ballyhoo about the iPad finally being a replacement for laptops. Donald Trump instead was my main reason for keeping current. I worried that in the future, thanks to his trade jihad with China, iPad prices might spike up. Better to buy now. As it happened, Apple did jack up the price of the basic iPad Pro by $150 to $799, maybe partly with Trump in mind. Who knows what the future will bring?
So was I right, as a reader-writer, not to expect amazing benefits from the new iPad Pro, also sold as an 12.9-inch model starting at $999?
Absolutely. With due apologies to Apple partisans, the Apple ebook application still doesn’t count much for me because of the higher prices of Apple-sold books and fewer reviews and book choices than from Amazon and its customers. Yes, I generally love iPad hardware and trappings—the feel, the screen, the Night Shift feature to filter out sleep-disrupting blue light, the general ergonomics. Furthermore, Apple Books scores major points by being able to read ePub without conversion. But I miss such Amazon touches as the Kindle X Ray feature and the ability to enjoy books in an Android app. Also, shame on Apple for not aggressively promoting watermarking of ebooks—not just music—in place of DRM. If Apple wants to gain a leg up on Amazon, this would be one way to do it.
Furthermore, the lack of an earphone jack in the 2018 iPad Pro models is a new hassle for iPadders listening to audiobooks. You must use either an adapter or a Bluetooth headphone or speaker.
That’s not all. While you can coax iOS devices to read books aloud to you, the task is more complicated than on, say, an Amazon Fire (at least after you’ve enabled text to speech). Yes—I agree: Amazon itself could still do better on the TTS front, especially in regard to decent implementation for nonblind users of E Ink devices. But having gained a reputation for accessibility for readers and others, Apple should be far ahead.
Not optimal for writers, either, at least for me
As a writer, also, not just as a reader, I’m somewhat disappointed. We begin with a major negative of the hardware or at least the related firmware. Unless I jailbreak my iPad Pro and open myself up to security hazards and also lose my warranty, I cannot use a mouse—wireless or otherwise.
This is an abomination. I don’t give a squat what Apple’s marketing department or the ghost of Steve Jobs may think—real writers tend to like mice, at least when they’re using iPads with external monitors or accessory keyboards from Apple and elsewhere.
In my WordStar days, I myself was hostile to mice, but in this what-you-see-is-what-you-get world, rodents are essential for me, or close to it. I don’t want to look down at my iPad, to delete a paragraph or word or perform other tasks, if I’m using it with an external monitor on my desk.
Similarly, with an external keyboard attached or not to the iPad, I don’t have to lift my hand up to the screen. A mouse could rest on my desk, ready for action, at the same level on my keyboard. When the Apple iPad didn’t work with external monitors and keyboards, I could understand the lack of mouse capabilities. But the game has changed.
Making the lack of a mouse even more outrageous is the fact that the 20`8 iPad Pro can actually be wired in to a 4K monitor through the new USB port—what a waste to remain mouseless!
With mouse and 4K capabilities, the iPad would have more of a shot as a desktop replacement, not just a laptop one. Yes, I know: Apple marketers might worry about cannibalizing desktop sales. But maybe Apple could help make this up in iPad sales. Stop letting the old party line harm users or, for that matter, shareholders. I still mourn Steve Jobs and his brilliance. I don’t miss his stupid side, such as his anti-mouse dogma or his refusal to take ebooks as seriously as he should have.
Now on to the word processor, Apple Pages, a veritable disaster for me. I applaud Apple for coming up with all kinds of features for self-publishers, but for me, they matter far less then basics.
At or near the top of my list is the ability to increase or decrease the font size simply for the purpose of composition, while still not cutting off lines as the zoom feature does. That’s a different issue from type size in actual files or on printed pages. Users really need to be able to specify a default viewing size for all documents created.
Speaking of defaults, Apple Pages won’t let you customize size and styles for all new files. Microsoft Word for iOS also could be much better, especially for people with vision challenges, but at least it has a view mode for mobile users. Am I missing something in Pages? Is there at least a way to toggle in Dynamic Type and specify a minimum-size for composition even if the actual output size differs?
Now the issue of voice recognition. On Android devices, it tends to be at least somewhat more accurate than on my new iPad. I don’t know firsthand what the precise reasons for this difference are. Perhaps Apple’s privacy protections get in the way of the voice recognition adjusting to the vocal cords of individual users, but if so, why can’t there be a way for this to be changed? If nothing else, how about an elaborate voice training option for users who want it—not just in iOS but also Android?
An Apple tech support specialist offers another possible explanation for the iPad Pro’s current accuracy issues. She says voice recognition works better with Safari and other Apple programs than it does with third-party apps lacking the same degree of integration. If that’s the case, it would help for decent industry-wide standards to exist to mitigate the problem. But meanwhile, on the voice recognition front right now, I am one unhappy camper.
Voice recognition was actually better in recent months on my 2017 iPad, perhaps because Google and other providers of third party apps had had a chance to tweak their programs. I could actually use my iPad to compose most of my email. I still do, in fact, as long as the messages aren’t too long (I hate to type on virtual keyboards). But for blog posts like this one, the new iPad may be a bit too much of a challenge. I’ll use it to help edit but not write the present commentary.
Instead, for now, I am using an Acer C202SA-YS02 Chromebook that I snapped up at a steep discount for $125 on Black Friday. I’ve installed SpeechnotesX, which is far from nirvana but even lets me dictate without constant cutoffs—a good goal for Apple and others. Why is the Acer necessary after my not-so-small investment in the iPad Pro?
Tough love, not Apple hate
Keep in mind that the current post is tough love, not Apple hate. For reasons such as the gorgeous screen and Night Shift, I do in fact love the iPad for reading with such apps as the Kindle one, Marvin and VoiceDream. The iPad is awesome for keeping up with newspaper and magazine articles and blog posts. Apple’s accessibility features give me the increased type size and boldface that I want in Safari and other apps with this option.
Now I am fervently rooting for Apple to address negatives in such areas as the in-house ereader app (and related store), TTS and especially the lack of mouse capability. And not just for my sake.
Apple still is keen on its products for educational purposes. By forcing iPads to be mouseless—including the most basic variant, which schools can buy for a fraction of my model’s price—Apple is slowing down a whole generation of young writers along with older scribes. I’m only the zillionth word guy to complain.
Please, Apple––listen. Don’t you want to encourage people to write? If technical obstacles don’t get in the way of this upgrade, add mouse capabilities ASAP to current iPads at all price levels.
Let iPads be friends of word people, too, not just artists, videographers and musicians.
Quote: I worried that in the future, thanks to his trade jihad with China, iPad prices might spike up. Better to buy now.
No need to fret. Apple’s profit margins are so enormous, they can easily absorb those duties. It’d be good if they had to do that. Their profits are one reason the company is arrogant and pays so little attention to its customers. And my own suspicion is that Tim Cook promised Trump to create jobs in the U.S. when Apple got that tax break for bringing the company’s huge overseas cash back home. He didn’t do that, so this is Trump’s punishment. You make a deal with Trump, you better keep it.
Quote: With due apologies to Apple partisans, the Apple ebook application still doesn’t count much for me because of the higher prices of Apple-sold books and fewer reviews and book choices than from Amazon and its customers.
Are they higher? Mine are exactly the same and, because Apple pays better royalties, I could actually set them a bit lower than Amazon’s and still make the same income. Apple pays 70% of retail at all price levels. Amazon only pays 35% outside the $2.99-$9.99 range and assesses a grossly inflated download charge inside that range that lowers the effective royalties to about 60%. For ebooks whose prices are higher, blame the publisher not Apple.
Quote: As a writer, also, not just as a reader, I’m somewhat disappointed. We begin with a major negative of the hardware or at least the related firmware. Unless I jailbreak my iPad Pro and open myself up to security hazards and also lose my warranty, I cannot use a mouse—wireless or otherwise.
Keep in mind that tablets are being considered as laptop replacements not desktop ones. The real comparison is between a trackpad and a touchscreen. Due to my general clumsiness, I prefer a touchscreen. I don’t miss the lack of a mouse.
The key to using an iPad for writing lies in getting a keyboard and learning its shortcuts to mark text. Tap where you want to begin selecting with your finger and then hold down the shift key while using the cursor key to select. Holding down option will select words, which makes it faster. Practice and you’ll soon be jumping around as fast as you did in WordStar before the mouse.
As for your software woes, you might check out Scrivener for iOS and use Word only for formatting. Word is intended to create business documents and memos. Scrivener is designed for drafting and editing long documents. Among other things, you can adjust the screen font size to your heart’s content. It also has its own TTS. Some complain about all its many features, but you can simply ignore those you don’t need. And you can easily synch documents with the macOS and not-quite-full-featured Windows versions via Dropbox. No Android version as yet. You can test it free for 30 days of use.
Also, if you’re not into graphic design or must have a large screen, there’s little reason to pay that hefty Apple Tax for the iPad Pro. The 2018 iPad, intended for schools and thus priced more reasonably, is amply fast and even uses the Apple Pencil. The only downside is a slightly less perfect display when dragging with the Apple Pencil. If you’re not into graphics, that matters not. I would suggest future proofing it by getting 128 GB of storage. For 30% more, you get four times the storage. Here’s where I got mine with at a $30 holiday discount.
Combined with a Zagg Folio keyboard/case, I’m quite happy with it. It has all the advantages of an iPad and a small laptop. And since Apple has not made a laptop I liked in several years, it spares me that expense.
Here are some of the more useful keyboard shortcuts:
Shift-Cmd-z = Redo
Opt-Delete = Delete previous word
Fn-Delete = Forward delete
Cmd-up arrow = Start of doc
Cmd-down arrow = End of doc
Cmd-right arrow = End of line
Cmd-left arrow = Start of line
SELECT (shift key)
Shift-arrow (all) = Select text
Shift-opt-arrow (L & R)= Select words
Shift-opt-up arrow then Shift-opt-down arrow = Select paragraph
@Michael: Thanks for your thoughts. It was good of you to share tips with other members of the TeleRead community.
Some quick answers:
1. Shareholders don’t just expect Apple to make profits – they want them to be outrageously high. So the Chinese tariffs could still hurt and Apple may respond by jacking up prices even more. Speaking of the devil, there was progress in talks with the Chinese last week—at least a temporary truce seems to be in effect (link below to WaPo). But as I wrote, “Who knows what the future will bring ?“
2. For me, at least, and almost surely for most people, a mouse makes far more sense when a keyboard or external monitor is in use. Don’t you think Apple should give users a choice in the matter? Almost surely the cost of adding mouse capabilities would be very low.
3. I’m glad you enjoy your iPad. If you want to add more tips, even ones not related to our discussion, feel free to do so.
If you want a tablet that can be used with a mouse get a Kindle Fire. I have a 10 inch Kindle Fire and use it with an external keyboard with a track pad and it works fine. And if I want to use a mouse that works also.
I write using a version of Open Office and can easily move files back and forth between my Fire and my other computers. Plus, the fire costs ~80% less than an iPad Pro and has a micro SD slot where you can add up to 256GB of additional storage.
Unless you are an artist who needs the drawing capabilities provided by the Apple pencil there is no reason to get an iPad Pro instead of a Kindle Fire.
@Warren: Congrats on the results you’ve enjoyed with your ten-inch Fire. I just prefer the inferface, general feel and responsiveness of the iPad.
Now–back to the Fire. I’m curious if you’ve found a GOOD speech recognition solution for it–I haven’t (although for a stretch I thought I’d located a mediocre one, before the app-related server stopped working).
In that respect, my Chromeboxes and Chromebook, along with the iPad, beat the Fire (I’m using the built-in recognition as well as SpeechNotesX Voice Typing).
Bezos impresses me as the sort who cares about productivity. I’m baffled why Fires can no longer have built-in speech recognition. His people at Amazon surely could come up with their own solution if patent issues or other IP or control matters got in the way.
I’d argue “most people” are ok with no mouse. On a recent trip to Egypt, I took only my iPad and smart keyboard cover. (Plus Apple Pencil). Not only did I write every night in my travel journal with Goodnotes, but I spent a good chunk of time working on my latest book. Scrivener for iOS is awesome, no mouse needed. As a writer it’s the perfect device; lightweight, powerful, easy to use software.
Entirely possible there’s a generational aspect, but a lack of a mouse is not a failure of the device at all.
@John: Best of luck with your writing. I respectfully disagree about mice. This most certainly is a failure considering the number of people who do prefer rodents. We don’t want to mess with Apple pencils. More important, I would like to keep my right hand close to the table rather than lift it up to mess with the screen.
Likewise and for sure a personal preference. I suspect for every “I want a mouse” there’s a “No mouse needed” person out there. I suspect the former are using Chromebooks or some variation of them.
@John: And, yes, I generally use a mouse with my Chromebook as well. 😉