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.