Is this the new iPad Pro? No. It is an old iPad Pro. But I added some 5G flair!
Has Apple been as let down by 5G as the rest of us? Back in September, the company released a new line of iPhones, in partnership with Verizon. At the launch, both Tim Cook and Verizon’s Hans Vestberg mentioned “5G” constantly. Now it’s time to see how that focus plays out with Apple’s new iPad Pro models, coming out on Tuesday. I think you’re going to hear “5G” a lot less, and “M1” a lot more.
If 5G actually lived up to its promises, it could be huge for the new iPads. With its multiple cameras, the iPad Pro could be a prime platform for creating 5G AR content, but we’re still at least two years away from comfortable, affordable AR glasses. Broadly available 5G uplinks could make the new tablets terrific tools for editing and uploading on-the-go video. But the current nationwide 5G networks show upload speeds that average between 8-14Mbps, according to OpenSignal. That’s not what you want to upload your 4K videos with.
The underwhelming current experience of 5G plays into Apple’s hands. Cupertino is busily working on its own modem chips for smartphones and tablets, but at the moment it must rely on its rival Qualcomm. While the “G” is an inseparable part of any iPhone, it’s an optional add-on for Apple’s tablets. There’s sure to be a 5G model of the new iPad Pro, but I think Apple would rather take the purer profits from Wi-Fi-only units than share with Qualcomm this time around.
Instead, I think the big buzz at the iPad announcement will be around chips and Apple’s declaration of Intel-pendence. Putting an M1 chip into the iPad Pro makes it equal in power with the latest Macs. A true power PC, if you will.
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That’s going to throw a spotlight on the iPad’s Pro’s biggest current problems: how iPad OS apps aren’t quite as powerful as Mac apps, and how the iPad OS interface still gets in the way of complex workflows. In many ways iPad Pros be more powerful than Macs, with their high-res cameras and support for Apple Pencil. But professional creative apps, and more importantly multi-app workflows, are still held back by the iPad interface and OS. In fact, I’d argue that the iPad Pro is even less of a standalone device than the base model iPad, because the Pro is targeted at multitaskers. This is fine if Apple’s strategy is to force creatives to buy two computers instead of one, but that’s a very expensive strategy for consumers.
Here’s an illustrative example: Last night I asked my daughter to send me some work she’d created in a few different apps on the iPad Pro. She shared each piece to an email, then went to her Mac, downloaded all the attachments and dropped the four files into another email, because it’s not obvious how to send an email with multiple attachments from different apps in the iPad’s UI. (The easiest way I can think of is to save them all to iCloud Drive, and then share them from the Files app.) The saga of Photoshop on the iPad, which still has “key features” rather than “all features” highlights the other problem.
Until iPad OS’s creative apps are competitive with Macs feature-for-feature, or until iPad OS has a better way of dealing with workflows that involve three different apps and 26 Safari tabs, the iPad Pro will remain the world’s most powerful companion device. Am I wrong? Tell me why in the comments.
Oh yeah, there will be some Macs on Tuesday too, probably. Not my thing. Read about them here.
What Else Is Going On? A lot!
I have T-Mobile home Internet! I bought it. I’m going to be testing it over the next month. No, I have not analyzed my data yet, but so far speeds have felt good, but latency and reliability have been really shaky. At the moment, I’m running two different pings every minute, a Web page load every three minutes, and I’m testing speeds every 20 minutes. I’m also doing all my work using the connection. What do you want me to check out? Let me know.
LG is out of smartphones, but Sony is still in. The company launched two new phones last week. The Xperia 1 III has a 4K, 120Hz display and the Xperia 5 III is only 2.68 inches wide, making it one of the most easily one-handed flagship smartphones. Sony sells a fraction of the phones LG did, but it operates much more like a high-end boutique manufacturer, selling small numbers of devices with bigger profit margins. As a result, it’s closer to profitability than LG’s mobile division was.
Samsung is finally activating eSIM functionality in the US, but only on two phones for one US carrier—the Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra for T-Mobile. I can confirm it isn’t on my Note 20 with a Verizon SIM, for instance.
Verizon expanded its 5G business Internet product to 24 cities, at least where it has mmWave coverage. This is the first speed-tiered millimeter-wave product I’ve seen, with 100Mbps, 200Mbps and 400Mbps options. But they’re charging small businesses more than they would for home Internet, and that feels like a false distinction in the new work-from-home world. Verizon will charge businesses $69 per month for 100Mbps, $99 for 200Mbps and $199 for 400Mbps; 5G home Internet costs $50/month if you already have a Verizon wireless line.
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