An iPad Productivity Boost

The only gadget I actually bought when we were in Japan in October was the Smart Keyboard for my 9.7″ iPad Pro. If you don’t read the remainder of this post, in terms of a review, I can only express my regret for not having picked one up months ago!

Continue reading “An iPad Productivity Boost”

Early days with the Apple Pencil

2016-03-31 16.30.27

I’m not ashamed to say I spent an inordinate amount of my Saturday evening playing with a pencil. The new Apple Pencil, combined with my iPad Pro 9.7″. I know this word gets thrown around a lot when discussing Apple’s products, but it’s really ‘magical’.

In that I can’t understand how it works so well.

Continue reading “Early days with the Apple Pencil”

iPad anticipation

My new iPad Pro 9.7″ is out for delivery. It’s arriving some time tomorrow and, as we all know, Apple device days can drag horribly.

On the one hand, if it arrives early in the morning, it’ll be difficult concentrate on work while that pristine white box lies next to me on the desk. I’ll be tempted to open it and that will blow up all my plans for getting things done.

On the other hand, if it doesn’t arrive until late in the evening, I’ll continue to wonder where it is and worry it won’t turn up or that it’s been delivered to the wrong address. Proper iPad fretting.

Best case scenario? It arrives a little before 4pm, giving me some time to set it up and play around with it before I go and watch the (alleged) disaster that is Batman vs Superman.

You can simply file this (firmly) under ‘First World Problems’.

I know. I’m sorry…

9.7″ iPad Pro ordered

So I ordered one of the new 9.7″ iPad Pro’s this morning. This week’s Apple event announcing them included everything I’d been hoping for, so it was a bit of a no-brainer. Like the iPad Pro, but with a smaller form factor. Better chip, quad speakers, Apple Pencil functionality etc etc. 

I went for the 256GB model with wifi and cellular – I have a SIM card that uses my mobile data allowance from my account with Vodafone and due to travel, it’s always great to have a back-up when wifi isn’t available. And as for memory, I’ve yet to meet a device I didn’t max out within weeks. 

My iPad Air 2 holds tons of podcasts, magazines, TV shows and movies and I want its replacement to be able to do the same. Hopefully, Apple will include this storage option in the next iteration of the iPhone. In my book, you can never have too much storage… 

As for the keyboard, this keyboard case designed for this new iPad Pro isn’t available on the UK Apple Store yet. And to be honest, I’d like to see what third party keyboard manufacturers come up with. 
Right now (literally), I’m using a Bluetooth keyboard from Logitech. It’s been my favourite for a while. And seeing as the new iPad Pro has the same dimensions as the iPad Air 2, I might us this existing keyboard for a few weeks. I’ve experimented with the keyboard case for the (large) iPad Pro in-store and it never seemed comfortable or natural to me. But maybe it’s something I could get used to.

So, roll on March 31st – when it’s due to be delivered. I’ll share first impressions and a few pics here, of course ūüôā

Apple’s new product announcements

Because I’m holidaying in South Beach at the moment, I was more interested in enjoying the sun than catching every detail of today’s product announcements from Apple.

I did, however, follow the event On my iPhone, via the live feed provided by The Verge. And it didn’t disappoint! Finally: new Apple Watch bands!! Just kidding. They’re nice, but I was mainly interested in the new iPad Pro.

It looks like all of the rumours came to pass – it’s a 9.7 inch iPad Pro, works with Apple Pencil and has quad speakers. It has a powerful chip and some (not really predicted) interesting screen technology. In addition, it comes in a 256GB flavour, which got me very excited. All my mobile devices are chock-a-block with media (films, TV shows, podcasts, comics, magazines), so extra space is always welcome.

I honestly need to do a bit more research, but I think it’s probable that I’ll place an order for a 256GB model with wifi and cellular on March 24th. I’ll also “need” an Apple Pencil and the smart keyboard. But I’ll only buy the latter if they have a UK model. Can’t be doing with using a foreign keyboard some of the time and a UK one on my MacBook and my iMac. Experience has shown my brain is in sufficiently plastic to deal with that kind of nonsense.

As for the new iPhone SE? Meh. I’m not sure I could go back to such a small screen after my iPhone 6s Plus! Right now I find @FrankDJS‘s iPhone 6S dinky when I have to pick it up. A 4-inch screen would be beyond me.

And now, back to the sun!

A new iPad Pro Mini?

We’re now just over 24 hours from Apple’s now-confirmed event. And while we know there’s definitely something they want to share with us, it’s not exactly clear what that this.

But this being Apple, we’re not short of a few rumours… For a start, it sounds like there’s going to be a new 4″ iPhone, some new bands for the Apple Watch and (hopefully) a smaller iPad Pro. 

Or as I previously referred to it, the iPad Pro Mini.

Picture it: a 9.7″ iPad – the same dimensions, give or take, as the existing iPad Air 2 – but with all the functionality of its much bigger brother.

Four speakers, a faster chip, a smart connector for accessories like keyboards and use of the Apple Pencil. Despite all my initial excitement, it’s worth noting that I’ve yet to buy an iPad Pro. And I’m glad. 

Reflecting on the months since its launch, I can’t think of a single instance where it would have been truly more useful and practical to have an iPad Pro rather than my iPad Air 2. The main reason? It’s just so big. 

It’s glorious. A thing of beauty. That screen! But it’s also far too big for me to carry around with me. And it would be wasted just left at home on my desk. 

Conversely, I’ve been using the hell out of my iPad Air 2. It fits very neatly – even with a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard – into the Jack Spade bag I have slung over my shoulder most weekends. It’s slips in nearly next to my laptop in my work bag. 

In short, it’s rarely far from my reach, all because it’s so light and portable. 

Now take this portability and add an Apple Pencil and a faster chip and you’ve got something I’m very excited about!!

I’m far less interested in the rumoured new four inch iPhone or the new Apple Watch bands – but either or both may be just what you’ve been waiting for. I hope all your dreams come true. 

I’ll be tuning in to the live stream of this event to check for a new iPad while I simultaneously see how much mine will go for on eBay. 

An iPad Pro Mini?

Contrary to the chatter from various naysayers (you know you are!), I still haven’t bought an iPad Pro.

I actually saw one in the wild the other day, when one of the students I was teaching pulled one out of her bag. She took notes on it throughout the seminar, but I couldn’t help noticing how awkward it looked, balancing on her lap. The screen was absolutely gorgeous, though.

Anyway, I’m now very glad I didn’t opt for the iPad Pro, as rumours point to a new Apple device which has me drooling. It’s an iPad Pro Mini.

Actually, no. It’s not. It’s an iPad Air 3, which is basically an iPad Pro Mini. Rumours (I want to emphasise that word) point to iPad Pro-like functionality in the new Air, including four front-facing speakers, the new iPad Pro smart connector and ability to use the Apple Pencil. So, lots of the advantages of the iPad Pro without the drawback of its mammoth footprint.

I’ve been using my iPad Air 2 a lot lately. It’s so light and super-productive when paired with the Logitech bluetooth keyboard. At the weekend, it’s how I write everything from blog posts to journal entries. Thinking back to my very first iPad, it’s almost a different class of device in terms of speed, weight and OS.

So what’s so special about the¬†rumoured iPad Air 3?

Apple pencil

Having Apple Pencil functionality would increase its creative potential, but also make it more like a hi-tech notepad. I’ve looked at lots of YouTube videos of people using the Apple Pencil for both drawing and writing and it’s truly impressive in terms of accuracy.

In my own brief uses of the Pencil, in Apple Stores, I think it’s interesting that I didn’t try to draw a thing. Instead, I wrote on it – a preview of how I’d see myself using an electronic stylus like this.

Before every blog post I write, or every article, proposal or discussions document at work, I start with a mind-map. It helps me empty my mind of all the points I want to make and then I can organise them into some semblance of logical order.

It’s something I’ve done for years and I find it really helpful. So, using Apple Pencil on an iPad would mean these mind-maps would be electronic immediately (removing the need to scan a paper one) and shareable with colleagues.


A faster chipset and more RAM (again, rumours) would be very welcome, as would the additional speakers. When I travel for business – which is quite regularly – my iPad Air 2 tends to be used as my personal entertainment system in my hotel room.

Podcasts and music while I’m doing something else, movies and TV shows while I’m in bed or on a flight. Improved speakers would be great here, especially if it could match the sound from my Macbook, which still impresses me today.

Smart Connector

Inclusion of the new smart connector would be great for users of physical keyboards. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the keyboard I’m using with my iPad Air 2, a keyboard interface via the smart connector removes the need to use bluetooth¬†or charge the keyboard. It derives its power directly from the iPad. So that means one less cable to carry round and no need to remember to charge the keyboard¬†periodically. A small victory, but it makes life simpler.

So, all in all, this iPad user is excited at the prospect of a new iPad Air 3 coming next month. But how likely is it? Well, the iPad Air wasn’t updated when everyone thought it would be, when the iPad Pro was announced and they sneaked out the iPad Mini 4.

Plus, recent Apple financial data shows a real slowing of iPad sales. iPads don’t tend to be the kind of device that average users upgrade every year, unlike movie phones. So they need to offer a fairly significant¬†upgrade to hardware and functionality to address declining iPad sales.

Just an iPad Pro Mini?

Turning the iPad Air 2 into what is basically a smaller version of the iPad Pro represents that kind of upgrade. If all of the above were delivered by Apple, I’d get in line to buy one. Forever relieved that I didn’t bite the bullet and go for an iPad Pro.

Obviously, I’ve stayed true to form and will find myself traveling at the exact time Apple is rumoured to be making the announcement, on March 15th. But I’ll catch up with it when I arrive at my hotel and (probably) share my excitement/disappointment/purchasing decision here.

I touched an iPad Pro (and I liked it)

Despite everything I wrote on Friday, I found myself holding an iPad Pro in my own two hands yesterday afternoon. I had reserved an adaptor for my Macbook at a local Dixons and amazingly, when I went to collect the adaptor, they had an iPad Pro in stock.

Surely just touching one couldn’t hurt?

The chap from Dixons helpfully unhooked one for me so I could pick it up and use it for a few minutes. So, my review of the device after less than five minutes of intense use, is that:

  • It’s lighter than I’d imagined and a lot lighter than it looks
  • The screen is glorious – impossibly bright and clear
  • It’s super-fast and incredibly responsive

I didn’t get to use an Apple Pencil – they didn’t have one in stock – and that seems to be the “killer” functionality that will set the iPad Pro apart from its rivals (Apple and non-Apple alike). I really wanted to have a scribble on the screen and see if – as all the adverts suggest – it would instantly turn me into a world-class digital artist.

Thinking about what I use an iPad for now, the Pro would be excellent for watching movies and TV shows. The screen is phenomenal. It would also be good for games, though I’m not sure I’d like others to see me play Candy Crush that badly, that publicly.

But for blogging and other forms of writing, I’d need a physical keyboard and, based on what’s available right now, I’d go with an Apple bluetooth keyboard. Not one of the cases Apple and others are selling. These just seem to add bulk and weight. And a nice case like this one from Pad & Quill would be a more practical option.

But hold on a second… why am I talking about potential use cases and keyboard options? The decision was “no buy”. What’s changed?

Well, nothing really. Except I purposefully touched one and now I’m a victim of Apple’s reality distortion field. In fact, while in store, I actually asked about which models they had available, which is basically the first step of any Apple-related purchase. After being told they didn’t have any 128GB models (the only sensible option, I feel), I actually felt a mix of disappointment tinged with¬†relief.

A dangerous emotional combination, indicative of future purchase intentions.

I’m still wondering how I would have dealt with the response “Why yes, we have several 128GB models in the back of the store. Shall I get one for you?”

I’m going to have to stay well away from iPad Pro displays for the foreseeable future to avoid any unpleasantness.