The Joy of the 2020 iPad Pro

I talked about and wished for the iPad to become a computing core rather than simply a large feature reduced phone. For awhile it felt like Apple just did not want to provide that. Perhaps thinking it would eat into MacBook sales. My last iPad was the 10.5 inch second generation iPad Pro. It still is a perfectly fine tablet but to use for something more than that never great. It’s just a bit too small for my tastes.

So I’ve wanted to get a newer and more importantly larger iPad for some time. Every single one release since then could have been a viable option hardware wise. The iPad is an absolute beast of a machine capable of doing the things I need it to do. The problem is the software has always held it back. While the 2019 iPad Pro was tempting it also felt like having a race car that operated only at cycling speeds. Physically it’s capable of so much but again the software is not.

So then why did I get the 2020 iPad Pro when it’s effectively the same as the 2019 version but with more cameras and LIDAR? Well, one minor reason was the battery feeling a bit worn in my current iPad but more importantly the changes to iPad OS 13.4 which bring in fairly decent mouse / keyboard support and the new Magic Keyboard.

It makes it feel like Apple is going to at least move closer to where I want the iPad to be. I’m still not holding my breath that it will get Xcode or a Terminal any time soon but I am much closer to having it be my main computer. This also means having my main computer now coming with a cellular connection. Something I suspect will never happen with a MacBook.

All in all I have nothing but great things to say about the 12.9 iPad Pro. The display is beautiful, the weight and shape of it, I think is just right. In addition to cellular I opted for the one terabyte storage option. So there is no way the hardware is inferior to my MacBook.

If you want an iPad and can afford some version of the Pro version I would definitely recommend it. It just feels nice and if your professional work does not include coding then it’s certainly getting very close to being a where needs to be. That said, if you find the multi-tasking painful then it will still be hard to work with despite having good access to peripherals, mouse support and an amazing display.

On the subject of peripherals, I will mention that there is a really handy dongle you should consider if you get an iPad Pro yourself and that’s the Anker PowerExpand+ 5-in-1 USB Ethernet hub. This will give you some USB 3 ports, an HDMI port and an ethernet port which should cover most of your accessory use cases. Other benefits are that it’s quite small, comes with a cloth bag and has Anker’s nice nylon braided cable. The cable length feels right too and all for a better price / cable build quality than the £75 USB-C Digital AV adapter from Apple. Visually it matches my space grey iPad as well and, I suspect, combined with the magic keyboard will be a great ‘computer’ setup.

Lastly, What more could they do to get me to consider ditching the MacBook? A big thing would be to fix the multi-tasking but if navigation were to stay the same - then at a minimum I would want the following:

  1. Improved file access. This means ideally letting me use Backblaze to back-up my data. I want my iTunes purchases to end up in Files. You’re told you should download your purchases if you want to guarantee you can keep them. Okay - give me access. Even iBooks on the Mac is a pain to get at your books. Apple Music is still painful at how it deals with your music. If could just dump my Music back-up into a directory then we’d be all good.
  2. Programming. With regards to their whole user base I’m sure this is a niche use case but I’d like to do iOS development on iOS. Xcode on an iPad would be a dream. An added bonus would be a simply terminal app at the least where I can write scripts and dump data into a Files directory. It can be locked down to one directory. That’s fine. I can move whatever I’ve scrapped off the web afterwards. I believe you can sort of get there by creating a Shared Playgrounds Data directory in your File App Documents directory. I’ve yet to test this works on iOS as well but still, having a Terminal rather than just Playgrounds would be nice.

I think they will get there but I hope it’s sooner rather than later so I don’t have to replace my 2013 MacBook Pro with another.

If you do want to do web development with the iPad and you’re happy to do it on a Linode (or another kind) instance then here are some apps I’d recommend.

  1. Prompt - SSH Terminal
  2. Secure Shellfish - SFTP file access in Files
  3. Working Copy - For git and works nicely with Files
  4. Textastic - A text editor for writing code at a low price compared to Coda / Code Editor

With those apps you should at least be able to do quite a bit remotely and help shift files to and from the iPad.