Most people think the coolest thing about having a platform like Techsuplex is free review devices (P.S they mostly aren’t free), but one of the coolest things for me personally is looking back and seeing how well (or not) some of my thoughts and predictions have aged over time. From the moment it crossed my mind to review the new iPad, I remembered this post I wrote back in 2014, where I questioned the usefulness of tablets.
Here’s an excerpt:
“I’ve always thought that the tablet as it is today, is still mostly a third, unnecessary device, more a luxury than a necessity. In the future, tablets may gain a lot more relevance in our everyday lives, but right now, while they have their perks, they still sort of stick out sorely in the grand scheme of things.”
Fast forward to present day and as I type this, I’ve been using Apple’s new iPad for about a month. I’ll revisit the above statement later, because while this review is specifically about the 2018 iPad, one can argue that these days, iPads are pretty much the only tablet option worth considering (that’s not necessarily a good thing by the way).
The 2018 iPad is…an iPad. It’s looks haven’t really changed that much over time. Since the very first one, it’s gotten thinner, the footprint has reduced, it’s gotten a few licks of paint and gained a few tricks, but it’s not radically different now in its 6th generation. In fact, it’s pretty much identical to the one from last year save for two things—first, it packs a faster, newer processor and secondly, it’s got support for the $99 (N35,739) Apple Pencil, an accessory, which before now was exclusively on the iPad Pro range.
So what that means in the grand scheme of things is that you get a marginally faster device, compared to the last one, when it comes to performance. In my use, the experience has been fluid for the most part, with Chrome being the only app I’ve experienced some lag on, even when I’ve got multiple apps running in the background (does anyone even ever really close apps on the iPad?). Split screen multi-tasking also works without hassle, but I personally haven’t found it useful.
The display’s same as last year’s as well, so you get an Oleophobic coated, 9.7-inch display with 2048 x 1536 resolution, it’s plenty bright and crisp for most things and while it’s no iPad Pro display, it holds it own. The occasional Netflix (with no chill), looks great on it as well. There are two stereo speakers at the bottom, touch ID, a 1.2 Megapixel “facetime” camera and an 8-megapixel camera at the back—both of which while functional, won’t win you any awards or show you in the best light, which hopefully means, there are less of you out there that are inclined to raise a tablet to their face and take photos with.
All the above combined together make the iPad a great consumption device. Whether you’re surfing through pages your favourite website or social media app, flipping through stories on Medium and Flipboard, or binging on Netflix, the iPad feels like a much better option for all these activities considered individually, than your phone or your computer. The best thing about the iPad though still remains the vast amount of apps on the Apple store that you can access, which probably will satisfy most of your needs. In my case; from Duet, which allows you use the iPad as a secondary display for your computer, to Bamboo Paper (my new favourite app for scribbled notes), I’ve pretty much found “an app for everything.”
As you can tell so far, there’s nothing really new, or out of this world on this year’s iPad compared to every other iPad that’s out there, except for the fact that it’s the first one that supports the Apple Pencil.
The Apple Pencil itself, isn’t new. It was announced three years ago with the iPad Pro and it is basically a battery-powered, bluetooth enabled stylus, which Apple says it created for creative people. The killer feature of the Pencil is that it can detect force, so for instance the amount of pressure you use while drawing a line will correspond with the lightness or darkness (or thickness) of the line, same way a regular pen or pencil on paper will.
In theory it’s all nice and cool, but in my use, it’s probably the least useful piece of tech I have spent money on in a while. In fact, the most useful thing I’ve been able to do with it is to sign digital signatures, which definitely beats doing same with your fingers. Besides that, and some adult colouring with apps like Pigment (pretty cool, you should check it out if you’re into colouring), I really haven’t had much use for it. You can’t use it like an input device like you would with an S-Pen on a Samsung Note for instance, (you can’t do most of the things you can do on with an S-Pen if I’m being honest) and the fact that you need to change the tip over time when it wears, and charge it—a full charge gets you about 12hours of use—is an annoyance that niggles at the back of my mind as well. On the charging bit, plugging it for about 15 seconds gets you 30 minutes of use, so I guess that makes up for some of the annoyance. I also find that the act of charging the Pencil itself is a bit awkward. You have the choice between removing cover at the rear end and the sticking it in your iPad, which looks like a recipe for disaster or using the adapter which comes in the box to plug it to a regular charging cable, which then makes it an extra inconvenient thing to charge.
You might notice that I’ve skipped Note taking as a whole, that’s because it ties into the bigger reason why I got the iPad and Pencil in the first place. You see, these days, I find myself in a lot of meetings, some useful, others not so much, but it’s become a predicament what device I take into each one. I’m totally fine taking notes on my phone, but between the fact that swiping away furiously on a small device as I take notes sometimes sends the (wrong) message that I am playing a game to while away time and not paying attention, or the distraction from the flurry of notifications—one of which is likely to pull my attention away from whatever meeting it is, the smartphone option has never really worked out well. On the other extreme, I’m also quite comfortable typing on my computer as a meeting progresses, but these days, my computer feels a lot heavier than I remember (I have a theory that Apple sends an update that increases the weight of your computer as soon as a newer one is out, don’t quote me on that though) and most of the time, carrying a laptop into a meeting just feels like overkill. Paper and notebooks are never a choice because I’m always misplacing the former and forgetting the latter somewhere.
That’s how I ended up here.
Note taking on the iPad is a lot weirder than you’ll expect, after so many years of having paper yield to your pressure as your write, having glass resist every push, feels weird. Depending on how you hold a pen, the push back on your palm that goes over the glass can be slightly uncomfortable as well. Thankfully, the iPad can differentiate between your palm and the Pencil tip, so you don’t get smudges as you write with the official apps that support the pencil but not every app can make this distinction yet unfortunately, so your mileage may differ per app. You get used to it eventually, and while it’s not as good as good old writing on paper, it works quite well and I’m grateful.
So revisiting my quote from 2014, do I feel like the iPad and by extension tablets are “a third, unnecessary device, more a luxury than a necessity?” For most people? Yes. That said, if you love to sit on the couch and catch up on both work and play, without necessarily wanting to hunch over a laptop, or feel the sickly warmth of a computer uncomfortably close to your gonads, or squint at your smartphone like you’ve most likely been doing all day, a tablet’s probably recommended for you and of all the tablets out, at this moment, the 2018 iPad is the best value for money. (The iPad Pro is a whooping $300 more expensive, and comes with a slightly better display, more speakers, more RAM, a newer, faster processor, better cameras and a bluetooth keyboard connector).
As for the Pencil, except you absolutely need to draw, colour or take notes on an iPad, skip it and use the money for something more useful. Even if you absolutely need one, you should go the refurbished or used route, to at least save some of that cost.