Mark Gurman knows what he’s doing when it comes to Apple rumors. AppleTrack, which monitors analyst hits and misses, currently rates it at 89.1 percent accuracy, so its recent claim that Apple is working on a giant iPad is likely strong.
However, it’s worth emphasizing that just because Cupertino engineers are working on something doesn’t mean it will actually ship. (See AirPower.) And even if it does launch, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. (See Magic Mouse.)
It would certainly be bold for Apple to break through the 12.9-inch ceiling that it has historically placed on its iPad screens. That form factor made its debut in 2015 on the first iPad Pro model and has stayed the same ever since, even when iPhones and mid-size iPads have been steadily increasing in size. The home button disappeared, the bezels got smaller, but the flagship iPad Pro has kept its screen exactly the same size, choosing instead to make its chassis smaller, as if to say that there is no benefit to be gained from growing up. more.
And having used every possible iPad size, I wonder if maybe there aren’t.
What is an iPad for?
The iPad is a successful product because it is brilliantly suited to a specific but universal use case: taking a portable device from a side table that is large enough to comfortably consume digital content (games, Netflix, the web, etc. ) with the bare minimum. friction.
Of course, a device that accommodates numerous use cases can also be successful, as we’ve seen with the iPhone, but trying to be everything to all users is a gamble with larger-format devices. And Apple would tell us that the iPad is much more than a “quiet” media consuming device and that it can replace the laptop as a work device. I agree: it is and it can. In some industries, in fact, the replacement process has already happened, such as logistics and hospitality, where mobile work requires relatively light tasks away from a desk that somehow mimics the leisure uses of the iPad.
Michael Simon / IDG
But the iPad’s primary role as a sofa companion is that of bringing home the bacon, and the further Apple has moved away from the iPad described above, the fewer units are sold. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a case in point: a minority- niche product of interest that is too powerful and expensive to waste on digital forays, and too large and valuable to carry casually.
If current Pro models are too far a compromise for most customers, imagine what would happen if Apple increased them to 14 inches or even 16 inches. It would be turning the iPad into something completely different. Yes, this would create a device that we would assume is excellent for digital illustration and photo editing and other creative work. But Apple would further increase the price, make it much less portable, and much more likely to be confined to a workspace.
Michael Simon / IDG
While that would eventually separate the iPad Pro from the rest of the models, it would do so at a cost. Apple would be fundamentally undermining the core concept of the iPad Pro, which is more portable and flexible than a Mac, and would create a product that most people would not need or want.
The versatility trap
One of the key points in Gurman’s argument for a large iPad is versatility: He wants a device that can be both a laptop and a tablet. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro should be able to do that, but Gurman contends that the current screen “is too small for someone used to a 16-inch MacBook Pro.” But could a larger iPad Pro do both? And if so, how well?
Dominik Tomaszewski / IDG
First, the iPadOS interface and ecosystem are not as conducive to digital productivity as macOS. Gurman admits this, saying that Apple “needs to allow Mac applications and Mac-like multitasking with more flexible arrangements of application windows,” but Apple has yet to show its willingness to evolve iPadOS beyond what it is. Also, a hugely expensive 16-inch tablet wouldn’t be as convenient for media consumption as the 10.9-inch iPad Air. Consequently, we take a device that does one thing very well and turn it into a device that does two things less well. .
Convergence is going to happen, and 10 years from now, I can’t imagine many people having a smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop. But to get to that point, Apple engineers will have to find a way to take advantage of the new shape without losing the benefits of the old one. Maybe that comes through folding screens, better accessories, or improvements to iPadOS.
But until we get there, a giant iPad would be a huge mistake that could undermine what makes the iPad so great to begin with.