The iPad Pro is a bit of a head scratcher. It’s big, fast, and beautiful but what exactly is it for? It’s too big for reading in the coffee shop, not nimble enough for serious work multitasking, and too pricey for Netflix binging.
Apple’s(AAPL, Tech30) Tim Cook has touted the 12.9-inch tablet as a laptop replacement, but the operating system and software aren’t quite there yet. And laptops, smaller iPads and competing hybrids can do many of the same tasks for less (the iPad Pro starts at $799).
However, it does have some promising use cases. Much will depend on what developers build for it, but here are some places to start.
Artists, doodlers, dreamers
The iPad Pro’s killer feature isn’t its size, it’s the Apple Pencil. The pressure-sensitive stylus was built to work with the Pro, and it is central to the most exciting apps on the device. Adobe has already updated its Photoshop Fix and Mix apps to work with the stylus. Creative tools make up the bulk of the first exciting Pro apps.
Actual productivity levels will vary for creatives who bounce between applications. iOS 9’s multitasking lets you work on two apps at once, side-by-side, but that may not be enough for professionals juggling tasks. And iOS versions of pro apps like Photoshop are fun, but still not a replacement for the real thing.
If nothing else, the iPad Pro is the ultimate sketchbook for mono-taskers. It’s a dream for people who want to curl up with a blank canvas and create things like paintings, 3D models, or even sketch out a new webpage.
Serious note takers
Laptops are not ideal for taking notes unless you’re just looking to enter straight text. But the best notes are often more complex. They include diagrams, thoughts scribbled in the margins, and lots of doodles.
There are already a number of Pencil-compatible note apps on the Pro. You can use a combination of stylus, finger and keyboard entry at your next meeting. Try Evernote, the Omni apps and Apple’s own recently updated Notes app.
We’re not talking about people who hop from an office to a cafe to a sofa.
People who are out in the field for their jobs could use a serious tablet. Imagine the iPad Pro is a clipboard. Inspectors could use it to take photos, architects might sketch annotations from construction sites, teachers could hold one in the middle of a mass of students. All could snap on a keyboard for more traditional computing.
Groups, schools, collaborators
Smartphones and tablets are not social. They are personal devices, meant for one person to consume content or play games.
An iPad Pro has the potential to act more like a social device, where people can gather to collaborate on projects. It’s big enough that people can view the same screen or use the same app simultaneously. Football players can literally huddle around the Hudl team-coaching app on an iPad Pro. Amateur musicians can split up drum and cymbal duties in Garage Band.
Education is the ideal place for this. Even with their lower price tags, it is usually cost prohibitive to buy each student in a classroom their own iPad.
The iPad has been a sneak hit in retail. It’s replaced generations of expensive, proprietary devices like cash registers and kiosks and already takes orders and processes payments. A bigger iPad with a stylus won’t revolutionize the industry, but it could be an exciting new tool. The pencil could replace intake forms in doctor’s offices, and the tablet will make an even better interactive guide in museums.
It is difficult for most people to hold an iPad Pro in one hand while tapping and swiping with the other. I’m certain there are people out there with very large hands who might find it easily palm-able. For these larger humans, the iPad Pro might be a dream come true. Enjoy.