I already have an iPad Pro, but today Apple gave me a serious case of iPad envy when it introduced the... well... iPad Pro. The new model sports a 9.7-inch display, just like the iPad Air, but otherwise packs in the same features as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro along with a few nice improvements. And I want it. Or, at least I want the new model's features in my bigger-screen iPad Pro.
The smaller iPad Pro is like mine, but also kind of better
First, we'll get the annoying part out of the way: Apple now has two iPad Pro models without any clear way to tell them apart based on name. In fact, Apple unintentionally made it clear how confusing its product naming scheme can be with the release of iTunes 12.3.3. The update release notes say, "This update adds support for syncing iTunes with iPhone SE and iPad Pro."
I already have an iPad Pro, and iTunes has supported syncing with it for months. Ever since it was released last September, actually. It would've been nice for Apple to include some way to make it clear which iPad Pro they're talking about, like maybe calling the new 9.7-inch model iPad Air Pro, or iPad Pro (9.7-inch), or iPad Pro (early spring 2016), or iPad Pro mid-size with Awesome User Experience, or whatever.
Since Apple couldn't figure out a better name, I'm going with iPad Pro 12 for the 12.9-inch model, and iPad Pro 9 for the 9.7-inch model. That's iPP 12 and iPP 9, for short.
Show Me Yours and I'll Show You Mine
Comparing the specs on the iPP 12 and iPP 9 show they're pretty similar aside from screen size. Both come in 32GB, 128GB, and now 256GB capacities, WiFi plus LTE models are available, they support Apple Pencil, include A9X processors and M9 co-processors, speakers on each corner, dual microphones, Touch ID, Apple Pay, Siri voice control, and iOS 9.3.
You can get the iPP 9 in rose gold in addition to Space Gray, silver, and gold. I'm not a rose gold fan, so that isn't a big deal for me, but I get that some people are going to flip over the option.
The first iPP 9 feature I'm craving is one I don't expect I'll use hardly ever, and yet I want it: the 12-megapixel iSight camera. Seriously. It supports Live Photos, focuses faster thanks to Autofocus with Focus Pixels, includes a True Tone flash, offers an f/2.2 aperture, and more. On the video side, you can record 4K video, and capture slow-mo video at 120 fps (1080p) and 240 fps (720p).
I'm not big into using an iPad as a camera, but it would be nice to have the beefed up specs because when you really need to use it, those features would be great. Still, that's not what has me coveting the iPP 9; it's the display.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro display is Retina, like the 12.9-inch model, but includes what Apple is calling wide color and True Tone. Wide color refers to the ability to show a broader color range, and True Tone is a feature that adjusts the display's color temperature based on ambient lighting.
True Tone is great for people who need to see how their documents look in varying light conditions, but not necessarily so for photographers who want to see consistent color when editing images. You can turn the feature off, but having it available is pretty cool, especially if you're creating documents in Pages and plan to print them out.
When Phil Schiller highlighted the feature during Monday's media event, my heart jumped with excitement, then sank like a stone when I remembered that's not something I have on my iPP 12. Since it requires sensors that are presumably only in the iPP 9, I don't get to have that feature until I buy a new iPad.
Next up: Dreaming of feature parity
Dreaming of Feature Parity
For anyone looking to buy a new iPad, the choices get even more confusing than sorting out models using the same name. That's because notable display features you'd expect to be in the 12.9-inch model are available only in the 9.7-inch version. It isn't obvious that the iPP 12 doesn't support as wide a color gamut as the iPP 9, and that it doesn't support True Tone, either.
In other words, Apple's iPad Pro lineup is out of sync with itself and while I'm totally capable of sorting out which model does what, I'm wishing Apple hadn't left what it's touting as pro features off the 12.9-inch model.
I have to assume Apple didn't have True Tone ready to go when the iPP 12 launched last fall, and so it was left off. I also assume Apple plans to add it in with the next refresh, likely this fall.
Look at that smug little iPad Pro taunting my bigger iPad Pro's display
But now I have a dilemma: Unless Apple decides to sync up the 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch refresh cycles, the smaller model will likely get new features ahead of its big brother. Sure, the iPP 12 will have some new features a few months earlier, but the iPP 9 will leapfrog it—which is exactly what happened today. Do I replace my current iPP 12 when the new models come out, and keep my big screen, or wait for the next iPad Pro 9 and downsize?
I love using my iPP 12 as an uber-portable alternative to my MacBook Pro. I also love the new display features in the iPP 9, and the idea of knowingly setting myself up to be six months behind compared to the smaller model doesn't exactly light my fire.
Apple could also update the iPP 9 again this fall so it's in line with whatever new features the iPP 12 gets, or it could hold off until fall 2017 to get both models in sync. The latter doesn't seem likely considering Apple is positioning the iPP 9 as a PC alternative, and holding back new feature refreshes doesn't seem like a good way to keep Windows switchers interested.
On a side note, Apple is pitching the iPP 9 as the entry point for Windows switchers, not the MacBook or MacBook Pro. I don't see that as a death knell for Apple's laptop line, but it is interesting that Apple is positioning an iPad instead of a Mac as its draw for potential switchers.
But back to my real problem: I have an iPad Pro and I have iPad Pro envy. Unless Apple decides to get its Pro tablet launches in sync—which doesn't seem likely because now we have major iPad refreshes happing in fall and spring—I have to deal with a clearly ridiculous first world dillema where I have to decide if I want to stick with the iPP 12 upgrade cycle, or move to the iPP 9 cycle.
Or maybe I should just get over myself and be glad for what I have.