The Mac has had big improvements over the last few years but what about the iPad?
Over the last few years, we have seen a big turnaround in how Apple has treated the Mac. There were rumors that Apple was going to move away from pro desktop computers like the Mac Pro, with the introduction of the iMac Pro and there continued progression of the iPad Pro lineup.
It felt like for a while Apple was more focused on making the iPad their future, and many in the Mac community were not happy. The 2016–2019 MacBook Pros were unreliable, lacked the performance many wanted, and were experimenting with things that Pros just did not want. Like only having USB-C ports and a new mini touchscreen, the TouchBar felt like a marketing stunt.
This of course is all coming from the Apple Pro perspective. I don’t want to overstep or misconstrue anything, but from all the Apple Podcasters and Bloggers at the time, this was the sentiment back then. Apple had to bring in a bunch of Apple journalists to have a Mac powwow and created labs to test the performance of Macs in different fields of work.
After 2019 the direction of the Mac started to change, the iMac Pro was great, but power users wanted more, especially in the MacBook Pro lineup. The MacBook Air was updated with a retina screen which everyone was happy to see, but it wasn’t until the introduction of Apple’s very silicone with the M1 did Mac users really started to get excited.
Since the M1, we have seen huge improvements in all of Apple's Macs. The MacBook Pros with the M1 Pro and M1 Max are very well-loved, and with the new M3 variants, the power many were seeking is now available to them. Not only has performance skyrocketed, leaving Intel in the dust, but other features like Mini-LED displays, bringing MagSafe back, and more ports have given many a reason to fall back in love with the Mac again.
Not to mention the return of the Mac Pro, and a new, very powerful, Mac Studio. Apple even upgraded their Magic Keyboards to support Touch ID and released a couple of amazing displays. Maybe this was Apple’s intention the whole time, or maybe seeing that they were losing their most dedicated customers made them shift gears and do so much in the Mac area of their business.
And with the announcement Apple just made, during their October 30th event, the Mac is more robust than ever. The removal of the Touchbar MacBook Pro from the lineup shows that Apple is taking the future of the MacBook line very seriously — let alone the amazing jump the M3 chips in all new Macs to come.
This leads me to the iPad Pro and how many feel Apple has switched making the Mac a step-child of the business to the iPad, making many power users feel neglected. I can’t say that I totally disagree with this sentiment. Other than the 12.9-inch getting a display upgrade in 2022, and all the iPads getting chip upgrades over the years — the poor iPad Mini has not been touched for two years now. The iPad Pros really haven’t had much of a change for over five years now.
I wrote a couple of posts about iPad Power users earlier in the year, and I still agree with my stance at the time that Apple was giving Power Users what they were asking for, and to expect Apple to turn the iPad into a Mac was unreasonable. If you want to read those posts here is my initial post;
And here is my follow-up when iPadOS 16 was announced;
When comparing the Mac to the iPad, there are a few things to consider. The Mac had many areas of concern before Apple rebooted things, the performance and Intel chips were a big problem, and the M-series chips have helped the Mac and macOS reach more potential. The iPads have also benefited from this change. You can get both iPad Pros with M2 chips, maybe not be exactly the same as the Mac’s versions, but they do have potentially much more performance than the beefed-up A-series chips that they took from the iPhone.
Another thing to consider is Apple’s direction of where the hardware and software are going. When many were upset with the Mac, not only was the hardware lacking, but many saw and feared that macOS was being merged into a single operating system with iOS (or later iPadOS). Hence the reason many thought Apple saw the iPad as its future and that the Mac was going to be deprecated. Since then macOS has definitely taken a lot from iOS and iPadOS but a lot has been built to complement each other rather than a true replacement.
One last area to consider is the lack of hardware features that made the Mac great. Having ports for anything you needed, Apple-made accessories like external displays and routers, a modular Mac Pro that let you put in any graphics card or other components that were important to you, and a sense of quality that Apple prided itself in.
When we look at all these things that the Mac was lacking and that Apple improved over time, it is hard not to see some similarities with the iPad, especially the Pro line, and Apple making no effort to better the platform. iPadOS has been given a lot of new features, including some that I never expected Apple to give to the iPad. Cursor support was something I never thought would be available on the iPad, because it was a touch-first computer, and using a trackpad or mouse with it sounded ridiculous.
But with the introduction of the Magic Keyboard, it felt like Apple knew what they were doing. Making a piece of premium hardware specific to the iPad, increased the performance of using an iPad Pro. The Apple Pencil was another great step that happened much earlier than cursor support, but also provided a tool for power users to really take advantage of the amazing hardware and performance that the iPad Pro offered.
Now that we are in 2023, some things are still unknown for the iPad Pro, and what Apple sees in its future. Sure, we finally got better external display support with the new Stage Manager feature in iPadOS, but I want a new Apple Display specific to iPads. The Magic Keyboard is fantastic, and it is one of My Favorite Tech Accessories, but it is over 3 years old now. A single USB-C port is nice, but I want more ports even if it is more USB-C. I would also like to see the iPad Pro 11-inch get the same display as the 12.9-inch model.
With the M2 and I am sure M3 chip coming to the iPad Pro line soon, I want to see it be utilized more. I know the iPads in the past have always been overpowered for what they need, but I would like to see Apple take iPadOS to a new level, allowing power users to max out the M3 chips with power user applications that Apple offers — which may lead to other third-party developers to do too.
I am not as down as some are about the iPad Pro and it not getting the same love as the Mac. If you embrace an iPad for what it is and not compare it to the Mac, I think it is a great computer in many aspects. But I do fear Apple may be playing the same story with the iPad Pro line as they did with the Pro Mac line in the past. What I fear more is that they don’t care as much to correct it as they did for the Mac.
I think Apple has a couple more years before I get too concerned, though. Like I said before, the iPad Pro lineup with the M2 is pretty sweet. And even if a little older, the Magic Keyboards still make the iPad Pro an amazing computer. I hope Apple does do something drastic in the next year or so. If they don’t introduce new accessories I think it is fine, but iPadOS really needs to stretch its muscles a little more and show us what it can really do with that M-series chip it runs off of.