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There’s a lot of talk lately about the next iteration of Apple’s iPad. According to rumors from insiders, Apple is going to update the line next year and add a smaller version of the iPad Pro; what is being widely referred to as the iPad mini Pro.
It makes sense, but the iPad has lost its way. It’s stuck between a rock and a hard place, with the iPhone 7 Plus being just a little bit smaller, and the MacBook and MacBook Air only a little bigger, and only a bit more expensive. I bet that if I asked ten people why they’d buy an iPad that eight of them would say “I don’t know.” Meanwhile, even Apple is trying to help people figure out what to do with it. In the latest iPad Pro commercials, Apple wants you to believe that its souped up iPad with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil is a substitute for a laptop. That’s a stretch and really misleading.
So if Apple is going to add the Pro moniker to the iPad mini, there needs to be some changes for it to work and be viable. Here are 7 things I believe an iPad mini Pro must have to be successful.
1. Apple Pencil Collaboration.
It seems like a 7.9-inch iPad is the absolute perfect size for the Apple Pencil, even more so than the larger Pro models. While I’m one of those people who mostly stopped using his iPad in favor of the larger iPhone Plus, a super powerful iPad mini Pro with Apple Pencil compatibility could change my habits.
2. No Pencil integration with the iPhone 7 Plus.
Yes, you read that correctly: no integration. For the iPad mini Pro to be successful, something has to set it apart from the iPhone 7 Plus because the size is close enough to matter. Pencil compatibility is the killer feature. I’m writing this article on my iPhone 6 Plus right now and it’s fine; but if I could write it via Pencil on my iPad mini Pro I’d choose that route in a second.
3. A Very Apple Way of Storing the Pencil.
The company that recently announced wireless AirPods (that are destined to fall out of our ears) doesn’t seem concerned about how you keep from losing your accessories. But the Pencil is different. Steve Jobs never wanted to use a stylus because he always said they could be easily misplaced. And he was right. Granted the Pencil is much better than a stylus, but if Palm could create a little drawer back then, and Samsung can find a way to store its version of a writing tool, surely Apple could do something that wows the audience at the next big reveal. Maybe something that hides it inside the hardware, or possibly a strong magnet that ensures the pencil’s safety.
Like the AirPods, the Pencil isn’t cheap. And even more than the AirPods, the Pencil is a key accessory. And as a side note, the fact that Apple leaves it to third party developers to come up with ways to protect and store the Pencil, whether it be a holder or case, is ridiculous. Part of the experience with Apple is how well everything integrates together. It’s clear Apple put a lot of thought into making the Pencil cool, so treating something as important as storage as an afterthought seems counterproductive in every way.
4. An Even Smarter Smart Keyboard.
I’m not sure how I feel about Apple’s current iPad Pro keyboard offering. It’s a keyboard that doubles as a case. Great. But for the iPad mini Pro I think Apple needs to take a bolder step. Instead of a physical keyboard, I’d love to see an all-electric one. The keyboard appears when you open the case, not all that different from the light going on and off when you open and close the refrigerator. I like that idea because I think the keyboard has to switch seamlessly between landscape and portrait but in a more powerful way than the on-screen keyboard we are currently used to. This virtual keyboard needs to have that tactile feel without really being there. The technology exists, but it’s up to Apple to implement it as only Apple can.
5. Killer Apps.
The best thing Apple can do to avoid affecting sales of the iPhone 7 Plus is to make sure one does something the other can’t. While it’s normal to expect Apple to put the super fancy camera from the iPhone 7 Plus into the iPad mini Pro, I think that’s a bad idea. First off, people who use an iPad of any size to take photos look silly and nothing is going to change that. So instead Apple should concentrate on making its iPad mini Pro apps do things users can’t do anywhere else — or at least better than they do anywhere else. For example: a Home app that acts as a home base for everything would be an amazing integration for this new product. So not just lights, but also the most incredible TV remote control ever. I can easily picture a future where there’s an iPad mini Pro in every room and it controls everything around you. And one step better and further, I can easily picture a future where an iPad mini Pro is standard in every hotel room and you use it for everything from controlling the thermostat to unlocking and locking the minibar.
6. iPad OS.
While I understand the need for simplicity, I think the iPad’s software deserves to be different from the iPhone software, just as the Apple Watch doesn’t run on iOS. When the iPad was first released, there was a lot of talk about how Apple lost its creativity and created a giant iPhone. The company worked furiously to fight back and talk about all of the different things the iPad can be used for. But with iPads that run iOS 10, no matter what variant it is, it operates like a giant iPhone. Case in point, look at what happens when a non-optimized-for-iPad iPhone app runs on the iPad: You can blow it up to a bigger size but it looks terrible. Apple has to be able to tell people that they can do things on the iPad that they can’t do on the iPhone, otherwise there’s no reason to spend the money. There will always be another way.
7. A Good Old Fashioned Headphone Jack.
What do you think the iPad mini Pro needs to be successful?
Let us know in the comments below.