Apple’s New iPad Pro Misses iPad 10’s Best Feature

Image: Apple

Since I’ve been using iPads, I wonder: Why the camera on the short side? This made sense in the days before iPads were used as laptop replacements: if you’re coming from a smartphone, it seems more natural to hold an iPad in portrait mode for video calls. But times have changed, and many of us keep our iPads rooted to a desk, either as a traditional workstation, or propped up on a stand for more comfortable scrolling. The offset camera means when video calls come in, it’s awkward: unless you reposition the iPad, you’ll always look like you’re looking to the side, when you should be looking at the person you’re talking to.

After 11 years, however, Apple decided to change things. As part of a general redesign, the tenth-generation iPad now has the camera on the long side of the tablet, where you’d expect it to be. When you start a video call from an iPad 10, you’ll feel like you’re using a laptop or a traditional webcam. The only giveaway you’re on an iPad is the slow, dramatic zoom when Center Stage starts up. Otherwise, it’s the same experience, although much improved.

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With the new camera placement, the iPad 10 now has the same design language as all other iPads, which means there’s no longer a home (RIP) button. It also sports the A14 chip found in the iPhone 12, which is a big part of what makes this tablet “budget”. The 12MP rear camera can record 4K video, and all models now have Wi-Fi 6, while cellular models can connect to 5G. There’s also a new Magic Keyboard designed specifically for the iPad 10 with a row of functions to control things like screen brightness or volume. Revolutionary.

However, these new features will cost you dearly. While Apple’s iPad 9 costs $329, this new tablet costs $449. For years, Apple has priced its base iPad much lower than other iPads, as an affordable way for customers to access its tablets. The iPad 10 no longer seems to align with this strategy. Does moving the webcam to another side of the iPad cost so much?

If today’s announcement was only for the 10th generation iPad, you’d expect this new design philosophy to apply to all iPad models when they next refresh. The iPad mini, iPad Air and iPad Pro will all probably join the camera revolution in due course, right?

Well, apparently not. Along with the iPad 10, Apple announced the next generation iPad Pro, which includes the M2 chip as an upgrade to the M1 from previous models. For the most part, the M1 chip was already overkill in a machine running iPadOS, so it’s likely to be a while before we see any apps actually taking advantage of the extra performance capabilities of Apple’s second-generation silicon (except of DaVinci Solve). The Pro also supports Wi-Fi 6E and native ProRes video capture, as well as the ability to detect an Apple Pencil before touching it to the screen.

But the most surprising move is what Apple doesn’t included with new Pros. For some reason, the front camera is still in its original position. Why? That means spending over $300 more on an iPad gives you a worse video calling experience, even if it’s the experience you’ve always had. And speaking of worse experiences, the iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard remains unchanged – no row of functions for you. You’ll still need to change the volume and adjust the screen brightness from the iPad Pro itself. Minor inconveniences, but ones you wouldn’t expect when choosing an iPad for which Apple charges up to $2200.

Apple has taken some strange steps with its new iPads. The “budget” iPad is now the best for video calling, but even that isn’t really “cheap” anymore, and the best iPad you can buy is actively lacking in features. Apple works in mysterious ways.

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