7 key features we want to see on the iPad Pro

December 2, 2013

Integrated full-size keyboard

Many tablet users would concur that Microsoft’s Surface family doesn’t beat the iPad in too many areas but one where it definitely does is on the keyboard side of things.

The Surface 2 has the Touch Cover, Type Cover and the Power Cover with the integrated battery. There’s even a version for wannabe music DJs — called the Surface Music Cover.

By comparison, the keyboard options have largely remained the same on the iPad since its inception in 2010. Yes, there have been Bluetooth-enabled keyboards from Logitech, Kensington, ZAGG and others but the reality is that these keyboards are not full-size and remain an optional extra.

We’d like to see a bundled and integrated keyboard which ‘clicks in’ like the Touch Cover. Such an accessory has long been rumoured and would be a fantastic addition for enterprise customers.

Touch ID fingerprint sensor

Staying with enterprise demand, Apple will surely bring the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to its iPad line-up in the near future.

The sensor – which allows users to log-in simply by placing their finger on the home button – would be a welcome addition, not least for IT teams trying to lock down data, but may not be the solution to all problems. After all, some researchers have already proved that it can be hacked.

(Apple's next iPad mini is expected to have the Touch ID sensor. Image courtesy of DoNews)

Similar portability

A larger 13-inch tablet with a high-resolution display might look and even run great, but does still come at a price: size, weight and general dimensions.

One of the reasons people are using tablets is because of their portability (also see the iPad mini’s startling rise) and no-one wants to go back to the dark ages of lugging laptop-style devices around.

I am not entirely sure how Apple negotiates this (maybe it uses fewer LEDs on the display, goes with a lower resolution, or uses a lighter, aluminium chassis) but it’s something that ever business user will demand from the get-go.

Sharp display (not guaranteed)

iPad owners have become accustomed to their Retina Displays or – more poignantly – a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch.

But, as iMore's Rene Ritchie writes, scalability could be an issue here. Sure enough, it was easy for Apple to downscale the iPad 2 resolution of 1024 x 768 for the smaller 7.85-inch iPad mini and this in turn increased the pixel density from 132 ppi to 163 (although apps and icons did look a little smaller). This was great news for developers who didn’t need to modify apps in the slightest.

A larger iPad Pro would change that and Apple would effectively either have to scale up the Retina Display – and lose pixel density (198ppi) and detail in the process – or go even bigger to a 4K resolution which could change aspect ratios and force developers to tweak apps. 

(Worth reading: Apple's giant 12.9-inch iPad Pro will 'target education and enterprise' & Apple to reportedly launch massive iPad in 2014)

Powerful stylus (with holder)

A bigger and more powerful tablet is all very well but, given its likely to attract creative professionals and teachers accustomed to using digital and paper-bound pens, a responsive and accurate stylus wouldn’t go amiss.

There are already a few consumer-grade products out there in this regard, such as the “Pencil” stylus from Paper app developer FiftyThree. But you suspect professional designers will seek something extra and super refined – maybe like the infrared stylus on Panasonic’s ThinkPad 4K.

A stylus holder would be useful as well.

More RAM for more powerful apps

Apple’s iPad Air was important for a number of reasons and amongst these were the 64-bit A7 CPU and the 2GB of RAM.

The latter is probably not as eye catching but is vital for app multi-tasking, something which will be incredibly important should the business-friendly iPad Pro come to fruition.

It means that apps can cache more content and that they will get killed in the background less often. With powerful PCs now promising up to 4GB of RAM, expect Apple’s next big tablet to go bigger once again.

(The best tablet insights, reviews, apps & tips are in the free TabTimes Weekly Best newsletter, delivered every Sunday)

Gesture recognition

Tomorrow’s tablets are going to have more focus on gesture recognition than they do today.

The technology is niche but growing as far as LCD TVs and monitors are concerned and there are signs already that the tide is turning for tablets too: Samsung’s 10.1-inch Galaxy Note (as well as the Note 3) has the Air Command functionality for operating the screen without touching it, Microsoft has a similar feature on its Bing app on the Surface 2 while ARM’s new 16-core Mali GPU (Mali-T76) is aiming to bring enhanced video editing and gesture recognition to mobile devices in future.

It looks like Apple knows this too; the firm has filed a patent for a 3D camera for its iOS devices that will “include facial recognition but also facial gesturing recognition”, and recently bought motion sensor maker PrimeSense.

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