So if Apple did make a 13-inch iPad Pro...

While Apple absolutely did not leak one on their website, elaborating on why that wasn't a 13-inch iPad Pro got me thinking again about what could be. Yes, a bigger iPhone 6 still feels far more important, but that doesn't make the mental exercise any less interesting. So, beyond how Apple could scale the iPad display to 13-inches, how else could Apple differentiate a larger tablet? What other features could Apple add to make an iPad truly "pro"?

1. Keyboard cover

The original iPad launched with an... awkward Keyboard Dock that Apple discontinued a short time later. Since then, Apple has added supported for Bluetooth keyboards, including their own Bluetooth keyboard. But that was designed for the Mac, not for the iPad. Third-party manufacturers have attempted to fill that void with some great hardware that still doesn't offer perfect integration. Meanwhile, Microsoft has offered two kinds of keyboards for the Surface, a flat, capacitive keyboard and a thicker, mechanical one similar to the third-party ones made for iPad.

A keyboard cover made by Apple specifically for the iPad Pro could not only offer their typical world-class design, but even better levels of integration, allowing for faster typing and greater productivity, especially for people who live in document editors and spread sheets.

2. Pressure sensitivity

I used Wacom tablets for almost a decade when I worked in graphic design. They were and are phenomenally good at what they do. Though I never had the chance to own one, I've always lusted after the display versions like the Cintiq HD24 Touch. Hell, even though the software and hardware aren't at all to my taste, the idea of the Samsung Galaxy Note as an incredibly portable Wacom tablet has been super intriguing. Current iPads have no built-in pressure sensitivity. Stylus makers have tried to work around this using Bluetooth 4.0 LE, but the results just aren't the same.

Adding pressure sensitivity to an iPad Pro via a built-in digitizer would open up new worlds of creativity for professional illustrators, designers, and more — anyone and everyone who communicates using hand-writing, sketches, or diagrams.

3. Deep color

The Retina iPad mini famously doesn't have as good a color gamut as the iPad Air. Likewise, the iPad Air doesn't have as good color fidelity as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. That's because the Kindle uses the same low-temperature poly-silicon (LTPS) panel that Apple currently reserves for the iPhone 5s. There are various manufacturing scale and power-efficiency reasons for Apple going indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) instead, but that doesn't mean there aren't greater color depths left for Apple to plumb.

A wide gamut display in an iPad Pro would appeal to professional photographers, artists, designers, and anyone for whom color accuracy is important.

4. 4K camera

The original iPad shipped without a camera. The iPad 2 camera was incredibly disappointing. Subsequent iPad cameras have been... okay? Certainly they've been nothing like the incredibly good iSight camera of recent iPhones. While iPhoneography has long since gone mainstream — Apple even used the iPhone 5s to film television commercials and fashion shows — iPadography has garnered more ridicule than anything else. However, anyone who has been involved in large scale video projects know big screens can be incredibly helpful when it comes to capturing sharp images. Third parties have made cases that allow for wide angle and other lenses to be attached to the iPad but they're still limited by the glass inside the device. Meanwhile, other manufacturers are already including 4K in the phones.

The ability to live-preview 4K video on a 13-inch iPad Pro screen and capture it with a truly top-notch iSight camera would be a boon to highly mobile videographers everywhere.

5. Battery life

There's a cost to everything. When it comes to mobile devices, that cost is almost always battery life. Apple does a phenomenal job balancing screen density, device weight, and battery life already. In 2012 they could only maximize two out of the three. In 2013, they managed all three. Retina display, ultra-light design, and the same 10-hours of battery life as every previous generation. But only the same. The 13-inch MacBook Air, by contrast, now gets up to 13-hours. The whole idea behind the Retina iPad mini and iPad Air was to make them as light and highly-mobile as possible. At 13-inches lightness can be less of a priority — very few people will be holding it up for long periods of time — and the pendulum can swing back to battery life.

No matter what the specs or features, they do you no good if the battery is dead. An iPad Pro, even if it's a ever-so-slightly thicker, ever-so-slightly heavier than it might otherwise be, but with 12- to 15-hours of battery life, would be a huge win for professionals.

What about ports and docks?

The iPad is not a Mac, so that leaves a lot on the table. OS X isn't touch optimized, so those wanting a Mac tablet will still likely have to look to third-party aftermarket mods. USB ports, like VGA ports, are the past and Apple looks to the future, so those who want nothing more than for the side of the iPad to look like the side of a Windows laptop will probably always need to look elsewhere. iOS hardware isn't based on PCI architecture the way a Mac is, so that means dreams of a Thunderbolt connection — which is also based on PCI — will remain just that — dreams. The idea of a dock-able iPad certainly isn't new, but if Apple ever decoupled software and hardware they'd likely do it in a new way.

What about the software?

The list above is restricted to hardware. iOS 8 or iOS 9 could no doubt bring even more Pro to a 13-inch iPad. The trick would be maintaining the iPad's ease of use while increasing its pro appeal.

Would it need multiple user support, not in the traditional OS X sense but something perhaps tied to iCloud profiles? Would it need multiple concurrent app support, again not with the traditional OS X window-mouse-pointer (WiMP) context, but in a way born to multitouch? Would it need some form of document repository that keeps the file system hidden away but still provides robust file access?

Those and other questions are also incredibly interesting, but I think will take even more consideration.

Your iPad Pro dreams?

There's no indication Apple is going to ship an iPad Pro any time soon. But that's what makes this the perfect time to speculate, to dream. Not everything, not anything will be possible. Apple is still limited by the laws of physics and economics, and the discipline of focus. But within the realm of the possible, what would it take for you to truly consider an iPad "pro"?

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

So if Apple did make a 13-inch iPad Pro...

36 Comments

My dreams would be able to view more than one screen or app. You are able to view more items at once. If it had this feature, I wouldn't need to have a laptop. For example, view a podcast and research information for a report or presentation. Just better Multi-tasking functions.

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It's an interesting idea, but I'm still not sure how it could be well handled. Multitouch mobile aren't old style traditional desktop operating systems.

Nor should they be.

I have zero interest in this type of product, personally. I would just buy a Macbook Air if I were going for a 13" screen. I prefer a 4"-ish phone (use only for calls, texting, weather, and quick news updates), a 7" tablet (for 90% of my daily media consumption and light productivity), and 15" laptop for everything else.

The only use I could see with on this kind of device would be for graphic designers. Directly manipulating a sketch on a larger canvas would probably be ideal for them.

I agree, if Apple makes a 13" iPad you can get the price would be up there with the MacBook Airs.

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Great summation of possible issues and features.

I think that Apple might indeed make an iPad of this size, if only for the keyboard, which although not mentioned here, would mean that it would be the first iPad to have keyboard covers (even third party ones) that are "full sized" keyboards. For this reason I think the bigger iPad might actually be targeted more as a *desktop* replacement, than an "iPad Pro."

The problem with the idea of a "Pro" iPad and the possible features mentioned here is two-fold. In the first place, most of these features shouldn't/couldn't and probably wouldn't be withheld from the rest of the iPad line so the only differentiation provided would be on release day only. Secondly, other "Pro" features like a 4K camera (!?), are really the kind of features that users of the smaller iPad or even iPhone users (i.e. - smaller devices) would prefer over those that gravitate towards a larger device.

We've had to live through years of this pointless and ridiculous mockery of people taking pictures with iPads with most of the tech press calling these users "grannies" or "people unclear on how to use an iPad." Now all of a sudden, the senior with the ginormous iPad will have a 4K camera and magically transform into a "pro" user? iPads with cameras four times better than the one in the iPhone? I think not.

Everything is a compromise. iPad Air and iPad mini are focused on getting smaller and lighter right now. That's in opposition to things like bigger batteries and even bigger z-index for cameras.

iPad Pro, if such a beast is ever unleashed, could give Apple an excuse to change their focus. Like the MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro.

I have to go with a better multitasking interface. Someway to view two screens at the same time. Maybe like PIP, the second screen is in a small window until you touch it and give it the focus, then they switch.

OhNo, did I say Windows!

I think what apple needs to do is build a line of tablets that brings iOS to varying number of tablet users. Even the competition has recognized that major growth in mobile will come form tablets..Apple needs to (in my opinion) launch a iPad Mini - C with a lower price (perhaps a plastic version that lowers the BOM and allows for a 300$ price tag) but with the same spec as the current retina. The iPAD 4 and Air can coexist at different price points, and the PRO can come in around 200$ more than the equivalent iPAD AIr model.

I think the greatest issues when launching an iPad Pro would be Apple's approach to utilizing the screen real estate without fragmenting the iOS platform.

We all know it'll look good.

Posted from my TARDIS!

I wonder about that as well in relation to a bigger iPhone. It we presume Apple has to get more pixels eventually — could they go 10 years without? 5 years? 2? is it just a matter of time? — then it's a problem that will need to be resolved anyway eventually.

Lack of Pressure sensitivity has been the main thing that keeps me from buying an iPad. Wacom has ALL of the patents locked down as it applies to hardware+stylus. That's why our only option aside from apple paying licensing is Bluetooth. The display technology is also different, perhaps requiring apple to make some design compromises.
Is would really like to use the iPad as a digital sketchbook. As an animator, I gotta have the right type of response when I'm drawing. I'll end up getting an iPad eventually, but the point is: if it had the pressure sense and same form, I would have one already.

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As a graphic designer for 22 years, I have seen pretty much all the acts.
You are absolutely correct.
I have a iPad and it really stinks in this department.
I have used sketch, procreate, Paper 53, ink, penultimate, good notes, Notes plus, bamboo paper, I have tried them all and they're just not there. Stylists are a joke. Wacom has this arena nailed down.
I have used them and they rock hands down.
I had very high hope for the iPad in this arena.
Taking notes is another travesty. You just can't rest your palm anywhere without it setting every input askew

I use a Jot Touch with Pixelpoint and the Procreate App to do drawings on my iPad. I wear a glove with just the pinky covered for palm rejection. The glove cost $2. The Jot was $120. The App was $6. Changed my life.

Some sort of multitasking, double pane sort of thing would have to be included or why would you buy it over a MacBook Air? We all know it would be excessively expensive, so they'd need to make a fairly decent case as to why it exists when it is so close to the MBA price point.

What, if any, impact would Deep Color and Pressure Sensitivity have on battery life?

I get the idea and desirability of both, but that larger screen would reqire a lot more battery by itself. Just wondering about the other two.

I'd like the option of an Apple made keyboard available at the time of purchase. But I think Apple would do best offering it as an optional accessory.

I use my PC much less since getting my iPad Air. With the release of a 13" model, I can't help wondering if that would push even more software company holdouts to port their products to iOS. I still have an industry specific program that is Windows only. Nothing for Mac or iOS, I would love it on both. Especially on a 13" iPad Pro.

Wider gamuts require brighter back lights. Apple should not compromise battery life for the small number of users who would benefit from a gamut greater than 100% of sRGB. If they thought higher gamuts were worthwhile, they'd start with the Apple Cinema Display, where power usage isn't as important.

I would assume you could just disable the digitizer if it used too much power, so that shouldn't be much of an issue. It's weird to say that the iPad should have pressure sensitivity, because it's the stylus that detects the pressure, not the tablet.

Why does everyone keep jumping to the conclusion that if there is a 13 inch screen that it would be for a large ipad? Why not put the touch screen on a "MacBook Touch"? It would make a lot of sense. They have been pushing the idea of moving "back to the mac."

Yes it wouldn't be as user friendly as iOS, but the price point it would be at would be crazy! and pointless if it can only run iOS apps. So maybe make it an MacBook Touch with the ability to run iPad Apps? Not out of the question.

Price, and memory. That would be the main factor for me. If it had typical iPad memory, and the cost was not that far from a MacBook Air, or Pro, I would get the MacBook. A "Pro" iPad would have to do a whole lot more to live up to the "Pro" name.

Does the iPad really need a much better camera? I can see it getting as good as the iPhone, but for pro usage why not go for something like the Sony Lens camera? This way you have the option of different lenses and sensors while still using the large screen, memory and radios of the iPad.

Display, battery, keyboard - check, check, check. Everything mentioned here is a fact for this Pro tablet and those are the main reasons for it's existence (except 4K camera which isn't necessary in the 1st gen 2014 model). I don't know how Apple can improve with the keyboard cover after Surface but it's a must have accessory and I already love it.
As for the iOS 8 I simply don't see this happening, obviously it's a basic system that works better on smaller screens and it would have to be a separate modified version to offer the required experience (in this case a custom tailored OSX 11 is more like it with USB, HDMI, SD card support). This makes it a true Pro.
We know that some sacrifices will have to be made i.e. 11.1"-12.5" inch screen will have to weight more but with those specs it's possible we'll get a 600g device (with additional ports and minimum of 12h battery life). Other than that we probably know what will be inside 1.5-1.7 GHz 64 bit quad core chip and 2GB RAM. Build-in LTE would be also nice (2nd gen ?) but with imminent flash storage price drop I wouldn't count on it and we have to remember that the cost of 128GB model cannot be higher than $899.

I would like to see support for a Bluetooth mouse or trackpad for "pro" ipad apps. As a writer, the lack of a pointer is the main drawback for using the ipad for serious writing.

I think there are three very important things that apple have to get right with the introduction of an 'iPad pro'.

The first is size: apple have to get this right, otherwise they are taking away the size and portability of what the tablet should be and function like. Just look at the iPad air

The second is apps: in my opinion they would have to bring into ios some apps which are crucial to finally nailing the coffin shut on pc's eg finder etc anything you would find useful on a typical PC

Thirdly I believe that apple have to physically attach the keyboard via a slide out keyboard with tilting screen than rely on some Bluetooth keyboard, because I would hate forgetting where I left my keyboard every time I wanted to do my work!

It will be about $1200- mist people will get the air no excuse me, the mini! iPad mini is the best seller!

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Aside from a better camera, everything you described already exists in the Microsoft Surface Pro. So you could sit around and wait and dream for something with a piece of fruit on it, or you could bite the bullet and buy the better product - with a fully functional desktop OS. Just sayin'.

I've looked at the comments on here and absolutely no one wants the ipad pro to turn out like the surface 2, because it's a crap product. The os is crap (what an awful waste of real estate on the desktop), it's too big to be a tablet, and I for one don't like/want a detachable keyboard, xbox music and video doesn't let you share one account between family members, doesn't have the apps I need, can't AirPlay etc and the the only thing I need ms for is I have to have office. Windows is a golf ball target

@reneritchie Would you feel Apple would eventually drop the MacBook Air in favor of a larger iPad and slimmer Retina MacBook Pro lines? Seems like the lines are starting to blur in that aspect.

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Apple won't do this unless they can come up with a reason for it to exist. The fact that Samsung did it isn't enough. The have got to have a specific consumer category to for the product and a specific consumer need that it would best fill. And perhaps more importantly it has to be able to do it and maintain its usual high profit margin.

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