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The iPad Pro Experiment: Image editing, reading, and music

On Thursday, I'd charged the tablet overnight using the included 12W charger. (Note to multi-device owners, don't charge the iPad with a 5W iPhone charger unless you want it to take 16+ hours.) After an evening's charge, I snapped it into the Logitech Create case, and put it into my laptop bag along with an SD card with recently-snapped photos from a photoshoot a few days prior, my Lightning to SD Card Reader (opens in new tab), and my Jot Dash stylus. (Still no Pencil. Sorrow and sadness.)

At the doctor's office, I got a bit of "work" (catching up on Twitter, Slack, and email) done on my iPad Pro before my appointment, and wrote my Day Two outline in Notes. (Still haven't switched to a new writing program just yet.)

After my appointment, I celebrated a clean bill of health with a trip to my favorite local café, loaded up on hot cider and scones, and opened up the Create case. iPad battery level when I sat down around noon: 95 percent.

Processing and editing photographs

My first order of business—after scones—was to take care of a little photo editing. I'd shot some headshots for a friend of mine awhile back as a favor, and needed to resize and crop them for a project he had coming up.

After setting up my iPad, I pulled out the SD card I shot them on, plugged it into Apple's Lightning to SD Card Reader, and imported them into the Photos app within seconds. (Note: While Photos for iOS will import RAW images, I was just working with high-quality JPEG files in this import.)

I've actually done this kind of iPad import a number of times, even before this experiment started. The reason? Pixelmator (opens in new tab).

I make a lot of little repairs to most of the hero (big) images you might see on iMore: Usually it's removing dust and dirt on an iPhone or Apple Watch screen, or lightening a background. And for those sorts of tasks, I find a touchscreen far faster and more useful than a mouse and my Mac.

With my prior experience, it took less than 20 minutes to pick the best headshot of the bunch in Photos, send it to Pixelmator, copy the headshot template from my friend's email, overlay the template on the headshot, resize it accordingly, remove blemishes with the repair tool, and extend the background to the new resized headshot. Once finished, I sent the final copy in JPG form to my friend via Dropbox.

Largely, I prefer editing and viewing images on the iPad. Your editing program of choice may vary, and some require different things of your images than others—the Photos app offers nondestructive edits and you can work right within the app; Pixelmator requires importing and exporting images from its database; Lightroom builds its own separate images database using Creative Cloud; and so on.

And batch editing multiple photos can be more of a pain on the iPad than Mac, though Lightroom (if you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription) offers a great implementation for copying the previous photo's adjustments and tweaks.

If you need to do tiny tweaks, it helps to carry around a stylus like Adonit's Jot Dash (or Apple's Pencil, if you can get your hands on it). Zooming in on a photo and working with the stylus nib lets you change tiny parts of the photo with precise strokes and movements.

Exporting images can be tricky if you, like me, work on the Internet. Very few apps support a true "Export for Web" option; additionally, naming images or changing metadata can be equally problematic if you're uploading them to a server or a content management system.

Lucky for us, Workflow (opens in new tab) exists. The automator-style application lets you do all sorts of wonderful things to just about any file you have on your iPad, including images. Workflows are pretty easy to learn to build as a newcomer, but there's also a huge gallery available for more complex pre-built solutions.

I have to give a huge hat tip here to MacStories's Federico Viticci for helping me fix my renaming and resizing woes with a great Workflow script: It finds images from your Photos library, renames them, resizes them, and exports them to your destination of choice. (I put them in iCloud Drive, but you can also send images to Dropbox or any other storage location you prefer.)

This script lets me process images faster than I've ever done them on my Mac, and from there, I can upload the resized photos to iMore's CMS, email them, or do pretty much whatever I please. (I could probably build an AppleScript on my Mac to do a similar function, but AppleScript scares me a whole lot more than Workflow. Don't know why. They're not really that different, but such is my taste, I suppose.)

The pain of Google Drive

In the midst of fixing my friend's photos, I got a request to edit a Google Sheet for a roller derby event. Now, Google Docs online has traditionally been miserable on iOS—it renders in a special view-only mobile hellscape, and you have to open it in one of Google's iOS apps for it to function correctly.

Google's apps have traditionally been pretty good, though they occasionally goof at collaboration. But on the iPad Pro, they're painfully bad. Just awful. They're upsized, so the graphics aren't crisp, and typing data into a single cell takes up two-thirds of the Pro's screen with an oversized keyboard. If you have a hardware keyboard connected, the giant software keyboard disappears—replaced with a giant grey box.

It's a huge let-down from Google, especially since its web apps don't work properly in Chrome or Safari for iOS. The company has had years to build for dynamic layouts and multiple size classes, and has known about the iPad Pro since September. And yet, its iOS apps make a mockery of doing professional work on an iPad. It's almost impossible. And that's not great for the many people who rely on Google Drive, Docs, and Sheets for organizing their business.

Reading time

Every Friday evening, I like to sit down and catch up with This., a social network based around sharing interesting and in-depth reading. Usually I end up catching up on articles using my iPhone, but as part of the iPad Experiment, I decided to read my This. queue entirely on my iPad Pro.

I unhooked the iPad from the Logitech Create case and swapped it into portrait mode, and began to read the first article—an incredible, though graphic, tale about American veterans and paying it forward.

I'll say this for the Pro: While it's not as comfortable to hold in-hand as an iPad mini or Air 2, it pulls you into graphically-rich stories better than just about any digital device I've used. It's immersive, haunting, and beautiful. And that's just viewing stories and images—I don't read many digital comics or magazines, but I imagine those look just as spectacular.

The Pro probably isn't perfect for every kind of reading—I look at it as more of a coffee table book experience. I wouldn't take it to bed with me, but I'm more than happy to lounge on the couch with it and read the news and features. That big, gorgeous screen does the well-built web every favor—and, alternatively, shows just how terrible the ad-ridden side of the web has gotten.

Siri, play me a party mix

On Friday night, my roller derby team held our end-of-season awards party. Aside from the expected merriment, awards silliness, and chin-ups to "kiss the alien" (don't ask), I had our championship game running on my iPad during the evening in Picture-in-Picture mode along with a few team songs on repeat.

As they passed the iPad and saw the game, I had several teammates remark in surprise over not just Picture-in-Picture, but the quality of the iPad's sound system. I knew it was great, and worlds better than my laptop, but it says something when people who I wouldn't normally categorize as "passionate about sound quality" speak up.

Battery for days

Better yet: After a full day of work, music playing, and background video, I went to bed that night with my iPad at 46 percent battery life.

My 11-inch MacBook Air gets maybe four hours of active battery life if I'm lucky. My iPhone averages around 12-14 before demanding a charge. It's, frankly, a little crazy to me that the Pro could handle 12 hours of heavy work, music, and video—with a Smart Keyboard connected for most of that time!—and come out of it with just under half its battery remaining.

As I wasn't planning on doing much with the iPad over the weekend, I intentionally didn't charge it to see how it would fare in standby; after two days of very light Twitter usage, I checked Monday morning to see 32 percent in the upper left corner. (I used it until noon before finally plugging it in.)

The iPad's battery has always been good, but for me, it's always been the sort of "Good, this is still charged" relief. This experiment is the first time I'm putting an iPad through its paces, and I'm very impressed. As someone whose devices are always on the verge of battery death, the iPad wildly outscores my portable Macs—to the extent that I'm seriously wondering if I might just ditch my laptop after this experiment for battery gains alone. Maybe. We'll see what the other days have in store for me.

Up next: Day Four!

In which I draw with a bunch of (non-Pencil) styluses, do a pseudo cheat during a podcast recording, and camp out at Apple in hopes of a Pencil. Stay tuned!

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

34 Comments
  • What stand is that in the picture at the top of the article holding the iPad Pro?
  • TStand. I wrote about it earlier today on the site.
  • Is there any specific reason why the roller derby needs to use Google Docs? Pages or Numbers would work better for you on the iPad Pro, and it has a web interface at icloud.com so others don't need to own any Apple products to use it, just access to the Internet. The roller derby could have one Apple ID of their own, that they share with the team for use with Pages/Numbers/Keynote documents.
  • No kidding Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • That wouldn't be a good idea, not everyone has an Apple ID and an Apple product in which to use Apples apps with. Google's products are truly portable and make a lot more sense.
  • What part of "...and it has a web interface at icloud.com so others don't need to own any Apple products to use it..." didn't you understand? An Apple ID can be made for free, and you don't need to buy any Apple products.
  • Thanks for more positive comments about the Pro. It just reinforces my nearly confirmed decision to buy one, as opposed to a MacBook or an Air 2. I believe that you mentioned the other day that you were looking for a lightning microphone. I just heard Leo LaPorte recommend the Shure MV51.
    http://www.shure.com/americas/products/microphones/motiv/mv51-digital-la...
    The sound quality is great and it comes with a prop-up stand as well as an adapter so you can attach it to a mic stand. Not bad for $200 (not for us Canadians though). Sent from the iMore App
  • Are you sure?
  • Hey Serenity, I like the way that you are doing this review, although I got mine the first day, not sure that I he learned exactly how to us it. I know one thing for sure, the Facebook app needs to be updated, it looks horrible on this screen. Keep the info coming!
  • Many apps need to be updated to take advantage of the bigger screen but that's a matter of patience with such a new device.
  • Yeah, but this is imore, they'll only bitch about Google. And Samsung. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Not just the bigger screen, they also need to be updated to use the new keyboard, with the row of numbers up top. Lots of app, including Apple's own Apple Store app, still use the old keyboard. I find it so irritating. Also, apps such as: Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, and ShowTime need to add support for Persistant Video Overlay (what people call "picture-in-picture"). Hulu Plus added this a while ago, but the others need to add it too.
  • You may know this, but simply re-compiling the app should allow it to work with the new keyboard (as long as there are no cosmetic issues due to it being a different size than originally intended).
  • Unfortunately, many will be slow to update if at all.
  • Yup. I'm still waiting for some apps to be updated for the iPhone 6 Plus. Sent from the iMore App
  • As of right now though the experience is very inconsistent. The worst thing though is the keyboard, it consistently goes from normal to oversize. The I
    Pad Pro just isn't ready for prime time yet, there is just to many inconsistencies and lack of functionality.
  • This review is making me more confident in my surface book - not because it is different, but because how similar it is. The tablet portion is great at reading and watching movies with its accurate and bright 3000x2000 screen, the battery just lasts (I have 11h left on 80% battery), and the thing can operate with a precise pen when finger is not enough. Oh and it is also the best laptop on the market, on which I commonly play Rocket League or type long emails. Great review!
  • Serenity- Great series of articles. I've integrated the iPad Air2 into my life in much the same manner. Your mention of Workflow reminded me that I installed it and haven't yet explored it much. I also process a lot of photos. I don't see the script you referenced available in the gallery. The link in your article opens a screenshot. Is it available for import?
    Thanks and looking forward to your next article installation.
  • Disregard. I grabbed the script. Very cool.
  • Have you used the display in zoomed mode and do think this would be a big upgrade for a low vision user? I used my 6S Plus in zoomed and it's great for a legally blind person like me. The Air 2 is also great but a larger display would be awesome, I don't need more stuff on the screen but larger items on the screen. I know it may be difficult to say how beneficial you think it may be but any input would be great.
  • Absolutely! Specs free for me. And for my client's a great AAC device. (For non-verbal users as well as for the deaf using video conferencing via Sorenson and Purple)
  • Another interesting review on the Pro. Looking forward to day four. Glad you memtioned This, great website that I knew nothing about previously. Added it to my late night reading list.
  • One of the things I enjoy (read love!) about the Pro (& Surface) is the ability to flip the keyboard around the back and use the tablet like a tablet. Couldn't do that with ever-crashing surface book, disconnecting and repositioning is a waste of time.
  • Book is more a laptop and a digital clipboard. It is not supposed to be used like a normal tablet
  • Very much enjoying your thoughts in the series. I've also found reading on the Pro to be quite immersive, like a physical newspaper or a coffee table photo book as you've mentioned. Google Sheets seems to give you that huge blank part, but thankfully Google Docs has been performing better. Microsoft apps seem to work well on the Pro though.
  • I'm really enjoying reading about your week with the Pro so far! Thank you for doing this series. Do you think the Pencil is worth the $99 for someone like me that really isn't a proficient artist? Sent from the iMore App
  • Nope .. for taking simple notes or drawings a 5$ pencil is enough.
  • All those limitations you have to fight with are reasons to buy a notebook..
  • "All those" there aren't that many, and less every year as iOS updates. Hopefully the iPad Pro is Apple showing that iOS will become a lot more flexible
  • It's not as fast as you think, it took Apple 7 years to implement Sharing in iOS and it's still no where near that of other OS's. The biggest hurdle for me though is dealing with files in iOS, it's just not a good experience. So much so that I could never use an iOS device for anything but media conception. Using the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement is an extremely frustrating experience as such it should never be compared to a Surface Pro.
  • not to be a nag.... but day 4? I'm riveted and want to keep reading.
  • She got bored with it already and is using her Surface Pro 4 to do some real work Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm curious why you like typing your stories in Notes rather than Pages. I realize Word and some other apps are a little too busy if you don't need all the extras, but Pages is pretty clean and minimalistic. All the non-essential features are out of the way. So just curious why you prefer Notes for typing. Thanks!
  • That's easy, timeline support.