Apple has realized what the iPad's best feature is after 14 years — and its Let Loose event will make it clear

iPad Pro 12.9-inch on a desk with a wireless mouse and Apple Magic Keyboard attached
(Image credit: Future/Lloyd Coombes)

I don’t usually try to read the tea leaves from Apple’s keynote announcements. Yet for its upcoming ‘Let Loose’ event on May 7, a clear focus on Apple Pencil has me thinking.

As well as the Apple Pencil 3, we're also expecting to see the M2-powered iPad Air 6 models, including a 12.9-inch iPad Air, and an M3 iPad Pro. The company has previously held spring events to bring out a new color for its headline iPhones, as well as updates for its best Macs and other products. This year though, the focus seems to be more on the Pencil than the iPad itself.

Apple Pencil debuted in 2015 alongside the first 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Since then, the best drawing apps have taken advantage of the accessory giving users the ability to create some stunning images with both the Apple Pencil and iPad.The precision that the stylus offers is fantastic, and in our review of the second-generation Apple Pencil, we were impressed with how it felt. “Instead of being completely round, Apple flattened one of the Pencil's edges so it sits better on the side of the iPad. As a side-effect. It makes it feel more pencil-like when you hold and use it. I like it. A lot.”

Granted, as the event will likely announce new iPads, Apple Pencil 3 could herald a new age for the tablet. It’s no secret that the line, and its accessories, are very confusing. Figuring out which Apple Pencil works with which iPad is perhaps the toughest part about using it.

With this ‘Let Loose’ event, perhaps we’ll see Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, explain how the newest Apple Pencil will take advantage of the new iPads. 14 years after the original iPad launch, we could see a reason for it to continue to flourish for another 14 years. 

Drawing up future plans?

What struck me about this tweet by Cook on April 23 was the focus on Apple Pencil for the event, instead of the iPad. Not only does he hint towards a new drawing stylus, but the animation clearly shows the accessory front and center.

This marks a big change from previous events where Apple has announced iPads. Apple’s March 2018 event, for instance, was education-focused and announced a new low-cost iPad — it also explained the benefits of using the existing Apple Pencil accessory in schools.

This upcoming ‘Let Loose’ event is likely to focus on the opposite of these events, based on Cook’s tweet. Instead of pitching existing accessories to work on new iPads, it seems to suggest we will receive new accessories that add to the way consumers use iPads. It should be said that the current Apple Pencil offering is very confusing. Head to Apple’s compatibility section on its website and you’ll see three models — all of which support a mix of iPads.

The Apple Pencil 3 needs to draw a line under this compatibility confusion that has long plagued the accessory. The best way would be to make one Pencil available for the new iPads, as well as making it compatible with some older iPads by way of an adapter. iMore’s News Editor recently spoke about how a new iPad Pro needs to beat three Android tablets. He spoke of how certain tablets, such as the Samsung Tab S9/S9 Ultra include a Pen. Perhaps Apple should follow suit, as it would easily help a new user understand that Apple Pencil works best with an iPad.

Apple’s drawing stylus should be the main reason to buy an iPad. People are finding it difficult to justify upgrading their current iPad. You could argue that its hardware cannot be improved further — such as its near-bezel-less design, and the powerful Apple silicon chips packed into every iPad.

To set the foundation of the tablet for another 14 years,  the Pencil should be the key, nay, the showcase for using an iPad, and how it can work for many workflows — not just for creatives.

Yet this isn’t the only issue that the ‘Let Loose’ event should solve.

A clean slate

Apple Pencil USB-C

(Image credit: Future / Apple)

The entire iPad line, and its accessories, are all too confusing and too bloated. For example, a Folio Keyboard only works with the ninth-generation iPad, but a Magic Keyboard is compatible with an iPad Air 5 and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. There are also six different iPad models, all with different storage sizes and colors. If you want the latest chip and Face ID, an iPad Pro is best — but do you want to pay $200 / £200 more for these features compared to an iPad Air? It’s very confusing and has been for years.

At this event, I’d love for Apple to clear up this confusion even further. To start with, have a Magic Keyboard that comes in different sizes, so it fits every iPad available. For example, if someone wants to buy an iPad mini, there’s a Magic Keyboard which comes in a size to fit that specific tablet. This can apply to the rest of the iPads too. Have the features, such as backlit keys and a USB-C port on the side, as standard for all of these. This uniform method would be a great start to get rid of the confusion of which keyboard fits which iPad.

Furthermore, make one Pencil which is bundled with all of its new iPads, making it the showcase for the line. This should be the main focus of the ‘Let Loose’ event on May 7. Cook’s tweet, to me, does allude that this could be happening. By the way, if Apple wants to appease iPad owners who want to buy this Pencil separately, they could do so. An adapter could work with older models, which could make the new Pencil work on existing iPads.

Finally, let’s also see a simplified iPad lineup:

  • One iPad mini
  • One low-cost iPad Air
  • One 12.9-inch iPad Air
  • One 12.9-inch iPad Pro

This way, it would ensure clarity for someone walking into an Apple Store, and help them decide which iPad suits them best. If Apple does these three things at the event, as well as making the Apple Pencil 3 the main showcase, it could finally give users a genuine, justifiable reason to upgrade their iPads.

For 14 years, many have questioned whether an iPad fits their workflow. Apple has tried to answer this question with software updates that feature new ways of multitasking, such as Stage Manager. New iPads with more powerful Apple silicon chips have confused the question further — they may be faster, but do they alone justify an upgrade?

Instead, the Apple Pencil 3 should be the reason for using an iPad — why it only works with the tablet, and what you can do with the Pencil. The entire line has desperately needed a soft reboot for so long —and I hope Apple does just that on May 7.

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Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.