I miss the 17-inch MacBook Pro.
I never actually had one myself, though a couple of my friends did. It was discontinued the year before I bought my last MacBook. But I loved that it was out there, a ridiculously large powerhouse, an absolute lunch tray of a computer ready to take on anything a user could throw at it with a beautiful, massive display that could fit all of the content you could want.
I think it's time for the iPad to have its own lunch tray moment.
Because my most powerful wish for iPad hardware in the near future is that we start seeing bigger tablets come out of Cupertino. I'll take all of the iPad screen real estate I can get. And yes, I'm primarily thinking about the iPad Pro, but I'd love to see the more mainstream iPad and iPad Air models offer bigger variants.
But what could bigger iPads offer that Apple's current tablet lineup can't? Well, here's what I think.
It's all about space
The primary advantage of having a bigger screen on any device is to be able to display more content or higher-resolution content. This is true for Apple's 'Max' line of iPhones, the 15-inch MacBook Pro, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the 27-inch iMac and iMac Pro. These bigger screens can display more, which makes them more flexible for your productivity and creative needs, as well as just consuming content.
On a product like the iPad, where the display is the device to a degree beyond a MacBook or iMac, offering even bigger screens is even more essential. Artists would have bigger canvases. Your apps would have more room in side-by-side and slide-over modes, or you could fit more on your screen when editing photos and videos.
I currently use the 12.9-inch iPad Pro because it's the biggest available. But I'd definitely get something bigger if it was available. And for anyone who wants to say "get a MacBook." Know that I already have one. I don't want to get another MacBook. I want to use iPadOS. I like using iPadOS. I appreciate its simplicity. I like the Apple Pencil. I love Shortcuts. So the ideal device for me would be a larger iPad.
But how big should an iPad be?
Since 2016, Apple has had both a smaller and a larger iPad Pro, and the smaller one has changed sizes with each generation. First, it was 9.7 inches, then 10.5, and now 11. But the larger iPad Pro has always been 12.9 inches. That hasn't changed since day one. I think it's time for a change, and I honestly want to see how far Apple can push it.
What I actually want is for Apple to experiment when it comes to its hardware design. I think that the ideal size for an iPad Pro, one that offers maximum screen space while still being portable, would be around 15 inches. But I'd like to see Apple push that even further. Maybe Apple could try bringing back the lunch tray and offer a 17-inch iPad Pro. I know for a fact that a lot of artists that love the Apple Pencil just want the biggest screen they can get, so there'd be at least some kind of audience for it.
But we shouldn't limit our thinking just to the iPad Pro. While the larger iPad Pro has remained at 12.9 inches since its inception, two other iPad lines have seen their displays grow in recent years. The iPad, Apple's low-price, mainstream tablet, made the jump in 2019 from 9.7 inches, the screen size of the iPad since it launched, to 10.2 inches. Earlier in the year, the iPad Air made its triumphant return, growing almost an inch from 9.7 inches to 10.5.
I think that these iPads can grow bigger still. I'd concentrate on the iPad Air first, since Apple seems to have positioned it to be well balanced between the iPad and iPad Pro, offering more power than the former while remaining much less expensive than the latter. Introducing at 12.9-inch iPad Air would give people who want a bigger display an option that didn't require them to shell out for an iPad Pro. Plus, the iPad mini is essentially a smaller version of the iPad Air, so why shouldn't there be a bigger version, too?
The iPad was initially pitched as the perfect balance between two worlds: more mobile than a laptop, but more capable than a phone. Portability has always been a chief concern for the iPad. It's likely why Apple has chosen to keep 12.9 inches as the high end of the spectrum for iPad display size up to this point.
But what if we left portability aside for a moment? As I said above, I want Apple to get experimental with the iPad. Bold. I want Apple to do something with the iPad that makes us say 'WTF' when they reveal it. And that's why I want to see Apple introduce a 27-inch iPad.
Yep. I want Apple to make an iPad as big as an iMac. Maybe it won't be successful. But if Apple did this, and really committed to it, I think it would benefit every iPad user in the long run. Like the Surface Studio, Microsoft's large touchscreen all-in-one PC, a 27-inch iPad would likely be especially appealing to artists, who could use that entire massive screen space with the Apple Pencil to create their art. For other tasks like editing videos, working with documents, or just viewing content, more space would serve those purposes better, too.
At this point, I think it would be fair to say that the 27-inch iPad wouldn't be, strictly speaking, a tablet. Maybe Apple would have to call it something else. But as long as it runs iPadOS and supports Apple Pencil, I'm fine with calling this theoretical device an iPad for now.
A matter of software
But what about iPadOS? After all, it's an operating system built for portable touchscreens, not massive, desk-bound behemoths. Well yes, iPadOS would need to change to provide a more comfortable experience for desk-based use. You don't, after all, want to be holding your arms up all day to tap across that display. But here's the thing: iPadOS kind of needs this now. Whether the iPad is 10, 13, 15, or even 27 inches, work could be done right now to make the iPad a better experience for those who use one sitting on their desks.
Because while iPadOS should remain a touch-first operating system, now that it's branched out from its iOS roots, I think that Apple can do some work to give it a better desktop experience. This includes better support for mice and trackpads and actual app windows. This latter feature will be especially important if Apple does end up making larger iPads.
While I actually like to use full-screen apps on my MacBook for some activities, (web browsing, watching videos, and viewing multi-page PDFs, for instance), it can just get obnoxious on a 15-inch screen. At least on my MacBook, anything I want can just live in my desktop space, and I can re-size anything as needed, or move it out of the way, or into a position so. I would love to see this functionality come to the iPad.
But why do this? Why try to make iPadOS more like a desktop or laptop, rather than adding touch support to macOS? The answer lies in the directions that it would require both macOS and iPadOS to go. iPadOS is built from the ground up for touch, while macOS is a traditional desktop operating system. And when I think about what I want from my day-to-day computer, I'd rather have a touch-focused system that can work like a desktop, than a desktop system with touch support bolted on.
It's not that I don't think that Apple could do a good job putting touch on a Mac. But I think it'd be easier, and even more organic, to build a new desktop-like experience on top of the existing iPadOS foundations than it would to put touch on a Mac. I feel like a Mac touch experience would always feel like the secondary way to use macOS, and that's just not what I want out of my primary computer.
My wish for larger iPads stems primarily from a genuine desire to get the most screen on a device that I can. But I also want to see Apple branch out more within existing product lines, to play around a bit. I think the iPad line provides a safer space in which to experiment with things like screen size than either the iPhone or Mac because it's not as closely tied to Apple's quarter-to-quarter fortunes as the iPhone, nor to Apple's hardcore fanbase as the Mac.
Maybe bigger iPads would mean that Apple also plays around with device thickness for increased durability or resistance to bending. Or maybe it causes the company to rethink portions of iPadOS to better accommodate those that want to use iPads a bit more like traditional computers when it comes to productivity.
Even if it eventually fades, much like the 17-inch MacBook Pro, I want Apple to give us that lunch tray iPad, that absolutely ludicrous slab of aluminum and glass. I want it to play around with how to adapt iPadOS to bigger screens, how to make the best experience possible for professionals, artists, and even general consumers, across a wide set of screen sizes.
As the iPad moves into its second decade, it feels like that device still has some growing up to do, both in terms of software and hardware. I think bigger iPads could help achieve both, to the benefit of iPad users everywhere.
What do you want to see?
Do you think now is the right time for bigger iPads, or should Apple stick with what seems to be working? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.
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Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.