I seem to have surprised quite a few people when I posted a picture of a packaged iPad Pro on Instagram last week, judging by the number of people who contacted me to ask why I have purchased an iPad. I’m heavily invested in the Google ecosystem, so I get why this would confuse people. The truth is, I was already close to purchasing an iPad Pro 10.5” when I watched the Apple event in June together with a few friends. Its features, especially when paired with iOS 11, where quite impressive: A 120hz display with a max brightness of 600 nits, Apple’s close-to-magic anti-reflective coating, the general top notch quality of the hardware itself. But, that’s mostly it. Apple hardware is pretty much untouchable, I cannot and I will not dispute that.
When I finally decided to buy this device, despite all my issues with iOS, I started to regret my decision almost immediately, after playing with a for a few hours. The display just isn’t as crisp as my Pixel C, which was released in december of 2015. On the iPad Pro 10.5, you don’t even have to hold it directly in front of your eyes to see that something is off: Fonts look pixelated, no matter in which app. At first I thought it might just affect Google apps which aren’t using native UI components, but letters in apps like Kindle and Pocket look either pixelated or blurry. It turns out, there’s an explanation for that: The display of the iPad Pro 10.5 has a lower resolution at a slightly increased size compared to the Pixel C:
10.5”, 2224 x 1668: 264 PPI
10.2” 2560 x 1800: 308 PPI
Sure, these are just specs and specs are no longer relevant, because it’s the app quality and UX that counts. That’s true. I also get that Apple wants to keep the amount of different display resolutions from getting out of hand and that they prefer pixel-perfect to high-resolution. Still, this is a 900EUR device that I’ll be looking at for the better of 2-3 years, at least. It better be damn near perfect. But pixelated fonts, out of the box, from the company that made HiDPI displays mainstream? That’s a tough sell.
According to a few Apple-focused bloggers, the decision seems to have been made in order to keep the touch targets from becoming too small, if they had opted for the same resolution as that of the 12.9” iPad. However, the retina iPad Minis also ship with the same resolution as the iPad Airs, at a lower screen size. The difference of 1.8” between 9.7” and 7.9” is of course slightly less than the 2.4” between the 12.9” and 10.5” iPad Pros, though it wouldn’t be a first for Apple to sacrifice pixel-perfectness for a better UX: The current MacBook Pro 13” (the one with the touchbar, at least) ships with a pre-configured scaled resolution that offers much better visibility by rendering a higher-than-native resolution off-screen that is then subsequently scaled down to fit the native resolution of the display. Most people probably will never notice, so I get this decision. Looking at the equivalent of a 1280x800 resolution just isn’t adequate anymore.
The display also isn’t evenly lit: When held horizontally, the entire right border near the home button is darker than the rest of the display. Whites turn slightly into a yellowish tint, the closer to the edge you look. I’m sure I could get a replacement that has a better display, but I would’ve expected lower tolerances on a Pro-device. Maybe I’m just picky, though.
Of course, I also had my issues with iOS, whether it be iOS 10 or the latest public beta of iOS 11. Keep in mind that I’ve been using Android devices for the last couple of years:
- Using TouchID to unlock the iPad stills keeps the lock screen activated, which feels odd
- The notification shade is pretty much 10.5” of blurred display space if you don’t keep notifications around for long
- There seems to be no way of showing persistent controls for my Sonos devices when I’m home
- Apps seem to have to be updated by their developers to support small increases in display size (e.g. from 9.7” to 10.5”)
The app ecosystem however, is incredible. Some apps are of a quality that I’d never have expected on a mobile device. They’re so good, they’re rivaling the desktop counterparts. I mean, look a this. Then there’s prime examples of how to excel at making Markdown a first class-citizen on touchdevices, like the writing app Ulysses or the note-taking app Bear. iOS developers obviously care a lot for their users, judging by the time they invest in releasing quality apps like these. Sure, they’re expensive, but I believe that mobile app developers are really undervalueing themselves. I’m really envious of the app selection on iOS.
I am also very much used to Android and I prefer Google’s Material Design language to the one of iOS. To be clear: I don’t want to talk you out of buying an iPad, whether it be the Pro or the cheaper one. iOS, for most people, is the mobile OS of choice on a tablet. Buying a Sony or Samsung tablet will do you no good. They probably won’t even get the latest Android version. The Pixel C ist still a great device, but it comes with it’s limitations and the price Google still asks for it obscene. Don’t buy it. If you want a tablet, buy an iPad.
For me, iOS just doesn’t feel right, it seems. It’s not very rational. Maybe, if the Pixel C degrades in the next couple of months and if the rumored Chromebook Pixel-successor isn’t as good as I hope it’ll be, I will have to consider an iPad again. Maybe. Until then, I’ll stay with the Pixel C, despite its faults.