Apple made a number of interesting announcements yesterday, but today I want to focus on just two product announcements: the new 9.7" version of the iPad Pro and iPhone SE. Both of these offer the power of Apple's top-of-the-line 12.9" iPad Pro and iPhone 6s, but put that power in smaller packages, a size that many lawyers will find more attractive.
The 9.7" iPad Pro
Before yesterday, the name "iPad Pro" was often considered synonymous with a large 12.9" device. But there was more to the iPad Pro than just the size, even if that was its most obvious feature.
Most notably, there was support for the Apple Pencil. I've only used the Pencil for a few months, but it has already become an important part in my law practice. I use it to take handwritten notes during meetings, and it is far better than any other stylus that I have every used. (No surprise, since Apple designed it to work perfectly with the iPad Pro.) I use it to highlight cases and annotate pleadings, contracts, and other documents. And sometimes I just use it to flick the screen to scroll through depositions. I love that the Pencil is so precise, making it easier to tap a specific part of the screen. And I love that digital ink appears instantly on the screen as I write. Even before I got used to the larger size of the 12.9" iPad Pro, it was the Apple Pencil that made me a huge fan.
I have also loved that the 12.9" iPad Pro includes a very fast processor that Apple calls the A9X. It makes the iPad Pro significantly faster than any prior iPad. This is the first iPad that I have ever used that virtually never seems slow. The responsiveness makes you more productive, and adds to the delight that you get when you use this device.
The new 9.7" iPad Pro announced yesterday lacks the larger screen, but includes the other advantages of the 12.9" iPad Pro, including the fast A9X processor and support for the Apple Pencil. And while I don't use Apple's Smart Keyboard — a case that includes a thin keys covered with fabric — Apple is also introducing a smaller version of the Smart Keyboard for the 9.7" iPad Pro.
It took me a while to get used to the 12.9" iPad Pro, and I still find it heavier to hold than I would like. But I have grown so attached to the large, bright screen that now I would never consider returning to a smaller iPad. I love that I can hold the 12.9" iPad Pro in portrait mode and letter-sized documents essentially appear full size, so I can easily browse the entire page at one time. I also love that I can hold the iPad Pro in landscape mode and exhibits, transcripts, pleadings, and other documents are larger and easier to read than they would be if I was dealing with the paper versions.
But again ... that weight can be a drag. At ABA TECHSHOW last week, I spoke with Florida attorney Katie Floyd — who many of you know from her Mac Power Users podcast — about the 12.9" iPad Pro. She bought one and tried it for two weeks, but then returned it because it was just too big. She wrote extensively about her reasons in this post. Note that Katie had been using an iPad mini, so it isn't that surprising that the jump from a light 7.9" device that fit in her purse to a huge 12.9" iPad Pro was just too much. But I've talked to other lawyers who own an older 9.7" iPad and who looked at the 12.9" iPad Pro in a store and just couldn't imagine carrying around something that size — especially if they already carry around a laptop of similar size like the MacBook Air. The 9.7" iPad Pro is the same size and weight as the 9.7" iPad Air and iPad Air 2, so if you like the size and weight of the previous mainstream iPads, you'll like the size and weight of the 9.7" iPad Pro.
For attorneys who want a top-0f-the-line iPad, with the fastest processor and support for the excellent Apple Pencil, but who don't want something as large as the 12.9" iPad Pro, now they have the perfect solution. Indeed, notwithstanding Katie Floyd's preference for the iPad mini, I am convinced that the iPad Pro is the best iPad for most attorneys to use today; they simply need to decide whether they want the "normal" sized 9.7" model or the bigger 12.9" model.
There are actually a few unique (for now) advantages to the 9.7" model besides size. First, it includes what Apple calls a True Tone display, which uses sensors to measure ambient light in the room to adjust the color temperature of the screen. In other words, white will look white, regardless of whether you are in an area with more yellow light or more blue light. Second, it has a camera similar to what is included with the iPhone 6s, a 12-megapixel camera that can take 4K video versus the 12.9" iPad Pro's 8-megapixel camera that takes 1080p HD video. And the front-facing camera that you use for video conferencing or taking a selfie-picture is 5-megapixel, versus the 1.2-megapixel camera on the 12.9" model. The 9.7" model can also take Live Photos, just like the iPhone 6s. I rarely use the camera on my 12.9" iPad Pro and I'm not sure how much I would notice the True Tone display — like most attorneys, I spend a lot of time just reading black-and-white documents; I'm not creating art that needs to be Pantone-perfect. But I'm sure that these features will eventually make their way to the 12.9" model, and for now they give the 9.7" model something special.
Finally, the 9.7" model comes in the same Silver, Gold and Space Gray colors as the 12.9" model, but also offers a Rose Gold option — perfect if you have the same fashion preferences of Massachusetts attorney Julie Tolek of the Think Pink Law firm.
So as I said before, for most attorneys I think it really just comes down to size. Do you want a larger screen for viewing documents and web pages, or do you want a traditional-size screen and less weight. And if you do want to use a Smart Keyboard, do you want a full-sized keyboard, which the 12.9" model offers, or can you live with a more cramped model that fits in the cover for the 9.7" model.
The larger model is best for me, but I know it won't be the best choice for others, and it is great that you now have a choice. The 9.7" version sells for $599 for 32GB, $749 for 128GB, or $899 for 256GB — plus add $130 to any of those if you want to add built-in 3G LTE.
The iPad Pro 12.9" also got ... bigger
Apple also made one small improvement to the 12.9" version of the iPad Pro. Previously you had to choose between a $799 32GB version or a $949 128GB version (plus another $130 for cellular). But yesterday, Apple announced a new 256GB version of the 12.9" model that costs $1,099 (plus another $130 for cellular). I love the extra space that a 128GB iPad provides, but at this point 256GB seems like too much space even for someone like me who carries around lots of videos and photographs, not to mention a larger number of pleadings, exhibits and other huge documents from my case files. But for those who want even more, now you can get it.
The iPhone SE
The iPhone has increased in size over the years. From the first 2007 model to the iPhone 4s released in 2011, the screen size was 3.5" diagonal. The iPhone 5 released in 2012 kept the width the same but increased the height so that the screen was 4" diagonal. The iPhone 6 released in 2014 increased both the width and height to include a 4.7" display (or 5.5" if you went with the iPhone 6 Plus), and those same sizes are used today on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.
I know that many people miss the iPhone with the 4" display. The smaller phone is even easier to grip in your hand, and your thumb can more easily reach all four corners of the screen with a 4" display. With my iPhone 6s, I need to hold my iPhone in my left hand if I want to tap the top left corner with a finger on my right hand — and that is even more essential for the largest Plus model. Yes, it does mean that the screen is smaller, so you may need to squint more to see things or hold the iPhone a little closer to your face, but for some folks this trade-off of a 4" screen is worth it. Indeed, while I have grown to love the larger screen on my iPhone 6s, if you were ask me to pick my favorite iPhone to hold, without regard to how large objects appear on the screen, I'd pick the iPhone 5 design over the iPhone 6 design every single time.
So now with the iPhone SE, Apple is offering the wonderful design of the iPhone 5 combined with the insides of the iPhone 6s. There are a few things that you don't get with the iPhone SE, like 3D Touch (an iPhone 6s feature that I use all the time), the better front-facing camera, and the second-generation (faster) Touch ID fingerprint reader. But you do get the same faster A9 processor as the iPhone 6s, support for Apple Pay, the same fantastic 12-megapixel camera on the back, the ability to film 4K video, Live Photos support, etc.
The iPhone SE is also the least expensive iPhone, costing only $399 for the 16GB version or $499 for the 64GB version. And those are off-contract prices, so with a carrier contract you can likely get at least the first model for "free" — or you could finance the iPhone SE for $13.30 a month (16GB) or $16.64 a month (64GB).
I doubt that the technical differences between the iPhone SE and the iPhone 6s will be of much consequence for most attorneys. Thus, once again, the decision on which iPhone to get will for most come down to a personal preference on size. If you want a 64GB iPhone (which seems to be the current sweet spot), do you want a 4" iPhone SE for $499, or a 4.7" iPhone 6s for $749, or a 5.5" iPhone 6s Plus for $849 — or cheaper prices if you are on contract or use financing. There really is no one right answer to that question. It all comes down to your personal preference, bigger and better screen versus easier and lighter to hold.
By introducing the 9.7" iPad Pro and the iPhone SE, Apple is now letting its customers decide whether bigger is better. You no longer have to opt for largest models just to get the latest features, such as Apple Pencil support on an iPad or the better processor and camera on the iPhone. Now, you can chose the best size for you.
Note that having that choice isn't inherently a benefit; it makes it harder on you. One of the things that I don't like about the Android market is that there are too many choices, the market seems chaotic and it can be difficult to choose a model. This past Fall, if I had been presented with two sizes of the iPad Pro, I would have faced a very difficult decision. I can now look back with 20-20 hindsight and say that the 12.9" model was the best one for me because larger documents are so much easier to read, but I only know that by living with the 12.9" model for many months. You'll have to draw on your own experiences with smartphones and tablets to decide whether a larger iPad or iPhone is right for you.