Yesterday, Apple had a special event at a high school in Chicago to announce new hardware and software that can be used in schools. You can watch Apple's one hour presentation and learn more information from Apple about what it announced on this page of the Apple website. It looked like these were interesting announcements for folks in the education field who want to help students be even more creative and productive with iPads. I'm not a teacher, so I'm not really qualified to comment on that.
But I did see quite a few things yesterday that have the potential to be really useful for attorneys, although in some cases you have to read a few tea leaves. Here's what jumped out at me.
An inexpensive iPad that works with the Apple Pencil
I'll start with the one announcement that attorneys can start using this week: the new sixth generation iPad. Before yesterday, when an attorney would ask me which iPad to buy, I always said the iPad Pro. You need to decide whether to get the more traditional 10.5" size or the larger 12.9" size, but I always considered the iPad Pro far superior to the standard iPad for attorneys and other professional users. A big reason for that was that only the iPad Pro line supported the Apple Pencil, which is fantastic for annotating documents — highlighting the cases that you download from Westlaw, adding notes in the margins of a brief filed by your opponent, circling key provisions in a contract or exhibit, taking handwritten notes in a meeting, etc. But it also helped that the iPad Pro is a much more powerful device, so it keeps up with you and doesn't get in the way of you getting your work done.
Yesterday Apple updated its entry-level non-Pro tablet, which is simply called the iPad. This sixth generation iPad features the 9.7" screen that has been a part of the iPad since 2010, so you don't get the reduced bezels that result in more usable screen space on the 10.5" iPad Pro. And in many other respects, the new sixth generation iPad contains old technology. For example, it has the first generation version of Touch ID, an older camera that lacks optical image stabilization and can't record 4K video, lacks True Tone (so the screen doesn't adjust based upon the ambient light in the room so that white always looks white), lacks ProMotion technology (so the screen doesn't refresh as often), and doesn't have a four-speaker audio system.
But for the first time, the entry-level iPad now supports the Apple Pencil, which I've always considered the major advantage of the iPad Pro for attorneys. Because it lacks the ProMotion technology, the Apple Pencil won't be quite as fast and smooth on the screen of an iPad as compared to an iPad Pro, but if you have never used an iPad Pro then you won't notice the difference. Instead of spending $649 for the cheapest version of the 10.5" iPad Pro (with 64GB), you can now spend $329 for the cheapest version of the iPad (with 32GB), a significant savings of $320. Use some of that to buy an Apple Pencil (which costs $99) and you are still spending far less than you would on just the iPad Pro itself without the Pencil.
The sixth generation iPad also features the A10 processor (first used in the iPhone 7 in 2016), which is an improvement over the A9 processor used in the fifth generation iPad which came out one year ago, but still slower than the A10X chip used in the currently-shipping version of the iPad Pro (introduced in mid-2017) and the A11 chip in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
If you are in the market for a new iPad and are thinking of saving yourself some money by purchasing this sixth generation iPad instead of an iPad Pro, here are two more things that you should keep in mind as you compare the features. First, remember that the iPad Pro being sold today was introduced in June of 2017. The 2018 iPad may compare somewhat favorably to the 2017 iPad Pro, but when the 2018 version of the iPad Pro is released (maybe this June?), I'm sure that there will even more of a gap between the non-Pro and the Pro models.
Second, keep in mind that if you are like most people, you will hang on to whatever iPad you buy today for several years. While many people upgrade to a new iPhone every one or two years, people tend to wait even longer before upgrading to a new tablet. In a few years, the 2017 (or 2018) version of the iPad Pro will probably still work really well with the latest apps, but the sixth generation iPad may seem even more dated.
But for many attorneys, this won't matter. If you just want a basic iPad to get your work done and it is more important to you to pay essentially half as much money, even if it means that you won't have all of the bells and whistles associated with the high-end iPad Pro, the 2018 version of the iPad is a very good option. The least expensive $329 version only has 32GB of space, which might not be enough if you plan to keep a lot of documents, photos, etc., but there is also a 128GB version for $429.
I think it is great that there is now a lower cost, entry-level iPad that I can finally recommend to attorneys and other professionals looking to get work done without paying a premium for the latest and greatest features.
New Pencil feature: Smart Annotation
Although I often use my Apple Pencil to annotate a Microsoft Word document, adding comments or additions in the margins, circling paragraphs, etc., when I am done annotating I always convert the document to PDF and send that version to the person who is making the changes. Converting to PDF is necessary because if I just send the document in Word format, it is too easy for the annotations — which are just pictures on top of the document — to get out of sync with the document itself. For example, If I circle a few words in a paragraph, And then another person starts to type something to the beginning of the paragraph, then the circle stays in the same place while the words that were supposed to be circled move down the page. And even if you are not sharing a document with another person, if you try to use both redline edits to text and also annotations from an Apple Pencil in the same document, it can quickly become a big mess.
Realizing that this is a problem, Apple added a new feature to Pages, Apple's word processing app that comes for free with the iPad, called Smart Annotation. This feature makes your edits stay with the text that you were annotating, even if the words move around.
Here are two pictures that show you how this works. In the first image, I circled a word in the last sentence of the first paragraph and wrote some notes:
Now I hit return to move that last sentence so that it becomes the second paragraph. If you try this in Microsoft Word, the annotations end up in the wrong place. But in the new version of Pages, the annotation correctly moves as the text moves.
Apple says that this new Smart Annotation feature is currently still in beta, but in my tests last night it seemed to work really well.
Does this one new feature mean that I'm now going to start using Pages instead of Microsoft Word on my iPad? No, it doesn't. There are too many other features of the Word app that I prefer. And whenever I translate a document from Microsoft Word to Apple Pages format and then back again, there is a high risk of messing up the formatting of the document.
But even if I won't use Pages, I'm still excited about this Smart Annotation feature because I hope that it is the start of more intelligent Pencil integration into apps and documents. I especially hope that Microsoft copies this feature and perhaps even extends it, making annotations work even better. Smart Annotations is one of those features that once you see it, you cannot imagine why it wasn't always there.
A second Renaissance Age for the stylus?
Next, I want to talk about a single sentence of Apple's hour-long presentation. Just before the 34 minute mark, Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of product marketing, introduced a new durable keyboard-and-case for the iPad from Logitech. After that, he says this: "And Logitech is also offering Crayon, a new low-cost option for Education that works great with iWork and other Pencil-enabled apps."
I've been using a stylus with my iPad pretty much since I first got an iPad. For many years, companies came out with better and better styluses, adding new features to make them work even more like a real pen or pencil or to add some other improvement. The different styluses came in different shapes, experimented with different tips, some included buttons that an app could interpret to change from a pen to an eraser or other function, and there were lots of other differences. As I look back at the iPhone J.D. Index, I see that I reviewed 28 different styluses between 2011 and 2016.
And then I stopped. Shortly after the Apple Pencil came out in 2015, I no longer saw any point in reviewing a stylus made by any other company. No other stylus had that fine tip, the extremely low latency, and the perfect palm rejection. It wasn't even a fair fight; Apple designed the iPad to work with the Apple Pencil, so you could finally have a fine tip stylus that was as responsive as writing with a pen or pencil on paper — especially when using apps designed to work with the Apple Pencil. No other company could match that. I'm sure that Apple will release a second generation Apple Pencil at some point, and hopefully we will see it this year. But before yesterday, I didn't expect to ever use any stylus with my iPad other than an Apple Pencil.
But now, there is a second stylus that uses Apple Pencil technology. And it doesn't even come from Apple; it comes from Logitech. The Logitech Crayon is half the cost of an Apple Pencil ($49). It lacks a few features in the Apple Pencil — for example, it isn't pressure-sensitive so you cannot get a thicker line by pressing harder. (As a workaround in some apps, you can tilt the Crayon at an angle to change the thickness.) And you cannot charge the Crayon directly from an iPad; you need to use a Lightning cord, much like you would charge an iPad or iPhone. But the Crayon also has some advantages over the Apple Pencil besides price. For example, it is more durable, and it has a flat edge so it won't roll off of your desk. (My workaround on my Apple Pencil is to add a clip.)
At this point, the Crayon only works with the sixth generation iPad. It uses a new method of communicating with the iPad, so it will not work with any of the iPad Pro versions that have been released to date (although maybe that will change when the 2018 versions of the iPad Pro are released). And at this point, it looks like you need to be a student or teacher to use the Logitech Crayon; according to Lory Gill of iMore, the Crayon will go on sale this Summer to schools, which will have to buy at least 10 units at a time.
If these restrictions remain, I myself may never use a Crayon. However, what excites me is not the Crayon itself, but instead the possibility that the Crayon is the first of many new styluses to come. Sure, it is possible that the Crayon is a one-off device, a way for Apple to get a cheaper and more rugged iPad stylus into the hands of schools without Apple having to make the product itself. But my hope is that Apple is finally opening up the market so that third parties will be able to use Apple Pencil technology to create products that match the low latency and palm rejection of the Apple Pencil, but come in different shapes or sizes or have other differentiating features. I would love to see professional styluses from Logitech, Adonit, Griffin, Kensington, Wacom, and the many other companies who in the past created some of the most innovative styluses for the iPad.
Will this happen? Am I reading too much into that one sentence from Joswiak's presentation yesterday? We'll see, but my fingers are crossed that when Apple opened the door to the Logitech Crayon, it opened the door for other third party styluses as well.
Currently, every Apple account comes with 5GB of free iCloud storage, which you can use to store your photos, videos, and other files. But that space gets used up very quickly, so Apple currently sells 50GB, 200GB, or 2TB plans. In the U.S., the current monthly costs are $0.99 for 50GB, $2.99 for 200GB and $9.99 for 2TB, and with the two larger plans you can share that space with an entire family. (I currently use the 2TB plan for me and my family.)
Yesterday, Apple announced that the free iCloud storage for school accounts is increasing from 5GB to 200GB.
Apple did not make any announcement of changes for folks outside of Education, but my hope is that Apple is finally recognizing that 5GB is way too small given current technology and that everyone needs a huge increase in free storage space.
I know many attorneys who are using an older iPad and are overdue for an upgrade. Now that there is a relatively inexpensive entry-level iPad that supports the Apple Pencil, hopefully the sixth generation iPad will be an incentive for these folks to get a new more powerful and more useful device. Advanced users will still want the iPad Pro, and after using a larger 12.9" screen for so many years now I'd never want to return to a smaller screen, which would force me to squint when reading documents. But for many attorneys and other professional users, the sixth general iPad will be the sweet spot.
The new iPad is available this week, but everything else that excited me about yesterday's presentation will take a while to become a reality — if they come to fruition at all. Maybe no other apps will add a Smart Annotation feature, maybe the Logitech Crayon will be the only third party stylus that works as well as the Apple Pencil, and maybe only schools will get increased iCloud storage space. If that's the way it works out, I'll be disappointed. For now, I prefer to be optimistic, and I hope that it won't be long before we can choose between a variety of different styluses for the iPad and iPad Pro, and use those products with iPad apps that offer all sorts of advanced stylus features such as Smart Annotations.