During the annual Apple keynote in the fall, it's generally expected that we'll hear the announcement of the new iPhone, as well as some other product updates. This year saw the release of the iPad Pro, which had been predicted by many sources as a 12.9 inch screen tablet device, more suited towards designers, illustrators, and working professionals alike.
What many of the same sources didn't predict, were the release of two iPad Pro exclusive peripherals. Firstly, we saw the revealing of Apple's stylus accessory for the iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil. While being somewhat limited to drawing/sketching using the Pencil within a variety of different apps such as Notes and Mail, it does seemingly contradict the words of Steve Jobs in 2007, during the initial release of the iPhone. Though, Jobs was referring to a stylus being used with a 3.5 inch screen, not 12.9 inches.
8 years on from the words of Steve Jobs, we can see how rapidly technology has grown in such a short space of time, and how a stylus is somewhat warranted when it comes to tablet devices. The Microsoft Surface Pro comes with the optional Surface Pen accessory, and the device sells in good numbers, giving Apple good reason to provide competition in the same market.
The Apple Pencil contains a number of sensors, which when combined with the iPad Pro (which has an updated touch sub-system, allowing for recognition of finger and stylus touch) is able to detect the pressure of the touch, as well as tilt, allowing for a wider, more defined stroke.
The updated sub-system allows users to combine their fingers and stylus on screen, for tilt and for ruling, providing the ability to draw straight lines effortlessly with the Apple Pencil. Information regarding palm rejection seems to be somewhat scarce at the moment, though several sources have already stated their tests were successful during product testing immediately after the Apple keynote had finished.
With the release of the Apple Pencil in November, alongside the iPad Pro, there seems to be no good news for companies already manufacturing styli for the iPad range, one of the most notable being Pencil by Fifty-Three. While the Apple Pencil is stated as being compatible with Paper, the sketching app developed by Fifty-Three, it provides no information about Pencil's compatibility with Apple's own apps. Granted, Pencil does not have the same sensors as the Apple Pencil, but basic functionality in Notes and Mail would be welcomed for third party accessories.
Seeing as the iPad Pro is now the only iPad to be compatible with the Apple Pencil, partly due to the hardware updates in the new device, would Apple consider using the same technology in their existing iPad range, and provide similar accessories to those that don't wish for such a large tablet device.
Perhaps Apple will consider this approach after seeing sales figures of the new iPad Pro and it's accessories, and monitor demand from existing Apple customers, to see whether such a move could in fact be justifiable.
This year's iPad Pro announcement also brought with it another peripheral; the Smart Keyboard. It seems Apple is taking a similar direction as Microsoft and their Surface tablet, giving the user the option of having an external keyboard, making typing seemingly easier on the larger device.
Having been designed with the same style as Apple's Smart Cover, while primarily used in a 'typing' state, the keyboard folds on top of the device, providing screen protection during transportation. The keyboard also folds into a 'watch' state, with the keyboard folded behind the iPad Pro, providing device support from the rear for users who wish to use the device for video/photo viewing.
The Smart Keyboard uses a dome-like technology for the keys, rather than any sort of scissor-like mechanism as is quite common in keyboards of a similar variety. It's also worthwhile mentioning that the design of the keyboard, and it's lack of spacing between keys, the Smart Keyboard is water-resistant, giving ease to anyone who might be weary of spillage.
Connecting the keyboard is very simple, with Apple placing a 'Smart Connector' on the side, used to exchange power and data between the keyboard and the tablet. Users will just connect the Smart Keyboard to the side of the iPad Pro, much like how a current iPad and Smart Cover attaches. This does however limit the iPad Pro to a landscape-only orientation, which might deter a small amount of users.
With the Apple Pencil being priced at $99US, and the Smart Cover being priced at $169US, it could be a very attractive option for designers, looking for a solid, highly-responsive tablet and stylus combination, that also provides a massive amount of real estate. The same could be said about users who would be interested in a notebook solution, with the added benefit of touchscreen (though there are many alternatives to the iPad Pro).
The iPad Pro and it's respective peripherals mentioned, will be available for purchase in November.