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As you may know from my prior opinion piece on the¬†iPad Pro, I was on the¬†fence about¬†keeping Apple’s new 12.9″ tablet. One of our editors has loved his Pro since day one, another returned his after a week of testing, and a¬†third¬†effectively¬†consigned his¬†to Netflix duty. Up until the Pro came out, I was a very satisfied iPad Air 2 user, so I didn’t feel like I needed a bigger device.
But after¬†three¬†weeks with my iPad Pro,¬†several things have changed my mind, and I’m officially¬†a¬†happy convert to the larger tablet. Moreover, I have no intention of going back to the smaller iPad Air or iPad mini form factors any time soon. Here are the five things¬†that made a big difference to me…
1. Apple Pencil. Apple’s first iPad stylus, Apple Pencil, is very close to awesome — better overall than any of the dozens of styluses I’ve tested for earlier iPads, and a joy to use for writing notes, sketching, and drawing. Assisted by iOS Notes and third-party apps such as Procreate, the pressure-¬†and orientation-sensitive¬†stylus does a truly wonderful job of accurately representing the motions and imperfections of both handwriting and analog marking tools.¬†While an accessory named “Pencil” could certainly stand to include an eraser, and its battery life isn’t fantastic, I otherwise love this stylus, and consider it essential to my iPad experience. Unfortunately, it’s still extremely hard to find, but available on eBay and through Amazon Marketplace sellers.
2.¬†The Right Stand/Case. My first week with the iPad Pro was marked by¬†daily struggles to prop up and hold the 12.9″ tablet for extended periods of time, and made more awkward because I was relying on the wrong stand and case combination (Logitech’s Create). I discovered that turning the iPad Pro into a bulky, cheap-feeling laptop killed the enthusiasm I had for¬†its¬†“tablet-plus” functionality.¬†So I¬†initially solved the stand problem by switching to Just Mobile’s Encore, which works with all iPads, then found a great combination iPad Pro stand and case in Urban Armor Gear’s Composite Case, which I’ve been using and loving. Being able to carry the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil together, with the benefit of an as-needed stand, makes the large tablet experience leagues better; pairing it whenever necessary with a Logitech K811 Keyboard¬†is perfect for long-form typing.
3. Finding A Better¬†Price. Apple’s $499/$599/$699 pricing strategy for the original iPad was smart, presenting a major new product with an affordable option from day one (while incentivizing upgrades); the same strategy helped the iPad mini and iPad Air roar out of the gate. By comparison, Apple’s iPad Pro pricing¬†feels somewhat¬†exclusive: the $799, $949 and $1,079 models¬†are all outside “impulse buy” territory for casual users, and may seem a little expensive compared with Apple’s fuller-featured laptops or earlier tablets. But if you can get the Pro at a discount, it’s harder to pass up.
The Apple¬†Store’s¬†holiday return policy entitles you to bring back your iPad Pro through early January for any reason, so even if you already have an iPad Pro, you can still save money if you find a better price elsewhere.¬†I was able to score a¬†rare¬†Cyber Monday deal¬†to lower my iPad Pro’s price, and though it’s expired, you can¬†save some cash (particularly on sales tax) through a third-party vendor such as MacMall; coupon code¬†MWBCJ9TO5MAC will help you save at least $25¬†off Apple’s standard prices, plus¬†a state- and iPad model-specific sales tax savings of $70 to $100.
4. Getting Updated Apps.¬†It’s probably not surprising that there weren’t many iPad Pro apps ready on launch day, given that Apple released it¬†with so little¬†advance notice to developers. The initial selection of apps with either iPad Pro resolution support, or split-screen support, was seriously disappointing. But¬†each time an app adds support for the iPad Pro, particularly¬†split-screen functionality, the Pro becomes more useful, and I like it more. Some of Apple’s built-in iOS apps, including Messages, are absolutely essential to use in split-screen rather than full-screen mode.¬†I’ve enjoyed¬†using¬†Reeder 3¬†and Tweetbot 4, both of which have been updated for the Pro. But other third-party apps really could benefit from Pro¬†updates;¬†I’m anxiously awaiting Facebook and YouTube¬†updates, and other¬†tweaks so that my most-used apps¬†can share the big screen at once.
5. Discarding Some iPad Air/mini Conceptions.¬†One of the things that changed was me. Like anybody who’s been using iPads and MacBooks for years, I had¬†certain expectations as to how the iPad Pro might¬†function — somewhere inbetween them, hopefully as a replacement for both of them. But for me, the iPad Pro turned out to just be a more capable iPad, solely a replacement for my iPad Air 2. Once I decided¬†that I was going to stop using the iPad Air 2,¬†I began to figure out workarounds for some of the challenges created by the larger Pro’s form factor. Knowing that I wanted to make it work for the long term, rather than as a¬†temporary replacement for the iPad Air 2, really changed my enjoyment of the device.
I’m not going to tell you that the iPad Pro’s perfect — the overly large, poorly-designed virtual keyboards remain a sore point for me, and many other parts of iOS 9 feel either underpolished or downright ignored for the 12.9″ screen. But the more I use this tablet, the more I would feel comfortable recommending¬†it as an alternative to a 9.7″ iPad; perhaps in time it will¬†be worthy of recommending over a MacBook, as well.
More From This Author
Check out more of my¬†reviews, How-To guides and editorials¬†for 9to5Mac¬†here!¬†I’ve published¬†a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users, as well as a¬†great holiday gift guide for iPhone users, a¬†detailed holiday gift guide for Mac users, and¬†a separate holiday gift guide for Apple photographers.
Filed under: iOS Devices, Opinion Tagged: Apps, iPad, ipad air, iPad Air 2, iPad apps, iPad mini, iPad Pro, MacBook
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Our lives today depend largely on systems and infrastructure that is invisible‚ÄĒa hidden landscape of webs and waves that come from cell towers, routers, satellites, and more.
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After $2M In Pre-Orders, Osmo Starts Shipping Its Hardware-Based iPad Game For Kids, Rolls Out Customization Features
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After¬†first debuting on the Mac then joining iOS with the iPhone, Fantastical¬†is finally ready to replace the calendar on your iPad, too. With Fantastical for iPad, Flexibits¬†has brought the same, streamlined design and natural language parsing for quick event and reminder entry to the iPad. I’ve been using Fantastical for iPad for a few weeks now, so let’s take a look at how it compares to Apple’s calendar app…
If you’re not familiar with the Fantastical software, it’s major feature is natural language input. What that means is you can type a phrase like “Golf with Bob on Saturday at 10 am” and Fantastical will schedule it; you don’t have to program¬†each line of¬†the event in the detailed event editor. Fantastical works your existing calendar service, so you can still use iCloud or Google. It’s just an alternative way to view and manage your existing calendar service.
Aside from its natural language input for scheduling events, Fantastical is also very streamlined as it focuses on presenting your events in a simple list view. The Mac app (which is opened in the top menu bar) and iPhone app resemble one another in shape and dimension (although the iPhone app does support landscape orientation and has more dynamic views), but the iPad app is a much different canvas with both portrait and landscape orientation needing to be presented as equally primary¬†views.
What Flexibits has come¬†up with is a first for Fantastical’s design as it has much more screen real estate of which to take advantage, and my first guess is the iPad’s app design could spill over into a future version of the Mac app (maybe as a dock app rather than a menu bar app).
At a glance, Fantastical is divided into three sections on the iPad: the list view with your events, the day ticker with for an upcoming perspective, and a full month calendar view.
The left section¬†presents individual appoints in chronological order on a scrollable, vertical list view. Because Fantastical also supports reminders, this list view unifies appointments and to-do items.
The top bar is the day ticker which shows relevant upcoming days in a a scrollable, horizontal segmented view. This can be toggled to show all upcoming dates, or only dates on which items have been scheduled.
And exclusive to the iPad design is a full month’s calendar view on the right side. You can swipe through to other months and tap on specific dates to see appointments scheduled. This includes both calendar events and reminder events.
If you land too far in the future (or past) at any point from any view, tapping the month and year at the top of the app (just below the current time) will carry you back to the current date in Fantastical.
Adding an event or reminder is easy in Fantastical. The top right of the app features a +¬†button which prompts the keyboard and a text input box. Just type in your event details like “Breakfast at Taco Bell tomorrow¬†from 7 to 11 am” and Fantastical shows you in the preview view¬†that it has scheduled your event.
If you juggle multiple calendars, adding “/w” will move it to your Work calendar, for example. If you have multiple calendars with the same first letter, you can type slash followed by the full name of the calendar to assign it appropriately. Otherwise, an event will land on your default calendar (which you can assign).
Fantastical also interprets phrases like “alert 1 hour before” and “last weekday of the month” to include alerts and repeating events to events during input.
This also works with reminders. Including “todo”, “reminder”, “remind me to”, or “task” to the beginning of a line will let Fantastical know that you are entering a reminder and not a calendar event.
The keyboard features a manual toggle between events and reminders as well as a Details view for manual input. The keyboard is also optimized for managing a calendar with a dedicated row for numbers, colon, and forward slash.
On the Mac, Fantastical is a single view made of the day ticket and list view of events. On the iPhone, Fantastical’s day ticker pulls down to become a full month calendar, and rotating Fantastical toggles to a week view. Fantastical for iPad has enough space to show a full month calendar from the day ticker view and needs to support the day ticker view from both portrait and landscape orientations, so pulling the day ticker down from either orientation will toggle to week view.
Drag down the day ticker once and you enter a sort of hybrid week view with the full month calendar and list view of events still visible. Drag the half-screen week view down again and you enter a dedicated week viewer.
Fantastical for iPad also includes two gestures for quickly accessing search and reminders. Swiping in from the right edge of your iPad brings over the search view which can drill down by title, location, people invited to events, or an all view. There is also an icon for bringing this view if you aren’t aware of the gesture.
Swiping in from the left edge of your iPad reveals your list of reminders. Tapping on the name of a reminders list shows you the list of items on that specific¬†list.
As you will see in the next section, Fantastical is probably priced higher than a lot of other iPad apps on the App Store, but one of my first impressions from using Fantastical for iPad a few weeks ago was that having the app I already use on my Mac and iPhone optimized for my iPad added value to using my iPad.
For me, it’s value is in two areas: ease of skimming and understanding upcoming events and ability to quickly input event details before I lose the thought. In my use, the latter part has almost become a race with myself to see how fast I can translate a thought in my head to a scheduled event on my calendar.
If you don’t use your calendar out of lack of need, I’m not sure that Fantastical is worth your money; it’s well designed software that solves a specific problem. If you’ve been disappointed with Apple’s calendar and prefer to keep dates on paper or some other way, I recommend you explore Fantastical as an alternative.
As a more technical user, I prefer Fantastical because the software impresses me. I have found, though, that less savvy calendar software users find Fantastical more approachable and easier to use than Apple’s calendar.
As you’ve seen in various screenshots above, Fantastical offers different ways to customize the app as well.
You can toggle between the default dark theme and the optional light theme. I prefer the light theme most of the time, but I’d love to see a two finger swipe gesture to easily change without using the menu like Tweetbot 3 has on iPhone.
Fantastical for iPad also takes advantage of Apple’s Dynamic Type feature introduced with iOS 7. If you change your system font in the Settings app on iOS, Fantastical for iPad will adjust accordingly.
It also supports opening links in 1Password, the unique password managing software and TextExpander support for expanding text snippets into phrases for users with workflows invested in those services.
Finally,¬†one of my favorite features in Fantastical involves birthdays. Fantastical has a special, animated view for its users on their friends’ birthdays. This view includes falling confetti and shortcuts for telling your friend “
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Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and company have introduced an American history-centric app exclusive to iPad users. The app features a timeline dating back to 1776 and a number of themes with specific information and videos for each period and subject.¬†Overall, the app is very fluid and sleek and worth checking out for iPad users interested in history and culture.¬†
Ken Burns for iPad is available as a free download for iPad users (with unlockable content via in-app purchase) and features a welcome from the filmmaker himself.
Users can watch clips of Ken Burns documentaries within the app and jump to PBS, Netflix, or iTunes to view or purchase full length films if they are available.
The Innovation playlist is included at no cost as well, and a $9.99 in-app purchase unlocks an additional 3 hours of content in the five other playlists. It also includes exclusive interviews with Ken Burns.
You can download Ken Burns for iPad on the¬†App Store¬†for free and unlock the full app for $9.99. The app requires iOS 7.
Filed under: Apps Tagged: America, American History, Burns, Documentary, Filmmaker, History of the United States, interactive iPad app, iPad, iPad apps, Ken Burns
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Ssshh, don’t tell the kids they’re learning physics, just tell them it’s an iPad space game!¬†Stephen Hawking’s Snapshots of the Universe is an iPad app containing a mix of mini-games, videos and text that allows children to discover some of the fundamental principles of physics and space.
Based on the work and writings of Stephen Hawking, this app teaches both adults and students the basic theories that govern our lives on Earth as well as the movement of the stars and planets. You can play and learn at the same time in each of the eight experiments included in Snapshots of the Universe:
- Spin planets in orbit with your own solar system
- Drop objects with Galileo to learn about gravity
- Let Einstein feel some G-force in outer space
- Search for black holes in the constellation of Leo
- Discover Einstein‚Äôs warped worldview
- Plus more‚Ä¶
Each section has an app allowing children to carry out virtual experiments, see further visual explanations in video clips and then read up on the topic in more detail. The app is described as suitable for children aged 9+.
Published by Random House, the app is available on iTunes for $4.99.
Filed under: Apps Tagged: Albert Einstein, App Store, children, Educational iPad apps, Educational software, Engadget, game, iPad, iPad apps, iPad apps for children, iPad apps for kids, iPad apps for learning, iPad game, iTunes, Random House, Stephen Hawking, Universe
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