Since the last Apple Keynote a few weeks ago I’ve been impatiently waiting to find out when the new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are going released beyond the generic ‘November’ date listed on Apple.com. My patience has been tested because I’ve been holding off buying a new iPad for more than a year in the hopes that the long-rumored iPad Pro would turn out to be real. This past Monday I was lucky enough to be invited to a very small, private event that Apple held at Adobe MAX in Los Angeles to give the press and a few creative influencers hands on access to the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and the new Adobe tablet apps. I am happy to report that the resulting experience combining all three of these elements is everything I hoped it would be and more.
I was able to spend over 45 minutes working with the iPad Pro so I was able to try out a lot of things and get a good impression of all of it. My first thought when they handed the iPad Pro to me was ‘WOW, that’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be but I can’t believe how light it is’. The iPad Pro is huge in the best possible way with a beautiful, large, clear screen that gives the iPad Pro a completely different experience than any other iPad. I think the size of the screen is where the Pro in iPad Pro comes in to play because I could immediately see how I would love using this on my commute into NYC every day on the train to sketch or work on a design, watch movie on a plane or even take notes more easily in Evernote. I was not able to try out the keyboard case which remains one of my big outstanding questions as it seems intriguing but with a price tag of $169 this is going have to be an add-on I am going to need to try before I blindly order it.
I also really wanted to try out was the palm rejection which has recently gotten a lot of press coming out of an article about the artists at Pixar taking it for a test drive. While I was drawing I tried laying part of my hand, all of my hand, part of my arm or even two hands on the surface of the screen and it worked flawlessly through all of it.
Using the iPad Pro was the first time where I felt like the split screen option that launched with iOS 9 made sense and was something I would use in my creative workflow. This functionality lets you work in two different experiences at once so I could do things like pick a piece a stock photo from Adobe Stock on one side of the screen and then pull it over to an illustration in Adobe Draw on the other side to see how it would work. This was workflow made a lot more sense than some of the other examples I’ve tried on my current iPad.
At the end of the day, I’ve used an iPad before so that wasn’t the thing I wanted to get my hands on – that was the new Apple Pencil. Stories have been told for years about how Steve Jobs hated the concept of a stylus and would never have let it near one of his creations so would this new device live up to the hype and be able to become a device that Steve would have loved?I will openly admit that over the past few years I have become an unwilling stylus collector in my quest to find the perfect tool that would finally let me change my sketching workflow from my trusted Sharpie to a digital stylus. The most common problems are the weight of the stylus which is often too light, the size of the tip which is often too big or mushy feeling, the time it takes to recharge the stylus or the that they are just too short and are uncomfortable to use. So with all of those factors running around in my head I picked up Apple Pencil with a mix of hope and skepticism to see if it would be everything I had hoped it would be.
Apple Pencil is simply the best stylus I’ve ever used and it feels more like a real pencil than any other stylus I’ve ever used. Like all great Apple products when you first start using it you have that magical moment when everything just feels right and it works like you think it should. The design is classic Apple with its shiny white exterior but when you look at it more closely you see that every part of the design was labored over so it just looks sexy. The weight of the Pencil is perfect as it feels substantial in your hand without being too light making it feel cheap or too bulky where you would get tired of working with it. The tip of the Pencil is different from any other stylus I’ve tried as it has a hard cap that gives slightly when you press down to get the pressure sensitivity but glides perfectly across the glass surface of the iPad Pro.
After my initial fanboy reaction wore off I started to look at the details a little more. The eraser end of the Pencil has a magnetic cap that comes off to reveal a standard iPad charging connector which allows you to plug the Pencil into the bottom of the iPad Pro to recharge it. I was blown away to find out that charging the Pencil for just 15 seconds will give it enough power that it will let the Pencil work for 30 minutes. Another thing that’s very cool about it is that you can angle it and use the side of the tip for shading or to create a larger mark on the screen. I was expecting this to be gimmicky but again it felt surprisingly natural and added a nice new dimension to using a stylus for drawing. I will say that I wish that like my Wacom stylus the eraser end of the Pencil could work an eraser or other have some other functionality to make it have a little more functionality. But that is a small gripe I will easily overlook given just how good the rest of the experience is.
Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw
The other part of this whole experience that also deserves a huge spotlight are the two Adobe mobile apps that have been specially redesigned to take advantage of the iPad Pro’s wider screen and increased pixel density. Adobe’s Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw have been the go-to sketching applications on my iPad since they were released but this new version just takes things to a new level when combined with Apple Pencil. These apps were demoed on stage at he launch even for the iPad Pro and this isn’t a case of where they just took the apps and made them bigger. The combination of the large drawing space, pressure sensitivity, and mobile first app controls combine into an experience where for the first time I forgot that I wasn’t using a physical pencil. The work that Eric Snowden has done creating these apps has made all the difference because you know that they have been created by someone who truly understands the needs of top-tier creates and also understands that these apps need to work differently in the mobile space than they do on a desktop. They are apps that you can use in your professional creative workflow and that’s what we need more from Adobe.
I will admit that as a creative professional I haven’t felt the love from Apple in the professional space for a long time. I’ve seen the things that used to cater to us like larger laptop sizes, larger Cinema Display’s and even pro applications like Final Cut Pro all disappear or fall into a bad state of disrepair. So while the name iPad Pro made it clear that Apple wanted to go after creative professionals with this tablet there was still some part of me that wasn’t sure if it was real or just a marketing gimmick. Trying out Adobe’s drawing apps using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil has completely gotten rid of any of that skepticism. My experience was admittedly brief but from what I have seen do far, Apple seems to have made professional class iPad with a better stylus and Adobe has stepped up to create software that will be able to not only keep up with it but unlock the real potential of what this new hardware was trying to go accomplish. My only problem now is that once again Apple has made something that is going to force me to get up a 3 am some morning in the not too distant future so I can get my order in at the front of the line and get them in my hands as soon as possible. I’ll post a full review when that day finally arrives.