REVIEW: 7th-generation Apple iPad and iPadOS
New desktop-esque tablet now supports Pencil
The iPhone, as well all know, gets an annual rebirth. As far as the iPad's concerned, while it does take quite longer for a refresh, that doesn't mean it plays second fiddle.
Apple's tablet computer has undergone several iterations, but, as they say, nothing beats the original. So alongside this year's big unveil of the iPhone 11 series, Apple sneaked in a new iPad.
To clear some confusion up, this is the 7th-generation iPad - that's iPad, not iPad Mini, iPad Air or iPad Pro - the newest version of the good ol' iPad that was described as an oversized iPhone when it made its debut in 2019. Let's dig in to what it has to offer this time.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Take a good look and, well, there's pretty nothing much of a difference compared to the sixth-generation iPad. There's an extra half-inch difference from the previous iPad, which may be negligible.
Again, this is your garden-variety iPad, so this machine retains the thick forehead and chin above and below, respectively - which means the home button is present, which further means that you can use Touch ID to unlock the iPad, approve purchases and everything else it's been doing that a good number of people have missed. That also means Face ID isn't here.
(ICYMI, the only iPads that have smaller bezels, Face ID and no home button are the iPad Pro line-up.)
If you've been using and have been used to an iPad Pro, it's like a downgrade in terms of viewing experience thanks to the forehead and chin. But keep in mind that with the increase in display size, Apple also bumped up the pixel count, so you can, well, count on a crisp experience on the new iPad.
Which means watching video and viewing any other content is great. And don't forget playing games on it - Apple Arcade! - because it can also hold up pretty well handling such chip-busting tasks. The new iPad does, however, only has the A10 Fusion chip, which is from 2016 and is what's inside the iPhone 7. It's definitely not bad, but an increment to even the A11 Bionic could've made this tablet even sturdier.
(Fun fact: Only four iPhone line-ups are officially being sold by Apple right now - the iPhone 8, XR, 11 and 11 Pro.)
And like its predecessor, the new iPad now also supports the Apple Pencil - but only the first-generation one. You know the drill: Connect the Pencil via the Lightning port and off you go. (The second-generation Pencil is compatible only with iPad Pros and uses Bluetooth; remember, they have USB-C ports, too.) Artists, sketchers, doodlers and time-wasters (like me) should have no problem bringing out the inner creator in them with the Pencil on this iPad.
There's also a new addition to this 2019 device: This iPad now also supports Apple's smart keyboard cover. This fabric-enrobed accessory now turns your iPad into a notebook of sorts, enhancing your productivity.
Which leads us to the juiciest part of all of this.
I can't remember when I first broached the idea of iPads having their own operating system, but I do hope Apple listened to me.
Anyway, in the tradition of iPhones having iOS and Macs using macOS, iPads now have their own operating system - aptly named iPadOS. As Apple puts it, iPadOS was created to 'recognise the distinctive experience' of the iPad.
Of note: Not all iPads support iPadOS; only 13 iPads can run it - the 5th, 6th and 7th generation iPads; the iPad Air 2 and 3rd generation; the iPad mini 4 and 5th generation; and all six iPad Pros.
iPadOS borrows some elements from both macOS and iOS, optimised for Apple's tablet computer. The first thing you'll notice on the home screen is the Dock, similar to what you see on a Mac.
On the main home screen, swipe from the left and you'll get more widgets for a really desktop feel.
You know the drill; you can drag and add the apps you use most frequently to the Dock for easy access.
For those who multitask a lot, there's a neat feature tucked in - Slide Over. Basically, it's what it is to the iPad as windows are to Macs and, of course, PCs.
Basically, it lets you overlay apps so that you can work on them at the same time. It's useful for those apps you frequently use; add them by getting them from the Dock, scour through them by swiping from the edge of the screen and even use two at the same time using Split View.
Gestures to remember when playing around with Slide Over:
- To add a new window, drag the app from the Dock to the screen
- To make an app full-screen, hold that small grey bar on top and drag it to the top of the screen
- To use Split View, drag an app from the Dock to either the left or right side; you can view both apps either at a 50:50 or 70:30 ratio by dragging the little bar in between them left or right
- To switch between apps on Slide Over, just swipe from the bottom of the floating window
It may take a while for you to get used to it, but once you do, it'll work a whole lot of wonders.
Here's a tricky part: When accessing the Dock by swiping from below, iPadOS may tend to recognise this gesture as going to the home screen. So be gentle doing this.
On the other hand, the App Switcher is of a different variety compared to iOS; unlike on iOS in which the tiles are cascaded on top of each other, iPadOS lets you see the mini-windows in their entirety. You can do this by either double-pressing the home button or swiping from below and pausing in the middle, ala-iPhone.
The Files app, meanwhile, works as you would expect it to - except that it has a new Column View, similar to what you'll find on macOS (told ya). The sidebar on the left shows locations, external drives and even servers, while rummaging through your files is Mac-esque, complete with file previews, quick actions and metadata to the right.
One of the biggest thing that Files can do on iPadOS is zipping and unzipping files. Yet one more sign that the iPad can seriously challenge your notebook.
Want more? You'll also get direct camera import, a document scanner and a downloads folder where you can manage everything you've hitched from your browsers or from your e-mail.
Safari now also promises desktop-class browsing; it actually feels smoother and it responds well to the Apple Pencil.
And with the dawn of the smart keyboard, we present to you 30 'new' keyboard shortcuts for Safari (well, they aren't actually 'new' - they're new because it's now on the iPad; they're the same ol' ones you use on your Mac):
iPadOS also has duo of features you've probably already seen on iOS and macOS: Dark Mode - you know what that is...
...and Sidecar, which was the co-No.1 in our macOS Catalina review (read all about it, again).
For those who aren't aware, Sidecar allows you to use the iPad as a second screen in tandem with a Mac; just connect it (wired or wireless) and you'll have more space for whatever you're working on.
Battery life on the new iPad, meanwhile, is a bit of a question mark. In our standard one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, a whopping 21 per cent of power was zapped out. We weren't able to review the 6th-generation iPad, but for comparison's sake, last year's iPad Pros yielded a result of 10 per cent.
At first glance, the 7th generation iPad may not seem to make a huge difference, but its incremental upgrades are good enough. What really makes the difference here is the fact that it can now run on iPadOS, giving a huge complement to its new features, enhancing productivity.
Price also makes a big difference: The iPad Air starts at Dh1,999, while the iPad Pro begins at Dh3,199; this new tablet stays put at a Dh1,349 starting tag. Really still in awe why Apple has still not decided to bump up the base storage to 64GB; I mean, that's another difference-maker.
GOODIES - Maintains good entry-level price, smart keyboard support, iPadOS can convince you to stow away your laptop at times
GOOFIES - Battery life, token upgrade from 6th-gen, base storage still 32GB
EDITOR RATING: This is an entry-level iPad. If you don't care about the other frills you see on its higher-end peers, then this is for you. 4/5
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