Apple's Slim New iPad Pro Teases Mac-Rivaling Features

By Wilson Rothman Features Dow Jones Newswires

Apple Inc. unveiled a new iPad Pro with a 10.5-inch screen Monday, in its latest attempt to stoke sales of its flagging tablet category. Its fresh design and sensible price may appeal to buyers, though its most "Pro" features will arrive as a software update this fall, for it and other recent iPads as well.

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Replacing the 9.7-inch iPad Pro introduced just last year, this model puts a larger screen in a body that is nearly as slim and light, with a faster processor, a better camera and more internal storage -- at $650, just $50 more. (Apple says it also has the same 10-hour battery life.)

The Pro line, launched in late 2015 with a 12.9-inch screen tablet, is distinguished by its support for Apple's Pencil stylus and a special magnetic keyboard case -- both sold separately. It isn't what you would call cost-conscious, but with the 10.5-inch model, there now seems to be more bang for the buck.

When Apple rolled out its lowest-priced 9.7-inch tablet in March -- for $329 -- it was met largely with indifference. It could be that the new Pro has the design refresh people were waiting for. (Perhaps we will even see the 10.5-inch screen trickle down to lower-priced iPads in 2018.)

Ditch Your Laptop?

Adding "Pro" to the iPad's name was Apple's way of signaling that people should upgrade from their old iPads or ditch their laptops in favor of one. That largely didn't happen, and software could be to blame.

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Two years ago, with iOS 9, Apple introduced nominal multitasking features such as split-screen apps and picture-in-picture video. In iOS 11, Apple is making a much more concerted effort to turn the iPad into a laptop replacement.

It gets a dock, just like a Mac. This is where you can launch apps, even when you are in the middle of one. There is a pop-up app switcher, too, with thumbnail screens showing what you are doing in each app. You can drag and drop files from one app (say, an attachment in Mail) to another (perhaps a photo editor). Most important, the iPad finally gets a file-management system -- called "Files" -- the absence of which has long been considered a huge deterrent.

Apple says iOS 11, due this fall, is compatible with all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, along with the recent (fifth-generation) iPad. It will also be compatible with iPad Mini 2 and subsequent Minis. The new file management also will come to iOS 11-compatible iPhones.

People considering an iPad upgrade may look to the attractive design of the new iPad Pro. Or they may discover that what they really wanted is already headed to their older device, in the form of a free software update.

Write to Wilson Rothman at wilson.rothman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 05, 2017 18:37 ET (22:37 GMT)