I’ve finally had enough time to live with the latest generation of Apple hardware to be able to speak about it cogently. How can it be that in each case, I prefer the previous generation. Let’s look.
I’ll admit that this is a mixed bag. The 9.7" iPad Pro is very, very nice. Of course, so is the iPad Air 2. It has several improvements over the iPad Air 2, but each improvement is fairly minor. The iPad Pro also inherits the iPhone’s camera bump, which I really, really hate. I never use the Apple Pencil. To me, this is largely a wash. My life wouldn’t be much different if I just stayed with the iPad Air 2. If you have an iPad Air 2 and never made the jump, don’t worry; you really aren’t missing much.
We’ve all heard about the headphone jack, and no, it wasn’t courageous to remove it. It’s a problem. Not only is there no longer an easy way to connect with nearly every audio system, but I need to Frankenstein my way to doing so while plugged in. (Take a cross-country flight, lately?) There are many cases where BlueTooth headphones don’t work optimally (and I’m a big BlueTooth proponent). Worse than the headphone jack: the home button. The non-moving, capacitance-induced home button means I can’t use it with gloves, through my arm-band before/after a run, or with a bandage on my finger. Of course, I can’t use TouchID in those cases, either, but I often use the home button just to light up the home screen. I do so to check the time, or to check for notifications. I really wish I bought the 6s. That would have given me the upsides of the 7—3D Touch, and voicemail transcriptions. Oh, and a headphone jack—with none of the downsides.
The MacBook Pro with the TouchBar is basically the computer that no one asked for. What’s the problem? First is the enormous trackpad. Why did this need to grow in size over the previous gen? It triggers from my palms all of the time. It also makes right-click my bottom-right-clicking impossible. So, there’s a behavior I need to change. Isn’t that supposed to be the other way around? Next is the TouchBar. I haven’t yet seen a case where the on-screen controls aren’t superior. Additionally, it’s another thing I trigger accidentally all of the time. I’ve also had a number of glitches where the TouchBar locks up. So, no escape key for you! Finally, four USB-C ports as the only connections is incredibly frustrating. Not only is the lack of a single, transitionory USB-A port a hassle (because not very much is USB-C yet), but to replicate the functionality of the previous machines, I need adapters. The reasoning from Apple was “thinner and lighter”. The new MacBook Pro is, so that can’t be argued. The issue is that it isn’t thinner and lighter enough. If the New 15" MacBook Pro came out, but was the same thickness (or, thinness) of the 12" MacBook, yes, now we’d have something. Instead, if I bring the new MacBook Pro (TouchBar) while I travel, I need an SD card reader, a USB-C to HDMI adapter, a USB-C to USB-A adapter, and the power adapter. WIth the previous gen, I scoop up the machine and walk out the door, no adapters needed. What it seems I really want is the guts of this new machine in the older form-factor.
So, I beat up on these three products a little. It isn’t all bad. They’ve all advanced over their predecessors in some way. The iPad Pro 9.7" brings us a TrueTone display which does make reading a little bit nicer, along with an upgraded processor. Normally, I wouldn’t care too much about that in an iOS device, but with audio software getting more capable on iOS—yes, it’s a cyclical dependency—this interests me more and more. The Smart Keyboard is fantastic if you’ve made iOS your primary platform. (I find I’m never without a Mac, so, I prefer the thinness of the iPad with only the Smart Cover.) Just because the Pencil isn’t for me doesn’t mean it’s useless; I’ve seen plenty of people using the Pencil to great effect. Both the iPhone 7 and MacBook Pro have made advancements on the performance front as well, but security is the real winner here. Improved TouchID on the iPhone 7, and TouchID and Secure Enclave added to the Mac. That’s the big story. While traveling, lately, I’ve only been bringing an iPhone and a 12" MacBook. That sets a certain expectation for me: get work done. The 12" MacBook is really great at most tasks. it isn’t a game machine, though, that’s for sure. It will run Logic Pro (!!). It will run Garage Band, iMovie, Keynote, and Xcode. Yes, it’ll be slower than what you may be used to, but if I’m traveling, that’s acceptable. I can also share the (nice-and-small) power supply with my iPhone, keeping my travel pack even lighter. Apple gear is still the best out there. But I don’t want to use equipment just because it’s the best of the worst. We criticize because we love, and I love Apple. Let’s keep ’em on their game.