Raw first impressions of the new iPad Pro

I am all set up with my new 12.9 inch iPad Pro. Here are my gut thoughts on the process of purchasing the device and the first few hours of use.

I ordered the 11 inch device on day one and then immediately regretted it once I heard reports of the 12.9's lightness. This mixed in with the fact that the 11 inch still runs apps in a different size class than the 12.9. For example, when you run Mail and Notes side by side, it is possible to see the list of notes/messages and the contents of the note/message on screen at once in the 12.9 model.

I went in to the Apple Store today with the idea in mind that I would test both out, most likely buy a 12.9, and then return the 11.

Things I tested in the store:

-Holding each device in hand with and without Keyboard Folio attached.

-Running two productivity apps side by side in 50/50 split view on both devices to see how much content was visible.

-Typing an email on each keyboard.

-Looking at sheet music on one half of the screen while taking handwritten notes on the other. (In landscape and in portrait)

-Fitting each device in and out of my back pack.

-Taking handwritten notes in Apple Notes while holding the device in the other hand.

Making the decision

It was a hard decision. I really miss watching movies and reading books on the couch with my current 12.9. It's too big. It is also too heavy for me to hold in one hand at length. Still, I purchased it. Because I don't want to miss out on any software features now, or down the road. The fact that you can put 15 apps on the dock of the 12.9 and that you can run apps with more features in split view was enough to sell me on it. Apple could add those features to the 11 inch later through software. But Apple could also add new features to just the 12.9. Another tie breaker was the keyboard. I just can't type on the 11 inch keyboard as comfortably. I don’t think I will regret this. An honest look at my iPad use over the past year reveals hours and hours a day reading sheet music from far away while viewing a seating chart on the other half of the screen. Can I just have two iPads? The thought crossed my mind and then I realized how needlessly complex that could be. My wallet rejoiced.

First thoughts

The inductive charging pencil that snaps to the device is brilliant. It is going to make the pencil feel so much more delightful to use.

Pencil only attaches to the top while in landscape. Bummer.

It will take some time to retrain myself to swipe up to go to home screen and double tap the pencil to change tools. These are superior methods, but habit is habit.

Using the pencil with Apple Notes is a dream. Combine the higher refresh rate (my first time experiencing this since I own the first gen iPad Pro) with the feel of the new pencil, along with the responsiveness of "tap to wake," and you get as close to paper as I can imagine. Tapping the pencil tip to the sleeping iPad screen instantly gets you handwriting in the Notes app. This feature has existed before, but it is so smooth now, that... you really just have to try it to believe it. It's so good that I am already thinking about how to work Apple Notes back into my note workflow (I can’t ever seem to avoid using less than three or four note apps at once). I was so compelled by this idea that I sketched out some workflow ideas in Apple Notes with the new pencil. I have to conceive of note apps with a healthy dose of metaphor.



12.9 is lighter but still too heavy to hold in one hand with ease. It actually feels grippier to me when the case is on. Less like I am going to drop it.

New Keyboard Folio is way easier to unfold but harder to detach from the iPad.

Apps that aren’t optimized for the screen are currently letterboxed. I don’t mind it as much as I thought I would.

This device is going to feel so much better to use all around, but as many members of the tech press have stated, it is still powered by a limited OS. iOS hasn't seen features to differentiate the iPad since iOS 11. Rumor has it that iOS 13 is going to bring a lot more iPad productivity. Until the other shoe drops, I wait in eager anticipation for what this iPad could become.

Features I would need from iOS to allow me to use my iPad for 99 percent of my work (that are within Apple's control)

-Trackpad and mouse support

-Open two instances of the same app side by side

-Faster animation when I press Command+Tab

-Desktop-ier Safari

-Improvements to the Files app (I need more control in iCloud Drive over which documents are stored in the cloud vs. local to the device. Third party providers like Google Drive do not show up in the search results when I search in Files app or in Spotlight.)

-Default apps. Not just for stuff like Mail and Maps. I need to be able to specify which app a document opens in when I tap it in the Files app.

-Ability to manage my iTunes Library.

-Logic Pro (they have to be working on this, right?)

-Bonus point: Ability to have more than one audio in or out running at the same time.

-Bonus point: some sort of rethink to the home screen. I would love to be able to launch a file or a folder from there. A widget with recent notes wouldn't suck either.

-Bonus point: three apps 33/33/33 percent at the same time.

-Extreme bonus point: keyboard intent to allow TextExpander to work.

-Extreme bonus point: extension for apps to put a window in the middle of the screen that allows for viewing or editing content. Example: a quick note function, or the ability to add a task to OmniFocus.

I think about half of the things I did not label as Bonus could happen in the next year. I would be disappointed if they don't, but fortunately, I bought the new iPad for what it is, not what it will be. And what it is is an extremely powerful iPad that is 100 percent more delightful to use in every respect. I can't wait to test this thing out in the classroom tomorrow.

Road Trip!!! Off to the Tennessee Music Educators Association Conference!


I am pumped to be spending the next four days in Nashville to present at the Tennessee Music Educators Association Conference. I am presenting three sessions tomorrow, Friday, April 13th. One of these sessions is brand new and focused entirely on teaching intonation to student musicians with the support of the Tonal Energy tuning app. Scroll down for links to all of my session notes.

Road Trip!!!

My wife and I are making a road trip out of this event. In addition to eating and drinking our way through the city over the next few days, I am excited to be seeing old friends and new. Tomorrow night we will be seeing the Nashville Symphony Orchestra performing a program of Elgar, Mozart, and Bach. I will get to watch a friend of mine from grad school, Joshua Hickman (Principal Timpanist), performing with the ensemble.

I will also get to meet friend, Craig McClellan, in person for the first time. Craig has an awesome education/technology blog called The Class Nerd and has been a recent regular on my podcast. (Listen here and here).

Craig and I may or may not have a very special project we are cooking up for teachers later this year...

Session Notes

Here are the session notes for my three sessions. Check them out!!!

Going Paperless with iPad (April 13, 9 am)

Working with Digital Scores (April 13, 10 am)

Teaching Intonation with Tonal Energy (April 13, 3 pm)