When iPadOS 13 introduced tentative support for trackpads and mice within the tablet’s Accessibility settings, the next obvious steps forward were full OS-level support for apps with cursors, and iPad-specific accessories to increase their convenience. Today, Apple took both of those steps by debuting a new iPad Pro alongside an all-in-one solution that combines a keyboard and trackpad — the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro.
The new iPad Pro resembles its 11-inch and 12.9-inch predecessors from the outside, but includes substantial internal changes, and an all-new camera array on the back. In addition to a 10-Megapixel ultra wide camera that “zooms out two times to capture a much wider field of view,” the new iPad includes a 12MP wide camera akin to its predecessor, and a Lidar sensor capable of depth sensing.
Lidar will enable the iPad Pro to scan depth in objects, including distance measurements from up to five meters away at nano-second speeds to create superior realtime awareness of scenes — a benefit for augmented reality. A new Scene Geometry API will let developers access the new scanner, and existing ARKit apps will gain instant AR object placement, better motion capture, and people occlusion features.
Apple also claims Lidar will help with pro workflows, including support for pro photo and video apps. The addition of a depth sensor to the new tablet has been rumored for quite some time, but the specifics of its functionality have remained ambiguous.
One surprise in the iPad Pro is its move to a “A12Z Bionic” CPU, an eight-core processor that promises “the highest performance ever in an iPad,” but without Apple’s typical specific promises of double-digit improvements in various categories. The A12Z Bionic includes Apple’s Neural Engine, similarly unspecced, suggesting that the jump from the prior A12X Bionic won’t be gigantic. Regardless, Apple says that “iPad Pro is faster and more powerful than most Windows PC laptops” thanks to the chip, something benchmarks will be needed to establish.
Somewhat like a previously announced accessory from Brydge, Apple’s combined Magic Keyboard is significantly different from prior iPad Smart Keyboard Folios, relying on a new hinge system to keep the tablet vertical while the typing and trackpad input are handled horizontally. The Magic Keyboard retains the folio-style case design, but now elevates the iPad above the typing surface with angle adjustment abilities.
Apple’s introduction of this accessory enables the iPad Pro family to compete more effectively against Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets, which have offered trackpad and cursor support for some time. These solutions enable “pro” users to achieve the level of input precision they need without physically touching the screen for everything.
The new accessory costs $299 (11-inch) or $349 (12.9-inch), and is shipping in May; by comparison, prior-generation iPad Pro Smart Keyboard Folios sold for $179 to $199, with standalone Magic Keyboards starting at $99. Apple will begin delivering the new iPad Pro on March 25.