The Game Changer

A Designer’s Second Rev


Since the introduction of tablets and Palms back in the 90's the devices were touted as a way to help people with productivity. I remember having a palm pilot that I used religiously. Back then cell phones were just cell phones and most of the inputs on your digital device were through buttons or a stylus. In 2009 Apple’s Steve Jobs hosted an event to reveal the iPad. Apples second attempt at a tablet, a device that like it’s sister the iPhone, would change the industry moving forward. I remember standing in line for a launch day release, and the device was magical. After a little under a year a new version was released and practically every year since. I have owned every version of an iPad since the original, the classic iPad 2, the iPad mini, and the iPad Air.

Up until recently professional users could see the iPads potential to be a pro users game changer, but the current iPad was still very much a consumption device. That changed a bit when Apple introduced the iPad Pro in November of 2015. It was an oversized iPad with stats put on steroids. It had more Ram, better speakers, and an upgraded mobile chip.  It originally came in space grey and silver. In March of 2016 Apple revamped the line to also include a 9.7” Pro adding Rose Gold and Gold to the mix. Only the 9.7 inch iPad had upgraded screen features and a faster processor. Since I still liked my 12.9” Pro I decided not to upgrade, and I wrote a post on 7 ways the iPad Pro made me a more efficient designer [link to post].


In June, Apple held its annual developer’s conference, WWDC 2017, in San Jose. Besides software updates in iOS 11, they upgraded the iPad Pro. It was such an upgrade that I included it in My Studio Upgrade Wishlist [link to blog post]. The new upgrade was for the long overdue 12.9” iPad, but there was something even more exciting announced. A 10.5” iPad Pro that was taking the place of the 9.7” Pro.

I started to notice I was using my Pro mainly for notes (a replacement to a notebook). I made the decision to downgrade to the 10.5” size. It’s as light as a standard iPad with the power of a pro, and even a larger screen. It has a color light sensor that adjusts the screen to reflect the light you are in, like a real piece of paper would. Apple calls the technology True Tone Display.

The new iPad Pro contains the fastest chip in every iPad, the A10x chip. This definitely helps with more power hungry apps like the Adobe CC mobile suite and a few others like Affinity Photo. Graphic programs need a decent processor and enough RAM to handle multiple functions at one time. The new processor makes the iPad 30% faster in CPU speeds and 40% faster in graphics speed.


Another new feature is ProMotion, Apple’s snazzy way of describing the new 120Hz refresh rate. It makes the iPad snappier, while also giving it the ability to throttle down the refresh rate for apps not requiring the speed to conserve on battery when 120Hz aren’t necessary. This is important because I’m a designer who already admitted I use my iPad as a notebook. I use myApple Pencil consistently, the full 120Hz creates almost zero lag giving the illusion of writing directly on paper.

In my first iPad Pro post I expressed that I purchased an iPad Pro as a replacement to a laptop, and though I had a few very useful apps, I still felt there were some things it wasn’t able to handle. I had my 12.9” iPad and not a lot has changed in terms of functionality. I have been using it to write more and collaborating on it as a white board is also useful.

After purchasing the new iPad Pro, the A10x chip makes everything faster and the new refresh rate is actually a noticeable difference. The new form factor is even more compact and lightweight than its larger brother, and that also means I lost a few inches on the screen. After about a month in use and I don't even notice the loss of real estate. I have actually noticed I am using my iPad more.



Apple introduced the 12.9” iPad Pro in November of 2015.

The 9.7” iPad Pro is introduced in March of 2016 with a few new features.

In June 2017 Apple revamps the line with a 12.9” and new 10.5” form factor.


The whole laptop replacement conversation gets even more interesting with the announcement of iOS11. The new iPads were treated like an accessory to the star of the show, Apple’s newest operating system. With the progression of the iPad and an OS with special features just for the iPad.

The dock is more a kin to MacOS with the ability to store several key apps always accessible. Control center and a bunch of other apps get facelifts with a ton of new features to match, but real question is can the iPad Pro finally be considered a laptop replacement. Two apps could make that possible. Notes gets a nitrous boost and Apple introduces the Files app.


Back in 2011 Apple introduced iCloud, their solution to cloud computing. The service has slowly evolved over the last six years, and recently iCloud has received a lot of new features. Extending to the Mac a few years back, MacOS Sierra now has an iCloud desktop. Like a dedicated Dropbox drive in your finder, any file placed in this location can be accessed from the cloud. Files will allow you to access those files, but also files on other cloud systems. Boxee, Dropbox, One Drive and Google Drive are all included, but it's the link with Adobe Creative Cloud that makes things interesting. This would help any creative outside of their main studio.


Notes also gets a shot in the arm with some substantial upgrades. Additions like the ability to mark-up PDFs, searchable text [including handwriting], typing and drawing in the same notes and a lot more. A useful feature for the Apple Pencil is being added as well. Touch the pencil to a sleeping/locked iPad Pro and it instantly opens the notes app. I currently use Wacom Bamboo Paper for all my note taking, but it will be nice to use Notes as my dedicated note taking app.


There are more additions that will be released next month, but this is important because these upgrades could make the iPad Pro a true laptop replacement 99% of the time. With cloud connections to creative cloud, the upgraded power, and more capable apps the new iPad Pro is a designer’s new go to tool. As long as no major projects need to be finished I believe this is the best mobile solution on the market. From meeting notes to brainstorming sketches. Even conceptual designing can all be done on the iPad Pro. It works with both Apple’s iWork suite and Microsoft’s Office suite so it is capable of most office tasks. The ability to also make FaceTime calls for conferencing makes this machine a designer’s true travel companion. With fall approaching and the new iOS upgrades I am looking forward to working remotely again. 

I will be putting the new operating system through a few tests to see how it stacks up, but from what's been presented in demos the upgrades look promising. If you would like to see all the additions yourself check out Apple’s WWDC Keynote announcements, and iOS 11 is available today on iOS devices.



About the Writer

Brian Anthony is the Creative Designer at Bigger Creative Agency. A comic book nerd who loves everything about design and technology. Born and raised in Brooklyn, like most New Yorkers, he isn't afraid to speak his mind. Brian is an outgoing designer who has had his work featured in USA Today, New York Fashion Week, and CES. He finds inspiration in everything and loves to throw on any tune and get to work.