Apple debuts all-new iPad Pro models

4 min read

It was pretty clear from the design and interface changes in iOS 12 that Apple was laying the groundwork for the next generation of iPad, by tweaking the location of the clock and status bar at the top and adding new gestures that allow you to operate the device without the touching the home button. We finally learned the details of the new iPad models today at Apple’s special event in New York, where they announced two all-new iPad Pro models and released the iOS 12.1 software update.

iPad Pro 11″

Apple has sold over 400 million iPads since the iPad 1 hit the market in 2010 and it is used by nearly every industry around the world. It is considered required equipment by most pilots in the cockpit, so the aviation industry tends to pay special attention when new models are introduced.

Apple introduced two new iPad models today, available in 11″ and 12.9″ screen sizes (sorry, no new iPad mini). The all-new 11″ iPad Pro is pretty impressive, since it retains a similar footprint to the 9.7″ iPad and 10.5″ iPad Pro, but incorporates a larger, edge-to-edge 11″ diagonal screen.

Like with the iPhone X series, the iPad Pro 11″ eliminates the home button and relies on gestures to control the device. It also incorporates the TrueDepth camera at the top with FaceID to allow you to unlock the screen simply by looking at it. FaceID and gesture-based interactions have been well-received by consumers on the iPhone X, so they should work just as well on the iPad. In our opinion it’s a step in the right direction, freeing up more space for the display and simplifying interactions, two big plusses when using the iPad in the cockpit. There’s also no mechanical button to break.

The new iPad Pro of course includes an upgraded processor, called the A12X Bionic. It relies on an 8-core processor that is 35% faster than the 10.5″ iPad Pro, which was no slouch. When paired up with the new high-performance graphics processor, Apple claims the iPad Pro is more powerful than 92% of the laptops on the market.

The next big change is Apple’s switch from their proprietary lightning connector to the universal USB Type-C (the same type of charging port found on Stratus 2S and 3). This is a great move that opens up lots of connectivity options, including the ability to interface with a 5K monitor, connect DSLR cameras and more. And since USB-C can provide 2-way power, you can even connect your iPhone to the iPad with a USB-C to lightning cable and charge your iPhone from the iPad battery.

Compared to the iPad Pro 10.5″, the iPad Pro 11″ is .2 mm thinner, 3mm wider, but 4 mm shorter in height. We’ll report back next week after some testing out existing kneeboards and mounts to determine compatibility.

iPad Pro 12.9″

Alongside the iPad Pro 11″, Apple also redesigned the larger iPad Pro 12.9″. We tested the original iPad Pro 12.9″ last year and came to the conclusion that it was flat out too large for the cockpit. Thanks to the edge-to-edge screen design, the footprint of the new 12.9″ iPad Pro is considerably smaller. It’s about the same size as a standard sheet of paper and 1 mm thinner than the previous 12.9″ model, making for a 25% reduction in total volume. This may actually fit well in larger cockpits for pilots looking for more screen real-estate. We’ll have a full PIREP on this model next week after we get a chance to fly with it.

New iPad Pencil and Keyboard Folio

To round out the new product updates, Apple debuted an upgraded Apple Pencil for precise interactions with the screen. A new feature allows you to magnetically attach it to the iPad bezel, which would be helpful in the cockpit to make sure it doesn’t fall out of reach when not in use. Even better, the Pencil automatically charges from the iPad bezel when magnetically attached. The Pencil also provides additional control in compatible apps that allow you to tap the Pencil remotely to activate pre-programmed actions on the screen.

The original pencil was useful for copying clearances in the cockpit, but the lack of a suitable mounting option and the cumbersome charging setup made it a struggle. The new model should make it a legitimate option for pilots.

There is also a new Smart Keyboard Folio that connects via the iPad Pro’s smart connector, for those that prefer a physical keyboard. This folds up compactly when not in use and protects the front screen.

The new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro are available to order now and come in silver and space gray finishes in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB configurations as well as a new 1TB option. The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 (US) for the Wi-Fi model and $949 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999 (US) for the Wi-Fi model and $1,149 (US) for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. Deliveries begin next week.

The second generation Apple Pencil will be available for $129 (US). The new Smart Keyboard Folio is available in space gray for $179 (US) for the 11-inch iPad Pro and $199 (US) for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with layouts for over 30 languages, including simplified Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.

A wide assortment of Apple-designed USB-C accessories including adapters and cables also support iPad Pro and are available, including a new USB-C to SD Card Reader and USB-C to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter.

18 replies
  1. Mike
    Mike says:

    Insanely expensive … and FaceID only? How is the practical experience with these infrared lightning throwers, is it disturbing the sensors of i.e. GPS?

    Btw, I do use the older 12.9 in a C172 and am quite happy with this paper chart replacement. It cannot be mounted, but so what? The paper charts weren’t also.

  2. Matt
    Matt says:

    Yes. Insanely expensive…for the Pro model. Yet, I buy one each time they revise them.
    I use mine every day for work, for personal use, load it up with videos for family vacation (and output to HDMI on TV at hotel/condo/rental-house). Most importantly, it is an invaluable tool for aviation with Foreflight, cellular connection (other Wx, flight plans, eAPIS, and other pre-flight checks).

    Frankly, for 1 AMU (yes expensive) it is probably the cheapest-to-value ratio in aviation. Critical device for me.

    Now, I’m not an Apple-fan-boy. I am an otherwise Windows-all-over guy. These tablets (and phone) continue to deliver, get handed down to the kids, and get used everyday.

    P.S. You don’t need a $1k iPad for Foreflight. You can run the $329 edition if that is your preference (also not cheap but surely not expensive in aviation terms).

    • Dennis Rose
      Dennis Rose says:

      Yea, a value for dollars real comment. I use both my iPad and iPhone all day every day. It’s an investment I cherish

  3. Steve R
    Steve R says:

    sometimes change is good and later found to be bad. Edge to Edge display? have you ever grabbed your iPad near the edge and it change or shifted screens? Tried that in the middle of turbulence. Going to USB-C is good, finally the masses spoke to Apple’s bank account. Faster? ok, but I doubt a pilot is using an iPad in his aircraft doing Mach 2, if Foreflight could automatically display freq’s, local Wx, approach plates, etc. before I have to touch the screen while in bound to my destination … now that’s keeping ahead of the aircraft and situation. Side benefit, not much use for the $130 pencil with no lead in it. Keyboard folio, very useful sitting around an FBO waiting on Wx, Search A Word anyone? not needed in the cockpit, another distraction from Apple. Buy stock in companies that supply products like kneeboards and mounts, be ready to pay more for those as well.

  4. Rick
    Rick says:

    I sure wish the Mini would get a new processor at least. It can’t be all that difficult. Keep it the same but just make it faster so it won’t bog down and lock up with all the data FF pours into it. I recently had to dump my Mini for the New 9.5. It’s a bit large but what a world of difference. Never crashes or delays updates. Forget the mini if you need it for IFR as it’s not dependable.

  5. Steve R
    Steve R says:

    i dedicate my iPad mini for aviation only, striped out all the fluff that Apple thinks you must have and with the 512 Gb memory it runs pretty smooth, size is perfect, i’ve never had a lock up and I live in Florida

    • Don S
      Don S says:

      The mini is the perfect fit in my cockpit. It mounts vertically between the arms of the yoke without blocking instruments. My i-Pad Gen 5, when yoke mounted, is both too big for the yoke and blocks instruments. Also, I like the yoke mount because the mini display is always visible, easily reprogrammed, and less prone to accidentally touching the wrong button. … Apple needs to update this device!! BTW, no complaints about mini performance so far.

  6. Rick G
    Rick G says:

    Face ID is a awful idea for your charts. This is like the iPhone X, It will not recognize you with sun glasses and yes you have to look at it for an abnormally long time to unlock it. I will stick to the old ones I have.

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      Worth remembering that FaceID is totally optional – you don’t have to lock your iPad. I have an iPhone X and never use FaceID to unlock it. Easy to turn off in Settings.

    • Chris Bowman
      Chris Bowman says:

      My iPhone x recognizes me with sunglasses and a hat. I can even change my facial hair without a problem. It also unlocks faster and more reliably than my seven did. Yours must have a problem

  7. Peter S
    Peter S says:

    As an FAA Examiner giving check rides in small airplanes (DA20 C152 etc) and cockpit safety observations for the Airline, the mini is perfect. It lays flat on the thigh without any distractions and still allows awareness of your position and allows a look at your plan of action etc.
    (And it doesn’t require a suitcase to carry it.)

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      There are some fairly believable rumors that an iPad Mini 5 is coming in the spring, along with new AirPods and wireless charging. Keep your fingers crossed – it is a great size for the cockpit.

  8. fred
    fred says:

    Regarding the Oct 31 comment of Mike: yes you can mount the older 12.9inch iPad. If you search Sporty’s, you can find a Ram Mount/frame for it. I don’t know why they don’t feature it. I also disagree strongly that it is too large for the cockpit. I have a Cessna 162 (skycatcher) and mount it on the right side stoke (i.e., yoke/stick) and it works great. This 12.9 size is particularly great in ForFlight’s split screen mode to show simultaneous map and synthetic vision/backup ahars – each half with size like an ipad mini.

  9. Mark
    Mark says:

    I just upgraded from IPad II to the 11” Pro. I have been using ForeFlight for years. Also upgraded my phone from SE to 8. Incredible and in awe. Expensive..yes. But I believe that the features available from ForeFlight that can be used and were not available with the newer iOS are worth the cost.

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