The Ergonomics of the iPad Pro

Ipad pro

Apple started selling the iPad Pro today, and reviews are pouring in from the usual sources. I was very interested in John Gruber’s review on Daring Fireball. Gruber seems to be the only person who has addressed the problems of using Apple’s keyboard with the iPad Pro. He says:

Trying to use the iPad Pro as a laptop with the Smart Keyboard exposes the seams of an OS that was clearly designed for touchscreen use first. These seams aren’t new — I’m sure anyone who has tried using an iPad of any sort with a paired Bluetooth keyboard has run into the same things. This is simply the first time I’ve tried using an iPad with a hardware keyboard for an extended period for large amounts of work.

While there are some keyboard shortcuts that let you interact with the iPad – such as Command-Tab to switch applications – there are many operations you cannot do from the keyboard. Gruber points out how difficult it is to launch applications. You can use the Command-space shortcut to go to your home screen, but:

you still have to pick your arm up and touch the screen to launch the app.

And you can search for an app, but:

you can’t use the keyboard arrow keys to navigate the list of results.

Add to this the lack of a trackpad or other pointing device. I assume you can tap the display with Apple’s Pencil – the stylus designed for the iPad Pro – but you’ll still need to raise your arm and touch the screen a lot, which will eventually lead to shoulder pain.

I suggested to John Gruber that he could use Siri to launch apps, but he pointed out that the Hey Siri feature only works when the device is connected to a power source. So, while you can tell Siri, for example, to Open Mail on an iPhone, you cannot use this voice control on the iPad Pro. It seems that the iPad Pro (and other iPads) is crying out for a Siri keyboard shortcut.

Another thing I notice with Apple’s keyboard is its rigidity. I don’t think you can change its angle, and it doesn’t look like it would be as good on your lap as an actual laptop. It seems designed for the desktop only. And since you can’t change the angle of the iPad when using that keyboard, you’ll be frozen into a position that may not be ideal for long work sessions. It seems like a recipe for neck pain.

You can, of course, use the iPad Pro with an external Bluetooth keyboard, including Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, and lean it on a third-party stand. This makes it more flexible when working on a desk. And some third party keyboards make make it adapted to actual “laptop” use. But as the iPad Pro stands today, with Apple’s keyboard – which, by the way, isn’t shipping for 3 to 4 weeks – it doesn’t look like it can replace a computer for ergonomic working.