Like many of the Apple faithful, I spent Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 feverishly refreshing the Apple website and mobile app in hopes of scoring an iPad Pro on launch day. Luckily for me I was able to get in (seemingly) before anyone else at around 2:03AM Central Time. The checkout process was flawless as always, and I was happy to see that when I added my iPad Pro (128GB Space Gray), Apple Pencil, and Smart Keyboard Cover to my shopping bag that all were available for in-store pickup at my local Apple Store here in Nashville. That meant that in just 8 hours I would actually have my hands on this device that I’ve been talking about, lusting after, and waiting on for almost a full year! This would prove to be the highlight of my experience with the iPad Pro, because as you’ll see throughout this article, things only went downhill from here.
Do You Have Any Pencils?
My first indication that something was amiss with my iPad Pro order came when I woke up later that morning. As expected I was greeted with an email from Apple saying “We’re Ready for You” which is an indication that your in-store pickup is ready to be picked up. However, upon closer inspection I noticed that only my iPad Pro was available for pickup, and the Apple Pencil/Smart Keyboard Cover were still “being processed”. Thinking this could’ve simply been an error, I decided to call the Apple Store just to make sure, so that I could confidently make my 60-80 minute (roundtrip) drive to the Apple Store.
When I got on the phone with the Apple representative, she greeted me warmly and congratulated me on purchasing my new iPad Pro. After that brief exchange of pleasantries I asked what would prove to be (apparently) the most difficult yes/no question an Apple employee has ever had to answer. Here’s how it all went down:
Apple Rep: What can I help you with today?
Me: I placed an order for the iPad Pro, which my email says is available for pickup. I also purchased the pencil and the keyboard though, and those do not indicate they’re ready for pickup even though my confirmation email says they’re available today. Before I drive all the way down there, can you tell me if you have any pencils/keyboards in stock today?
Apple Rep: I see that you ordered an iPad Pro, and yes you also ordered two accessories, and it looks like those items are still processing at this time.
Me: Yes, I agree with that. But that’s not what I asked you… Do you have any pencils or keyboards in stock, right now at your store?
Apple Rep: Those items won’t be available for pickup until you receive a confirmation email…
Me: (cutting her off) I understand how your ordering process works. For a moment, let’s pretend I don’t have an order. I’m just walking into the store and I want to buy these products… Are they available?
Apple Rep: Hold on just one second and I’ll contact someone at the store to see if they can give us more information.
Me: Wait, you’re not at the store?
Apple Rep: No, not physically, but I can see all their inventory from here.
Me: GREAT! Tell me if there are pencils and keyboards in stock…
Apple Rep: Hold one moment please.
This exchange continued for another 3-5 minutes, believe it or not, and not once did I get a straight answer about whether or not these products were available or when they would become available. My next step was to just bite the bullet and take a trip to the store to see for myself.
The Apple Store Experience
Upon arriving at the Apple Store, I noticed it was much busier than normal. In fact, there were people lined up, which is rarely the case in West Tennessee. Instantly I put it together that all these people were there to buy they iPad Pro. I thought that was great, really, because that meant that perhaps Apple had accounted for the demand and there would be product on-hand. After all, they weren’t turning people away, and people were steadily streaming out with bags filled with shiny new toys from Cupertino!
An employee greeted me at the door and asked what I had come to the Apple Store for today. After telling them I had come to pick up my iPad Pro, they directed me to an in-store pickup queue on the far side of the store. Before I jumped in line I quickly asked that same question to this employee… “Do you guys have the pencil or keyboard in stock today. My order said they’d be available for pickup w/ my iPad.” The response I got was “we may have gotten a truck in with them on it, but I’m not sure, I just got here.” Fair enough, I thought, maybe she’s right. Maybe there’s a big pallet full of pencils and keyboards back there and one of them has my name on it… Wrong.
After waiting in line for a few minutes another Apple employee brought out my brand-new iPad Pro. After a brief exchange I asked again about the pencils and keyboards. This time the answer was much more definitive. No. I laughed and said “Ok, well, how about a case? You guys have cases on hand right?” Again, no. After that I was so deflated that I just picked up my iPad Pro, slung the bag over my shoulder and went home.
After getting the iPad Pro home, I did my usual unboxing ritual with Apple devices. I sat down, cleared space on my desk, and slowly went through all the things that were present in the box. The iPad Pro is beautiful, there’s no denying that. The size of the device is a little jarring at first, but really the way they’ve distributed the weight throughout the body of the device makes it seem as though you’re not holding anything larger than a normal iPad.
Once I had it out of the box I immediately went into app download mode, and my first apps of choice were (of course) the newly updated Adobe mobile apps. I couldn’t wait to try out all the new features and side-by-side app goodness that I’d seen on all these demos. But then I realized something. The big selling point, the thing that Apple said would make all the difference when using these apps was the Apple Pencil. The iPad itself doesn’t have Force Touch or 3D Touch built-in, that’s all in the pencil. Sure there are other stylus devices out there, but that’s like putting discount tires on a Ferrari. Nobody wants that.
Wait, You Cancelled my Order?
From there I went about my day, because I needed to get some work done. Later that evening I thought to check my order status to see if my in-store pickups were ready yet. However, when I launched the Apple Store app I noticed that both of my orders had been cancelled without so much as an email explaining why. I quickly got on the phone with Apple Support, where I was told that they had indeed cancelled the order because neither of these items were available for in-store pickup at this time. The rep did offer to place another order for me, which I did, and then they told me I would have to wait until December 10-14 for delivery. That was a tough pill to swallow, but I accepted that and moved on.
It’s Just a Big iPad
Throughout the night I used the iPad Pro, and I was loving it for a whole lot of things. First off, the screen size is pretty great. Especially if you’re messaging and browsing the web, or if you need to fill passwords from an app like 1Password without actually leaving the app. Side-by-side is obviously one of the killer features of iOS 9. I even tweeted about my experience thus far, and got a reply back that really, in one sentence, put it all back into perspective:
Well, @mattwolfmatt, you sir are correct. Every single thing that I was excited about wasn’t unique to the iPad Pro at all. It was, in fact, iOS 9 that I was raving about, not anything specific to the iPad Pro hardware. This led me to thinking “why did I need this device again?” Basically, it’s just a big iPad, and nothing more.
Yes it is fast. Yes it does more than a regular iPad in terms of processing, screen real estate usage, etc. However I found that I’m just not that interested in using any of those things. My natural instinct was to use this device just as I would a regular iPad, and while the bells and whistles that come later might change my mind, I just don’t think that it’s for me given how disenchanted I became with it after just a few hours of use.
The Return Window
The final nail in the iPad Pro’s coffin isn’t something I’ve come up with, it’s of Apple’s own doing. Recently Apple changed its return policy from 30 days to 14 days. Well, I’m not exactly sure when it was changed, so recently might be a misnomer, but the policy is now 14 days nonetheless. How in the world am I supposed to form a full opinion about a device within 14 days? Especially when the two accessories that are supposed to set this device apart from its rivals, the pencil and keyboard, aren’t even available for 30-45 days? This is the absolute biggest reason why I’m considering returning the iPad Pro after today. I don’t want to wait around for the Pencil and Keyboard only to be disappointed with my findings and then be unable to recoup my $1,200+ investment. If the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard cover become available, perhaps I’ll give the iPad Pro another shot, but only with both of those items in-hand. Until then I’ll be able to go about my business free of this expensive monolith hanging over my head with a time-sensitive return window.
At the end of the day, I think it comes down to this… I was caught up in the hype, and still am to some degree, but I probably don’t need this device right now. I have a workflow that works, and plenty of devices that fit well within that existing workflow where they iPad Pro does not. I might, in time, give it another shot, but as of right now I’m just not that into you, iPad Pro. Sorry.
UPDATE: Apple Delivers the Pencil/Keyboard
A funny thing happened not long after this post was published. Someone from Apple reached out to me via phone and said that they were “aware of the troubles I had getting my Apple Pencil and Keyboard” so they sent one of each overnight to my local Apple Store here in TN. Since then I’ve been using them both, and I’ll have my final thoughts in my iPad Pro review that I’ll publish on 11/23/2015.