Apple Unveils New iPad Pro With a 3D Camera

The new iPad has a 3D sensor and the new Magic Keyboard has a trackpad

Why This Matters:

With more cameras, a 3D sensor and a keyboard with trackpad, Apple is pushing the iPad Pro hard to into full-blown laptop, and beyond, category. It’s clear Apple wants to you to think “work horse” when you look at the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro
Apple's new iPad Pro.  Apple

The tech world is truly turning upside down. On Wednesday, Apple, likely owing to the COVID-19-induced inability to hold a person-packed product event, made the unusual move of announcing a trio of new products via a quietly dropped press release. There’s now a pair of new iPad Pros (12.9 inches and 11 inches). Both feature new ultra-wide cameras (in addition to the standard wide lens) and cutting-edge LiDAR 3D sensors. There’s also a new Magic Keyboard that features, for the first time ever on an iPad keyboard accessory, a trackpad.

Is this an iPad or Laptop? Not only is Apple updating the cameras and keyboard, but it updated the iPad OS (itself not quite a year old) with trackpad support. When Apple split iPadOS off from iOS last year, it added a number of productivity-specific features including drag and drop files, multi-tasking (even with the same app) and Sidecar for extending the screen to, for instance, a MacBook.

What’s up with that LiDAR? LiDAR is a 3D imaging technology that uses lasers to develop a three-dimensional picture of your surroundings. They’re popular on self-driving cars. One on an iPad could add some truly wild effects in photos and videos or be used by industries for quickly capturing information for production workflows.

Now it’s a Photo Device: People have been holding up their big iPads to take pictures since the product was introduced over a decade ago, but the photo chops have always lagged behind the iPhone. Now the iPad Pro is catching up with a 12 MP Wide and 10 MP ultra-wide camera. The iPhone 11 Pro still beats it with a 12 MP wide, 12 MP ultra-wide, and 12 MP telephoto lens.

What about the screen? It’s now supports 120 Hz for smoother motion on apps, games, and more.

Apple’s power plan: Apple updated the iPad Pro’s A12 Bionic to a new chip, the A12Z Bionic. This is not the same chip running in your iPhone 11 Pro, which has an A13 Bionic. We don’t have many details about this new CPU. Apple says it has an 8-core GPU and a new thermal architecture. The baseline iPad Pro will now have 128 GB of storage.

Apple iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard
Apple iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard.  Apple

Wait, did you say a trackpad? This Magic Keyboard is a big deal. Apple has never paired a trackpad with a touch screen device. It’s adamantly fought against the notion that it would ever add a touch screen to its MacBook line. However, now we have a 12.9-inch (or 11-inch) touch screen (computer) that can be paired with a Magic Keyboard and track pad. In iPadOS, there’s now a cursor—a cursor!—that will appear as a circle on the screen.

Also worth noting is that the keyboard technology is exactly the same as in the MacBook Pro 16-inch's Magic Keyboard (there's even a backlight!), and there’s a completely new hinge design on the Magic Keyboard which should make the combo work well on a desk or laptop.

Versatility. The new Magic Keyboard will also work with the third-generation iPad Pro. In addition, the iPadOS update will enable all iPads that support the OS update to work with Apple's Magic Mouse, Magic Track Pad, and other third-party mice.

Do we have to wait? Apple’s new iPads are available to order today. The 11-inch model starts at $799 and the 12.9-inch iPad pro starts at $999. The Magic Keyboard arrives in May ($299 for 11-inch iPad Pro and $349 for the 12.9-inch model). For a limited time, the purchase of an iPad Pro will come with 1 year free of Apple's new TV+ streaming service.

Bottom Line: This is a major product update from Apple that could change the way consumers and businesses approach the iPad Pro. It will compete directly with Apple’s own MacBook line, as well as hybrid products like Microsoft’s popular Surface Pro.

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