Apple’s new iPad Pro is missing the iPad 10’s best feature

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As long as I use iPads, I wonder: why the camera on the short side? It made sense in the days before we started using iPads as replacement laptops: if you’re coming from a smartphone, it feels more natural to hold an iPad in portrait for video calls. But times have changed and many of us keep our iPads attached to a desk, whether it’s a traditional workstation, or propped up in a kickstand for more comfortable scrolling. The deviated camera means that when video calls come in, it’s clunky: unless you move the iPad, it always seems like you’re looking sideways when you should be looking at the person you’re talking to.

However, after 11 years, Apple decided to change course. As part of a general redesign, the tenth-generation iPad now has the camera on the long side of the tablet, where you’d expect it. When you start a video call from an iPad 10, it looks like you’re using a laptop or traditional webcam. The only thing you give away on an iPad is the slow, dramatic zoom when Center Stage kicks in. Other than that, it’s the same experience, albeit much improved.

With the new camera placement, the iPad 10 now has the same design language as all other iPads, meaning there’s no more Home button (RIP). It also has the A14 chip found in the iPhone 12, which makes this tablet largely “budget”. The 12MP rear camera can record 4K video and all models now have Wifi 6, while mobile models can connect to 5G. There’s also a new Magic Keyboard made especially for the iPad 10 with a function row for controlling things like screen brightness or volume. Revolutionary.

Those new features will cost you, however. While Apple’s iPad 9 costs $329, this new tablet costs $449. For years, Apple has priced its base iPad much lower than other iPads, as an affordable way for customers to access its tablets. The iPad 10 no longer seems to fit that strategy. Is it so expensive to move the webcam to another side of the iPad?

If today’s announcement was just about the 10th-generation iPad, you’d expect this new design philosophy to come to all iPad models with the next refresh. The iPad mini, iPad Air and iPad Pros will presumably all join the camera revolution in due course, right?

Well, apparently not. In addition to the iPad 10, Apple has announced the next generation of iPad Pros, which will include the M2 chip as an upgrade to the M1 found in previous models. For the most part, the M1 chip was already overkill in a machine running iPadOS, so it will probably be a while before we see apps actually taking advantage of the added performance capabilities of Apple’s second-generation silicon (with the exception of DaVinci Dissolve). The Pro also supports Wifi 6E and native ProRes video recording, as well as the ability to detect an Apple Pencil before you touch it to the screen.

But the most surprising move is what Apple hasn’t added to the new Pros. For some reason, the front camera is still in its original position. Why? That means spending over $300 for an iPad will leave you with a worse video calling experience, even if it’s the experience you’ve always known. And speaking of worse experiences, the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard remains unchanged – no function row for you. You still need to change the volume and adjust the screen brightness from the iPad Pro itself. Minor inconveniences, but one you wouldn’t expect when choosing an iPad that Apple charges up to $2200.

Apple made some strange moves with its latest iPads. The ‘budget’ iPad is now the best for video calls, but even if it’s not exactly ‘cheap’ anymore, the best iPad you can buy is actively lacking in features. Apple works in mysterious ways.

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