Five years with the 2018 iPad Pro

I’ve used my 13-inch iPad Pro from 2018 for many thousands of hours for work, recreation, and everything in between. While I have various other devices, this iPad is my go-to gadget for most tasks.

Apple has expressed its goal of creating sustainable products. A great way to move towards sustainability is for products to last a long time before being replaced. I’ve used this iPad for 5.5 years; I hope a replacement device would stay excellent for a similar duration, if not longer. It’s possible that tomorrow Apple will announce the iPad I’ll upgrade to.

I wanted to reflect on using the 2018 iPad Pro as my main computer and consider what hardware a new iPad should have to last as my computer from now until 2030.

How I use this transformer

The magic of the iPad is that the core hardware is a screen that effortlessly transforms for different forms of computer:

While my iPad Pro is my go-to device, I also have a 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro, which I mostly use to run Xcode and because it can connect to external displays. (Newer iPad Pros can use external displays, but not the 2018 models.)

Speed and specs

For iOS

The 2018 iPad Pros were considered ludicrously fast when they came out. I sometimes hear people say iPads are fast enough for what they need to do. No, no no! Please keep making these faster. Especially with a keyboard, I can navigate around iOS very quickly, and it’s not uncommon that I’m waiting for the device for small amounts of time (e.g. Spotlight). These little slowdowns have been a problem for years, and while they may often be software inefficiencies, faster hardware would still help. I hope the new iPads may be considered ludicrously fast again, so they remain fast enough for years to come.

It might surprise some people that my main computer (which I used professionally) only has 4 GB of memory. This is an absurdly tight limit by modern standards, yet the 2018 iPad Pro works within this constraint admirably. Still it’s not magic, so more RAM would help reduce how often apps need to relaunch, leading to increased speed. The 2022 iPad Pros have 8 GB (or 16 GB at huge additional cost) so the trajectory is promising.

But is iOS enough?

To date, I’ve not been trying to replace my Mac with my iPad. Using Xcode is a hard requirement for my profession, and Xcode is only available on a Mac. Therefore, I’ve accepted that I’d need a Mac as well, and then given I have both, if something if very awkward on the iPad, I can use the Mac instead.

However, looking ahead as far as 2030, it seems ridiculous and poor from a sustainability perspective that I’d still need two computers with similar hardware so that I can run two software stacks. On my desk, I also have two identical keyboards and two identical mice. There’s a risk I end up with a pair of external screens too if I buy one for a new iPad. Ridiculous!

Making everything possible on a Mac also possible directly on iOS seems like a huge effort and unlikely to happen before 2030. On the other hand, virtualised macOS as an iPad app seems inelegant, but a much more practical solution. This seems more likely now we’ve seen Mac displays brought into Apple Vision Pro.

(I don’t want to use macOS primarily. If that was the case, I’d just use my Mac. I much prefer iOS.)

Running macOS would incur heavy demands on the hardware though. The iPad would need to have all the hardware specs of a Mac and more. My ideal case would be an iPad that:

All that said, unless virtualised macOS as an iPad app is announced on Tuesday, there’s no chance I’d pay for an iPad spec’ed so high. Apple charges so much for iPad storage increases, and my hardware requirements to just use iOS on the iPad are so much lower.


The 13-inch screen on my current iPad is excellent for laptop mode and decent for tablet mode. (Although for reading I prefer my 2019 iPad mini.) For me, I think making the iPad any bigger would be detrimental for these two modes and also when carrying the device around. The slight increase in size of the 2021 MacBook Pros is the one downside I see compared to the (otherwise abysmal) 2016–2020 models.

However for an iPad in desktop mode, a larger screen would be much appreciated. So I’d be intrigued by a bigger iPad, but using a 13-inch iPad with an external display (added in iOS 16) is probably a better option. I haven‘t been able to try this because I’d need to buy both a new iPad and a new screen. Stage Manager works very well for me, so I have no concerns about scaling the iPad UI up to a larger screen.

The 2022 iPad Pros have dynamic backlighting to increase contrast (XDR in Apple-speak), and it sounds like tomorrow’s iPads might be going a step beyond that with OLED displays. I don’t think a higher contrast screen provides that much benefit for reading and writing text, which is what I spend most of my time doing, but it would be lovely for watching movies.



Camera bumps help create higher quality images. I’m unconvinced if the bump for the backwards-facing camera is worthwhile for me. I see the value some people would get from a better camera, but I don’t usually use a 13-inch iPad as a camera and it’s nice having a tablet that lies flat. However since I mostly use my iPad Pro in laptop or desktop mode, it’s not a big deal.

Stage Manager and other software improvements have made the iPad a much more viable device for video meetings. I use the front-facing camera vastly more than the backwards-facing one. If Apple had a budget of one camera bump, they put it on the wrong camera on the 2018 models. (A bump for the front-facing cameras should still be on the back of the device; a front bump would not be nice.)

Nose angle

The single biggest flaw in the design of the 2018 iPad Pros is the position of the front-facing camera on the short edge, which is almost always the (left) side because the iPad is in landscape orientation in the Magic Keyboard for iPad. When the camera is on the side of the device, the impression of eye contact is weakened on video calls, and the lower angle isn’t so flattering.

It’s bizarre that since 2010, iPad hardware has clearly been designed for portrait, while for all that time the software has been neutral at best, if not favouring landscape. Most accessories I see favour landscape too, including the iPad Smart Cover which came out alongside the iPad 2 in 2011: the same iPad that introduced the front-facing camera… on the short edge!

Given the 10th-generation iPad from 2022 moved the front-facing camera to the long edge, it would be extremely odd and disappointing if tomorrow’s iPad Pros didn’t do the same.


Following on about designing the hardware for landscape orientation primarily, all iPads to date are just big iPhones with regard to connector position. Since my iPad is usually in landscape, the USB-C port is usually in the middle on the right-hand side. It looks out of place. Note how the ports on laptops are almost always at the far ends of the sides, not in the middle.

I would make use of a headphone jack, but it’s not a huge deal. I also use wired headphone with my Nintendo Switch, so I have to attach and detect the adapter to move between devices, which is OK, but not very elegant. I acknowledge the thinness of the device might preclude this connector from being viable.

More USB ports would be nice, but not essential. I use my Mac for power distribution to charge various smaller devices. Maybe a couple of fully featured ports on the keyboard attachment would be a good compromise.

Keyboard and thinness

Even though I mostly use my iPad Pro in desktop or laptop mode where thinness is less relevant, I still appreciate the thinness when using it as a tablet. It’s a marvel of industrial design. That said, I think even thinner would be even better.

Additionally, the current version of the Magic Keyboard for iPad has a weird weight distribution that only just works. The device easily topples over backwards.

I’m intrigued by rumours about a keyboard including a battery. If some battery cells moved from the iPad to the keyboard so the main device was thinner and lighter, laptop mode would be better balanced and tablet mode would be more comfortable. Some loss of battery life in tablet mode isn’t a big deal because this is a relatively small proportion of usage time for me.


My iPad itself is in excellent condition. Sure, the screen has finger marks and the aluminium back has tiny scratches you can’t feel but can see in the right light, but otherwise this thing looks good as new. I’ve also had no issues with the reliability of connectors and buttons.

While the iPad remains a beautiful object, the same can’t be said of the Magic Keyboard for iPad. Functionally it’s fine, but it looks a little shabby with worn corners and shiny keys. That’s even though the Magic Keyboard for iPad is only four years old, compared to 5.5 years for the iPad. That said, I appreciate the soft feel of this case compared to the cold, hard MacBook Pro.

I don’t have any numerical data, but the battery life has presumably degraded because that’s the nature of lithium-ion batteries. (Why is the Battery Health screen available on iPhone and Mac, but not iPad?) The 80% limit feature added on iPhone 15 would be a great fit for my iPad use, where I spend most days using the iPad plugged in at my desk.

My next computer?

The 2018 iPad Pro is my favourite computer of all time.

I hope my next computer is an iPad designed for primarily for laptop and desktop use that can also be used as a tablet. Think laptop with a detachable screen rather than tablet that you can use with a keyboard and mouse. I’m looking for a computer that:

Perhaps my next main computer will be announced tomorrow. Rumours suggest I might also need to purchase a new keyboard stand and Apple Pencil. When you throw in an external screen I can use with the iPad, one thing is for sure: It’s going to be expensive! 💸