Qreate - The Qrayon Blog

iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil

Ok, this is a bit overdue, but we've just begun rolling out support for the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for our Apps. New versions of Inkflow, Cardflow, and Vittle were released this past week.

Excuses, Excuses...

Part of the delay was logistical (we were only able to get our first test device a few weeks ago), but upgrading older codebases turned out to be harder than expected.

Inkflow, for example, was originally designed for iOS 5(!). We've kept support for iOS 7 for as long as we could, but had to require iOS 8 for the latest release. This upgrade meant that a lot of the underlying code had to be rewritten, just to maintain the same functionality.


An Explosion of Screens

A huge convenience designing for the iPad was that you only had to contend with a single screen resolution in two orientations. All this changed with iOS 9 and the iPad Pro. With multitasking enabled, there are a total of 14 possible “screen” sizes across the iPad Pro and iPad Air.

With Cardflow, we anticipated this in the original design, and were able to fully support multitasking without too much trouble. However, this turned out to be much tricker for the older Apps. Additionally, certain core OS functions, such as camera access and screen recording is only available to the foreground App. So multitasking is of very limited use to an App like Vittle.

Lesson learnt: Just as with any new feature, multitasking needs to be better understood in context. It's very useful in certain situations (e.g. copying and pasting images from Safari to Cardflow side-by-side), but not universally. Luckily, the Slide-over feature works pretty well for a majority of those side cases.


iPad Pro: Productivity Machine

From the very beginning, we truly believed that the iPad would be a new class of productivity device, and the iPad Pro is a huge step forward. All our Apps just work better and more naturally with the larger screen and Pencil as a stylus. Apple really nailed it with the hardware.

The iPad Air 2 was already a huge leap forward in terms of performance, and the iPad Air takes that to the next level. Because our Apps were optimized and hand-tuned for the last generation of hardware, we haven't really encountered any bottlenecks with the CPU or GPU. This means that everything pretty much runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames-per-second, which is what folks have come to expect.

The screen is, well, bigger, but otherwise every bit as amazing as previous generations. It feels essentially like an iPad Air blown up in size and weight. While it's not as easy to hold one handed for extended periods of time, the bigger screen is very welcome when using it on a couch or desk.


The Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil has dramatically changed the landscape of the Bluetooth stylus market. Not only does it have clearly superior precision and performance to anything else out there, but integration is built right into iOS.

I truly feel bad for all the innovative stylus makers out there, but (pardon the painful pun) the writing's on the wall here. If Apple extends Pencil support to other iPad models in the future, the Pencil is going to be the main stylus to get.

If anything, the full capabilities of the Pencil probably far overshoot what most of us would use it for.

In our testing, performance has been absolutely flawless. It works as advertised. Tracking is 2x faster (at 240 times a second) with the Pencil compared to a finger. It's actually 4x faster vs. finger tracking on older iPads. This means writing with the Pencil looks like your actual writing (for better or worse). More subtly, the Pencil allows for much improved palm rejection, and of course, more precise drawing.

Using the Pencil is the closest you can get to writing with an actual pen, albeit on a glass screen. Pro Tip: Add a foam pencil grip from a dollar store to make long-term writing more comfortable:

Pencil Grip

If you already use your iPad daily for work, seriously consider the iPad Pro as a next upgrade. Definitely get the Pencil too if you do any kind of writing or drawing. It's hard to go back once you’ve tried it.

New Possibilities

With the iPad Pro, it's a good time for us to go back to the drawing board and rethink a lot of old assumptions. At the surface level, iPads used to be great in semi-mobile or “on-the-couch” environments. The iPad Pro + Pencil works best at a desk for focused work.

The latest processors provide a lot of performance headroom. Traditionally, power consumption was the major bottle neck, but given the iPad Pro's larger battery and less mobile nature, it might be worth pushing the envelope further in terms of background processing or predictive capabilities.

It's going to take a while for folks to adjust how they fit their iPads into their workflow. Graphic artists have long been used to working with attached graphic tablets to their desktop computers. The iPad Pro will open up this workflow to a lot more people.

Insider Note: The reason we named Air Sketch that way was we had expected more people at the time would use it as a simple graphics tablet. You can draw to your browser, then copy-and-paste that image into a drawing App you're working on. It just turned out it was more popular as a presentation tool. Maybe things might swing back around with the iPad Pro.

Related: iPad, Cardflow, Inkflow, Vittle.