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Let’s be real: an M2 iPad Pro would make no sense

Let’s be real: an M2 iPad Pro would make no sense

Take it from a 2021 M1 iPad Pro owner - here are all the reasons why
Apple is supposedly preparing a new iPad Pro even more powerful than the current M1-based one. The question is… what for? (Image: Daniel Korpai, Unsplash)

The Apple rumor mill never stops turning, it seems, so speculation about the company’s upcoming products is almost constantly making the rounds on the Web. There’s one subject, in particular, that seems to be getting more attention than others regarding those products these days, even more than the iPhone 14, and that is the next iPad Pro. Apple had surprised everyone back in March 2021 when it unveiled the first iPad Pro based on its M1 architecture — typically used in desktop and laptop Macs — and, if company tradition is anything to go by, a new model will be released at some point during 2022 (there’s typically a new Pro model every 14 to 18 months). That’s not news in and of itself, of course, but this is: the new iPad Pro is said to be the first portable device sporting Apple’s next computer processor.

This would be the M2, obviously: the M1 seems to have almost reached the end of the road with the recent Mac Studio. There’s still the Mac Pro left to be unveiled — but if it does offer an even more powerful version of the M1 (as it should be) it will probably be a “double Ultra” one, just as the Ultra is a “double Max” in the case of Mac Studio. The M2 is based on the same architecture, but it will be built on TSMC’s 4-nanometer process: this will allow for higher clock speeds on the CPU side (compared to the M1) as well as lower power consumption. The M2 is also said to offer two additional GPU cores compared to the M1 (from 7/8 to 9/10) as well as the option for more unified memory on board.

The M1 chip is now inside the new iPad Air models — so if iPad Pros are to be perceived as “professional tools” they might need to sport a better processor. That’s the M2. (Image: Daniel Romero, Unsplash)

When talking about M2 everyone referred to a new MacBook Air and MacBook 13, but these are still not confirmed for 2022 for a number of reasons. An iPad Pro sporting the new chip, though, could make an appearance since (a) it’s up for an upgrade and (b) the new iPad Air now sports an M1 (so the Pro models would have to differentiate themselves from the mainstream one). In the context of Apple’s roadmap, it would make sense.

Too bad it would not make sense for consumers.

An amazing achievement, a missed opportunity

Yours truly purchased the M1 iPad Pro 12.9 as soon as it became available in 2021 out of pure curiosity and, truth be told, with much enthusiasm: here was the same chip powering a Mac Mini and an iMac, but in a thin and light portable device, coupled with more RAM than ever and a hi-end screen to boot. It was just… unprecedented. While in confession mode, yours truly should also note that the prospect of running proper, full macOS apps on an iPad in some way was in no small part responsible for that enthusiasm. It was a long shot, yes. But it was a possibility. A really exciting one.

This, of course, did not come to pass. So that M1 iPad Pro ended up being used as a regular iPad, in a regular iPad way, for regular iPad stuff that most regular people use iPads for. Others may be able to use the iPad Pro more productively, as a complementary tool for work or even as their main “computer” (despite the term being highly contested when referring to tablets). Yours truly does all his work on proper computers, though, so that M1 iPad Pro is doing exactly what his three previous iPad Pro models have been doing before it: multimedia content consumption, reading, social media, gaming. Which… yeah. The previous iPad Pro(s) handled just fine.

Sound, photo and video editing applications are practically the only ones that can make use of the M1 iPad Pro’s power when processing high-res content. An M2-powered iPad Pro wouldn’t perform all that differently in real-world scenarios. (Image: Apple)

The M2 is not going to make any difference whatsoever in tasks such as the ones described above: not even the most demanding iPad games have strained the M1 yet, so they won’t trouble the M2. For people who do use their iPad Pros productively things might be different: sound, photo and video editing, for example, can be demanding when processing high-resolution content, so these tasks could take advantage of the extra horsepower.

It all comes back to iPadOS

The obvious problem is that, even then, the M2 sounds like a decidedly evolutionary step from the M1: a few more Megahertz of speed for the same 8 CPU cores and a couple more graphics cores are not going to make much of a difference in real-world use. Not enough to make the M2 as exciting an upgrade as the M1 was, in any case.

The biggest potential problem, though, with an M2-based, modestly more powerful version of the iPad Pro is none other than the biggest problem of the current, M1-based iPad Pro: the iPadOS. As long as Apple is setting such strict rules on how the operating system works, what it allows people to do and what it does not — practically holding it back in the name of security and ease of use — the iPad Pro models will never reach their full potential.

The iPadOS is still keeping the iPad Pro models behind, something that has nothing to do with processing power and everything to do with Apple’s decisions. (Image: Jeremy Zero, Unsplash)

Since Apple does not seem willing to change its mind regarding the usability of iPadOS or its compatibility with macOS applications, this will still be the case with any future iPad Pro regardless of chips or processing power. Those who claim that, in essence, there is no iPad Pro will be at least partly right — and that is why, ultimately, an M2-based iPad Pro will not make much sense: if we still haven’t seen what the M1 iPad Pro can really do, what’s the point?

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