In 2019, Apple released the most Apple displays ever, the Pro Display XDR. The thing was beautiful and looked like it had been beamed from the future. But at £4599, buying one meant it would get you most of your savings.
Apple fans had long hoped the company would add a more affordable entry to its lineup, sawing off the chin of an iMac and selling off what was left. Three years of secret shenanigans later, that’s more or less what Apple did: at the March 2022 Apple event, the company unveiled its all-new Studio Display. (Admittedly, there was probably less sawing during development and more careful industrial design.)
On the outside, it’s like a polished version of the 24-inch iMac. Inside are a slew of goodies: a 27-inch screen, like the (now canned) 27-inch iMac, but brighter; a six-speaker system that supports spatial audio; three mics so everyone can hear you on those endless Zoom calls you’re now resigned to joining for the rest of your working life; a 12MP ultra-wide camera with Center Stage, so you can’t escape said Zoom calls as your camera tracks your every move.
Perfect, right? Good, no. And that’s because Apple said this display aims to “deliver that integrated experience that Mac users love”.
Wait, you will say to me: it is surely a good thing? Sure, but iPad Pro users also love the built-in experiences, and longtime advocates of Apple’s flagship tablet have been using it for years for increasingly ambitious and immersive tasks. Apple, however, stubbornly refuses to let the iPad Pro take the next logical step: to be a desktop computer as well.
It may sound strange, but the iPad Pro is already a chameleon. Regular users will know this is a top notch tablet. Paired with Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad, it’s a solid laptop alternative. However, Apple is slamming the brakes if you want to use your iPad with an external display.
Note that you can connect one, but then you’re stuck with the iPad Pro’s mirror mode. Rather than apps filling the screen, you see huge black bars left and right, as if the tablet wanted the screen to revert to an era of 4:3 CRT TVs. In short, it’s a bit silly.
It is also avoidable. Apple could change it if desired. The arrival of the new Studio Display would have been perfect timing, ushering in responsive iPad apps that could instantly target any screen size. Such a minor revolution would also neatly handle apps that don’t completely fill the screens of newer iPads with distinct aspect ratios, like last year’s 6th-generation iPad mini.
Apple resists because it wants you to buy specific hardware for specific tasks, despite simultaneously pushing the iPad Pro as a device capable of enabling limitless creativity. He doesn’t want you to have an iPad to replace a Mac, because he wants you to buy an iPad and a Mac and run iPad apps on it, or drag iPad documents onto it using Universal Control.
But all of this seems cynical and unnecessary in a time when we are supposed to make better use of resources; furthermore, it does a disservice to M1-equipped iPads (now including the latest iPad Air), while depriving users of the ergonomic benefits of using an iPad in a computing setup that won’t make them scream back.
So while people are complaining that Apple screens still have bezels, let’s hope Apple starts spending time eliminating black borders. in the usable screen area, which is much more important to remove. Maybe the company will “think differently” about all of that this year – and we’ll know it does if at Apple’s developer conference in June (WWDC 2022) we get support for superior external display for iPadOS. Don’t hold your breath though.