Evaluating the latest Apple iPad and Apple Pencil

The packaging that the product came in was beautifully designed, both in the graphics and the structure, with strong boxes offering maximum protection to the items inside. The iPad and ‘Pencil’ I found, were also up to the usual extremely high standard of quality and design one expects from this company.


Set-up of the iPad took some time to accomplish and involved what seemed to be a considerable number of codes and passwords to get into the unit. It worries me a little that a lot of older operators might not know, or have, the necessary pieces of information, and there was no way of knowing where to go for it.

In my case I luckily had the passwords and codes needed, from previous use of Apple equipment, but even so I found it hard to get to completion.

Several restarts were needed due to the information required not being too clear, making it quite easy to offer the wrong code. This resulted, after several attempts, in one of the iPads not wishing to talk to me anymore! Fortunately, I had been supplied with two units and having learned my mistakes on the first, I succeeded with the second.

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The instructions that came with the unit and the accompanying keyboard/stand, were impressive in their simplicity; in fact in my opinion they are too simplistic. I’m sure the average four-year-old would have no trouble at all interpreting the messages in the tiny sheets of paper that they were printed on, but I doubt that the average 70-year-old would even realise they were instructions unless they examined them very carefully!

A complicated instruction manual is obviously not required, but I think the instructions could be clearer and fuller than they are at present, with simplistic graphics being used when a few helpful words might have served better.

On the other hand, the ‘Pencil’ was very easy to set up, once one realised it had to be charged by plugging it into the iPad, and once charged and functioning, it worked wonderfully well, and was fun to operate.

I suppose I ought to include two very small criticisms here — one, I’m slightly worried that some of the parts, (charging sockets, etc.) are very small and I can see them easily becoming lost. Second, the printing on the very diminutive instruction sheets, describing how to charge the pencil, etc., is so tiny I had some difficulty reading them, even with a magnifying glass, not helped by the fact that the printing was in grey instead of black. (Old people do suffer from decreased vision!)


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From the point of view of general operation, (emails, Facebook, games, etc., the new iPad Pro I found to be much like the older models, as I would have expected, they were pretty close to perfection before and you can’t go too far beyond that.

The Apple ‘Pencil’ (shouldn’t it be entitled the Apple ‘iPencil’?), is a marvellous partner to the progressive iPad Pro, which itself is a powerful descendent from previous iPad models.

The Pencil was designed explicitly to go with and compliment the Pro and what they can do together is pure magic, especially when working with one of the available apps that are also designed for this particular piece of equipment. It is just like an ordinary lead pencil to look at, except that on closer examination, there is no graphite lead at the end, just a point of plastic. But with that point you can produce pretty well any sort of drawing tool — brush, pen, pencil, felt-tip, chalk and many others.

Once you have decided on the tool you wish to use, you can then, in the case of the brush tip for example, choose a large one or a small one, flat ended or round ended, watercolour, acrylic or oil brushes, and solid or transparent colours, while the number of colours themselves are just about infinite.

There are many more choices to choose from, much too numerous to mention here, and the same degree of variety applies to all the other types of tool available as well. Add to all this, tints and textures and you get some idea of the things the Pencil will do. Oh, on top of all that, the pencil is also pressure sensitive — press lightly for a fine line, press harder for a thicker line — marvellous!

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At the time of writing this, I have only bought a single app for the unit, and also downloaded a couple of free ones as well. These things cost up to $10 or more, and as the iPad goes back to Apple on completion of the testing (and with me surviving on the pension!) I have been loath to buy any more.

The app I did buy was ‘Procreate’, produced by Savage Interactive and it is truly a wonderful piece of software, on which the most exciting work can be produced. The trouble is, it is way above my skill level, as I believe it would be for the great majority of Starts at 60 readers.

It is very much an app for use by a professional artist, something I ceased to be when I retired some twenty years ago, when Quark Express and Adobe Illustrator were all we had to work with! The little I have learned in the short time I have owned it has been great fun, and I have copied it onto my old iPad in the hope of playing around with it after the ‘Pro’ is returned to Apple! To give you some idea of the complexity of ‘Procreate’, I downloaded its manual from the Apple Internet — it is two hundred and 83 pages long, all highly detailed information.


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Two great pieces of equipment that I would guess are already the tool of choice in many an advertising agency and graphic design studio, just as Quark Express and Adobe Illustrated were 30 years ago, but much more advanced than either of those fine old programs.

Sadly, I think from the point of view of older members of our community, except a few who have been deeply involved in the business until quite recently, the wonderful ‘iPad Pro’ and ‘Pencil’ are offering too much for us to handle — most of us want to write blogs, swap emails with friends and save all our photos in the ‘cloud’. It could literally take years for most of us to gain any real proficiency, time better spent enjoying the pleasures offered by Words With Friends, Solitaire and electronic jigsaw puzzles!

It was a great privilege to be able to “have a go” and I really did have fun, but now I feel quite exhausted!

Do you have an Apple iPad? How do you use it?