iPhone and iPad

We Need to Talk About the iPad Pro’s App Problem

Tim Brookes 14-08-2017

The new 10.5″ iPad Pro is Apple’s best tablet yet, offering clear advantages over the larger model and plain old iPad. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy one.


As a platform, the iPad Pro has a big problem. If you’re a professional, and you’re thinking of picking up a “Pro” tablet, this might be enough to put you off.

Shock horror: you might even want to buy a Surface Pro instead One Tablet to Rule Them All: The Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 Review Like the Apple iPad, Microsoft have decided version numbers are irrelevant. The fifth iteration of the Surface Pro tablet computer is now just a "Surface Pro". Read More .

Nice Tablet, Shame About the Apps

A lack of software availability is a problem that has sunk so many platforms in the past. Be they fledgling mobile operating systems (Firefox OS, anyone?), games consoles (looking at you, Wii U), even the Mac App Store has fallen out of favor Why Do Developers Keep Leaving the Mac App Store? Is the Mac App Store becoming a burden for Mac developers? We decided to talk to a few and find out. Read More and suffered as a result.

But the iPad Pro is different, right? Apple has spent nearly a decade building up a rich library of apps, and since the iPad Pro also runs iOS, it’s compatible with all of them.

While that may be the case, these apps are available on a regular iPad too iPad Air 2 Review And Giveaway Read More . For the most part, there’s nothing “Pro” about them aside from some optimization for Apple’s accessories like the $99 Pencil stylus.


ipad pro on wooden table

So what makes the iPad Pro worthy of the Pro moniker? After all, the MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and upcoming iMac Pro are all high-end machines aimed at niche power users. This Pro tier status is reflected in the price, just as it is with the iPad Pro which costs roughly double that of the standard model.

Looking at the specs sheet, the new iPad Pro falls into line: a powerful A10X Fusion system-on-chip, flagship technologies like the 120Hz display, probably the best stylus on the market Apple Pencil vs. Surface Pen: Stylus Over Substance? The lowly stylus has grown up, but should you pick Apple or Microsoft? Read More , and an overpriced yet rather excellent Smart Keyboard cover.

Even iOS 11 is being optimized for the Pro What's New in iOS 11? The New Features Coming to Your iPhone Here's everything coming to your iPhone and iPad with the arrival of iOS 11 later in 2017. Read More , with a proper file management app arriving in the fall alongside other features, like a Mac-style dock.


ipad ios 11

The whole lot will set you back around $900 for the base 64GB tablet and both accessories. That’s cheaper than a MacBook Air, and only slightly more expensive than an iPhone 7 Plus iPhone 7 Plus Review This year's iPhone 7 models break with convention. For the first time ever Apple has opted for the same general design three years in a row, while introducing some divisive, but long-overdue features. Read More ($869). It might be the best value “Pro” product Apple has ever released.

But there’s more to consider if you’re looking at buying an iPad Pro. Most professionals require professional software, which is especially true on the iPad, since it runs a glorified mobile operating system.

To explore this problem in detail, let’s look at two professionals who might be considering a purchase: the artist or designer, and the full-time online writer or editor.


Exhibit A: Adobe

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a tattoo parlor, while my partner sat patiently for the artist to put another few hours into a large leg piece. I noticed a new Surface Pro being used to display a reference image, an odd choice considering the artist’s Mac and iOS background.

I asked why the Surface Pro instead of an iPad Pro? You can probably already guess the answer. The artist, like many others who have turned passion into profession, uses a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to design, tweak, color, and produce finished designs.

The Surface Pro, which runs a “desktop” operating system in the form of Windows 10, is fully compatible with Adobe Creative Cloud — which includes “full fat” versions of Illustrator and Photoshop. The iPad Pro is not. Apple lost a sale to Microsoft purely based on third-party app availability.


The iPad Pro was the artist’s first choice. It’s still the preferred tablet, and a potential future sale hinges on Adobe’s willingness to bring proper Creative Cloud apps to iOS. We’ve hit a point where consumers are consciously avoiding a Pro Apple product because the lack of software that can realize the device’s potential.

You need a combination of iPad Pro, Pencil, third party app Astropad ($30), and a Mac use Apple’s tablet with full versions of Illustrator or Photoshop.

ipad pro pencil

As of writing this, Adobe has shown no interest in bringing their best creative applications to iOS. Instead we’ve got stripped-down apps like Illustrator Draw and Photoshop Sketch. While many of these apps have demanding system requirements, the iPad Pro still surpasses the minimum Mac recommendations (see Illustrator as an example).

There are some good iOS-borne alternatives to Adobe’s might, like Graphic ($9), but these do not satisfy the demands of a power user ensconced in the best creative platform money can buy. If you already have an Adobe CC subscription, the iPad Pro on its own cannot currently put it to good use.

Exhibit B: WordPress

Did you know WordPress is the world’s most-used blogging platform 3 Killer Facts You Didn't Expect About WordPress Little did you know that WordPress is one of the most influential platforms on the web. Here are a few things you probably didn't know about it. Read More ? The open source content management system (CMS) powers many of your favorite websites, including this one. It exists as both a private, hosted blog at WordPress.com and as an open source standalone CMS.

If you’re a full-time blogger, you write for an established publication, you oversee the work of others, or edit content before it goes live, an iPad Pro and a Smart Keyboard might seem like the perfect solution.

ipad pro keyboard

It’s got the battery life to outlast most laptops, enough RAM for thirsty browsing sessions, a tiny form factor, and a surprisingly productive environment in iOS. I’m writing this on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro right now, which means I consciously decided not to use my MacBook Pro.

Unfortunately, if you do anything more than managing a small personal blog, the iPad Pro is not the perfect blogging machine.

The WordPress app for iOS has always been limited, but for power users it’s sorely lacking. You can’t do basic things like display only pending posts, or filter by category or author. Some of WordPress’s most powerful features, like the ability to add custom variables to posts, are also absent.

“Never mind, I’ll just use Safari instead!” I hear you cry. That was the fix when I reviewed the 9.7-inch iPad Pro Powerful Things, Small Packages: iPad Pro 9.7" Review For some people, a 12.9" screen is the main draw of Apple's first iPad Pro. For others, size was the main barrier to entry. Read More , and the time before that too (12.9-inch iPad Pro, Smart Keyboard & Apple Pencil Review The iPad Pro isn't just a larger and faster tablet — it represents an entirely new way of using iOS. The real question is: does it work, and more importantly — do you really need one? Read More ). This time round, a bizarre bug that causes erratic scrolling in the text editor when I try and move the cursor has prevented me using this workaround.

This could just as easily be a Safari iOS error, though similar issues seem well documented among the WordPress community. Here’s a blog post and with a supposed fix, which doesn’t work for iPad Pro users. Maybe iOS 11 will fix it, maybe iOS 11.1 will break it again.

Without a fully-featured app or solid web-based experience, I can only draft my own personal posts on the iPad Pro. You may also be setting yourself up for a fall if you rely on such a workaround day-in, day-out — and is the risk worth the $900 entry fee?

I’d have more joy editing MakeUseOf content on a 10-year-old netbook. That doesn’t seem very Pro to me.

Pro by Name

So you might think I’m being a bit harsh, and cherry picking two (valid) examples. Unfortunately, it’s not only these two areas (design and publishing) that are ill-serviced.

No Illustrator means no Photoshop. Even the iOS version of Lightroom pales in comparison to the version that runs on Microsoft’s Surface Pro. I can use my camera connection kit to unload 25 MB RAW images off my new Sony A6500, but I can’t batch edit or export a selection at a size and quality of my choice like I do routinely on a Mac.

iMovie is about as “Pro” as video editing gets, despite Apple’s proud insistence that these tablets can handle 4K video editing and export. Premiere Clip is Adobe’s “fast and fun” editing app. While Swift Playgrounds made its debut in 2016, it looks like Xcode for iOS is still a long way off.

Musicians have also been left out in the cold, despite iOS being one of the best platforms for casual artists. If you want to take things to the next level, you’ll find a distinct lack of Ableton Live, FLStudio, Serato — even Logic Pro is only serviced by way of a remote app.

The iPad Pro’s app problem is unlikely to go away any time soon. As more potential customers realize the limitation of the platform on the basis of software, they’re going to stick to their laptops or jump into Microsoft’s camp with the Surface Pro — and who can blame them?

ipad pro side

At the same time, unless developers see a good uptake on the iPad Pro (a tablet that’s been selling less and less, year after year) they may not see enough potential in the platform, and these apps will never arrive.

Do you buy Pro Apple products? Will you be buying an iPad Pro?

Image Credit: Denys Prykhodov via Shutterstock.com

Related topics: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Buying Tips, iPad Pro, Wordpress.

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  1. Yourt
    July 21, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    It's a moneygrabbers party, but those grabbing too hard and not looking forward into the future things to coem will lose in the end. Lumafusion, Affinity, Procreate, Gimp,... and Astropad are working to give what users want. Please also note the alternative being Surface is not flawless either (pressure sensitivy troubles, deconnecting problems and Wintab driver issues resulting in Illustrator working and CS not working,...).
    Apple is working on improved and renewed hardware and Lumafusion and Affinity show the possibilities are there to relly compete with full spec laptops. Ohhh... that's another issue: 10" versus 13". I'd personally use a " for portability and a " or " for other moments (combined with my second calibrated monitor at home e.g.). So referring to Surface pro only goes for those LAPTOPS that should be compared to 13"ers like Lenovo Yoga or others that also cost 1000+ in any decent currency (USD, EUR, even GBP). Show me the 10"er that has the power of the iPad pro and the ability to couple with a laptop as second screen/drawing pad and we might actually go somewhere. And blame Adobe for not giving customers what they want: they fail on getting decent siblings of their programs to iOS/Android and even with Microsoft surface they struggle concerning the N-trig/Wacom AES implementation. Why? For the sake of Wacom's revenues on "decent" tablets with or without display? THEY ALL FAIL US!!!

  2. Nicolas
    August 29, 2017 at 6:02 am

    It sounds as if Apple is doing the same thing they did when they introduce OSx, iTunes and all the products and services used today. That iPad is what it is, a good high-end tool that will eventually have more apps available. Not sure why anyone would buy it today without all the bells and whistles. I don't think Apple and Adobe play well anymore, and quite frankly I'm tired of either's arrogance. They seem to have forgotten they exist because we do and are only here to help us, not gouge our wallets and refuse to give us what we ask for. At the very least, let's use Flash differently or finally once and for all switch to a safer open source alternative.

    This iPad will do well for people who can sink $1000 into it and use it to view Netflix in the meantime. It will seriously tick off many users. Hopefully, they will check out the open source world. Like most other Apple users, they will wait. Until then, it will mature, but I won't pay for that privilege ;)

    One thing is for sure, Linux and its tablets are good alternatives for me. I can write on my various WP sites, edit music and videos. All I had to do was willing save money and relearn a free app or two.

  3. Sue Robinson
    August 15, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    I'm looking for a home recording platform that works. GarageBand on the current IOS is so limited compared to the MacBook version that it seems useless by comparison. In fact, it seems designed for play, rather than proper recording. The iPad Pro seems to have the hardware to offer true portability for live recordings and make the iPad a must have for any musician. But the iOS software, so far, is the letdown. Does IOS11 offer any improvement in Garageband's functionality?

  4. Greg
    August 15, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    "iMovie is about as “Pro” as video editing gets, despite Apple’s proud insistence that these tablets can handle 4K video"

    Fuuuuuuuckiiiiinnnng bullshit, how about you do some research before festering my newsfeed with trash articles like this....hey just for the views though right?

    LUMAFUSION u idiot!

    • Ed
      August 15, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      Apple fans are so cute when you dis their overpriced products!

      • Greg
        August 16, 2017 at 12:20 am

        Im neither here nor there on apple products blackberry phone, windows tablet and macbook pr and dell xps 15 here.

        My issue you missed out is with shitty poorly researched articles that creep into my feed. Articles that are trash because the only goal is hitting keywords and buying views. If anything my issue is with the internet being reduced to pure shit and clickable billboards through half assed articles like this.

        Now fk off pssy