iOS 11 makes the 10.5-inch iPad Pro a viable laptop replacement

iPad Pro 10.5-inch

When I first reviewed Apple’s new 10.5-inch iPad Pro a few months ago, I felt that the tech giant’s latest iPad was its best tablet offering yet.

The device is what I like to call beautiful overkill, thanks to its beefy A10X Fusion processor — which is capable of outperforming some of Intel’s laptop chips — and its unnecessarily high-end camera.

However, the new iPad Pro is also still more of a tablet than a laptop, even if Apple’s marketing materials claim otherwise, and doesn’t feature the versatility of Microsoft’s two-in-one Surface devices.

iPad Pro 10.5-inch

Despite its limitations, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that Apple was onto something with the 10.5-inch Pro; the tablet felt like a Ferrari with no engine.

Now, after going hands-on with the beta version of iOS 11 for a number of weeks, Apple’s full vision for the future of the iPad Pro is beginning to come into focus.

Before you scroll down to the comments section to decry the iPad Pro as being far from a ‘professional device,’ let me be clear: I agree with you.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro, or any iPad Pro for that matter, is not the professional productivity tablet Apple says it is, at least as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps it could work for some professions, particularly if you spend a lot of time managing spread sheets, but I think even that may be a stretch. While I was able to do writing via WordPress, which is a big part of my job, I felt limited by the mobile version of photoshop and iOS in general.

What the tablet is now, however — thanks to Apple’s decidedly more macOS-like new operating system — is a viable laptop replacement when it comes to entertainment and browsing the internet.

iPad Pro 10.5-inch multitasking

At this point, iOS has been around for nearly 10 years, which makes it difficult for Apple to keep innovating after so many iterations. The OS is stuck in its ways and users have built muscle memory around a variety of interactions. That said, Apple’s new version of iOS manages to breathe a much-needed dose of fresh air into the operating system as far as the iPad is concerned.

At first, iOS 11 will likely feel disorienting to long-time iPad users because the tablet simply doesn’t work the same way it once did. Apple has significantly altered the iPad’s user-experience and has placed an emphasis on multitasking, which helps make the overall user experience more fluid and connected. More importantly — at least as a macOS user — iOS 11 makes the iPad feel more like a standard laptop thanks to clever new multi-tasking features.

10.5-inch iPad Pro control centre

For example, the ability to pull up a task bar with a subtle swipe, allowing users to quickly jump between various apps, has been added in iOS 11. Despite the fact that it’s impossible to make the task bar always stay present on-screen like it is with macOS, I still found this feature extremely useful and surprisingly familiar when rapidly jumping between apps.

Instead of needing to back out and head to the iPad Pro’s home screen, or utilizing the standard ‘double tap’ the home button multitasking, jumping between apps like Twitter, Facebook and Chrome, is now as easy as two intuitive swipes. This makes using iOS 11 on the iPad feel significantly more desktop-like and prevents me from returning to the home screen frequently.

iPad Pro 10.5-inch Files app

The final three apps in the Dock constantly rotate between those that are most used, with more than a dozen apps and games in total now available for use in those slots. While running multiple apps hasn’t drastically changed in iOS 11, the feature is more intuitive to use now. For example, you can now tap on an icon and drag it to the side of the screen in order to make it expand and launch a floating, narrower version of the application, while still running another app on the left side of the display.

This works great in situations where perhaps you’re browsing Facebook or watching a movie, but quickly want to check your Twitter stream. Once you’re done checking out those all-important dank memes, it’s easy to dismiss the app and move back to the main app you’re running.

10.5-inch iPad Pro keyboard

Conversely, if you decide you want the window with Twitter in it to stay on the display, you can lock it in place, just as you would with multi-tasking with iOS 10 — the ability to easily multi-task between apps in a way that’s similar to what I’m used to with macOS, still makes all the difference, however.

Jumping between apps by double tapping the home button — which I mentioned earlier — has also been revamped to feel more intuitive, opening up a multitasking screen that’s reminiscent of switching between apps with macOS or even Windows 10. This display also gives users a clear indication of every app they have open at a given time, ditching the cluttered bladed menu present in previous versions of Apple’s mobile OS.

Apple has also implemented a new operating system-wide drag-and-drop gesture, allowing users to drag files and app icons from one location in iOS, to another, more easily. It’s worth noting that when it comes to this feature third-party app integration is getting better, but isn’t quite there yet — hopefully this changes before the public release of iOS 11. Examples include the ability to drag a photo from the Photos app, over to the Notes app, or dropping files into Apple’s Mail app. Google app integration for this feature isn’t present in the OS yet, but hopefully this is something that changes in the future.

iPad Pro 10.5-inch keyboard with Apple Pencil

Apple’s new iOS 11 ‘Files’ app, which replicates the functionality of a variety of third-party apps that have existed for a number of years, also gives users a look into the backend of Apple’s mobile operating system, something the company has been reluctant to do in the past. While I’ve only used the Files app once or twice given how I use the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, it’s great that Apple is finally breaking down its walled-garden approach to its mobile operating system.

While iOS 11 is far from perfect, making the mobile operating system more macOS-like, while still maintaining the simplicity that makes it so great, is the right move for Apple. In the weeks since I’ve had a 10.5-inch iPad Pro running iOS 11, I haven’t even thought of reaching for my MacBook Pro for any task that isn’t work related.

And no, Apple is never putting macOS on an iPad, so give up on that dream (I actually think this would be a nightmare).

iOS 11 is set to be available on the following iPads: 12.9-inch iPad Pro (first-generation), 12.9-inch iPad Pro (second-generation), 9.7-inch iPad Pro, 10.5-inch iPad Pro, iPad (fifth-generation), iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 2.


  • Kelly Lesperance

    Is this functionality available to all iPads supported by iOS 11, or will it only be available to a subset?

    • All iPads that support iOS 11 will have access to these features when the full version rolls out to the public.

    • Kelly Lesperance

      That’s great news. The iPad mini 2 only got a subset of the multitasking features that debuted with iOS 9

    • John Lofwire

      so a misleading headline to push sell of ipad pro… nice paid for article.

  • N00bicals

    Apple are still trying to force people to accept their narrow and frankly unproductive view of computing rather than actually calling it for what it is. They are trying to force us to abandon the Mac so they can pad their bottom line. The iPad will never be a desktop replacement for as long as the functionality remains embedded in the mobile platform. To suggest otherwise is insulting.

    • John Lofwire

      Agreed want a real laptop replacement?

      Microsoft surface is your solution.

    • ciderrules

      Surface is garbage. I had one. Anyone who’s actually used it as a tablet and tried to be productive (and claims it works) is a lair.

      You’re far better off getting a traditional laptop.

    • Marshall Davidson

      You have no idea what you’re talking about. As usual.. Surprised you didn’t cite your Toon Boom example. lol!

    • ciderrules

      Yet you can’t provide any examples to counter my claims. It’s slow (for an i7 model that I paid over $2000 for). It gets warm when doing trivial tasks forcing the fan to run. Majority of software isn’t optimized for tablet use (it works, but there’s a difference between something working and being optimized). Horrible battery life when in tablet mode.

      And, of course, MS advertises it as being useful for professionals as a tablet (with the stylus). Which is hilarious when actual professional software doesn’t properly work on it.

    • Marshall Davidson

      And what professional software works on an iPad huh? The examples you cite require a great deal of effort side loading them onto the device otherwise the App store is totally devoid of any USEFUL professional software whatsoever.

      You talk in exceptionally vague terms and seem to think your experience with a Surface (which I doubt) is indicative of everyone elses which is just plain arrogant.

      Inquiring minds want to know. How much is Tim Cook paying you to shill out here? Did you cash this month’s cheque from Cupertino yet?

    • ciderrules

      Uh, I never said anything about the iPad running professional software. I made a claim that the Surface can’t do what Microsoft advertises it as being able to do, and that you’d be better off simply buying a regular Windows laptop instead.

      A lot of the software I use not only doesn’t run on an iPad, but also can’t run on a Mac either (like Altium). I happen to use all 3 platforms extensively and do the tasks that each is best suited for.

      BTW, another product I heavily promote is Office 365. Yet nobody ever calls me a Microsoft shill for doing that. I find it very interesting that only when talking about Apple does one automatically get labeled an Apple shill or fanboy.

    • Marshall Davidson

      So what you’re saying is you can’t run certain software that YOU in particular use on a Surface so that automatically makes it garbage??! Are you for real? Like I said you seem to enjoy projecting your experiences on others by making blanket assessments that clearly a vast majority of users don’t agree with given the success of the Surface product to date.

      In addition, I’ve never seen you post about an Apple product you didn’t like so its your own fault you are considered a shill for that brand.

    • ciderrules

      No projection at all. MOST software on Windows is not optimized for touch, not only the ones I use. Do you own a Surface? What software are you using in tablet mode that works so well? The real projection is people who use a Surface for simple things and assume it also works for professionals doing complex things.

      For someone with a 2 month old account and very few posts you seem to know a lot about me. I also find that very interesting.

    • Marshall Davidson

      I don’t use tablet mode on the Surface unless I’m watching a video, and yes I do agree that there is a dearth of software oriented towards that format but it doesn’t make a ‘garbage’ device as you seem to imply. I do extensive database and spreadsheet work on my computer and I’ve also done some video and photo editing as well. Bottom line is I can’t imagine using a device that doesn’t support a mouse or touchpad for the kind of work I do to say nothing of the fact I’m hemmed in by what Apple tells me to do which in my view is patently ridiculous. Heck, at least an Android tablet lets you customize more and sideload your own programs to work outside of what Google tries to sell through their store.

      So while I use an iPad Pro and a Surface we can probably both agree each device has their own particular uses and neither is garbage but both have limitations depending on your needs.

    • John Lofwire

      So ciderrules use alternate account to read my post? haha what a troll. ( i blocked him thats why )

    • ciderrules

      What are you talking about? Another conspiracy theorist (like thereasoner) who thinks that when several people disagree with them they must all have duplicate accounts.

      BTW, here’s a tip: If you block someone it only prevents you from seeing their posts – it doesn’t block your posts from that user. Nothing like showing how utterly and completely ignorant you are to everyone – AGAIN.

    • ciderrules

      Apple isn’t trying to get people to abandon the Mac. They’re trying to get the millions of PC users who don’t do anything with their PC except e-mail, Facebook and the occasional word processing to consider an iPad instead. Which is more than capable of meeting their needs, and doing a lot of them better.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Apple fanboy alert ^^^^ Anyone spending the kind of money that Apple is charging for an iPad to Facebook, surf, email or do basic word processing over their existing hardware clearly needs their head examined. I suspect you may be one of those.

    • ciderrules

      12 year old alert.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Lol! Laughable since only a 12 year old would tout Apple products like you do. Get real.

    • ciderrules

      Only 12 year olds use words like “fanboy”.

    • Marshall Davidson

      What other word is there to describe your actions out here? Mindless drone comes to mind perhaps.

    • John Lofwire

      Dont feed the troll just block him 🙂

    • Captain Pokemon

      I agree but it still can’t consider as a “laptop replacement”.

    • ciderrules

      Depends what you do with your laptop. Do you think everyone who buys a laptop is doing extensive word processing/editing? Or coding? Or photo/video editing?

    • Captain Pokemon

      I know that….but when you say laptop replacement, it is generic. Meaning, you talk to people and tell them that iPad with iOS11 is now a laptop replacement, no ifs nor buts.
      At the end of the day, I will give up my macbook to iPad as a laptop replacement!

    • John Lofwire

      I wont give up my laptop for an ipad now or ever i want real desktop grade applications and games.

      So if i make the switch its gonna be a surface pro.

    • ciderrules

      Oh, so you don’t even own a Surface Pro. Yet you seem to think it’s so great? I actually did own one (the top end model). Returned it a few days later.

      And as I’ve said before, I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE people to buy a Surface Pro. Seriously. Go and buy one. MS has a great return policy. So after you realize it isn’t as good as you thought you can get your money back. So there’s literally no risk for you to try it out.

    • Marshall Davidson

      If you’re going to spend upwards to $2000 on hardware the short answer is yes. Maybe you see the sense of spending that to send an email or watch Netflix but I can assure you the smarter consumer does not.

    • Captain Pokemon

      For retirees, spending on a real laptop is impractical since all they do is play games, emails or browse the web. iPad is the way to go. iPad is useful for me if I go on vacation a lot cause it will be an easy carry instead of the laptop.

    • Me Ted

      The iPad is more expensive than most entry-mid level laptops.

    • That’s basically my argument. I think it’s a great replacement for entertainment and web browsing, anything else and I’d run into difficulties. For the average user though, it’s likely more than enough.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Not really. The app versions of such programs as MS Office are nowhere near as fully functional as the desktop versions. I find myself often coming back to the Surface to do the finishing touches on documents which really speaks to the shortcomings of the iPad.
      To each his own for sure but let’s call a spade a spade. Running multiple apps side-by-side is a great feature but the limitations of a mobile OS will always hinder the potential.

    • Brad Fortin

      The app versions of such programs as MS Office are nowhere near as fully functional as the desktop versions

      Sounds like Microsoft needs to put more work into their iOS app, then.

    • Brad Fortin

      They are trying to force us to abandon the Mac so they can pad their bottom line.

      The average selling price of a Mac is ~$1300 USD. The average selling price of an iPad is ~$435 USD. Forcing people to abandon the Mac in favour of the iPad would slash their bottom line significantly, not pad it.

    • Sunny Lee

      Uh, where’s the “force” part? Their Mac line is still being updated regularly. They’re offering two choices, no “forcing” about that.

  • John Lofwire

    What a joke… mobile app are NOT desktop app.
    Game over.

    • Brad Fortin

      Yes, and desktop apps are not mainframe apps, but everyone still managed to survive the transition from massive mainframes with dumb terminals to desktops, just like how everyone can survive the transition from desktop to mobile. Most people’s primary computer nowadays is their phone, and for millions of people their phone is their only computer. It might not be for you, but your use case is not the only use case that exists.

  • Marshall Davidson

    Meh…Not really. Its good to see that multi-tasking has significantly improved but in the final analysis the lack of external storage, ability to connect peripherals and the fact you are limited to using software on the App Store just makes this fall short of being a full-fledged laptop replacement.
    Now, if the iPad Pro ran Mac OS then we’d have something to talk about and that’s why Microsoft will continue to do well with the Surface lineup because it does bridge that gap, even if it doesn’t excel as a tablet which most Surface users could care less. But at least that is an option.

  • Captain Pokemon

    if an ipad can’t run OSX then its not a laptop replacement.

    • Brad Fortin


  • gommer strike

    mmmm well when I try it let’s see if it really does.

    Little things like hitting tab on the keyboard. For many apps to act strangely…like the cursor doesn’t tab forward the way it should. Instead now the “cursor” is never-never land. Similarly with shortcuts like Command + Backspace. Some apps are fine, others are not.

    I guess I’ll see. My prediction is it still won’t be a complete laptop replacement. It will do some things fine, but unless you’re connecting to a virtual platform hosted elsewhere, this will probably only take you so far.

  • bigshynepo

    Or save $600 and buy an actual laptop that can run circles around the ‘pro’….

  • Harriska2

    I’ve converted a 60 some year old from a windows laptop to an ipad. I only had to do 2 trainings with her and she uses it for games, browsing, email, facebook, banking, and who knows what else. She also prints from it. Another 60 year old is upgrading her ipad 2 to the $329 ipad. So yeah, some people can get away with it.

    • ChrisPollard77

      Yep, that’s precisely the market for these as a laptop replacement. It does what they need, and doesn’t bother them with what they don’t.

  • Do Do

    “Viable laptop replacement”

    As someone who uses both macOS and IOS, I couldn’t disagree more.
    To begin with. “files” is a joke as far as file manger go. Even finder is horrible, but until they put “finder” on IOS I’ll only ever use my ipad pro certain specific situations and only some specific apps but to think that the an Ipad pro can replace a macbook pro is ridiculous IMO.

  • toysandme

    Google the latest Consumer Report warning before you get a Surface. One quarter of them will break down within 2 years.

  • Luuthian

    For my wife and I we have one desktop for work tasks/gaming and two iPad Pros. We’re running iOS 11 and they do everything we need on the go and in a lot of cases they do it better than a laptop. You can’t argue with the quality of the screen, battery life, the fluidness of the apps etc. In many cases the touch interface is superior to a mouse as well.

    The argument that the iPad can’t replace a laptop is bunk. Most people aren’t using a laptop to anywhere near full productivity and many never will. Everyone has their own needs for a mobile device and for the mainstream market the Pro will cover them.

    • ChrisPollard77

      I won’t argue most of your points. I agree with you for the most part. (Imagine that from an Android/Windows user!) The problem with a “not quite” laptop replacement is when you DO need full power. It’s like going out and buying a Smart Fortwo, because that’s all you need MOST of the time to commute to work. But the weekend rolls up, and you want to tow your boat to the lake … well crap. Hence the huge sales of trucks in Canada, vs. sub-compacts. You have to buy to what you need in the edge cases more than the day-to-day.

      Now, if we were talking about devices that didn’t cost twice the price of the average “actual” laptop … there’s a solid case for having both.

      Where I think these really shine are the people who really NEVER use a laptop for anything more than web browsing, streaming, email, and maybe some light duty Word/Powerpoint/Excel duties. And that’s a big market.

  • heynow00

    Judging from many of the comments it looks like people read the headline and that was about it

  • Brad Fortin

    I came to this article fully expecting Patrick to already have a narrative in mind before writing it.

    The 10.5-inch iPad Pro, or any iPad Pro for that matter, is not the professional productivity tablet Apple says it is, at least as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps it could work for some professions, particularly if you spend a lot of time managing spreadsheets, but I think even that may be a stretch.


    Never mind that the iPad is being used for 3D CAD modeling, medical imaging and anatomical analysis, inventory management, operating and managing websites, etc, simple spreadsheets are “a stretch”. Companies like British Airways, GE, and Tokyo Metro would have a good laugh reading this article.

  • darwm

    ya right with that keyboard

  • slimdizzy

    Mouse/Trackpad support yet? No? Back to my Surface and ANY Android tablet ever.