When the 12.9-inch iPad Pro was unveiled in 2015, Apple execs called it "groundbreaking," "powerful," and "immersive." Turns out, it wasn't much different from the iPad Air, save for its Apple Pencil support. Which is to say, it was still far from the computer replacement we'd been promised for so long.
However, when iOS 11 hits this fall, it's going to be an all-new ballgame for iPad owners. After years of being just a big iPhone, Apple's tablet is starting to look like something you can conceivably replace your laptop with, and that's very exciting.
In addition to introducing support for AR, a new control center, and an all-new App Store, iOS 11 turns the iPad into a productivity powerhouse. It's the biggest change to the iPad since the first version hit back in 2010, fundamentally transforming its functionality in a major way.
"iPad has always been a powerful way to work, play, and learn," Apple says on its website. "And iOS 11 brings it to life like never before. New features and capabilities let you get more done more quickly and easily, making your iPad experience even more powerful and personal. Do with it what you will. Because now you can."
In iOS 11, we're finally seeing hints of macOS in a mobile environment. The new dock, for example, is just a swipe away and auto-hides when not in use, just like in macOS. It also brings drag-and-drop support, improved multi-tasking, and a Files app that allows users to easily browse, search, and organize content. (And, by the way, the Files app doesn't just play nice with iCloud Drive, but Dropbox, too.)
The iPad still isn't quite as capable as Microsoft's Surface Pro lineup, lacking things like a desktop-class OS and mouse support. But it's unquestionably capable of doing great things, whether it's used for drawing or drafting up presentations. iOS 11 elevates Apple's tablet lineup like no other software release before it.
Since its arrival, the iPad has always been a complementary device, something most people own to watch videos, play games, and browse the web. The arrival of iOS 11 is the first release that genuinely blurs the line between Apple's mobile and desktop environments. And with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro coming, Apple users have even more reason to replace their aging laptop.
"No matter the task, the new iPad Pro is up to it—and then some," Apple says of its new 10.5-inch model. "It offers far more power than most PC laptops, yet is delightfully simple to use. The redesigned Retina display is as stunning to look at as it is to touch. And it all comes together with iOS, the world's most advanced mobile operating system. iPad Pro. Everything you want modern computing to be. Now even, well, better."
Apple's iPad sales are on the decline, and have been for a while. But for the first time since the original iPad hit, consumers actually have a good reason to pick one up.