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Tablets

Seven key upgrades the next iPad Pro needs

Sleeker design, Face ID and bigger screens are great. But when will I get to leave my Mac at home?

Sarah Tew/CNET

The next iPad Pro is likely to be the highlight of Tuesday's Apple event in Brooklyn. While nothing is confirmed, Apple's next tablet is widely expected to get a complete redesign in the spirit of the iPhone X: A nearly all-screen design, with tiny bezels (supposedly notchless) housing a Face ID sensor in lieu of the late, great Touch ID home button. That redesign may also accomodate a larger screen (or the same size screen in a smaller body), and maybe even a USB-C port, too.  

It all sounds fine. The existing iPad Pro hasn't had an update since last June, but it's already a great tablet, and a fantastic device for artistic creation if you have an Apple Pencil. But I'd like something more specific from Apple's next version of its pro tablet. I'm a writer, an editor, someone who uses a Web browser for nearly everything. In my daily life, work is about writing -- and making my words integrate with photos and video, often using proprietary Web-based tools.

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Yes, I know that Apple has repeatedly stated that iOS and MacOS won't be merging. But I still want the iPad Pro to be a better stand-in for my laptop, even if both platforms continue to exist side by side. (And yes, we expect the long-desired MacBook Air successor to debut at the Tuesday event, too.)

To that end, here's my wish list for what the next iPad Pro will deliver.

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Why not something like what...the Google Pixel Slate has?

Sarah Tew/CNET

A serious keyboard and trackpad option. To write and edit, I need a better keyboard solution. The Microsoft Surface has it. The Google Pixel Slate has it. The iPad Pro needs it. Apps will quickly hop aboard supporting a trackpad, and there are tons of apps that already exist that could seriously use it.

A better browser. Chances are that Apple would have already discussed this as a feature of iOS 12, but maybe there's an outside chance that Safari performs more like a Mac browser on the new Pro? The Pixel Slate's biggest appeal beyond the keyboard is its desktop-like Chrome browser. There are still plenty of Web tools that don't adapt properly to iPad Web browsers. I want to use the iPad Pro like a Chromebook.

A larger screen in a smaller body? Sure, my bag says thank you. I won't mind an even more reduced-bezel iPad Pro, even if the 2017 iPad Pro did something similar. Smaller is better for traveling, and could help the 12.9-inch iPad Pro not feel so cumbersome.

USB-C is great, if it means extending to accessories and displays. A standard USB-C port would be a big move toward making the iPad Pro feel like a regular computer, and would help a ton with fast charging (without requiring an adapter). I really hope that also means allowing the iPad Pro to connect to more docks, accessories, and external displays more flexibly. (9to5mac reported earlier that the iPad Pro's USB-C port will be able to push 4K HDR video to external displays.) Maybe it means allowing a quick-docking to a monitor, pairing a keyboard, and suddenly having a multimonitor computer. I'll keep my expectations conservative.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

A way to charge and store that Pencil better. The pressure-sensitive Apple Pencil is an amazing tool for drawing. But its  charging methodology is bonkers: It juts out like a stiletto from the end of the iPad's Lightning port. A smaller Pencil that charges inductively or even magnetically attaches to a new charge connector would be a pleasant plus, and maybe would ensure it stays nearby and ready the next time I use an iPad Pro.

A magnetic smart connector that enables more accessories. The current iPad Pro Smart Connector does so few things that it's possible to forget it exists. Aside from a charging stand and a few keyboards, it's almost vestigial. A more robust connector that works with a wider range of accessories and even docks would turn it into a true tool.

A larger range of Mac-like Pro apps. Expect Apple on Tuesday to re-emphasize Adobe's recent announcement that a full version of Photoshop is coming to the iPad in 2019.  But where are Apple's own apps for creative pros? Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X seem like clear candidates to make a move to iOS -- especially if the company wants to show that the iPad is no longer just for "light" creativity apps like iMovie and GarageBand.

All will be revealed Tuesday

That's my wishlist for the iPad Pro. To see the full range of reports that have been churning in the rumor mill for the past year, check out our rumor roundup. And don't forget to follow our live coverage on Tuesday morning

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