Apple iPad Pro goes big, adds Pencil to draw in more users

With worldwide demand for tablets dropping, Apple follows a new trend intended to make tablets more like laptop computers.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
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Apple announced the iPad Pro at an event in San Francisco Wednesday. James Martin/CNET

Apple's answer for slowing iPad sales: Supersize it!

That's what CEO Tim Cook announced Wednesday, unveiling a new, larger version of the tablet. Called the iPad Pro, the device features a 12.9-inch screen that's designed to be used with two hands, and the ability to run two apps side by side. The goal is to prove the iPad can be more than just a device for surfing the Web and watching videos.

Among the new technologies Apple introduced is a new thin "smart keyboard" that also acts as a cover, which the company said is wrapped in a special fabric. But Apple will also offer a new device called the Apple Pencil, a stylus designed as a more precise way of interacting with the device.

Watch this: Apple Pencil is a stylus for your iPad

"In just five years, iPad has transformed the way we create, the way we learn and the way we work," Cook said during an event in San Francisco. The iPad Pro, he said, "is the most capable iPad we've ever created."

The iPad Pro will start at $799 with 32 gigabytes of storage, launching in November. The keyboard will cost $169 and the pencil will cost $99.

It's all part of Apple's latest effort to expand interest in the slumping tablet industry. For Apple, iPad sales, which account for about 10 percent of the company's sales, have been the one weak spot in its product line. Apple sold 10.9 million iPads in the three months ended in June. Though seemingly high, and representing nearly a quarter of all tablets sold around the world, sales had still declined 18 percent from the same time last year. That was the sixth consecutive decline for the iPad line.

Analysts say it's not just the iPad. Consumers have been holding on to their tablets longer, opting to buy bigger-screen iPhones and Mac computers instead. It's also been years since Apple has spurred demand by offering any big jumps in technology or a radically new take on its tablet. The company, which has long claimed the iPad's weakness is a "speed bump," is counting on new initiatives to turn things around. One example is a partnership with IBM announced last year and intended to increase iPad sales to business users.

The iPad Pro might help jump-start demand. The tech industry has increasingly been embracing devices that convert between tablets and laptops, and Apple could benefit from offering a similar device.

Apple iPad Pro made for tablet power users (pictures)

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What's interesting about some of these moves, however, is they borrow from industry trends that have been happening for the past couple of years. Microsoft, for example, announced a keyboard cover for its Surface tablet-computer when it launched in 2012, then added a stylus a year later.

The Apple Pencil, meanwhile, runs counter to the strong opinion of company co-founder Steve Jobs, who chastised the technology when he announced the original iPhone in 2007. "Who wants a stylus?" Jobs said at the time, complaining that the accessory is annoying to carry around and store. "Nobody wants a stylus. So let's not use a stylus."

Aside from those peripherals, Apple also included other technologies to make the iPad Pro appealing, such as a battery that can last 10 hours, and four speakers -- two on each side. The company said it was able to achieve this by using new technologies in the device, such as a so-called "variable" screen that can conserve power when it's not displaying images as often. The iPad Pro also has more-capable computing power coming from its chip, called the "A9X," which delivers speeds nearly twice as fast as those of PCs sold in stores today.

The whole device fits in a frame that's slightly thicker than that of the current iPad, Apple said, and weighs about the same as the original iPad at a little over 1.5 pounds.

See all of today's Apple news.