Apple news – new iPads, new iOS and new iMacs

As any die-hard iOS musician will be aware, Apple held one of its super-slick launch events yesterday – WWDC17 from the San Jose Convention Centre – with Tim Cook and the crew taking us through a number of new Apple product enhancements. I must admit that, this time around, I didn’t watch it ‘live’ but waited until I could work my way through the 2 hour+ presentation at my own speed (and skip through the bits that were of less personal interest).

Like all these Apple events, it was super-slick, bountiful in terms of ‘this is even better than before’, and, at times, short of some of the technical details (like how much RAM is in the new iPad hardware?) but it was also kind of fun if you happen to be an Apple geek and are happy to take the spin (and the ‘smart casual uniforms’) with the huge pinch of salt it probably deserves. It also contained some genuinely interesting ‘new stuff’ that, from an iOS musician perspective, and budgets permitting, will most certainly appeal to many.

Ohhhh…. new stuff from Apple….. love it or loath it, the Apple news event always draw a crowd.

New pad

Top of the list is perhaps the refresh of the iPad Pro range. This includes more powerful processing within the 12.9″ iPad Pro range – the A10X 64-bit CPU – plus the option for a 512GB model. Overall, Apple are suggesting up to 30% better performance over the original 12.9″ iPad Pro (which is what I’m currently using and which is now c. 18 months or so old).

However, in addition, Apple also announced a new 10.5″ iPad Pro model with a similar hardware specification (bar, of course, the total pixel count of the screen). This is also available in sizes up to 512GB and, at US$749 for the 256GB Wi-Fi model, I can see this being a pretty popular choice for iOS music makers looking for an upgrade for an existing model of a standard sized iPad that’s anything more than a couple of years old. The performance hike and the slightly bigger screen (plus some other, under-the-hood, improvements ) would, I’m sure, seem like quite a step up.

The iPad Pro range gets an useful evolutionary refresh….. and a new size option.

The new range or iPads are available to order now with shipping due to start next week apparently. Personally, I’m now so used to the 12.9″ format, that I’m not sure I’d want to go back down in size. However, I’m still happy with my original 12.9″ iPad Pro so I think I’ll hold off for another cycle just yet but for anything from an iPad Air 1 and older, the new models would be a very tempting.

Apple also made a play about the new iPads offering ‘far more power than most PC laptops’. I assume they mean ‘Windows-based laptops’ but, while it’s a grand statement and, if you take the ‘average’ power of every ‘PC laptop’ still in active use (including my father-in-laws 9-year old Samsung), then maybe it is technically correct. However, for iOS music makers, raw power isn’t the only criteria. As I discussed in one of the recent ‘iOS pros and cons’ posts, for music production, your computer platform is about more than just the CPU grunt; data storage and throughput is also a consideration and, in that context, laptop or desktop computers can offer advantages over an iPad or iPhone.

New OS (but not quite yet)

Apple also officially announced iOS11… although we are going to have to wait for that. As expected, it will stick with the usual annual roll-out date so we can expect to see it in the autumn at some stage.

The presentation of iOS11 didn’t really give us much that, from a musician perspective, would be particularly enlightening so we might have to wait, for example, to see if the AU spec/code has been further enhanced in iOS11. One would certainly hope that’s the case though….  and Apple really should be close to getting this fully polished soon given that it first arrived with iOS9.

The dust settles on iOS10…. and along comes iOS11 (well, soon anyway…..)

One feature that was announced and looks like it might have potential is the new Files app. This looks like it might finally provide a central store for all your iOS files. I’m not sure we are totally clear yet as to how far Apple will take this in the first iteration, but it would be great if music app developers can use the technology so that all your audio files (and perhaps all your samples?) could be stored in a single location rather than in app-specific locations…..  no more need to move copies of such files between multiple apps….

Not iOS….

At a personal level, perhaps the thing that got my tongue hanging out furthest was not iOS-based at all; it was the new iMac Pro. As regulars here will know, I also run a desktop music production system built around OSX. In my case, that’s a very nice 2013 iMac and, while it still does great service, I could easily be tempted to refresh at some stage within the next 18 months or so….

As such, the new iMac Pro – which will apparently be available from December – could easily make a complete sucker out of me. The hardware specs look very impressive (indeed, on a par with the Mac Pro that launched a couple of years ago but in the ‘all-in-one’ iMac format) with choices that range from 8 cores to 18 cores (eeekkkk!) and support for up to 128GB of RAM (eeekkk again!).

Apple do laptops and desktop computers also…. and while it will be very (VERY) expensive , I really would love to justify one of the new iMac Pros when they appear at the end of the year….

While an iMac is a closed system (just as difficult to upgrade as a laptop bar the RAM), I kind of like the format and I’ve got nothing but praise for how my existing iMac (and the one before that) have performed over the last 6 or 7 years. In the past, I’ve also been happy on the PC route with self-builds so I can see the other side of the coin quite happily…..  However, given the choice, on a purely personal level, I’ll be sticking with the iMac format the next time I do decide to upgrade.

Needless to say, this is not going to come cheap….   No, there is no way an iMac can outgun a purpose-built PC in terms of pure bang for buck….  but then I’m not sure that’s what many Apple users (myself included) prioritise in a purchase decision. We (I) will, however, have to wait to find out just how many elderly relatives and vital organs have to be sold off in order to buy into the new line….


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    1. I wonder if they have to mop up drool from the seats in the auditorium after the audience has filed out?

    2. It will be interesting to see if there are any heat issues (or other issues) with the new hot rod iMac.

      If you buy one John, I’d wait a month or two before doing so. There might be a few hardware issues to sort out on release.

      • Hi Simon…. agreed, good advice…. but, the major hurdle I will have to overcome is justifying to myself (and my wife) that the ‘investment’ [ :-) ] is a good one…. Best wishes, John

    3. I must admit to being surprised that Apple have finally started to listen, and added 512gb options to iPads, and a File Manager. How good the latter is remains to be seen. To be any use, I’d want to be able to drag and drop my Blocs Wave files, for example, to Dropbox. As for RAM, the rumour is 4gb for the 10.5 Pro and 6gb for the big boy. I wonder, is 2gb of the 12″ model’s RAM being used to drive that large, high res screen?

      • Hi Zen, yes, 512GB could hold some decent sample library content on an iPad dedicated to music production…. 6GB of RAM in the larger format device would also be a big step up if that turns out to be correct….. Best wishes, John

    4. Why John, we’re all counting on you for a torture test of new hardware! As you know cool hardware doesn’t come along every day, plus it’s a tax write-off. My wife seems to fall for those justifications. Well mostly….!

    5. I think I might go for the new 12.9″, 512GB. It’s a bit big (11 3/4“, anyone?), but they did drop the weight a bit, if not as much as I was hoping for (arm strain has been a big issue for me). I’ve been wanting 256GB and wasn’t expecting 512GB, so that’s a pleasant surprise, for sure. I’ve been wanting a great drawing stylus since the iPad first came out (dang, it’s been a long wait), but I skipped the first generation Pro with the thinking that the first generation of anything isn’t quite baked yet. Turned out that first edition lasted over 2 years though! With a new generation finally coming, time fir me to get in, I’m thinking. (Oh the price though. Still, my iPad is pretty much the most used thing in my life, so….I’m in).

      I’ll wait until I can try them in a store though. If the 10.5″ truly seems bigger than my iPad Air 2, the lesser weight, greater portability and lower price could swing me in that direction. Just from the pictures online though, it seems pretty much the same as my Air2 size-wise. I feel like I want a clear step up in display size, and 10.5″ might not quite blow my skirt up, we’ll see.

    6. Just bought–and returned–a new 12.9″ 2nd gen iPP after experiencing strange CPU spikes and crackling in the audio signal using a mere *four* audio apps inside AUM (no problems on my first-gen iPP). Guessing the new iPP has either bus or memory management issues–hopefully solved in a future OS update and not hardware-related. Be warned, these new iPads might not be ideal for music production yet.

    7. I must admit to being surprised that Apple have finally started to listen, and added 512gb options to iPads, and a File Manager. How good the latter is remains to be seen. To be any use, I’d want to be able to drag and drop my Blocs Wave files, for example, to Dropbox. As for RAM, the rumour is 4gb for the 10.5 Pro and 6gb for the big boy. I wonder, is 2gb of the 12″ model’s RAM being used to drive that large, high res screen?

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