A 16-inch iPad? Why this rumored monstrosity should never see the light of day

Filed in Technology by on June 29, 2021

According to reports, Apple is working on larger iPads in the 14-inch to 16-inch range. While docking with a keyboard would provide a more immersive experience, it’s difficult to see how such a gadget — let’s name it the “iPad Pro Max” — would fit into the iPad range.

Bloomberg reports that Apple’s engineers and designers are now “exploring” larger iPad devices. The tablet isn’t expected until 2023 at the earliest – if at all. The hypothetical 14-inch to 16-inch iPad would “continue to blur the distinctions between tablet and laptop,” according to the report.

Would it, however? We’re talking about a touchscreen laptop with a cumbersome tablet mode tacked on as an afterthought. Such a product would have a small market, therefore the name “iPad” would be inappropriate.

It is not always true that bigger is better.

The tablet vs. laptop debate is a zero-sum game in terms of size. As you get closer to optimal laptop sizes, the gadget becomes less comfortable to use as a consumer tablet. The contrary is also true: the more you value tablet comfort, the smaller it becomes as a laptop.

Both the 11-inch iPad Pro and the 10.9-inch iPad Air are a good size for tablets. When docked with a keyboard, they’re on the smaller side, but they’re still capable as compact laptops. Apple also sells the 12.9-inch iPad Pro for individuals who desire a larger screen for laptop mode, which pushes the boundaries of what feels comfortable in the hand.

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The iPad Pro blurs the distinctions between tablet and laptop about as well as a single product can at the moment.

This alleged “iPad Pro Max” would largely be a touchscreen laptop, rather than blurring the lines between tablet and laptop. If you’re using an Apple Pencil to sketch designs on it, unlocking it and turning it into a supersized slate would be a good idea. For most individuals who aren’t expert designers or digital artists, though, it would be the equivalent of picking up a coffee tray to read the news or an e-book.

That device would virtually encroach on the domain of Microsoft’s Surface Studio, a 28-inch desktop PC that can be tilted down into a sketching mode for artists. While it’s great for the few professionals who want a table-sized drawing tablet, it’s a product that caters to a very specific demographic.

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The use of massive tablets isn’t new. The massive Samsung Galaxy View crossed the limits between small television and outsized tablet in 2015. In our review at the time, we said, “Oversized and underpowered, Samsung’s Galaxy View is a lousy TV and an even worse tablet.” Regardless, three years later, Samsung tried again with the Galaxy View 2, which received the same criticism. Both generations were distinct notions that never caught on, and both are now obsolete.

Even Lenovo, a manufacturer that has never shied away from a weird, mad-scientist gadget, hasn’t ventured to develop a tablet larger than 13 inches.

That isn’t to suggest that the predicted 14-inch to 16-inch iPad wouldn’t work well with Apple’s Magic Keyboard. Its screen would be ideal for use on a desktop computer. Maintaining four or more windows displayed at the same time would significantly improve the device’s productivity. It may help to strengthen the case for iPadOS as a work platform. If Apple started enabling MacOS apps on the iPad, it would effectively turn into a touchscreen MacBook Pro.

Apple might leverage folding-display technology to make the gadget more useful in tablet mode. While we’ve seen folding smartphones that extend to become tablets, folding displays might also go the other way. Consider a 16-inch screen that can also be folded down into a smaller tablet.

Yes, it’s improbable. However, this could result in a more consumer-friendly product than the “iPad Pro Max” described in this report. Tablet/laptop hybrids could benefit from folding to eliminate the zero-sum situation.

Apple used to focus on specialty items for creative professions, but that’s no longer the case. While Apple will not completely disregard that market, it has outgrown the need to invest in it. Given how long it took Apple to fix a defective MacBook keyboard, it’s difficult to imagine the corporation suddenly going all-in on such a specialized creative market — especially when the existing 12.9-inch iPad Pro can serve the same purpose just fine.

A ridiculously large tablet that you can hardly justify calling an iPad would be a cringe-worthy failure for a company that avoids bloated and confusing product lines. Many Apple prototypes never see the light of day, and that’s where the safe bet on this idea is.

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