I’m writing this newsletter out to you on the new Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro. I used to not be able to write the newsletter with the iPad — my process unfortunately involves dealing directly with HTML code because my newsletter provider hasn’t seen fit to update its version of the CKEditor WYSIWYG since 2014. Now I can, and I think the reason why is interesting for anybody who wants to push their iPad to do more.
No, the Magic Keyboard hasn’t magically solved these problems. Instead, it has made the things the iPad already does somewhat nicer. The iPad with iPadOS remains the most enjoyable computer I use right up to the point where I need to do something complicated, at which point it becomes something else entirely.
On a traditional computer, solving a complicated problem is a matter of searching around the internet until you discover a new ability or find a fix. It might be beyond your skills, but you rarely are stopped cold.
On the iPad, the first step isn’t necessarily looking for the solution itself, but looking to see if you’re even allowed to do the thing you need to do. For me, it was inspecting HTML source code for particular elements on a web page, which Safari doesn’t let you do.
Some of you are reading the previous sentence and scoffing that I’d ever ask an iPad to do such a thing. Others are wondering why I don’t just switch newsletter providers or find some other solution that gets around this limitation.
All valid points, but I’m obstinate. I have a process that works on Windows, another for macOS, and yet another on ChromeOS. I wasn’t going to let the iPad beat me.
But more to the point, Apple is obstinate — in ways both good and bad. Obstinately refusing to just copy over all the stuff I think I want from a desktop operating system means that the iPad won’t just get used like a desktop OS (which is what happens with the Surface).
On the other hand, sometimes that obstinacy means it’s hard to know if the iPad will allow you to do something advanced in the first place. There are rules against apps running certain types of code, for example, which makes it a challenging device for app developers to use. Was my HTML problem one of those kinds of issues, or was it just something Apple hasn’t gotten around to adding yet — like when it added USB drive support?
Apple’s dropping new iPads with whiz-bang Lidar features and shiny new cases and all I want is an iPad with a proper shell where I can run homebrew, docker, python, cron jobs and the like.
— Jon Soini (@soini) March 18, 2020
I think the answer might be both? It turns out that there is a Siri Shortcut — the system for automating certain tasks on the iPad — that lets you grab source code. From there, it was a matter of teaching myself some Siri Shortcut methods then a lot of trial and error. I think hiding what is a core browser function on every other platform inside the iPad’s macro app is loopy, but at least it worked.
What does all of this have to do with the Magic Keyboard? Simply this: I think a lot of the pent-up demand for it and its trackpad is actually pent-up demand to see if the iPad can finally be made to do things that it still struggles to do today.
I reviewed the Magic Keyboard yesterday and I think it’s incredibly well-made. The trackpad has made manipulating text ten times easier than before, which has in turn made the iPad Pro much more useful to me in situations where I would want to use it like a laptop.
But I never expected the Magic Keyboard to …magically make some of the limitations I’ve run into on the iPad go away, and neither should you. Sometimes new hardware, even if it has new features like a trackpad, doesn’t unlock new features. Instead, it can just make your experience a little less annoying.
As I noted in the review, I think Apple could have made different design choices that might have helped the Magic Keyboard do more than make using the iPad as a laptop nicer. I think it makes a better keyboard dock than a mobile keyboard case.
For $299 or $349, I think you should get much more than a keyboard dock. I’d like to say that another company will come in and offer something more versatile for a lower price, but I am not holding my breath. The lack of third-party iPad Pro accessories that take advantage of the Smart Connector remains one of the weird mysteries in consumer tech — one that I think will never get solved.
┏ Microsoft prepares to launch Surface Book 3 and Surface Go 2. If these reports pan out, it could mean that Microsoft wants to take on the MacBook Pro even more directly for the pro market.
┏ Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Lite will launch in the US on April 17th for $650. This looks … well this looks less good in the wake of the iPhone SE announcement.
┏ Apple is tweaking how MacBooks charge to extend battery lifespan. I love this because it lets me noodle on what symbols mean, my favorite pastime. Now the full battery icon in your menu bar won’t mean your battery has “the maximum possible charge,” but instead “the maximum charge that’s less likely to harm your MacBook’s longevity, based on your computer’s best interpretation of your recent charging and use habits.” What amuses me is that I don’t think the second one is more complicated than the first one, because semiotics. I’d explain but my boss Nilay would take the newsletter away if I went on.
┏ The new Moto G Stylus and G Power are surprisingly adept cameraphones. Cameron Faulkner is impressed with the cameras in his review. At $250, you’d expect a lot worse.
┏ LG V60 Dual Screen review: V for versatility. Chris Welch reviews LG’s flagship. There really are a lot of unique things you can do here: Headphone jack! Dual screen! Stylus support! It’s a list of priorities that other phone makers ignore — though maybe that’s because those features don’t sell phones. But Welch says this thing has stellar battery life (at the cost of screen quality), and battery life is definitely a good way to sell phones.
More from The Verge
┏ Fandango just purchased Vudu from Walmart to better compete against Amazon, iTunes. Walmart hasn’t been the best steward, but it also let Vudu find its niche with premium video quality. Dearly hoping that Fandango and its parent company (which, disclosure, has invested in our parent company) doesn’t mess this one up.
┏ Offshore drilling has dug itself a deeper hole since Deepwater Horizon. On the ten-year anniversary of the spill, Justine Calma looks at the current state of offshore drilling:
Drilling at new depths unlocks untapped oil reserves and has become easier with newer technologies. But those opportunities come with greater dangers and less margin for error, experts tell The Verge. “The lesson from Deepwater Horizon is [that] at the same time that the technology for extraction was progressing very rapidly — I mean it’s quite amazing actually what they’ve been able to do — the technology for safety lagged,” says Donald Boesch, president emeritus of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science.
┏ Lo-fi beats to quarantine to are booming on YouTube. Julia Alexander looks at a rising trend right now:
“Without a dedicated workspace, people find it challenging to get into a flow and are easily distracted, especially when surrounded by distractions at home,” Pritchard said. “The sudden growth of lo-fi live streams, in my opinion, is clearly representative of that struggle and people seeking to find means to get back into a productive workflow and really focus on the tasks at hand.”
┏ How engineers are operating deep-space probes, Martian rovers, and satellites from their homes. Imagine running NASA’s projects from a chat app like Slack. Must be a nightmare! Loren Grush looks into how they do it:
Now, that entire routine has been moved online. She says she has about 15 to 20 chat rooms open for all of the engineers and rover planners — not to mention telecons with scientists across the country. “The level of intensity has gone up because you’re kind of always watching things,” Bridge says. “I’m also not exercising anymore,” she jokes. “I used to walk around, and now I’m staring at a computer station for hours on end without moving.”
┏ Sewer systems are a window into the coronavirus pandemic. This story from Nicole Wetsman is some good shit.