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By Dan Moren

Apple’s brand new iPad Pro has LiDAR and a trackpad

New iPad Pro

New iPad Pro models have arrived and, as predicted, they’re shaking things up with the addition of a better processor, new camera technology, and, yes, trackpad support.

It’s the last one that much time and attention has been spent on in recent months, and here’s the deal: Apple specifically calls out precision tasks like writing and selecting text, working with spreadsheets, and “pro workflows.” There’s also gesture support for switching between apps, activating the Dock, and using Slide Over. Apple says most third-party apps won’t need to be changed, but that new APIs allow developers to get even more out of it. And, of course, Apple’s enhanced its own iWork productivity apps with trackpad support. The trackpad support arrives with iPadOS 13.4, which Apple says will drop on March 24, and will also work with earlier iPad models and the Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2, as well as third-party USB or Bluetooth mice.

Of course, trackpad support means new hardware, and that’s come in the form of the Magic Keyboard. Like the Smart Keyboard, it attaches to the iPad via magnets, but it uses cantilevered hinges so you can set different viewing angles, and it features both a scissor mechanism with 1mm of travel, and full-sized backlit keys. (Plus, most importantly, an inverted-T arrow key layout.) Essentially it looks like the Magic Keyboard on the new MacBooks and the Smart Keyboard had a baby.

The keyboard also has a USB-C port on the side of the hinge, with can provide pass-through charging for the iPad, so that you can still use the iPad Pro’s USB-C port for peripherals. And it’s compatible not only with the new iPad Pro models introduced today, but also the previous models, the third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the first-generation 11-inch iPad Pro.

New iPad Pro

While the keyboard may get all the attention, the new iPad Pro also delivers a brand new camera system with not just a 12MP standard wide-angle lens but a 10MP Ultra Wide camera. (For those paying attention at home, that’s slightly less megapixels than the Ultra Wide lens on the iPhone 11 series.) To complement the camera, Apple’s also improved the iPad’s audio, with five “studio-quality” microphones.

The new models also include LiDAR, a first for any mobile device. LiDAR is a light-based version of radar, which most people are probably familiar with as one of the sensors used in autonomous vehicles. LiDAR bounces a laser off an object, then measures it with a sensor allowing it to come up with very precise measurements. Apple touts the use of that sensor in Augmented Reality applications—as a proof of concept, the company has improved its Measure app, which now makes it easy to, say, measure a person’s height, as well as providing a Ruler View with better measurements. But that’s definitely one place that third-party developers may have the opportunity to lead the way in interesting applications.

Finally, there’s a new chip at the heart of these models: the A12Z Bionic. It features an eight-core CPU, eight-core GPU, Neural Engine, and better thermal architecture to bring the best performance ever in an iPad, which Apple says is faster and more powerful than most Windows PC laptops. 1

The new iPads are up for order today in space gray and silver, with the 11-inch model starting at $799 and the 12.9-inch model at $999, both with 128GB of storage. There are also 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB options available, as well as the additional cell add on for $150. The Magic Keyboard comes in sizes for both iPads, though it’ll cost a premium in the larger size: $299 for the 11-inch model, and $349 for the 12.9-inch model.


  1. Shots fired… ↩

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[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, and podcaster. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]