airpods · apfs · apple · beta · ios 10 · ipad · iphone

iOS 10.3 Public Beta 1 Released

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Yesterday, Apple released the iOS 10.3 Public Beta right on the heels of the iOS 10.3 Developer Beta.  The developer beta, was released on Tuesday.

I was a little surprised by this move, as iOS 10.3 includes a feature only a nerd’s nerd would like – the Apple File System (APFS).

APFS was announced last summer at the 2016 Apple developer’s conference, WWDC, as an experimental feature in MacOS Sierra.  APFS could only be used with SSD drives, and could not be on the boot drive.  APFS was also restricted from converting disk drives that used HFS+.  The HFS+ file system, released some 18 years ago, is the file system used on all Macs, iPhones, Watches, and Apple TV.  I was presuming that APFS wouldn’t show up for iOS until the iOS 11 beta program this summer.  It looks like Apple is moving a head, getting ready to bring APFS to iOS devices much sooner than MacOS.  Releasing an update that automatically upgrades HPF+ formatted iOS devices to the new APFS is a good sign that development has gone well and that Apple is looking for feedback ahead of a full production rollout in the future.

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In addition to APFS, the other feature that I am looking forward to playing with is the new Find My AirPods functionality that has been added to the Find My iPhone.app.  This feature will be great to help you track down that missing AirPod that is in your pants pocket, your bag, in between your couch cushions, or behind your bed.  Basically, if your AirPods have a charge and are in range of one of your Apple devices signed into your iCloud account, you will be able to get an approximate location.  (Remember, these things do not have built in GPS radios.)

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There is also a nifty Apple ID option at the top of the Settings list.  The purpose of this new setting is to give you quick access to all of your iCloud account settings and options all in one spot. Can’t remember your Apple ID email address? Need to tweak Family Sharing? Want to update your credit card information.  It’s all right here.

Wanna try out the public beta?  You really need to be ready to deal with some bugs.  That’s the whole point of using pre-release software.  I also suggest that you run beta software on an iPhone or iPad that is not your everyday or work provided device.  The last thing you need is to get stuck in a jam and not be able to make a phone call or do work.  Still interested? Head over to beta.apple.com to learn more.

apfs · ios 10 · iphone

Apple iOS 10.3 Developer Beta 1 Started Today

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Generic iOS 10 Beta update screen. via Apple.com

As expected, hot on the heels of the official release of iOS 10.2.1, Apple opened up the iOS 10.3 beta to registered paid developers today.

According to people who have already installed the new beta release, iOS 10.3 includes the new “Find My Air Pods” feature, hourly weather forecasts via 3D Touch on the Weather app icon (would be really useful today), and navigational improvements to the Mail application.

But what I found really interesting was that Apple is including the new Apple File System, APFS, early.  I wasn’t expecting APFS to make an appearance on iOS until iOS 11, presumably due out later this year.  APFS make it’s first appearance at WWDC 2016 in a preview mode so developers could get experience with it.  The current iOS, and MacOS, file system is known as HFS+, which Wikipedia tells us debuted in 1998.  Yes, your 2016 iPhone 7 is running a file system that was released 18 years ago.  And designed for a Macintosh running a Motorola 68000-series processor.  Ah, memories.

Regardless, I was expecting APFS to make its first, non-beta, appearance on the Mac since it is a smaller pool of users compared to the juggernaut that is the iPhone.  Looks like Apple is forging ahead with APFS on iOS devices first.

No word yet as to when public beta testers will be able to get in on the 10.3 beta.

[Via MacRumors…]

apple · apple tv · apple watch · ios 10 · ipad · iphone · mac · mac os x · macbook pro

Apple Software Update Monday [Updated]

Update: iTunes 12.5.5 was also released today.

Apple gave us four updates for our iDevices and Macs today.

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Earlier this afternoon, MacOS Sierra 10.12.3 arrived offering graphics improvements for the October 2016 edition MacBook Pros.  The Sierra 10.12.3 update closed up a hole in Preview that was mucking with searching scanned PDF files.

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iTunes 12.5.5 was also released for MacOS (and Windows PC) adding “minor app and performance improvements”.

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Also arriving today was 10.2.1, a minor security and bug fix update for iPhone and iPad.  watchOS 3.1.3 tagged along to give Apple Watch owners a small tune up also.

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And, last, but not least, Apple TV got a minor bump up to tvOS 10.1.1 from 10.1.

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All of today’s updates are minor security and bug fixes, with no major features or new functionality added.

Look for the iOS 10.3 beta releases to start arriving any day now.

 

airport · apple watch · appletv · imac · ipad · iphone · macbook pro

2017 Apple Hardware Purchasing Plans

apple_product_family_2015

Just a few days ago, I was talking about my accidental trip into the Amazon ecosystem.  Today, I want to evaluate where I am going with Apple hardware.  What follows is what I think I will be my Apple hardware purchasing plans for 2017 with a little bit of commentary thrown in for fun.

2017 iPhone

Rumors about the 2017 iPhone have been circulating since before the iPhone 7 launch.  What we do know is that the 2017 iPhone, regardless of whether Apple acknowledges it in any meaningful way, will be the tenth anniversary iPhone.  We know that the 2017 iPhone will have a new system on a chip, probably called the A11.  Maybe more RAM.  Personally, I would like to see the return of the squared off sides, like the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 series, but I don’t think that will happen.  What I do think will happen is that we will get a curved iPhone display just like the one used on the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.  With all of this in mind, I do plan on buying a new 2017 iPhone Plus.  We don’t know if the 2017 iPhone will be an ‘S’ year or not.  I feel that if Apple gives us a dramatic form factor redesign in 2017, they should call it the iPhone 8.  If there is more than one ‘large’ model, I will likely get the largest screen/best camera model.

Purchasing Probability – Yes, please!

2017 iPad

I use my iPad Air (October 2013) and 12.9-inch iPad Pro (November 2015) every day and I love them.  For me, the iPad has taken a central role in my daily computing.  Reading the news?  Surfing my favorite websites?  Catching up on Twitter?  Reading ebooks?  Watching TV shows and movies? Checking and replying to email? Yup.  All of this gets done on my iPads.  The iPad Pro covers work-work and ebook reading for class.  The iPad Air takes care of my personal needs.  In 2017, I am hopeful that Apple will release new iPad Pros.  Screen sizes are up for debate.  I don’t expect to replace my work-issued iPad Pro.  Cost is the main reason here.  I would hope that Apple releases an updated 12.9-inch iPad Pro that brings it up to parity with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.  The way I use my iPad Air, it is still working well for me.  I do not expect to upgrade my personal 9.7-inch iPad in 2017.  I do think that 2017, with iOS 11, will be the last year for my beloved Air.  Check back with me in 2018 to see if there is a new 9.7-inch iPad in my future.

Purchasing Probability – Not likely.

Macintosh

The Macintosh is still an important product for me.  Maybe because I have bene an Apple user and fan for so long.  Maybe because I prefer Mac OS over Windows and Linux  I know I am in the minority here, but it’s the way I feel.

In 2016, I purchased a new 5k iMac and I love it!  I chose to go with the 2TB Fusion drive and a 3.3GHz Intel Core i5 CPU.  Thankfully, Apple still allows customers to upgrade the RAM on the iMac, so I stuffed it full of 8GB DIMMs and maxed it out with 32GB of RAM.  There’s no SSD – they are still too expensive for a 1.0TB or larger drive – and I didn’t get a Core i7 CPU either.  And that’s fine.  I think my iMac is super-fast, considering my upgrade from a 2009 17-inch MacBook Pro.  So, I don’t plan on getting a new iMac in 2017.

I’m on the fence about the 2016 MacBook Pro.  I miss having a MacBook for the times I want to do work away from my iMac and home office.  Still, the frustration with the MacBook Pro’s inconsistent battery life, 16GB memory limit, and the use of an older Intel Core CPU are tugging on logical side of my brain, and is disrupting the famous Apple reality distortion field.  See the Ars Technical 13-inch MacBook Pro review for more details.

On the go writing with Microsoft Word and surfing with Safari can easily be done with my iPad Pro.  BBEdit on the Mac and Coda on the iPad Pro are a good match.  But not having OmniGraffle (or Visio), XCode, or Eclipse on the iPad hurts a bit.  I know I can spend another $100 to get OmniGraffle for iOS, but if I am being honest, I don’t use it enough to justify the cost.  I don’t expect there to be new MacBook Pro notebooks in 2017, so I am leaning toward a 2016 MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar and Touch ID.  I would get the 16GB RAM upgrade, however, the aforementioned battery issues, are keeping me from spending the money to upgrade to a 512GB SSD and an i7 CPU.  So, no new iMac and there is still a 50/50 chance for a new MacBook Pro.

I feel sorry for Mac Pro and Mac mini fans.  They are long overdue for some new hardware. Hopefully, 2017 will be their year.

Purchasing Probability – Looking favorable for a 13-inch, Space Grey MacBook Pro.

Apple Watch

The Watch is a good product.  I’m glad I have it over a Fitbit or a Nike+ Fuelband.  I owned both, but I feel that the Apple Watch offers more utility then those other devices.  I love having important to me notifications on my wrist.  I should exercise more, and hey, who shouldn’t, but in day-to-day usage, I just don’t use the fitness features of the Watch over tracking my walks.  With that said, I don’t see myself upgrading to a Series 2 Watch anytime soon.  My original, aka Series 0, Watch Sport model with watchOS 3 is good enough for me.

Purchasing Probability – Not likely.

Apple TV

I do not expect that Apple will refresh the Apple TV in 2017.  I have a 32GB fourth generation Apple TV.  I use it often to watch Netflix and some movies and TV shows purchased from iTunes.  But I don’t use it every day.  I am not a big apps user.  I don’t expect to buy a new Apple TV.  I would buy a new Siri Remote if Apple released one, but I don’t expect any new remote to appear in 2017.

Purchasing Probability – Not likely.

Apple Accessories

In 2016, Apple exited the monitor business.  In place of the Cinema Displays, Apple co-designed a new 5K display with LG called the UltraFine 5K Display.  My iMac doesn’t have USB-C, so I don’t see myself buying a second monitor.  In all honesty, I like the cleanliness of a single monitor on my desk.

Apple is also rumored to be out of the router and Wi-Fi business.  As I recently wrote, this means the end of the line for AirPort networking equipment.  I just purchased my last refurbished AirPort Express.  I wish Apple would stay in this business, because they are very reliable and very easy to setup.

With Apple exiting both of those businesses, I don’t see myself buying the LG display or another AirPort.  If I find myself needing a second monitor in 2017, I need a second monitor or new networking equipment, I see myself getting the Dell UltraSharp 27 Ultra HD 5K UP2715K and an eero mesh Wi-Fi network 3-pack.

My iMac came with a new Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2.  I don’t expect to replace them in 2017.  Mostly because I still like using my Apple Wireless Keyboard (2006) and my Apple Extended II keyboard (1995).  I have gotten better with typing on the Magic Keyboard, but I prefer the key travel of it’s larger format cousins.  I would get a new wireless Magic Keyboard if it included all of the function keys of the Bluetooth Apple Wireless Keyboard (2006), but we all know that Jony Ive won’t allow such a monstrosity to be created.  Maybe if the Magic Keyboard was released with the same amount of key travel and included the Touch Bar and Touch ID I might spring for it.  After all, I’m not above spending $200 for a great Apple keyboard.

Purchasing Probability – Unlikely, without the release of an iMac compatible Touch Bar and Touch ID Magic Keyboard.

Closing Thoughts

So, there are my plans for Apple hardware in 2017.  I don’t think that there are going to be any surprises for me.  New releases of Mac OS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS are surely going to be welcomed and will delight customers.  I think I am most excited about a new iPhone.  I feel that a new MacBook Pro would be helpful with my school work, primarily with my upcoming programming classes this year.  I wish I had the option of upgrading to 32GB of memory, but there are still issues to be worked out there.


Image credit: MacWorld.com, 2015.

airport · apple · eero · google · netgear · networking · tp-link

One Last Go With the Apple AirPort Extreme and Express

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I have been using Apple’s AirPort Extreme and Express Wi-Fi equipment for about two years now.  In a fit of rage over my previous equipment’s constantly poor performance, constant reboots, and dropped connections, I ripped everything out, put in a new Surfboard cable modem and installed a refurbished AirPort Extreme (802.11ac) and Express (802.11n).  I never looked back.

I never looked back, that is, until Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg Technology (Warning: auto-play video…Grrrr!), last month, reported that Apple has quietly “disbanded its division that develops wireless routers”.  The last time Apple updated their networking hardware was June 2013 for the AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule (for performing wireless Time Machine backups).  The AirPort Express last received an update four years ago, in June 2012.

Since seeing the report back on November 21, I have been on the prowl for a second refurbished AirPort Express to extend the Wi-Fi coverage in the kid’s bedrooms.  It was one of those things that was on my “I’ll get around to it” lists.  Knowing that the AirPort line of products are on the way out lit the fire I needed to get in my last go around with AirPort.

Earlier this week, I happened to check the Apple Certified Refurbished store and saw that all the AirPort hardware was in stock.  I hastily purchased another Express.  It should arrive today.

Some AirPort History

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Apple AirPort Base Station (Graphite) 1999 – via AppleToTheCore.me

AirPort has been around for a long time.  The original AirPort Base Station (sans Extreme) was released all the way back in July 1999 – the same year Apple released now classic Macintosh machines such as the iBook, the CRT-based iMac, the Power Mac G4, and the PowerBook.

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Apple AirPort Extreme 2007 Edition

Truth be told, my current AirPort hardware is not my first.  I purchased a first-generation AirPort Extreme base station from circa 2007, when CompUSA was closing their brick and mortar retail operations.  It supported 802.11a/b/g, and the draft 802.11n specification.  (For clarification, the previously mentioned ripping out of hardware was non-Apple 802.11n equipment.)

Oh, What a Mesh!

If you are looking to replace your existing Wi-Fi hardware, I can’t recommend Apple’s router and Wi-Fi hardware.  While my AirPort hardware has been extreme-ly (I’m not sorry about that pun) reliable for me, there is no point in investing in new hardware now that we have seemingly reached the end of the road for AirPort.

Besides, mesh Wi-Fi networks are all the rage these days.  At a high-level, traditional Wi-Fi networks that have access points sprinkled around a home or small office.  Each node connects back to a router base station.  As you move between access points, the connection must move (manually or automatically) between the access points (Brain, Wilson, Johnson, 2001).  Mesh network connections, on the other hand, are spread out among satellite nodes.  All of the nodes talk to each other to create a single, larger wireless area network (Roos, 2007).

eero Web Photos
eero Home WiFi System 3-pack

If you are looking to install a new Wi-Fi network in your home or small office, I would suggest investigating mesh Wi-Fi networking equipment from eero, Netgear’s Orbi line, Google WiFi (if you are OK with Alphabet snorting up even more of your personal data), and others.  Jim Salter, over at The Wirecutter (part of The New York Times Company) has a great overview of the current state of mesh Wi-Fi networking equipment.  As of this writing, Mr. Salter last updated his post on November 30, 2016.

Mesh networks aren’t for everyone.  They can be expensive.  The eero 3-pack, pictured above, is $499.  If you have a small home or apartment, you can very likely do well with a single Wi-Fi Router like the TP-Link Archer C7 (TheWirecutter.com review).  The C7 can be purchased for under $100.

Looking Ahead

If you find yourself in a similar situation as I am, and you want to get that one last addition to your home network, you should checkout the RefurbStore website.  It “looks into” Apple’s refurbished inventory and allows you to setup an alert when the part you are interested is back in stock.  For example, two days ago, Apple had AirPort Express units in stock.  Today, they are all sold out.  RefurbStore looks like a good way to keep tabs on what Apple has available over time.  It took me about four weeks to finally find the Express in stock.

For me, I am sticking with my AirPort Extreme base station and two AirPort Express nodes for a little while longer.  Looking down the road, if I squint, I think I see an eero two or three node mesh network in my future. But for now, I’m


References

Marshall Brain, Tracy V. Wilson & Bernadette Johnson “How WiFi Works” April 30, 2001. HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved from: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/wireless-network.htm, December 30, 2016.

Dave Roos “How Wireless Mesh Networks Work” June 20, 2007. HowStuffWorks.com.  Retrieved from: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/how-wireless-mesh-networks-work.htm December 30, 2016.


 

amazon · echo dot · fire tv

My Accidental Amazon Ecosystem

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I noticed a funny thing while working in my home office today: There’s a lot of Amazon stuff around. Amazon Prime membership. Amazon Fire 7 tablet (5th generation).  Amazon Fire TV Stick. And now, the Amazon echo dot, which was given to me as Christmas gift.

Woah! That’s a lot of Amazon tech for a self proclaimed Apple fan.

I didn’t get here by way of a conscious effort. The Amazon ecosystem crept into my life slowly over the course of 2016. First was my Prime membership with a trial in January and for real in February. Then, for our family vacation to the beach in Cape Cod, I purchased a “throw away” Amazon Fire 7 tablet.  Then Amazon Prime Day rolled around in July, and I was looking for an easier way to watch Amazon’s Bosch on my TV rather than watching it on my 27-inch iMac. Two days later, an Amazon Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote arrived.  And then there is the Amazon echo dot sitting at the corner of my desk that I received as a Christmas gift.

That’s a lot of Amazon stuff.

So, what now? I don’t use the Amazon ecosystem for buying ebooks, music, TV shows, or movies. For that, I solely rely on Apple and their various iTunes stores.  While I don’t expect that to change in 2017, I think that there will be some chances for Amazon to “win” some of my personal time.

I think that the Fire 7 tablet is a lame duck. All of my ebook content from the iBook Store. The only Amazon ebooks that I have are a handful of $2.99 or less books I got for the beach.

I do really enjoy reading Connelly’s Bosh and Lincoln Lawyer books, so when the new season of Bosch is released, I plan on watching with the Fire TV Stick.  I feel that Netflix and iTunes content will stay with my Apple TV.

Then there is the echo dot. The state of AI gadgets, in my opinion, is still very much a “hobby”. Yet, with an Amazon Prime membership, I find that I am buying more things from Amazon than I did in 2015. And that is the whole point of all of this stuff from Amazon.  To get you to buy more things from them.

Damn you, Jeff Bezos, you got me!

With that in mind, I think I will start 2017 by playing with the echo dot to buy things. I think it will be an interesting experiment and a completely different use case than how I use Siri.

Having slipped into the Amazon ecosystem by someone who is such an Apple fan was a jarring realization. I think it happened because subconsciously I feel that Amazon, like Apple, provide a better experience than those of say the Microsoft or Alphabet Google ecosystem.  (Disclaimer: I am a die hard Office 365 subscriber.)

I have been buying goods from Amazon for so long now (I started buying things from Amazon back when it was an online book store), that I have come to trust them with my information in a way that I never felt comfortable with Google’s services.

So, it will be an interesting year, 2017, as I dip my toes into the full Amazon ecosystem with the Alexia-powered echo dot and Fire TV.  I’ll use the Fire tablet to configure and manage the two.

accessories · keyboard · logitech

Logitech Create Backlit Keyboard 12.9-inch Mini Review

create-keyboard-hero-blue-1000_840pxI have been using my iPad Pro 12.9-inch for the last year.  When I purchased my iPad Pro, I purchased the Apple Smart Keyboard.  This past November 22, after a year of the Smart Keyboard and having read reviews from bloggers and hearing podcasters talk about the Logitech Create keyboards, I decided to get one.  What follows are my thoughts and impressions about 12.9-inch Create keyboard.

Logitech Create Backlit Keyboard Case Mini Review

I love using my iPhones and iPads without cases, yet I cannot stand having scratches, nicks, or scuffs so I always use a case or some sort.  My iPad Pro, issued to me by my employer, has spent the last year protected by the Apple Smart Keyboard and the Silicone Case.

The Logitech Create 12.9-inch keyboard, in my opinion, is on the opposite end of the keyboard spectrum from the Apple Smart Keyboard.  The Create fore goes Apple’s minimalist obsession and let’s their Smart Connector-based keyboard be true to itself.  To get a sense of the size, the keys on the Create keyboard are about the same size as those on the Apple Magic Keyboard.  The best part about the Create keyboard is that there is actually movement in the keys (key travel).  If you like the keyboard on the MacBook Air, then I think you will like this keyboard a lot.  Since retiring my 17-inch MacBook Pro, the iPad Pro with Create keyboard has become my on-the-go writing tool.

The key caps are a nice size and I can easily touch type on this keyboard just like I can on my wireless Microsoft (at the office) and Apple (at home) keyboards.  The Create keyboard also has an extra row of function keys that are missing from Apple’s Smart Keyboard.  Create also sports backlit keys, another feature that is missing from the Apple stock keyboard. The function keys that I find myself using the most are search, backlight brightness up and down, lock, and home.  In the position of the Fn key on the Magic Keyboard, Logitech placed a keyboard key, which when pressed, brings up the iOS 10 on-screen keyboard.

I have been using the Create keyboard with three main apps on my iPad – Microsoft Word, Outlook, and OneNote.  When I get in a groove, and typing furiously (for me), my personal preference is for the Create keyboard over the Apple Smart Keyboard.  For writing in my lap while on the go, I feel that the Create keyboard is the sturdier of the two.

The Logitech Create keyboard case is available in five colors: classic red with gold keyboard top, purple, blue with silver keyboard top (the version I purchased), black with silver keyboard top, and black.  I have a silver iPad Pro, and I thought that the blue/silver case looked the best partnered up with my iPad.   Red/gold was a close runner up.  If I had a black iPad Pro, I would have only considered the two black versions.  Personal preferences will obviously vary.

For as much as I like the Logitech Create keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, there are a few downsides to consider.

The Create keyboards is big and heavy.  It’s the price to be paid for being true to itself.  Much more so than the two-piece Apple solution.  It’s something buyers need to consider if they travel around a lot.  For me, the extra bulk is not too much of a problem because I don’t travel much.  Logitech has included a wrist rest, however, it is shallow, and my palms hang off the edge.  This is not a deal breaker.  The total size of the keyboard and wrist rest is constrained by the size of the iPad Pro.  I am glad that Logitech used the majority of the space for the keys over that of the wrist rest.

There are magnets in the wrist rest that will put the iPad to sleep just like any other Smart Cover.  The magnets aren’t powerful enough to keep the iPad closed.  I attribute this to the sheer bulk of the Create case.  If I pick up my iPad Pro by the top half of the Create case, it will open.  While walking around the office with my iPad, there is some minimal movement between the iPad and Create.  Because of this, I worry about the plastic key caps rubbing up against the glass screen and marking it up over time.  As such, I felt it was necessary to buy a glass screen protector for the iPad Pro.  I have no evidence that the screen would become damaged.  It was an emotional response to my desire to keep my hardware looking like it just came out of the box.  Again, results will vary.

The one gripe that I do have, that was “fixed” with the Create keyboard for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, was the inclusion of a loop for storing an Apple Pencil.  There is a lot of space where the Pencil loop could have gone in the 12.9-inch model. I personally feel that early adopter feedback informed Logitech’s decision to include the loop on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro Create keyboard case.  I am looking forward to seeing the loop on a future 12.9-inch Create keyboard.

Conclusion

The Logitech Create keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the keyboard for people who prefer a more traditional keyboard experience.  I find it delightful to type on and the experience is more like the other keyboards in my life.  I also appreciate that Logitech let this be the keyboard that it wants to be – size and weight be damned – and I appreciate it.

The Logitech Create Backlit Keyboard Case for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro can be purchased for $149.95 from both the Logitech and Apple online stores or in retail stores that sell iPad Pros.