The new iPad 10.2 (2022) brought one upgrade that’s unique in any iPad so far: the front camera has moved from the short edge to the longer edge.
Now, that might not sound so much like an upgrade as a, uh, side-grade, but I’ve personally been desperate for this change since reviewing the first iPad Pro that featured the rounded-corner design that’s now standard across (almost) the whole iPad range.
That’s the point where the iPad really transformed into a ‘landscape-first’ device. The earlier versions felt distinctly ‘portrait-first’, with the camera at the top and the Home button at the bottom. It would be shown browsing digital magazines or scrolling websites in portrait, and even the first keyboard for iPad held the screen upright when working in Pages.
Over time, that changed – but when the iPad Pro design was altered to remove the Home button, there was an increased focus on the idea of the iPad as a laptop alternative. Over time, more and more apps had assumed that you’d use the tablet in landscape instead of portrait, and as the expectation grew that most people with an iPad Pro would have it in some kind of keyboard case, landscape because the norm for pro apps.
But through all this time – as the iPad Air and iPad mini (2021) followed the design lead and got the sleeker shape – the camera stayed at the top of the iPad when viewed in portrait. Or, rather, it stayed at the end of the iPad when used in landscape, as they more commonly are.
It was clear immediately upon using the new design of iPad Pro that keeping it at the end was a mistake, and not just because of the fact that it looks weird to have someone looking alongside the camera in a video call. We’re all used to people looking just below the camera in chats, but looking to the side is like they’re being interviewed by an off-camera documentary crew.
But it had a practical impact, too – when held in landscape (as in, held physically in your hands), you’re very likely to cover the Face ID sensor, either with your supporting hand on that side or with your other one as it reaches for the screen and blocks the angle from the other side. Face ID has never been a totally comfortable fit on iPad Pro for this reason; it’s perfect when used with the Magic Keyboard case, but not really when handheld. But you know what would work great more often in both cases? Moving it to the landscape edge!
It was clear from the first new-look iPad Pro that the camera needed to move, but we’ve had to wait until now for it to happen on any model and… it hasn’t been done to the new iPad Pro (2022).
I’m happy the new iPad 10th Gen has started this revolution, but it’s totally bizarre that the new iPad Pro didn’t follow suit. Apple hasn’t offered any kind of explanation, and it makes these new launches look disjointed, frankly.
Obviously, I wouldn’t expect the change to come to the iPad Air (2022) or iPad mini when they’re in the middle of their life and aren’t being upgraded in other ways yet… but the iPad Pro is already being updated to include the M2 chip! That just makes it all the stranger that Apple didn’t switch the camera to the landscape side on both new models, rather than just the cheaper one.
Presumably this is a change that will roll out to other models in the next year or so, but until then it gives the base iPad a notable, and welcome, advantage over its siblings.