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Saturday, November 19, 2022

I Was the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter. This Is What Could Become of It.

I Was the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter. This Is What Could Become of It.

Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

By Yoel Roth

Mr. Roth is a former head of trust and safety at Twitter.

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“This month, I chose to leave my position leading trust and safety at Elon Musk’s Twitter.

My teams were responsible for drafting Twitter’s rules and figuring out how to apply them consistently to hundreds of millions of tweets per day. In my more than seven years at the company, we exposed government-backed troll farms meddling in elections, introduced tools for contextualizing dangerous misinformation and, yes, banned President Donald Trump from the service. The Cornell professor Tarleton Gillespie called teams like mine the “custodians of the internet.” The work of online sanitation is unrelenting and contentious.

Enter Mr. Musk.

In a news release announcing his agreement to acquire the company, Mr. Musk laid out a simple thesis: “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.” He said he planned to revitalize Twitter by eliminating spam and drastically altering its policies to remove only illegal speech.

Since the deal closed on Oct‌. 27‌‌, many of the changes made by Mr. Musk and his team have been sudden and alarming for employees and users alike, including rapid-fire layoffs and an ill-fated foray into reinventing Twitter’s verification system. A wave of employee resignations caused the hashtag #RIPTwitter to trend on the site on Thursday — not for the first time — alongside questions about whether a skeleton crew of remaining staff members can keep the service, now 16 years old, afloat.

And yet when it comes to content moderation, much has stayed the same since Mr. Musk’s acquisition. Twitter’s rules continue to ban a wide range of lawful but awful speech. Mr. Musk has insisted publicly that the company’s practices and policies are unchanged. Are we just in the early days — or has the self-declared free speech absolutist had a change of heart?

The truth is that even Elon Musk’s brand of radical transformation has unavoidable limits.

Advertisers have played the most direct role thus far in moderating Mr. Musk’s free speech ambitions. As long as 90 percent of the company’s revenue comes from ads (as was the case when Mr. Musk bought the company), Twitter has little choice but to operate in a way that won’t imperil the revenue streams that keep the lights on. This has already proved to be challenging.

Almost immediately upon the acquisition’s close, a wave of racist and antisemitic trolling emerged on Twitter. Wary marketers, including those at General Mills, Audi and Pfizer, slowed down or paused ad spending on the platform, kicking off a crisis within the company to protect precious ad revenue.

In response, Mr. Musk empowered my team to move more aggressively to remove hate speech across the platform — censoring more content, not less. Our actions worked: Before my departure, I shared data about Twitter’s enforcement of hateful conduct, showing that by some measures, Twitter was actually safer under Mr. Musk than it was before.

Marketers have not shied away from using the power of the purse: In the days following Mr. Musk’s acquisition, the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, a key ad industry trade group, published an open call to Twitter to adhere to existing commitments to “brand safety.” It’s perhaps for this reason that Mr. Musk has said he wants to move away from ads as Twitter’s primary revenue source: His ability to make decisions unilaterally about the site’s future is constrained by a marketing industry he neither controls nor has managed to win over.

But even if Mr. Musk is able to free Twitter from the influence of powerful advertisers, his path to unfettered speech is still not clear. Twitter remains bound by the laws and regulations of the countries in which it operates. Amid the spike in racial slurs on Twitter in the days after the acquisition, the European Union’s chief platform regulator posted on the site to remind Mr. Musk that in Europe, an unmoderated free-for-all won’t fly. In the United States, members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission have raised concerns about the company’s recent actions. And outside the United States and the European Union, the situation becomes even more complex: Mr. Musk’s principle of keying Twitter’s policies on local laws could push the company to censor speech it was loath to restrict in the past, including political dissent.

Regulators have significant tools at their disposal to enforce their will on Twitter and on Mr. Musk. Penalties for noncompliance with Europe’s Digital Services Act could total as much as 6 percent of the company’s annual revenue. In the United States, the F.T.C. has shown an increasing willingness to exact significant fines for noncompliance with its orders (like a blockbuster $5 billion fine imposed on Facebook in 2019). In other key markets for Twitter, such as India, in-country staff members work with the looming threat of personal intimidation and arrest if their employers fail to comply with local directives. Even a Musk-led Twitter will struggle to shrug off these constraints.

There is one more source of power on the web — one that most people don’t think much about but may be the most significant check on unrestrained speech on the mainstream internet: the app stores operated by Google and Apple.

While Twitter has been publicly tight-lipped about how many people use the company’s mobile apps (rather than visit Twitter on a web browser), its 2021 annual report didn’t mince words: The company’s release of new products “is dependent upon and can be impacted by digital storefront operators” that decide the guidelines and enforce them, it reads. “Such review processes can be difficult to predict, and certain decisions may harm our business.”

“May harm our business” is an understatement. Failure to adhere to Apple’s and Google’s guidelines would be catastrophic, risking Twitter’s expulsion from their app stores and making it more difficult for billions of potential users to get Twitter’s services. This gives Apple and Google enormous power to shape the decisions Twitter makes.

Apple’s guidelines for developers are reasonable and plainly stated: They emphasize creating “a safe experience for users” and stress the importance of protecting children. The guidelines quote Justice Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” quip, saying the company will ban apps that are “over the line.”

In practice, the enforcement of these rules is fraught.

In my time at Twitter, representatives of the app stores regularly raised concerns about content available on our platform. On one occasion, a member of an app review team contacted Twitter, saying with consternation that he had searched for “#boobs” in the Twitter app and was presented with … exactly what you’d expect. Another time, on the eve of a major feature release, a reviewer sent screenshots of several days-old tweets containing an English-language racial slur, asking Twitter representatives whether they should be permitted to appear on the service.

Reviewers hint that app approval could be delayed or perhaps even withheld entirely if issues are not resolved to their satisfaction — although the standards for resolution are often implied. Even as they appear to be driven largely by manual checks and anecdotes, these review procedures have the power to derail company plans and trigger all-hands-on-deck crises for weeks or months at a time.

Whose values are these companies defending when they enforce their policies? While the wide array of often conflicting global laws no doubt plays a part, the most direct explanation is that platform policies are shaped by the preferences of a small group of predominantly American tech executives. Steve Jobs didn’t believe porn should be allowed in the App Store, and so it isn’t allowed. Stripped bare, the decisions have a dismaying lack of legitimacy.

It’s this very lack of legitimacy that Mr. Musk, correctly, points to when he calls for greater free speech and for the establishment of a “content moderation council” to guide the company’s policies — an idea Google and Apple would be right to borrow for the governance of their app stores. But even as he criticizes the capriciousness of platform policies, he perpetuates the same lack of legitimacy through his impulsive changes and tweet-length pronouncements about Twitter’s rules. In appointing himself “chief twit,” Mr. Musk has made clear that at the end of the day, he’ll be the one calling the shots.

It was for this reason that I chose to leave the company: A Twitter whose policies are defined by edict has little need for a trust and safety function dedicated to its principled development.

So where will Twitter go from here? Some of the company’s decisions in the weeks and months to come, like the near certainty of allowing Mr. Trump’s account back on the service, will have an immediate, perceptible impact. But to truly understand the shape of Twitter going forward, I’d encourage looking not just at the choices the company makes but also at how Mr. Musk makes them. Should the moderation council materialize, will it represent more than just the loudest, predominantly American voices complaining about censorship — including, critically, the approximately 80 percent of Twitter users who reside outside the United States? Will the company continue to invest in features like Community Notes, which brings Twitter users into the work of platform governance? Will Mr. Musk’s tweets announcing policy changes become less frequent and abrupt?

In the longer term, the moderating influences of advertisers, regulators and, most critically of all, app stores may be welcome for those of us hoping to avoid an escalation in the volume of dangerous speech online. Twitter will have to balance its new owner’s goals against the practical realities of life on Apple’s and Google’s internet — no easy task for the employees who have chosen to remain. And as I departed the company, the calls from the app review teams had already begun.”

Friday, November 18, 2022

Apple Watch Ultra - One Month later!?

Elon Musk’s Twitter Teeters on the Edge After Another 1,200 Leave

Elon Musk’s Twitter Teeters on the Edge After Another 1,200 Leave

“Mr. Musk sent emails on Friday asking to learn about Twitter’s underlying technology as key infrastructure teams have been decimated.

Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. So many workers have left that Twitter users have questioned whether the site would survive.
Jason Henry for The New York Times

Elon Musk sent a flurry of emails to Twitter employees on Friday morning with a plea.

“Anyone who actually writes software, please report to the 10th floor at 2 p.m. today,” he wrote in a two-paragraph message, which was viewed by The New York Times. “Thanks, Elon.”

About 30 minutes later, Mr. Musk sent another email saying he wanted to learn about Twitter’s “tech stack,” a term used to describe a company’s software and related systems. Then in another email, he asked some people to fly to Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco to meet in person.

Twitter is teetering on the edge as Mr. Musk remakes the company after buying it for $44 billion last month. The billionaire has pushed relentlessly to put his imprint on the social media service, slashing 50 percent of its work force, firing dissenterspursuing new subscription products and delivering a harsh message that the company needs to shape up or it will face bankruptcy.

Now the question is whether Mr. Musk, 51, has gone too far. On Thursday, hundreds of Twitter employees resigned after Mr. Musk gave them a deadline to decide whether to leave or stay. So many workers chose to depart that Twitter users began questioning whether the site would survive, tweeting farewell messages to the service and turning hashtags like #TwitterMigration and #TwitterTakeover into trending topics.

Some internal estimates showed that at least 1,200 full-time employees resigned on Thursday, three people close to the company said. Twitter had 7,500 full-time employees at the end of October, which dropped to about 3,700 after mass layoffs this month.

The employee numbers are likely to remain fluid as the dust settles on the exits, with confusion abounding over who is keeping a tally of workers and running other workplace systems. Some employees who quit said they were separating themselves from the company by disconnecting from email and logging out of the internal messaging system Slack because human resources representatives were not available.

Mr. Musk and representatives for Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

Elon Musk pushed relentlessly to put his imprint on the social media service, slashing 50 percent of its work force.
Ryan Lash/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images

But the billionaire tweeted on Friday what he said would be changes to Twitter’s content policy. Hateful tweets will no longer be promoted algorithmically in users’ feeds, he said, but they will not be taken down. He also reinstated several previously banned accounts, including those of the comedian Kathy Griffin and the author Jordan Peterson.

Perhaps the most crucial question now is how Twitter can keep running after the giant reduction to its work force in such a short time. The effects of the cuts and resignations have played out across the company’s technology teams, people with knowledge of the matter said.

One team known as Twitter Command Center, a 20-person organization crucial to preventing outages and technology failures during high-traffic events, had multiple people from around the world resign, two former employees said. The “core services” team, which handles computing architecture, was cut to four people from more than 100. Other teams that deal with how media appears in tweets or how profiles show follower counts were down to zero people.

Changes at Elon Musk’s Twitter

A swift overhaul. Elon Musk has moved quickly to revamp Twitter since he completed his $44 billion buyout of the social media company in October, warning of a bleak financial picture and a need for new products. Here’s a look at some of the changes so far:

“Wednesday offered a clean exit and 80 percent of the remaining were gone,” Peter Clowes, a senior software engineer, tweeted on Thursday about the departures on his team. “3/75 engineers stayed.” He said on Twitter that he quit on Thursday.

Mr. Musk is also considering shuttering one of Twitter’s three main U.S. data centers, a location known as SMF1 in Sacramento, which is used to store information needed to run the social media site, four people with knowledge of the effort said. If the data center in Sacramento is taken offline, it will leave the company with data centers in Atlanta and Portland, Ore., with potentially less backup computing capacity in case something fails.

Twitter is still operating, but it may become harder for the company to fix serious issues when they come up, former employees said. One former Twitter engineer likened the service’s current state to Wile E. Coyote, the Looney Tunes cartoon character, as he runs off the edge of a cliff. Though he may still be running in midair for some time, once he looks down, he drops like a stone.

“The larger and more prominent a platform is, the more care and feeding is needed to keep it running and maintain the expectations of the users,” said Richard Forno, the assistant director of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “It’s a huge challenge.”

Mr. Musk sent a flurry of emails to Twitter employees on Friday morning with a plea: “Anyone who actually writes software, please report to the 10th floor at 2 p.m. today.”
Jason Henry for The New York Times

The employee reductions are coinciding with Twitter’s entering one of its busiest periods in terms of visitors to the site. The World Cup, which begins on Sunday, is expected to bring a deluge of traffic to Twitter, which is the world’s fourth most visited website, according to Similarweb, a digital intelligence platform that tracks web traffic. Twitter gets 6.9 billion visits each month, slightly more than Instagram’s 6.4 billion, though far fewer than Google, YouTube or Facebook, according to Similarweb estimates.

On Twitter late Thursday, Mr. Musk professed confidence that the service would be fine.

“The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried,” he tweeted.

Fortune reported earlier that 1,000 to 1,200 Twitter employees had resigned. The Information earlier reported on some of Twitter’s infrastructure issues. The Verge earlier reported on departures from the Twitter Command Center.

Keeping a site like Twitter online is typically a task for senior engineers, who must constantly guard against cyberattacks and monitor web traffic to ensure servers are not overloaded, Dr. Forno said. If too many veteran employees depart, leaving Twitter without the expertise or manpower to monitor or quickly fix issues, problems could start, he said.

Many tech issues can be fixed remotely, but some may require workers at Twitter’s data centers around the country, Dr. Forno added. If issues fall through the cracks, Twitter users are not likely to see the site disappear all at once, at least at first. But timelines could start refreshing more slowly, the site might struggle to load and users would find Twitter to be full of glitches.

“It’s like putting a car on the road, hitting the accelerator and then the driver jumps out,” he said. “How far is it going to go before it crashes?”

Inside Twitter on Friday, remaining employees said they were bewildered by Mr. Musk’s changing directives. The company had said on Thursday afternoon that it was closing “our office buildings” and disabling employee badge access until Monday. But in his emails on Friday, Mr. Musk appeared to want to talk to people in person at the company’s San Francisco offices.

Employees were also having difficulties figuring out who was still on staff, and what areas of infrastructure needed more support to keep things up and running.

One worker who wanted to resign said she had spent two days looking for her manager, whose identity she no longer knew because so many people had quit in the days beforehand. After finally finding her direct supervisor, she tendered her resignation. The next day, her supervisor also quit.

Others were spending hours trying to track down which teams they were on. Some said they were asked to oversee duties they had never handled before.

The changes were occurring in a near total information vacuum internally, employees said. Twitter’s internal communications staff has been laid off or left, and workers said they were looking outward for information from media articles. Mr. Musk has increasingly downplayed the role of traditional media over the past few months, citing Twitter as one of the best platforms for the rise in “citizen journalism,” as he put it.

Kate Conger contributed reporting.“

iPad Pro M2: What Does "Pro" Even Mean?

Hundreds said to have opted to leave Twitter over Elon Musk ultimatum - The Washington Post

Hundreds said to have opted to leave Twitter over Musk ultimatum

The number of likely departures prompted Musk to ease his return-to-office edict and managers to meet to decide which engineers to ask back

Elon Musk eased off a return-to-office mandate he had issued a week ago, now telling employees that they would be allowed to work remotely if their managers assert they are making “an excellent contribution.” (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg News)
Elon Musk eased off a return-to-office mandate he had issued a week ago, now telling employees that they would be allowed to work remotely if their managers assert they are making “an excellent contribution.” (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg News)

SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of Twitter employees refused Thursday to sign a pledge to work longer hours, threatening the site’s ability to keep operating and prompting hurried debates among managers over who should be asked to return, current and former employees said.

The number of engineers tending to multiple critical systems had been reduced to two, one or even zero, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The crisis came in response to an ultimatum new owner Elon Musk issued Wednesday demanding that employees sign a pledge to work harder by 5 p.m. Eastern time Thursday or accept three months’ severance pay.

In an early sign that the number of those declining to sign was greater than anticipated, Musk eased off a return-to-office mandate he had issued a week ago, telling employees Thursday they would be allowed to work remotely if their managers assert they are making “an excellent contribution.”

But it was too late to keep Twitter from a precarious position, several workers said.

Elon Musk emailed an ultimatum to Twitter employees on Nov. 16, asking staff to commit to "working long hours at high intensity" or resign. (Video: Reuters)

“I know of six critical systems (like ‘serving tweets’ levels of critical) which no longer have any engineers,” a former employee said. “There is no longer even a skeleton crew manning the system. It will continue to coast until it runs into something, and then it will stop.”

Workers offered varying estimates of how many people remained employed at Twitter, ranging from 2,000 to 2,500, down from the 3,500 or so believed to have remained after an initial round of layoffs affecting roughly half the staff this month. Access cutoffs have been delayed, because they are not sure who is gone, because most of human resources left, according to one of the employees.

Among those who were said to have declined to sign the pledge was half the trust and safety policy team, including a majority of those who work on spotting misinformation, spam, fake accounts and impersonation, according to one employee familiar with the team.

Meanwhile, several critical engineering teams were reported to have been hollowed out. The team that runs the service Gizmoduck, which powers and stores all information in user profiles across the site, was entirely gone, according to a recent department head who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to detail the departures.

“Every mistake in code and operations is now deadly” said a former engineer who departed the company this week. Those left “are going to be overwhelmed, overworked, and because of that more likely to make mistakes.”

Departing employees filled the Twitter hashtag #LoveWhereYouWorked with public farewells.

“I thought my soul was already fully crushed after the last two weeks. I was so wrong. Today has been rough,” one tweeted. “There will never be a better culture than what we had. We know it. Every other tech company knows it.”

“Wow, this is a lot of people saying goodbye,” one current employee said Thursday, referring to internal posts on the company’s Slack channels.

Twitter employees weren’t the only ones saying goodbye Thursday night. As news of the depleted engineering teams spread across the site, Twitter users began preparing for the worst — exchanging contact information, trying to download their Twitter data, and posting potential “final posts” in case the site were to go down permanently.

As of 9 p.m. Eastern time, the top trend on Twitter in the United States was “#RIPTwitter,” followed by the names of alternative social networks such as Tumblr, Discord, and Mastodon as users mulled life after tweets.

Thursday evening there were scattered reports of Twitter not working for some users., a site that collects reports of websites not working, showed a spike in issues for Twitter.

Musk tweeted later that evening that the site “hit another all-time high in Twitter usage lol.”

Meanwhile, words were projected onto the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, calling Musk a “worthless billionaire” and a “bankruptcy baby,” among other names. It was unclear who the organizers of the demonstration were.

Elon Musk was called “worthless billionaire” in a projection on the wall of the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on Nov. 17. (Video: Linda Chong/The Washington Post)

Musk’s return-to-office order had been a source of tension since it was issued on Nov. 9. In an email, he told employees they were expected back at their desks the next day. At a follow-up staff meeting on Nov. 10, Musk said that “exceptional” employees could continue to work from home, as many have since the pandemic began. But the return-to-office order remained a source of grumbling for Twitter staffers who had remained at the company after Musk-ordered layoffs Nov. 4 eliminated approximately half of Twitter’s jobs.

Musk did not say why he revised his return-to-office order. One Twitter staff member said the numbers of employees seeking to leave had alarmed many of Twitter’s managers, who had formed “war rooms” to determine which employees should be asked to stay on.

Resignations and departures were already taking a toll on Twitter’s service, employees said. “Breakages are already happening slowly and accumulating,” one said. “If you want to export your tweets, do it now.”

Hate speech and other abuse was also likely to spike, employees said. About half of Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, declined to sign the pledge, a co-worker said.

The easing of the return-to-office order was the latest change in Musk’s decisions as head of Twitter. Musk also has halted his initiative imposing an $8 monthly subscription fee on accounts labeled with Twitter’s blue check mark.

Musk, who purchased the company for $44 billion late last month, has said he wants to increase the platform’s ability to make money, focusing on ways to drive revenue and slashing costs. Musk, who is also chief executive of SpaceX and Tesla, is known for his companies’ hard-charging cultures and has famously described spending nights in a sleeping bag on the factory floor.

On Wednesday, Musk took the stand in Delaware Chancery Court in a trial over a shareholder lawsuit stemming from a compensation package he received as Tesla CEO. He also defended some of his actions at Twitter, including bringing in Tesla engineers to evaluate Twitter’s engineering staff.

Musk said in a Wednesday email outlining the severance offer that Twitter would be more of an engineering-focused operation going forward. And while the design and product management areas would still be important and report to him, he said, “those writing great code will constitute the majority of our team and have the greatest sway.”

Gerrit De Vynck, Will Oremus and Linda Chong contributed to this report."

Hundreds said to have opted to leave Twitter over Elon Musk ultimatum - The Washington Post

Monday, November 14, 2022

Apple iPad Pro (2022) review: bump the chip - The Verge

Apple iPad Pro (2022) review: bump the chip

"Apple’s latest iPad Pro has one upgrade from last year: a new processor. That enables a new feature for the Apple Pencil and is technically faster than the old one. But since this year’s update is so small, here’s a wish list for things when Apple does redesign its top-of-the-line iPad.

A 2022 Apple iPad Pro in a Magic Keyboard case on a wooden desk.

Apple’s new iPad Pro, just like the last iPad Pro

It’s a weird year for the iPad Pro. Apple’s top-of-the-line tablet computer has gotten one of its smallest upgrades in recent memory, while the new 10th-gen iPad received things Pro owners have been longing for on their devices for years. And the midtier iPad Air continues to get better with each generation, which just encroaches more on the Pro’s territory. Owners of existing iPad Pro models can happily hang on to what they have and not miss much; if you’re considering buying a Pro this year, I encourage you to look for a sale on last year’s models before committing to the cost of a brand new one.

Still, the $799-and-up iPad Pro remains The Best iPad in Apple’s lineup, the iPad for those who want the best screen, the best performance, and the latest hardware and are willing to pay for it. This year’s update doesn’t change that. It has the same external hardware and design as the 2021 model, but inside, it gets the latest M2 silicon from Apple and upgraded Wi-Fi capabilities. And if you’re an artist that likes using an iPad, there’s a new feature exclusive to the new Pro that makes working with the Pencil easier.

In terms of hardware and design, there’s really nothing to say that wasn’t covered in our review of the 2021 model, so I encourage you to read that for the full rundown. This new iPad Pro has the same general design we’ve seen since 2018 — it does feel overdue for a refresh, but we didn’t get it this year.

The Mini LED display on the 12.9-inch model remains tremendous and a joy to look at, whether you’re watching movies or just doing day-to-day productivity work. Sadly, it’s still limited to the largest iPad — the 11-inch Pro has the same standard ProMotion LCD that it’s had since 2018. (With the 10th-gen iPad and iPad Air basically offering the same size screen and design as the 11-inch Pro, it’s really starting to feel like a forgotten stepchild in Apple’s iPad lineup, which bums me out personally as an 11-inch owner.)

A close up of the back of the 2022 Apple iPad Pro showing the iPad Pro logo.
It’s how you tell people you’re a Pro.

All of the accessories for the iPad Pro carry over to this year’s model, including the same Magic Keyboard case and second-gen Apple Pencil. The 10th-gen iPad got a new Magic Keyboard Folio that’s more flexible than the Pro’s keyboard option and includes a full function row, but it’s not compatible with either version of the Pro, sadly.

Inside, the iPad Pro gets the latest M2 silicon, matching what you can get in the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro released earlier this year. It’s faster, at least in benchmark tests, and includes M2-specific capabilities like a stronger media encoding engine. It also enables recording ProRes video with the iPad Pro’s cameras, which is very useful if you’re pretending to shoot a movie with an iPad in an Apple commercial.

But the vast majority of iPad users will not perceive any difference in performance between the M1 and M2 models (and really, any iPad Pro from 2018 or later). Still, the Pro is very fast and responsive, and I had no issue using it for my daily productivity work, at least until I ran into the limitations of iPadOS. Also, battery life on the 12.9-inch model I’ve been testing is basically identical to my experience with the M1 iPad Pro, so the added horsepower isn’t costing us anything there.

A demonstration of the Hover feature of the Apple Pencil on the new iPad Pro, showing the cursor that displays when the Pencil is held within 12mm of the screen.

The new hover feature for the Apple Pencil can show you exactly where you will make a mark on the screen.

Demonstrating the Pencil Hover feature on the 2022 iPad Pro by holding the Pencil over a link and seeing its destination in the lower left corner.

You can hold the Pencil over links and other elements on the screen just like you can highlight them with the cursor with a trackpad. But Apple could do a lot more here.

The M2 does bring a new feature to the Apple Pencil, which allows you to “hover” the Pencil over the screen from about 12mm away and see different actions happen. This works with the existing second-gen Pencil, so you don’t need to buy a new Pencil to use it. But Apple is limiting it to M2 iPads — it’s not available on the M1 or older models.

The hover feature is mainly aimed at artists — apps like Procreate (once it releases an update) will let you see where the Pencil will make a mark on the screen before you put it down for better accuracy. It also allows apps to program different actions to the double-tap gesture when the Pencil is in hover mode versus touching the screen directly.

There’s lots of room to expand what the hover feature does with the Apple Pencil

Apple’s Notes app supports the new hover mode, too, and I was able to demo mixing watercolor paints and seeing what the resulting look would be before committing it to my digital canvas. But I am not an artist, so that’s about as far as I can take it.

For those of us who use the Pencil for notetaking and navigating the iPad’s interface, however, and I wish the hover feature did more. Outside of art creation, the hover feature lets you use the Pencil as a cursor to highlight things on screen before you touch them — just like you might mouse over a button or link with the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard. It also speeds up Apple’s Scribble feature, which lets you handwrite in a text box and have that converted to typed text. That’s nice.

But other than that, the hover mode doesn’t have much to offer. I’d love to use it for previewing full webpages à la how 3D touch used to work (and long presses currently work) on the iPhone. Or maybe I could hover it over an album of images in the Photos app or a folder in the Files app and get a scrollable preview of what’s inside without having to open it. Perhaps I could hover over a date in an email message and get a glimpse at my calendar to see if I have room for an appointment on that day. Samsung’s been doing these kinds of things with its S Pen on its phones and tablets for years, and they are truly helpful. I wish Apple took this further.

Top down shot of the Magic Keyboard for the Apple iPad Pro showing its layout.

The 2022 iPad Pro uses the same Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil accessories as the prior generation. Sadly, the keyboard still doesn’t have a function row.

Lastly, the iPad Pro now supports Wi-Fi 6E, up from Wi-Fi 6 last year, which is mostly a future-proofing thing. It is something you expect on the latest, top-of-the-line model, so I’m glad to see it.

That’s really all there is to say about the new iPad Pro’s hardware. It’s the same design we’ve known for four years and the same display as last year’s model. If you own a 2018 or newer Pro and it’s still working well, I’m hard-pressed to convince you to upgrade to this year’s model.

The rest of the story is its software, and for that, you should read David Pierce’s review of iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager. The fundamental story hasn’t changed much — iPadOS still doesn’t feel like it’s making the most use of the extremely capable hardware on tap here.

Since there isn’t much else to say about what we got with the iPad Pro refresh this year, I’m taking the rest of this article to list things I would like to see whenever Apple does redesign its highest-end iPad:

  • Camera on the long side. This one’s obvious, and the 10th-gen iPad already has it, so it makes sense to put it on the iPad Pro, too. The Pro is still saddled by the front camera on the short side (or left of the screen when in a landscape orientation), and despite the best efforts from Apple’s Center Stage self-centering feature, it’s still awkward to use in video calls.
  • MagSafe charging. Just put the MagSafe charging connector from the MacBook Air next to the USB-C port.
  • More USB-C ports. While we’re on the topic, more ports, please. Maybe put one on each side or, again borrowing from the MacBook Air, right next to each other if necessary. I’d like to be able to charge AND use USB-C accessories without having to run everything through a hub.
  • A function row on the Magic Keyboard. Another obvious one cribbed from the 10th-gen iPad. Apple would have to do some work redesigning the Magic Keyboard to make it fit, but it would be a boon for productivity. I’m tired of reaching up to the Control Center or top edge of the iPad when I need to adjust brightness or volume.
  • More flexibility with the Magic Keyboard. The current Magic Keyboard is quite limited in the range of angles it can hold the iPad Pro. Most of the time, these work fine, but when they don’t work because of whatever position you need to use the iPad in (hello, cramped airplane or train seat), it’s frustrating.
  • A button on the side of the Pencil. After four years of double-tapping the side of the Pencil to switch between writing and erasing, please just give me a button, Apple. The double-tap gesture is still too unreliable and frustrating. Also, let me configure the gesture (or button) to just immediately undo whatever my previous stroke was, which is what I use the eraser for 99 percent of the time anyways.
  • Mini LED screen on the 11-inch model. If Apple is going to keep the 11-inch Pro around, let’s have it act more like a Pro. That can start with giving it the same excellent screen that’s limited to the 12.9-inch version.
  • OLED screens. Or, even better, let’s see OLED screens on all iPads with Pro qualifiers. The rumor mill is saying Apple plans to bring this tech to the iPad in 2024, and as good as the Mini LED screen is, I welcome OLED for its even better contrast and punchiness.
  • More fun colors. The iPad Pro comes in silver or dark grey. One might call those the same color at different levels of brightness. Either way, for whatever reason, Apple’s Pro iPad doesn’t get the fun colors you see on the less expensive models. I would like a blue iPad Pro, please.

Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Agree to Continue: iPad Pro (2022)

Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it — contracts that no one actually reads. It’s impossible for us to read and analyze every single one of these agreements. But we’re going to start counting exactly how many times you have to hit “agree” to use devices when we review them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.

To use an iPad Pro (2022), you have to agree to:

This agreement is nonnegotiable, and you cannot use the tablet at all if you don’t agree to them.

Apple further gives you the option to agree to

The iPad also prompts you to set up Apple Cash and Apple Pay at setup, which further means you have to agree to:

If you add a credit card to Apple Pay, you have to agree to:

Final tally: one mandatory agreement, two optional data sharing agreements, six optional agreements for Apple Cash, one optional agreement for Apple Pay"

Apple iPad Pro (2022) review: bump the chip - The Verge