Is The iPad Pro A Computer? – Hey, this is still just an iPad. Yep, turns out iPad OS even does not make the iPad Pro a laptop replacement. But there is some good news because what it does do is make it both a better iPad and a better computer. So let’s talk about what we mean by that, and what it’s like to use it.
It feels like every time Apple releases a new iPad, they seem to be making the case yet again that their tablet is the future of mainstream computing. And you know what that might end up being right at some point. But as we said in the conclusion of our iPad Pro review, to lead us to that future, Apple needs to make iOS much more robust.
So at WWDC 2019, Apple announced that iPads would get their own specialized version of iOS called iPad OS. with new features that bring the iPad experience closer to the one that you’d expect from a laptop or a desktop. Including multitasking improvements, external drive support, finally, and even Mouse support.
But before you guys get too amped up, read the rest of the article. Because it’s not quite what you’d expect or rather it might be precisely what you’d expect. I mean, this is still Apple we’re talking about. So let’s start with the home screen, app icons are now smaller so you can fit more on one page, that’s cool. And you can now slide the today view with its list of widgets in from the left side.
Now let’s talk multitasking. You can now place two instances, Apple is calling these spaces. But to simplify our lives, we’re going to refer to them as Windows. So two examples of some apps side-by-side like here you can see we fired up two file windows or two-note windows within the Notes app.
Now you could already bring up iPhone with apps in slide over mode on iOS 12. But now you can add more apps to slide over. And you can switch between them just like you do with your full-screen apps. Now, as I mentioned, not every app supports spaces right now. I couldn’t open two-word documents side by side, for instance. But for the apps that do help it this better use of the screen real estate on the iPad, is an absolute godsend.
I mean, I think it’s fair to say that it’s easier than it has ever been to work on a document reference a webpage and message someone at the same time on an iPad. It does take some getting used to, especially once you find out that there’s now primarily multitasking expose menu for each space and abled app. and then that to see if you’ve got to open the app, bring up the dock and tap the app’s icon again. But once you get all of that through your thick skull, it’s completely intuitive.
Now let’s move on to external storage support. I was tempted not even to give Apple a point for this. Because its absence was so dumb, to begin with. Kind of like copy-paste that they shouldn’t get praised for implementing it. But that would be petty, so I’ll say this better late than never.
Another much-needed feature is the ability to load the desktop versions of websites by default. So you can access desktop versions on iOS versions before 13. but you need to tap and hold the refresh button every time a page loads. So now, browsing the web on an iPad does feel more like using a laptop or a desktop.
Next up, we’ve got some more minor changes that make the iPad more natural to use. These include new gestures requiring three fingers. So you can pinch to copy, spread your fingers to paste, and you can also tap three times or swipe to the left to undo. Pinching the on-screen keyboard will shrink it down to phone size. Making it even easier to use the new swipe to text feature that Apple finally added. And you can scroll through pages using the scroll bar rather than swiping down endlessly now.
The Apple pencil, where is it notice, also gets some significant improvements. It has even lower latency, which is impressive, considering it was already not imperceptible. You can now easily screenshot and annotate in any app by dragging from the bottom corner. And with a pencil kit, developers can natively integrate the pencil palette into their apps. So the pencil experience will now be consistently great across iPad apps, not just in Apple notes.
Once an assistive touch is enabled, you connect your adaptive accessory. Via Bluetooth or a dongle just like you would any other device. But the thing is is that it’s meant to emulate physical touch, not behave like a traditional mouse. And that becomes clear the first time you try to use the scroll wheel in certain apps or right-click for a context menu. Now assistive touch has quite a few customization options available. Which would seem to be very useful to people who are actually using it as an accessibility feature? But they’re just honestly not that great for laptop users who are just trying to use a freaking Mouse on an iPad.
To be clear, the experience wasn’t horrible. It definitely saved some arm strain from reaching up and tapping when he could just move the mouse an inch and click. But it definitely does not suddenly make the iPad Pro just as the right of a desk or a lap based computer as a laptop would be.
Apple is plainly making it clear that using a mouse on the iPad is just not part of their vision for the platform. Which got me thinking you know when I heard that Apple was adding things like mouse support or external storage. I felt great the iPad is going to be more like a regular computer. But I was wrong because Apple isn’t trying to make the iPad Pro more like a machine. They’re trying to help the iPad, which is still very much an iPad to be more useful as a computer.
Now that might seem like I’m saying the same thing, but let me explain here. I, as a power user, expect to have certain features on my computers. A high precision mouse or trackpad. I hope a desktop that I can populate with Windows that I can move or resize at will. I expect a file manager that lets me see all of the contents of my machine. And anything that I’ve attached to it the way I want to view it.
So to me, the computer experience is about giving the user the tools and the freedom to use the machine the way that they want to use it. But the cold hard truth is that it is not what the iPad is about. And that’s clearer than ever with the iPad OS update. While iPad OS certainly gives users more freedom than iOS 12. the iPad experience is still very much about embracing the machine’s identity as a handheld pencil powered as it were a device. But here’s the thing just maybe that’s the right decision.
Okay, okay, wait to hear me out, guys. I think up until now we’ve been actually going about this article entirely the wrong way. Like it’s, we always go through the same song and dance. Apple calls the iPad a computer. We laugh, review it against a laptop, and scoff at its lack of mouse support and poor file management, etc.
But while Microsoft’s dream had one operating system across phones, tablets, and PCs. And Samsung is meanwhile trying to get its users to use their phone as a desktop machine. Apple isn’t trying to make the iPad into a laptop. They already sell laptops, and they’ve been just as resistant to adding touch support to Mac books. As they’ve been to adding desktop features to iPads. They clearly have no desire to unify the experience of what it’s like to use an iPhone and iPad and a Mac.
So someone who keeps comparing iPads to laptops is never really going to be satisfied. Until Apple releases an iPad that’s basically a MacBook with the touch screen. Which are a great idea and they should do that? But instead of doing that, Apple has chosen to add a new category of productivity machines. Tablets that aren’t just giant phones. That you use for watching Netflix, playing mobile games, and skyping. Excuse me face timing, grandma.
And that isn’t just a harder to use and less capable laptop. So iPad OS is a vision of a future where an artist or a business owner or a family buys an iPad as their sole computer. Because while it is certainly less efficient for some tasks, a lot of functions. If you only use your computer once in a while. Why would you buy a bulky, awkward laptop instead?
So, in conclusion, then we think that with iPad OS, the iPad can be someone’s next computer. But what Apple needs to do between now and then is to clarify their messaging. Because it’s been kind of a confusing mess so far. They’ll say things like the iPad Pro can be your next computer. Wait, it’s a computer?
Which I think is actually the most accurate. The iPad is especially with iPad OS, a new way to use a computer. A worse way for some people like myself. But perhaps a better way for others.
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