The iPad, Ten Years Later

January 28, 2020

Ten years ago, the iPad was announced and swiftly became the world’s most popular tablet. I’ve loved all the iPads I’ve owned, and to this day I use my iPad Pro daily. It’s my favourite content consumption device.

Hidden interactions

In an interesting retrospective John Gruber of Daring Fireball writes:

Software is where the iPad has gotten lost. iPadOS’s “multitasking” model is far more capable than the iPhone’s, yes, but somehow Apple has painted it into a corner in which it is far less consistent and coherent than the Mac’s, while also being far less capable. iPad multitasking: more complex, less powerful. That’s quite a combination.

I mostly agree with this sentiment. The way multi-tasking has changed over the years also hasn’t helped. Like the iPhone, the iPad has a discoverability problem. This discoverability problem caused Apple to drop 3D Touch on iPhone 11.

Some of the interactions with multitasking that don’t involve the dock are actually ridiculous as Gruber clearly points out.

Power user features

Additionally, I also think the fact that the iPad is unable to run certain kinds of software also really holds it back: if I had terminal access, and could write software on the device itself, it’d be much more interesting. I think Apple should also investigate a different windowing system for advanced users, perhaps.

Performance

That being said, the iPad is easily my favourite device to use; it’s ridiculously fast — in a way that even the most recent MacBook Pros aren’t — and it’s a joy to hold and use. Especially so if you have the iPad with the high refresh rate display. There’s no other tablet that comes close in terms of touch to swipe latency. And in the world of Android no tablet comes close to iPad’s performance in the web browser.

The ultimate dream

My ultimate dream for the iPad is as follows: have it run iOS, but offer the option to run macOS as soon as peripherals are being connected. Did you connect a mouse or trackpad? You’re but a “reboot” away from booting macOS. You wouldn’t even need to worry much about having multiple system partitions and such because APFS supports shared containers, so the data partition could be shared between iOS and macOS.