The iPad Problem

As the iPad continues to dip in sales, Apple has pointed its fingers squarely at users, citing longer replacement cycles, among other reasons.

What Apple needs to own up to is the fact that the iPad’s current situation is their own damn fault. They seem to have forgotten that the iPad needs to have something that makes it different than the iPhone. Now, I am not arguing that the iPad isn’t useful — it is, and I have basically replaced my Macbook with it — but there needs to be things that makes it fundamentally different from the iPhone. Right now, the only difference is screen size, but Apple is squandering that too.

For example:

Siri on iOS 6 and older

When Siri first came to the iPad, it had a very different UI. Look at how this image of pre-iOS 6 era Siri doesn’t take up the entire iPad screen. And it shouldn’t. The iPad’s screen is freakin’ huge compared to the iPhone! So when iOS 7 rolled around, you’d think the same care would be put into making sure Siri remained a distinct experience on the iPad. But no. Instead it covers the whole screen now, because apparently nobody at Apple was thinking about making the iPad feel different. That is the problem with iPad at the moment.

Siri on iOS 7 and newer

And in case you think I am just nitpicking, that this is an isolated issue, look at the home screens of the new iPhone 6!

It has 6 rows of app icons. Meanwhile the iPad still has only 5. Think about it: A 4.7 inch iPhone 6 has more room for apps than a 9.7 inch iPad Air! Apple obviously wanted the new iPhones to seem larger-than-life. Unfortunately, they are also now larger-than-iPads. To further the problem, Apple has given the iPhone 6 Plus the ability to display apps in an iPad-like fashion in landscape, and then even more extra screen features that the iPad doesn’t have. These features could easily be adapted into the iPad’s UI, but clearly Apple did not care enough.

Keeping up with the competition:

It may seem a silly thing to point out, but the iPad’s competitors have advanced features the iPad doesn’t. Yes, Apple is doing way better than its competitors, so why should they copy them? Because we know Apple can take things that the competition does and do them better. The prime example here is the Surface 3. No, I’m not arguing the iPad needs USB ports or mice. However, there are a few interesting things Apple should look into.

First, there is the Surface Pen. If you are like me, you can already hear Steve Job’s voice echoing —

Who wants a Stylus?

Jobs was certainly a genius, but sometimes his intuition blinded him. At one point, Steve thought third party apps on iPhone was a bad idea. How did that one turn out?

It pains me to say it, but the Surface really is the better choice for artists looking for a tablet computer to draw on. This sounds trivial, but remember there are entire businesses built around selling drawing tablets to artists. And those tablets are Windows/Mac accessories. Imagine being able to draw on a tablet and see the art on the screen underneath your stylus? It’s a game-changer, but Microsoft has that market cornered.

Then there are split screen apps. The Surface can “snap” two or more apps to fit on the screen at the same time. Yes, I know that requires you to find more than one Windows app — ha ha. (Remember when Windows had all the apps?) We already know that Apple is working on a split screen mode for the iPad so maybe we will see this at WWDC. I feel that this could be the feature that turns iPad around. Why buy an iPad when you have an iPhone? Because you can take notes in the notes app on an article you are reading online. Or watch a Youtube video while texting a friend. The possibilities are endless — how many windows do you typically have open on your desktop?

I suspect that the introduction of size classes in iOS 8 was not only about the new iPhone sizes unveiled last fall. Think about it — Horizontal, Vertical, Regular, Compact. These terms seem needlessly cryptic until you think about them in the context of split screen. Two apps on one screen — both have compact horizontal and regular vertical. Three apps — two on the bottom are compact horizontal and vertical, one on the top is regular horizontal compact vertical. Four apps, and all of them are compact, compact. This also would explain why the iPad Air 2 has more RAM than any iOS device prior to its release. I suspect the iPad Air will be able to run only two apps at once and the Air 2 will be able to run four.

Tl;dr

The iPad has tough times ahead of it — and Apple has shown signs about its’ plans for iPad — both distressing and promising. I am a big believer in iPad, I use it as my main work machine at school — and I am finding myself more productive than I was back when I lugged around a Macbook. For now, I will take Tim Cook at his word when he says he envisions a bright future for the iPad. Apple has some of the smartest people on the planet, surely they already have the solution?

Now if only they could just manage to ship me my friggin Apple Watch!

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