iPad’s potential

Patrick Smith
Feb 1, 2017 · 4 min read

Marco Arment asked What if the iPad isn’t the future of computing?

I think it is hard to see what potential iPad could have when Apple is hamstringing its software story.

Third parties

Third-party developer momentum is embarrassing on the iPad. Support through Universal apps is often an after thought, added minimally through Xcode and shipped as the black sheep alongside the iPhone experience.

Independent iPhone app developers have had the confidence kicked out of them in the past few years, as the gold rush faded into delirious panning for rare gold fragments.

The iPad was further demoted from priority lists around the world as iPhone app development became less viable.

iOS on iPad

The user experience of the iPad’s operating system is a stretched paradigm. The same way conventions from the iPhone cannot be hand-me-downs passed onto the smaller Apple Watch, the iPad cannot simply optimistically borrow from its successful cousin.

The iPad home screen and app switching experience needs a rethink. There needs to be better ways of choreographing information between apps.

The iPad’s markets

There are two primary uses for the iPad: as an lifestyle consumer device, and as a professional niche-optimised device. The iPad Pro line has been Apple’s answer to the latter.

Apple needs to show the ways in which those professionals can take what they currently get done using a laptop and achieve most of that on an iPad. The current stories are too niche and cute, designed more to impress than get people thinking ‘this would work for me.’

Web browsing

The web browser on my iPad mini 2 is the worser experience compared to my iPhone 6s and Mac Book Pro. It attempts to have the persistent tab experience that the Mac Safari has while actually offering the fragile one of the iPhone.

For work, I need to know that my tabs will stay open and logged in. Having them reload, and lose progress or need reauthentication is not acceptable for getting work done.

More bold bets

The iPad needs a more aggressive approach to its software. Features such as Desktop sync from the Mac feel too catering to the past’s conventions. It needs to invent its own, and let the Mac and iPhone play more second fiddle to it, without sacrificing those reliable experiences.

The iPad needs to be cloud and collaboration first. An iMessage enhanced for work would do wonders for beating the Mac as the go to tool. Integrate messaging, document sharing, and commenting with deep operating system support and you’d have a killer experience.

Sure there will be a lot of competition from Slack and Dropbox Paper, but I think the iPad would hugely benefit from its own native experience.

The large iPad screen needs to let you get your hands into work. Too many apps stick to the thumbs-first experience of the phone. The touch text editing experience needs to get as close to the Mac’s as possible. The Smart Keyboard needs to be as good as a laptop’s.

Focused productivity with a heads-down, no distraction workflow needs to be prioritised, instead of too easily adopting the notification-heavy experience of the iPhone. Gamify productivity a la the Watch if you have to — Apple know which devices and apps you use, so award points for completing undistracted blocks of work.

In short, the iPad has always survived on the theory of being better than a phone or laptop for tasks. Those tasks though need to be critical for work, that third-parties developers can profit from.

And it needs to more aggressively use its advantages over the other devices. It needs to make use of its much larger screen compared to a phone. And it needs to be more collaboratively and cloud focused than the traditional Mac. Then the iPad may reach its potential.

Originally published at burntcaramel.com.

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Patrick Smith

Written by

@concreteniche · Product designer for the web & Mac. Loves experimenting with React, Swift, and UX tools.


how hackers start their afternoons.

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