Thoughts & Musings

Gareth Dafydd Jones

What's holding back the iPad?

Nov 15, 2015
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This week Apple released the iPad Pro. In doing so they have unintentionally* reopened the debate about how useful iPads are to people and how useful they can eventually become.

The detractors will tell you iPads are devices meant for consuming media only, you cannot do "real" work on them. Apple has inadvently fed into this notion by failing to effectively differentiate the software running on the sibling devices. The most glaring example of this is the homepage. While the simple design and intuitive nature of the homepage helped make the iPhone become iconic in 2007, here we are a decade later still using a UI that has become dated really quite constraining. To make matters worse, when the iPad was unveiled in 2010 it seemed little thought had been put into using anything other than this grid of icons as the homepage.

Wasn't this supposed to be the future of computing? The PC killer? If so could someone please explain to me why was it using a blown up, dated, phone UI? It can (and should, in my opinion) be argued that the time is now for Apple to be looking at a radical update of the homepage. The range of uses and the power of the iPhone has surely surpassed those imagined by Jobs, Forstall and their design team when the original homepage was designed. If that's true of the iPhone then it is true tenfold for the iPad.

It does seem that after 5 years of the iPad, Apple has finally started to wake up to this. In order to both differentiate the iPad from the iPhone, as well as continue to take bites out of the PC market, the iPad must have a more sophisticated, more robust UI. We've already started to see the first spouts of progress made in the last year. Split view has been a godsend for those of us with the Air 2 and has transformed not only the way I use my iPad, but the way I feel about it. It's my hope that now, with the iPad Pro out there and in the hands of people who are desperate for ways to use it beyond watching films and reading books, we'll continue to see rapid improvements that by neccessity lead to a more signficant forking between the phone and tablet versions of iOS.

As a sidenote, this post was written and deployed on my iPad. Panic's excellent Coda for iOS acted as both my text editor and a terminal to allow me to run a local server and deploy the code. I'd like to believe that in the next year or so the iPad will be able to run a local server itself, for now I have to be content to ssh into my Macbook Pro in order to achieve this. This is another example that in order to fulfill it's potential, not only does the iPad's UI need to change, but also the underlying capabilities of the software its running on.

Update: Most of my development work these days is done in Xcode using Swift, and if the rumours that Apple are working on Xcode for iOS are true, then I will be a very happy man.

web development on my iPad

* it could be argued that it was indeed intentional.