The iPad Pro requires a pro form of iOS; here's why
Apple’s new iPad Pro is an amazing tablet, but as our review highlights, it comes down at a cost. Apple has priced this product at close to the cost of a laptop-aka a “real computer”-which means that for most people, buying an iPad Pro means making a commitment to utilizing it as their main computing device.
But the iPad Pro runs iOS, exactly the same operating system that works on the iPhone. While Apple says, “And it works like your iPhone, therefore it is familiar to use,” this isn’t really a positive thing. Some people might be able to replace their own laptop with an iPad Pro, as well as the iPad Pro to actually function as a computer, it requires a pro form of iOS.
Limitations of iOS
iOS was created for that iPhone, and, as the iPad version has evolved a little, its limitations are obvious. This starts with the nearly comical image of icons on the home screen. This display is identical on all iPads, from the petite iPad mini to the largest model, roughly twice its size. Even the 12.9″ version only offers four icons horizontally in portrait mode, and five in landscape. On the big iPad Pro, the wasted space is biggest. Many people would like to have more icons visible, instead of stuffing them in folders, but Apple doesn’t appear to want to make icon organization more flexible.
This scaling is obvious across iOS. Apps display larger or smaller based on the screen size, but offer few additional controls or features with larger displays.
iOS still doesn’t have real multi-tasking. It’s gotten better with split-screen mode on the iPad, though using this feature is confusing, and depends on gestures, so many people won't ever discover it. Additionally, with the newest iPad Pro models, which feature Face ID and no home button, the gestures are different from the previous iPads, so any gestures that users may have discovered on previous models will have to be re-learned. This is especially problematic if a person is using the newest iPad with an older device.
Working with files
A large amount of “real work” on computers involves files, but iOS is built to keep files hidden, for the most part. Apple has made progress in recent versions of iOS, acceding to the demands of users who want to use files, but this file management isn’t fully functional. What happens if you want to extract files from the ZIP archive? iOS doesn’t help you, which means you need to download some third-party apps that will work with these archives. The fact that Apple ignores this-and forces users to search out third-party solutions-trivializes how common such files are, and causes it to be harder to work with files.
File management on iOS is clunky and complex, and depends upon the cloud, so if you don’t have Internet access, you are hobbled when you need to move files around.
Apple’s new Pencil has certainly improved the way you interact with the device. You can sketch and draw using the pencil, margin documents, and employ it to pick and edit text, though text selection-long among the weakest areas of iOS-is still more complicated than the same process on a computer. In case your work involves editing text, then the iPad can be frustrating.
When you may use an external keyboard-either Apple’s combination keyboard-case, or any Bluetooth keyboard-you still can’t connect a mouse or trackpad to the iPad. If you use a keyboard, you’ll be raising your arms a lot to touch the screen. This may lead to pain in the shoulders, and potential repetitive stress injury. And Apple’s keyboard-case only offers two angles, so it won’t continually be within an ergonomically ideal position.
iOS has keyboard shortcuts when you have an external keyboard connected, but if you type around the iPad’s display itself, you've limited options in managing the apps you work with.
If there’s one failure of iOS it’s the way you undo an operation. You physically shake a tool to undo the last thing you did. Most users only discover this once they drop their device, and see a dialog asking them to verify their undo.
As Daring Fireball points out, there is an undo button around the virtual keyboard in iOS 12 on iPads, but it only affects text; you are able to press Command-Z if you work with another keyboard; plus some apps, such as graphics or photo editing tools, now utilize a counter-clockwise circular arrow button as an undo trigger. But this process-one of the most important on any computing device-remains a kludge.
The text undo button, because it appears on iPad’s virtual keyboard in iOS 12.
And the cost
Apple is trying to market people around the idea that the iPad Pro can replace a computer. As I’ve explained above, this isn’t entirely true, though it’s fair to state that for a lot of users, the iPad Pro is going to do what they desire.
However, this comes at a price. It’s not just the cost of the iPad itself-$799 or $999, based on its size-but also the accessories that you need to have the ability to utilize it fully. Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio-a combination input device and case-costs $179 or $199, and also the Pencil costs $129 . That’s $1,107 or $1,327 to get the full package. The brand new 13″ retina MacBook Air starts at $1,199.
If you simply want standard protection with no physical keyboard, you can save $100 and buy Apple’s Smart Folio for $79 or $99-which is still 10% of the cost of the iPad Pro itself.
There’s no denying the new iPad Pro is a fine device. I tried the 12.9″ model, and it’s responsive, and simple to use-notably because of Face ID-but it’s heavy, and most importantly, expensive.
If Apple would provide an operating system that matches its aspirations, the iPad Pro could replace a computer for many more users than it does now. But because it stands, the iPad Pro’s software hobbles its amazing build and internals. It’s here we are at Apple to create a pro form of iOS for those people who actually want to replace computers with tablets.
What else should Apple do to rethink and redesign iOS for iPads? If there is an iOS “pro edition”? Let us know your ideas in the comments!