iPadOS didn’t appeal to me when it was announced. Advanced multitasking, faster Apple Pencil, Sidecar, and external storage support are great features, but I’m not a pro user. I use my iPad primarily to read news and books, watch YouTube, and browse the Web. When I began using iPadOS, however, I was surprised to see how lots of small improvements made it a much smoother experience. iPadOS was greater than the sum of its parts.
I use a 5-year-old iPad Air 2. It has had great performance since day one, but I’ve never been happy with app switching performance. Swipe-with-four-fingers gesture had a gross animation, and was unresponsive up to a few seconds. With performance improvements in iOS 12, app switching became usable. I still unconsciously dreaded using it, perhaps because responsiveness wasn’t as reliable. With iPadOS, app switching has crossed the critical threshold of usability. Apps are almost immediately available every time upon switching. Just like command-tab on macOS is second nature, a swipe from the bottom of the screen has become second nature to me on iPadOS. This is Apple at its best, improving a core feature of the software on 5-year-old hardware.
Desktop browsing was a feature announced on stage, but I didn’t get it back then. Majority of Web sites had already presented their desktop version on iPads, and those which didn’t could be fixed by manually requesting the desktop version. Was it going to be the default now? The problem was that these desktop versions only looked like desktop versions. They didn’t work like one. YouTube was the biggest culprit. It didn’t allow full-screen videos on the iPad. Desktop browsing fixes it. Now I can watch YouTube videos full screen, change playback speed, and play them while the screen is off to just listen to the audio.
I bought my first iPad as a graduate student. I had been using my Mac to read and highlight research papers, books, and course notes. iPad was the perfect medium for that. Guess what? iOS didn’t support pdf annotation. Bummer. I’ve never understood how such a basic feature could be omitted for so long. iPadOS brings pdf annotation, finally.
Now that I’ve changed the tone, I can rant on new mode of text editing. How am I supposed to learn about it in the first place? Why do I have to search the Web to find out how to place the cursor in the search bar? I can place the cursor on a word boundary with a tap in Notes app. Why doesn’t Safari search bar work that way? Oh, it’s because search terms are selected by default in an obscure manner. By the way, I can place the cursor inside a word when the keyboard is off in Notes. Why can’t I do that when the keyboard is on? To be honest, I’ve never enjoyed the old way of editing text via heavy use of magnifying glass, or tapping and dragging with millimeter precision. But at least, how it worked was clear.
There’s no single Apple behind the products and services we use. Every single part of the ecosystem is an outcome of different dynamics. Failure is a natural part of growth. I love the Apple that listens feedback, iterates, and perfects. But I’m afraid that stubborn parts might take over.