All iPads John Gruber’s iPad rant

Rogifan

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He wrote about it on his website:


And did a podcast on it with Ben Thompson: https://daringfireball.net/thetalkshow/2020/01/31/ep-276

The long and shot of the podcast is Gruber had more specific complaints about the multitasking UI whereas Thompson was arguing against the idea of multitasking on iPad at all. They both agreed that the iPad shouldn’t be a blown up iPhone but also shouldn’t be a Mac. But outside of one or two examples (Garage Band and Apple Pencil) and complaining about the App Store (e.g. not offering upgrade pricing) they gave very few examples of potential apps or use cases that would make the iPad unique or transformational. Sure the Garage Band demo at the iPad 2 event was cool but how many average iPad consumers are using Garage Band on a regular basis? My guess would be very few.

I 100% get there are legitimate criticisms about the way multitasking has been implemented and that it can be confusing to people. I think arguing it should be set to “off” by default has merit. But let’s not forget all the criticism of iPad as being just a blown up iPhone or not a real computer but just a consumption device. And all of that coupled with declining growth in the product. I think Apple had to add more capability to iPad. And I don’t think multitasking is just a power user feature. I use split view on my iPad Pro all the time. If I’m in Safari I‘ll have Twitter or YouTube or Notes off to the side as a second app. I think it’s incredibly useful. And for those who don’t it can be turned off. Anyway it seems like there’s a lot of discussion around what iPad should be but very little consensus. For everyone that wants it to stop trying to be more Mac like there’s someone else that wants it to become more Mac like. The idea that there is one perfect vision out there of what iPad should be is folly. And what I’d say to Gruber and Thompson is: turn multitasking off and use iPad as primarily a consumption device or a single use (like drawing) device. Honestly if I had that much trouble with multitasking (and didn’t really care about it that much anyway) I’d turn it off.
 

urkel

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For everyone that wants it to stop trying to be more Mac like there’s someone else that wants it to become more Mac like.
Both sides are right. There’s a lot of users who just want “a device bigger than my phone” for media consumption (Video, Reading, Websites). And theres also those of us who want something closer to a Mac so that the excessive power is put to good use. Thats why its not crazy to have iPad Pro’s be significantly different than the $329 iPads.


Personally, I love the iPad as a platform and use it as my primary device. But I also feel those limitations every day. With the power in these machines then these should be so much more than what they are. And for me, I’ve quit dealing with the awkwardness of iOS multitasking and I’ve actually resorted to TWO iPads side by side and Continuity/iCloud to make them work together. So overall...my setup is a bigger mess than it ever was.
 
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sosumi99

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But outside of one or two examples (Garage Band and Apple Pencil) and complaining about the App Store (e.g. not offering upgrade pricing) they gave very few examples of potential apps or use cases that would make the iPad unique or transformational.
The point is that by making the iPad so closed off and setting the pricing of apps to be so low, Apple killed off any potential for iPad to be a true platform attractive to developers. We don't see the transformational use cases because the App store and the iPad system are not structured to allow a really transformational company like Adobe to be built on top of them and *invent* these use cases. The Mac allowed multiple new industries to be built on top of it, but the iPad not a single one. I think these criticisms are right on the mark.
 

bobsamm

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My kids 17 and 22 and their friends just have a iPhone and MacBook pro's, for school and work, they dont see the point in a iPad, have even been asked what do i do with it, its just a big iPhone.
 

sosumi99

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My kids 17 and 22 and their friends just have a iPhone and MacBook pro's, for school and work, they dont see the point in a iPad, have even been asked what do i do with it, its just a big iPhone.
There are only three things I do on the iPad that are better than either the laptop or the phone:

1) Watching videos
2) Handwriting -- taking notes and marking up PDFs for copyedits and such
3) Instant-on LTE connectivity for when I want to answer an email or browse the web when I'm traveling.

These are enough to justify owning an iPad for me, but I agree that it is falling far short of the potential the hardware offers.
 
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bobsamm

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There are only three things I do on the iPad that are better then either the laptop or the phone:

1) Watching videos
2) Handwriting -- taking notes and marking up PDFs for copyedits and such
3) Instant-on LTE connectivity for when I want to answer an email or browse the web when I'm traveling.

These are enough to justify owning an iPad for me, but I agree that it is falling far short of the potential the hardware offers.
Suer, Probably what i didn't say is the young ones can't justify the cost, see them as a luxury device like an apple watch.
 

Rogifan

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The point is that by making the iPad so closed off and setting the pricing of apps to be so low, Apple killed off any potential for iPad to be a true platform attractive to developers. We don't see the transformational use cases because the App store and the iPad system are not structured to allow a really transformational company like Adobe to be built on top of them and *invent* these use cases. The Mac allowed multiple new industries to be built on top of it, but the iPad not a single one. I think these criticisms are right on the mark.
Do you have some examples of what you would consider transformational?

btw, I don’t disagree and I think iOS should offer upgrade pricing.
 

Abazigal

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The thing is - I am not sure that some of the newer functionality, like mouse support, is even what the masses need. Apple seems to have gone with a very vocal minority on YouTube and social media who, to be fair, are indeed trying to push their iPads to be laptop replacements. I think it's great that they are now able to directly import footage from their camera directly onto the iPad to edit in Lightroom, but Apple needs to be careful not to alienate their existing user base with too much complexity.

In some regard, I feel like the iPad was a 1-trick pony which peaked too early. It was essentially a giant iPod touch which excelled at consumption and some light creation, and maybe that was all that it really needed to be?

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you have been following my posts, you will know that I use my iPad to teach in the classroom, and the bulk of that entails annotating on pdf documents while my iPad is mirrored to the projector via an Apple TV. The bulk of my lesson prep is still done on my iMac, and I have come to accept that the heaviness of the Mac is perhaps what allows the iPad to be as light as it is.

The critics are right in that maybe I can't code, or work on heavy excel spreadsheets or do 3D modelling on an iPad, and maybe the iPad doesn't need to be able to perform those tasks, because that's what the Mac is for. Trying to shoehorn this functionality into iPadOS (which is essentially iOS) might just end up introducing more complexity and heaviness into the system, especially when you consider what the majority of users don't need such capability to begin with.

And I am think the hoohaa over iOS 11 multitasking has been way overblown. I mentioned on another forum that I find multitasking post iOS-11 to be generally better compared to iOS 9. For iOS 9, I have great difficulty controlling what appears in the side panel and sometimes find myself scrolling endlessly looking for that one app to multitask with. With iOS 11, there is more control and more options to trigger multitasking. For example, I can drag apps from the dock or recents bar, search for them via spotlight (feasible only with the Smart Keyboard), or engage in some finger gymnastics moving them from the home screen. There is more consistency, although it also requires you to rethink your app setup. For example, I have seen people store all their apps in folders on the dock (too extreme for me), but overall, I find the pros outweigh the cons.
 

urkel

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Do you have some examples of what you would consider transformational?

btw, I don’t disagree and I think iOS should offer upgrade pricing.
I’m curious what exactly has been transformational in the last few years on ANY platform?

I remember back when I realized that laptops were now “good enough” that I no longer needed a desktop. The overlap in function was so high that I chose to use the product that was more versatile and more fun. The same thing is happening with Tablets. The overlap in functionality between tablets and laptops is so high that the one I use most is my iPad Pro because.... it’s more versatile and more fun. (But that’s mostly because I love the pencil so much)


In some regard, I feel like the iPad was a 1-trick pony which peaked too early. It was essentially a giant iPod touch which excelled at consumption and some light creation, and maybe that was all that it really needed to be?
I get your perspective but I disagree. The iPad can serve a purpose far beyond media consumption. But the problem is that Apple created a product category and had no vision on what it was supposed to become. They had no long term goal and so they did nothing. And I’m not only saying that from the “Pro” perspective. I think that even the casual side isn’t getting the Apple experience they deserve. Photos is awful. iMovie is a decade outdated. Everything is buggy. And even when they do finally update software (Notes, Podcasts or Contacts) then they feel old even before they get out of beta. Apple just doesn’t seem to care about a users post-sale experience anymore.
 
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Abazigal

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I get your perspective but I disagree. The iPad IS supposed to be more than this. The problem is that Apple created a product category but had no vision on what it was supposed to become. They had no long term goal and so they did nothing. And I’m not only saying that from the “Pro” perspective. I think that even the casual side isn’t getting the Apple experience they deserve. Photos is awful. iMovie is a decade outdated. Everything is buggy. And even when they do finally update software (Notes, Podcasts or Contacts) then they feel old even before they get out of beta. Apple just doesn’t seem to care about a users post-sale experience anymore.
I wonder if the biggest challenge is introducing desktop-like functionality to the iPad without making it too much like a PC.

Take video editing for example. The challenge is reimagining an UI normally optimised for keyboard and mouse input to make it easier to use on a touchscreen, while retaining comparable functionality, on a 10" display.

Same with office. There are some minor visual differences (like icons being larger), but otherwise, I don't find it any easier to use. An example of a spreadsheet app that is optimised for iOS would be Airtable and Quip, but it's a pity that desktop paradigms like excel and goggle sheets continue to reign in the corporate world where the keyboard and mouse / trackpad rules (and their mobile apps continue to suck). Or to put it another way, companies like Microsoft and Google have zero incentive to make their products work properly on mobile, because they know the bulk of content creation isn't done on tablets.

I do feel the stock apps are fine. They have improved significantly over the years, and I suspect that Apple makes them just good enough so they meet the needs of 80% of their user base, giving developers a fighting chance with their own products. Imagine if Apple brought Final Cut Pro to the iPad. The market for Lumafusion would evaporate overnight.

Moving forward, I expect the iPad to get more features that revolve around solving existing pain points (like screen recordinging on iOS making it easier to teachers to record screencasts, the new screenshot feature, or external drive support allowing photographers to import their footage directly). It will be more about making existing use cases more convenient to use, rather than breaking into new territory. It's supposed to be this blank slate of glass that transforms into whatever you want it to be (with the requisite app). But sometimes, certain OS limitations prevent you from performing your task the way you like, and I think Apple is keenly exploring how to remove these barriers for their users without compromising the core of what makes iOS uniquely iOS.
 
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Dave245

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I agree to a point, all the “new” multitasking features can be confusing to remember. I only found out the other day about being able to pinch the keyboard and move it around the screen. I do like the fact that I can use two apps side by side and side car is an awesome feature with my Mac.

I use LumaFusion to edit some videos from time to time, it’s a great app but I do think Apple should work on brining things like Final Cut to the iPad Pro. The iPad is a great device for a number of different things, however Apple’s software including bugs has got worse with the last 12 months or more. I really hope they sort it out.
 
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Mainsail

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On my iPad, I generally use Apps in full screen and rarely us side-by-side Apps. Sometimes, it come in handy when there are several things you want to drag and drop from one App to the other. But usually, it is easier just to long press select copy then open the new app from the dock or home screen and long press select paste. I do keep my Messages and Notes Apps in slide-over, and that is helpful to quickly reply to a text while referencing content from another app or to take a quick note while referencing another app.

I have just come to the conclusion that if I have a task that requires significant multi-tasking, it is just more efficient to use my MBA. Floating windows in MacOS are just better for multi tasking. On the other hand, when I need to concentrate on one thing at a time, such as; reading a book, taking notes, marking up documents and photos, sketching a diagram.....then, the iPad offers a better experience.

It keeps coming back to using the right tool for the job.

edit: I would add Yoink And Files to my list of apps always in slide over. It makes dragging and dropping multiple items from one app to the other much easier.
 
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Rogifan

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Think about how many people use laptops or desktops every day and don’t even scratch the surface of what these machines can do. Yet I don’t see anyone arguing the PC should be dumbed down because most people aren’t power users. In my job I use Excel all the time. I’m much more of a keyboard than mouse person. I couldn’t survive without keyboard shortcuts. The majority of my co-workers wouldn’t have a clue about shortcuts outside of cut, copy and paste. I would argue that simple and complex can co-exist so long as the complex only surfaces itself when the user intended it to.

I do wonder though how often the average iPad user invokes multitasking by mistake. If it does happen frequently then perhaps iOS should have it set to off by default. I have family and friends with iPads and I’ve never heard them complain about accidentally getting two apps on the screen. If someone is using iPad as a single app on the screen at a time device is it really that easy to accidentally invoke multitasking? It seems to me the people complaining most about iPad/iPadOS are power users not grandma who users her iPad for email, browsing the web and playing games/watching videos.


I think this is all we need to know about Gruber and iPad.

 
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Abazigal

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While writing my earlier response, I was also thinking back to how I have used my iPad since 2012.

The main highlights are as follows:

2012: iPad 3 + Apple TV 2 for airplay mirroring. Dropbox + documents for file management.
2014: upgraded to iPad mini 2. Smaller, lighter and faster, as the A5x chip was proving inadequate in even rendering pdf documents in notability properly.
2015: Apple TV got peer to peer airplay, removing the need for a router.
2016: 9.7" iPad Pro brought more performance improvements. I had used styluses previously, but the Apple Pencil was the first one that felt "right". Lounging at home with safari and Tweetbot in split-screen, and Protube in PIP mode was the dream.
2017: iOS 11 brought improved multitasking, dock, drag-and-drop and screen recording, but performance issues were causing my iPad to lose its connection to my Apple TV while Notability was open, causing me to go back to a VGA adaptor temporarily. :(
2018: hopped on the iOS 12 public beta as soon as it was made available, which solved all issues I had. Upgraded to the iPad Pro ultimately as battery life was going down the gutter as well. Picked up the smart keyboard while I was at it, find it really nice for typing.
2019: Haven't really used external storage or mouse support yet. Having a download manager (finally!) is really nice, as is being able to fit more icons on the home screen. I think Apple still doesn't know what to do with widgets on the iPad.

Looking back, I have been using the same core group of apps, after an initial period of experimentation. Some apps come and go (like going from notes to bear and back to notes again, or dropping Todoist for Things, though I am contemplating going back to Todoist for the web interface), but I find that the use case hasn't really changed, even as technological improvements have streamlined certain processes.
 
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Dave245

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The iPad is a lot of things to a lot of people. For example my mum and dad use an iPad, they literally use it to browse the internet, watch YouTube and email.
My iPad Pro I use to do all those things but also, draw, video edit occasionally in LumaFusion, play games and write in final draft and use the Apple Pencil to jot down notes.

I don’t think the iPad Pro is just a consumption device anymore. It’s moving closer and closer to a laptop/desktop replacement for a lot more people. I do use my iPad Pro alongside my MacBook Pro and iMac, I love using sidecar on my 2019 MacBook Pro.
 

perezr10

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The best thing about the iPad is that the keyboard isn’t permanently fused to it. I’m willing to put up with a lot for this gain. Conversely, there’s nothing Apple can do to ever make me go back to spending $2,000 for a MacBook Pro.

Gruber can spend an hour griping about font kerning. So I didn’t take his iPad rant as a rejection of the iPad. But I went “all iPad” years ago so I can’t relate to old MacBook veterans complaining.
 
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rowspaxe

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The idea that the ipad --with gestures --is more productive than keyboard driven apps is dying. I use my ipad for illustration and animation. For serious work, I always use keyboard commands. Ios apps are evolving to become more discoverable--ironically--more traditionally menu driven. Cute ideas like 3 finger cut and paste in Procreate simply don't get the job done.
 

Rogifan

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From one of Gruber‘s posts:

I also like the idea of using color to indicate which app has focus. It’s absolutely bonkers that iPadOS has never indicated in any way which app in split-screen mode has focus — a clear sign that iPadOS’s multitasking interface was designed to look good, not to be functional. And by “look good” I mean “look good in the eyes of someone obsessed with visual minimalism”.
Obviously this is a dig at Jony Ive even though it’s probably unlikely he was involved with the iPad OS UI or would have objected to something like this. This hasn’t bothered me but then again I don’t use a physical keyboard with my iPad. It seems to me a lot of the complaints come from people using a hardware keyboard.
 
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SAIRUS

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Apple today:
Tim: "Give me the demographics...okay we have to appeal to these demographics, their price points, and thus the budget and timeline will be this. We'll have a few more meetings to build the back log of items, engage the product owners of various features and bring in the UX team...oh and put out a couple of surveys to check pain points on possible features we could adopt. Oh I get to talk to Oprah about mining conditions in the Congo. Its going to be good."

Random worker: "Heh he used my idea!"
Random worker 2: "Mine too!"
Random worker: "Are you not the janitor?"

Apple yesterday:
Steve: "The product is this, because this is how people will be optimized by using it. I'll come back in a few hours and it better be good."
Random worker: "Heh he used my idea!"
(later)
Random worker 2: "I'm fired, my idea sucks. I guess I'll be a janitor"
- - Post merged: - -

The iPad really has a couple of good things it can do, and a cloud solution is pretty awesome if we could get a little more than 5 gb...shared.
 
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Rogifan

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This blog post sums up my feeling pretty well. Outside of upgrade pricing I’d really like to know what is keeping developers from making these so-called transformational apps. It sure as heck isn’t multitasking.

 

sparksd

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This blog post sums up my feeling pretty well. Outside of upgrade pricing I’d really like to know what is keeping developers from making these so-called transformational apps. It sure as heck isn’t multitasking.

Economics. If developers felt there was enough money to be made, they would be targeting the iPad. They have to weigh development and maintenance costs against number of copies sold at a price people are willing to pay for iPad apps (and take into account Apple's hefty cut).
 

ascender

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I think that there’s a lot of potential benefits to using an iPad with iPadOS rather than macOS (especially with the ipad Pro hardware), but everytime I start to do more than basic stuff, I feel like I’m doing it with one hand tied behind my back. The multitasking just isn’t intuitive to me and it can be so convoluted to try and just get two apps on the screen side by side, especially if the second one isn’t in the dock.

I think the most recent ATP podcast sums it up very well - you don’t have to just take stuff from macOS, but if you’ve implemented something that clearly isn‘t working, its ok to take something that is. So maybe the answer is some sort of menu bar.

FWIW, my old folks both use iPads and love them, but multitasking has confused them massively in recent times as they’re invoking things like slide over and split view, but have no idea how they’ve done it, nor o
how to undo them. Very frustrating.
 

Mainsail

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Let’s face it. Most working folks use the computer provided by their employer, which means they probably do most of their multitasking intensive tasks on a windows PC that the IT department bought at a discount in mass.

For the rest of the average person’s digital life, iPhone + iPad combo is more than sufficient. Occasionally, they might need to drag and drop content from app to app using slide-over or have two apps/documents open side by side. But, it really isn’t that big of a deal. For this stuff, iPad multitasking is useful and works just fine.

Also, there are people that hate to do significant amounts of multitasking on a laptop because the 13in screen is just too cramped. My wife hates laptops for this reason. So, these folks save the multitasking intensive tasks for their desktop (or clamshell laptop) back at their home or the office.