Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Make the iPad More Like the Mac

Radu Dutzan (via Daniel Cohen):

Fast forward to almost-2019: the iPad is now “Pro”, the screen goes up to 13", it has an optional keyboard and pointing device, and bests over half the MacBook line in benchmarks. Yet it still runs the iPhone’s OS. Yeah, they added a fancier multitasking UI and the ability to run up to 3 apps at once in a limited set of configurations, but it still behaves like it’s a pocket-sized device for use with your imprecise fingers as you walk down the street. The home screen is still just a sparse grid of apps, a useless mess left to the user to manage. Things like Spotlight, Siri, voice calls or interacting with notifications still take up the entire screen, and so do apps (except for the highly limited and sometimes confusing floating window mode). Undo is still a mess. And text cursor behaviors are a bureaucratic hassle, even when used with a Pencil.


I’m so tired of holding my breath for Apple to release some sort of iPad Xcode, and the people at Sketch said back in 2015 that it just didn’t make financial sense for them to build a touch version, so I pulled the trigger, and got the Luna on Black Friday. It arrived yesterday, and I’ve been living my dream: I’m running macOS on my iPad. Well, not so much as running it on the iPad, more like streaming it from my Mac, but it’s pretty close.


There are so many places where the iPad could benefit from some adaptation of tap-and-drag selection. […] That same heuristic could be applied to iPad text fields and layout apps such as Keynote: after holding a touch still on a text field or on the canvas for a set amount of time, the gesture could become a selection drag, and moving your finger could begin selecting the text or objects encompassed by the net dragged distance.

Previously: iPad Pro 2018, Using an iPad as a Mac mini Display, Proof That iOS Still Hasn’t Gotten Undo Right.

Update (2018-12-12): Michael Love:

This; but, RAM is still a fundamental issue we don’t have a good solution for. Essential to iPad’s nature that it always be running / turn on instantly, but you can’t do that with 16 GB RAM without a gonzo battery.

Apple can come up with an utterly flawless desktop-replacement OS for iPad in 2019, but as long as it’s stuck at 4-6 GB of RAM it’ll never be able to run Xcode or other professional apps without offloading most of the work to a server somewhere.

Colin Cornaby:

I also want to tack onto this that iOS’s no-swap-file memory architecture is basically unacceptable for pro apps. Alone it is a blocker for things like Xcode and Final Cut Pro.

Update (2018-12-19): See also: Dave Mark.

9 Comments RSS · Twitter

Or, you know, just use a Mac.

And, if you're really lucky, you might find one with a keyboard and pointing device built-in... who'da thought!

The whole point of the Ipad is that, for better or worse, it leaves behind 30 years of computing conventions and its attendant 30 years of cruft. It presents a simpler, more pared down, easier to grok set of conventions for using a computing device. There is no f-ing way that Apple, having gone to all the trouble to create a new set of conventions and new paradigms for computing on mobile touch based devices, is going to undo all that just to make some techies who are unwilling to let go of those 30 years of conventions and cruft more comfortable with the new platform.

Glaurung: Yes! Give the cruft of today a chance!

I don't understand how people can use the iPad for "professional" stuff based solely on the fact that its multitasking sucks, in the way where if you leave an app in the middle of working on something, to switch to another app or two, the original app's state gets reset and you lose your data. An example of this that everybody can understand is loading a few tabs in Safari, then going and using some other apps, and coming back to Safari only to have it reload all of your tabs again because it doesn't have true multitasking (or you load the data, mess with some other apps, go offline, and then switch back to Safari to find nothing but a blank page where the article you wanted to read was previously loaded).

Seriously, what is this, System 6? Even a Mac that's 10+ years old, with much lower specs than the current iPads, can keep browser tabs loaded with tons of tabs and other apps running. This is infuriating, and it's a disgrace that the iPad is 8+ years old and Apple still hasn't fixed this huge BUG.

How can anybody use the iPad for anything serious, when you can't even trust that iOS won't mysteriously reset your data in the background?

@Ben G

"the original app's state gets reset and you lose your data."

Actually no, your state is saved before the app gets kicked from memory, so you lose no data. That's been the case with every version of IOS I've ever used and with just about every IOS app I've ever used - when I do run into an app that loses data when it gets kicked from memory, the behaviour is so contrary to how you expect things to work that the app feels broken.

Safari (and other apps that use webkit web views) is a glaring exception - the page you were on is saved but whatever you were typing into it is not saved. It's high time Apple fixed that annoyance now that IOS runs on devices with more than 128mb of RAM. But in every other app that one might rely on to do work on IOS, you lose no data when the app gets kicked from memory.

Okay, it technically may not lose my data. But if it loses my *place* in the app, such that when I switch back to the app it has mysteriously returned to its start screen instead of WHERE I LEFT IT... and I have to navigate back to where I was (which if it's an app that accessed my data from the cloud, and I'm no longer online, that data is GONE — not permanently erased, but I can't access it until I'm online again which is a HUGE pain in the ass). So even if it's not losing data in a "the dog ate my homework" sort of way, it's still SUPER ANNOYING. I can't TRUST iOS like I can trust OS X. The fact is, no matter how "powerful" the iPhones and iPads are, they are COMPLETELY HOBBLED by iOS despite being on hardware that can run circles around even just 1 year old Macbooks. That is inexcusable and should have been fixed 2+ years ago.

I mean here's an example from earlier today, on an iPhone 8 Plus. I was reading an article in Google News and switched to Spotify FOR TWO MINUTES. Then when I switched back to Google News, it was no longer at the article I was reading, it was back at the main screen. I had to scroll down, find the article I was reading, load it again, and then scroll to the paragraph I was last reading. I have wasted so much time in iOS over the years because it lost my place in whatever I was doing, just because I switched to another app or two.

Seriously, how is this acceptable?

I honestly don't understand why people who are paying $1,000 for an iPad aren't furious about all of its limitations — and I don't mean esoteric stuff like "it doesn't have a Terminal"... the damn thing is TEDIOUS to do even the most basic tasks compared to a Mac. It still has a single-tasking mindset, despite the kludgy hacks that Apple has done over the past few years to make it appear to be multitasking.

I'm curious. With the exception of it being a glorified WACOM tablet for artists, and a convenient way to watch YouTube and Netflix, what type of tasks can actually be done faster or more efficiently on an iPad vs a Mac?

@Ben G,
Yes! This is a peeve of mine as well. Safari is abysmal about this of course, Glaurung is spot on bringing up that elephant in the room (remember when one of the big iPhone selling points was a usable mobile browser?!!?), but other apps are effected.

I don't use iOS anymore, so the horrible nature of mobile Safari no longer bugs me, but there are still apps on Android that have the same problem as Ben brought up for iOS. I wonder if it's apps that are glorified mobile browser views?

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