Preview of iPad OS Beta: Are the Changes Big Enough to Matter?

At WWDC 2019, Apple announced the new iPad OS. Before I go too far, I want to caution you about loading this beta. If you use your iPad for anything mission critical, then it’s best to wait until the full release. With that said here are my thoughts on the biggest update to the iPad in years.

One more note before I get to the goods: this is not meant to be a feature by feature review of this beta OS; these are just my thoughts on the changes. There are some things I use and some I don’t see myself using, but I did want to write what I thought was great about the OS and what was not so great.

Apple has taken an important step forward with the release of iPad OS. They have been bringing out what by all intents and purposes is some of the most powerful tablet hardware available in tablet form with the iPad Pro that they have been pushing this as a replacement for a laptop. It’s closer than ever before and is probably the most important change they have made to the iPad in years. Apple’s iPad OS is based on iOS like everything else that doesn’t run on a Mac.

Dark Mode: Meh

One thing I do not understand is the recent fascination by Apple and even Android phone and tablet makers with the dark mode. Yes, it looks fantastic, but I just can’t get excited about this. It’s there.  I have it on. I like it but it’s hardly a reason to get excited about unless you are stuck in the WWDC reality distortion field. I guess if anything, it’s nice to have an option.

The Launcher: The BEST parts of iPad OS

My favorite changes to the OS has been to the launcher itself. Because of the way that Apple implemented widgets I never used them all that much but with the new launcher changes they actually have become useful! The widgets do not show when in portrait mode, but you can swipe to the right to bring them in and that’s much better than switching an entire screen to see them. Maybe there will be a revival of using widgets on iPad OS?  Not sure but this change is appreciated. Plus now you can have MORE icons on the desktop since there’s not a huge amount of space around them. Plus for folder freaks like me, you can place an entire folder of apps on the taskbar which is so nice! No more hunting around for my favorite apps if I happen to not be on the page the folder is on. All in all, this is probably the best change they made.

Things Others Already Did on the iPad and Android

The changes in Safari are wonderful. Finally, you aren’t stuck in a mobile interface on a device that has a screen size closer to many laptops than phones. With that said, if you use Chrome on the iPad, you already had this. Another thing you already had if you used Google’s Gboard was a swipey keyboard, and I actually like how Google did this better than Apple. The only difference with Apple’s keyboard is pinching to make it easier to thumb text in instead of having to fumble with both hands.

With that said, if you use Chrome on your iPad or used any Android phone a lot of these are already there. To Apple I have to say here: it’s about time.

Multitasking?  Kind of.

Multitasking still does not feel right to me. It works, but I can’t see myself using it much on this version of the iPad. If I had an iPad Pro that may change my opinion on it but I kind of want to have windows I can drag around versus how Apple has implemented this. It still feels fiddly to me.

Mice and Storage and Other Things I Couldn’t Test

I wasn’t able to test mouse support, but from what I have read about it — it’s not as useful you might have hoped. Same with mounting storage on the iPad. If you have an iPad Pro, it’s much easier to use both of these features thanks to the USB-C port on the iPad Pro which you can connect a USB hub to. These ARE welcome changes though and if I ever upgrade to a Pro model I will use the heck out of this feature.

My 2017 iPad does not support Apple Pencil, so I couldn’t test any of the pen features.

I also do not have a Mac, so I could not test the sidecar feature.  As for the rest, I have been able to see all of the changes, and I am impressed with the work Apple did, but it still has a way to go.

Conclusion

All in all, it’s a very nice update and this fall when everyone gets it I think it will bring a welcome change to the largest iOS platform. Will it replace your laptop? That depends on what you use it for. As I type this on my Surface Pro 6 which is a much better laptop hybrid in my opinion than an iPad. I think the thing I want the most on iPad OS  is more of a merger of iOS and Mac OS. I’d love to be able to run the full blown Adobe Premiere on an iPad JUST as I do on my Surface Pro. If I had a Mac, I’d MUCH prefer a full touch screen versus the touch bar. Apple doesn’t seem willing to do either, but this is as close as it’s been to being a great laptop replacement and if your needs are basic it may already BE the laptop replacement for you. As for me, my primary personal machine is still my Surface Pro 6 but I do like using my iPad to watch movies…and that is one area where Apple has always excelled in this form factor.


About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.