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With iOS 9, the iPad is ready to be more than just a bigger iPhone

With iOS 9, the iPad is ready to be more than just a bigger iPhone

With iOS 9, the iPad is ready to be more than just a bigger iPhone

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The iPad hasn’t been able to keep up with the extraordinary growth curve of the iPhone, as the tablet’s growth has recently plateaued. Some people have attributed this to the durability of iPads, and that makes sense considering that even the iPad 2 – launched four years ago – will get the next iOS 9 update and still be usable for many. While new iPhone releases have generally meant a significant leap forward, successive iPad releases haven’t been nearly as compelling, unless you’re a gamer. That could finally change, with iOS 9.

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Apple’s iOS 9 operating system was touted as the one that introduced a host of minor updates and bug fixes, unlike the previous two versions which featured big changes. On the other hand, iOS 7 introduced a major overhaul and iOS 8 introduced vital features like extensions, which made iOS much more powerful. But among a host of minor updates, iOS 9 introduced true multitasking, which will change the way people use iPad. This might cause many people to buy iPads again, as some features will only work on the latest iPad Air 2.

What are these new features?
The main change is of course the introduction of true multitasking. Until now, you could only use one app at a time on the iPad, in many ways limiting its usability to that of a phone. Multitasking lets you use multiple apps at once. Want to watch a video while taking notes or checking your Twitter feed? Until now, there was no way to do this on the iPad.

With iOS 9, Apple introduced three main features: Split View, SlideOver and Picture in Picture. Split View is exclusive to the iPad Air 2 and lets you use two apps side by side. If productivity is essential to the way you use iPad, this is the feature you’ve been looking for forever.

SlideOver lets you swipe in from the edge of the screen to open another app. This app is pinned to the side of the screen and is useful when you want to take notes or tweet without leaving the app you’re using. Once you’re done, you can just swipe to the edge of the screen to return to the app you were using.

Picture in Picture keeps videos or FaceTime video calls in a small box on the screen even after pressing the home button. This is an important feature as it allows you to use other apps while watching a video. As tech journalists, we’re smiling at how we can finally use the iPad to write a live blog, and the feature will come in handy for a number of different scenarios for all users – like catching up on e- email or Twitter while watching sports.

These might seem like ordinary features for PC and Mac users, but they’re big changes for the humble iPad.

No longer just a bigger iPhone

Until now, the iPhone could do everything an iPad could. This made the iPad superfluous. While the iPad’s large screen and portability make it a great device for reading books, playing games, or watching movies, the lack of multitasking has limited it as a productivity device.

That doesn’t mean Apple hadn’t thought of these features until now. iPads are much more likely to lack the processing power to implement these features without affecting performance and the overall experience. Older iPads – which ran on dual-core chips or worse – now take a long time to open apps or switch between them. The iPad Air 2 is much more powerful. With a tri-core A8x chip and 2GB of RAM, it’s the most powerful iOS device – up to 55% faster than the iPhone 6.

This allowed Apple to introduce relatively resource-intensive features such as running two apps side-by-side. The company had been hinting about this for some time. Last year at WWDC, Apple announced adaptive user interfaces for apps, which hinted at a future where an app could be scaled to multiple resolutions to easily accommodate Apple devices of different sizes. Apple’s senior vice president for worldwide marketing, Philip Schiller, spoke about it in an interview with Daring Fireball founder John Gruber.

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Schiller said: “Remember, when we launched the iPad, the very first iPad, a lot of work went into rewriting all the apps on the system to take advantage of that big, beautiful screen, and a lot of thought was devoted to this. And then we took it out into the world and saw how people were using it, and then we went back and said, ‘Well, what are the next things we need to do? [that are] unique to the iPad, to make it more productive and useful in what you do. And one of the things was to help you use multiple apps in new ways.”

The plan was always to make it easier to pin apps to one side of the screen in a multitasking environment too. Schiller said: “And it actually took a couple of years of development to get there… It took a while, for example, to release size classes and auto-layout in iOS last year. so people could ostensibly develop for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but we knew that by doing this work we were laying the groundwork for this to happen with El Capitan as well, so some of these things take many years to put it all together in place; to do it the right way. Because you can rush and do it the wrong way, and then we all don’t like it when we are.”

But even the iPad Air 2 might not be powerful enough to run two games or play two high-definition videos at once. Its battery can drain quite quickly if two heavy apps are running at the same time. But these are problems that the developers will solve. They can turn off multitasking if they feel it doesn’t help their app. Apple’s documentation advises developers against implementing multitasking for resource-intensive apps or for games that require the iOS device’s sensors for basic game elements. All of this shows that Apple has thought about this.

More and more like a Mac

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Apple now has a single-port 12-inch MacBook in the market and an iPad that can handle multitasking. These two devices also have about the same battery life. The rumor mill suggests that Apple will introduce a larger 12-inch iPad this year.

Software-wise, the iOS and OS X ecosystems are now closer to each other than ever. Continuity on iOS 8 lets you take calls and answer texts through your iPad and Mac, plus let you continue working on compatible apps on all Apple devices. If you’re using an iPad with iOS 9 connected to a keyboard, you can switch between apps using the command+tab shortcut, just like on OS X.

These little things hint that sooner or later the market will have an equally powerful and functional iPad and MacBook. The iPad is finally ready to take a big step in the right direction – where the iPhone 6 Plus can’t easily cannibalize its sales.

Powerful hardware and multitasking mean the iPad could well become a full-fledged computer for many people, instead of making you choose between portability and productivity. For many of us, this will be a very good reason to finally upgrade to an iPad, and if you already own one, it will be a good reason to upgrade to the latest devices.

Tech

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