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iPad – just WHO is it for? How did it go so wrong, and is this 1 fix too many?

With delays confirmed to iPadOS 16, and yet more new models on the way, has iPad finally lost its way?

image courtesy of author

Even I don’t use one!

I start with that statement, as I am pretty much as in to the Apple ecosystem as you can get. Apart from an Apple Watch, I pretty much own an Apple device from every category.

Clearly, as you can tell from the picture above, I do own an iPad mini, but I am no hardcore user of it. In honesty, I watch YouTube videos on it, sometimes and check Twitter…and may be iMessage. That’s it, though. I don’t read or reply to email on it, I don’t browse Safari, and don’t write these blogs on it. It’s a handy bit of kit to have around me, but that is about as far as it goes.

If I had to never use one of my Apple devices again, hands down, it would be the iPad. And that should be a worry for Apple. Obviously, not singularly, but collectively. I will not be alone in my current state of iPad malaise and confusion, and I should be the perfect demographic for this tablet. Yet, I simply can’t make iPad fit in to my day.

If they can’t convince the likes of me to open the wallet, and splash-the-cash, then iPad is at a worrying junction.

Baffling choices

Looking at Apple’s website now, there are just so many models of iPad to choose from. And the further you drill down, the more confusing it seems to get – the lines becoming ever more blurred as you start to spec the tablets up.

And rather than looking to simplify the current lineup, Apple seem hell-bent on continuing to develop still further the bewildering array of models on choice.

The 10th Generation iPad, the basic entry model, is getting a spec-bump. The design will mimic the iPad mini, with flat edges and a camera hump, we are told by MySmartPrice. And the similarities won’t end there, with 5G support, USB-C charging, the A14 Bionic chip and a larger screen all set to come the way of the next, entry-level iPad.

All this fettling and tweaking would be fine, if the actual core product was sorted – but it is not. We know that, and I think Apple knows that. For ages now, iPad users have been crying out for a more Mac like experience on iPad. But, for whatever reason, Apple has either failed to deliver it, or decided it is not the direction they want iPad to take.

Confusion still reigns

Earlier this summer, at WWDC, Apple heralded what they thought to be the answer to iPad user’s desire, for a more multi-functional future, with Stage Manager.

If you missed the Stage Manager bus, what it is aiming to do, is to allow users to handle multiple tasks simultaneously, resize windows quickly & easily, and choose between piles of open apps at-a-glance.

I have spoken with numerous people running the beta, and only one, Sami Fathi of MacRumors, has expressed a massively, positive feedback. Actually, you can hear him talk about it on the latest Minus Sixteen podcast, here. Other than Sami, the feedback has been that it’s clunky to use, and not very intuitive either. Worryingly, it appears that the more betas that are released, the worse it is getting as well. Not at all how it normally goes down.

And Apple seems almost apologetic about the new feature. Rather than being a native, ready-to-use app, you have to enable it. Yup, this all new saviour, that iPad users have yearned, is hidden away in Control Centre, and is a feature you have to manually enable. And, even then, it is only available on a handful of the iPad lineup anyway!

Worse still

After the lull of the summer months, the autumn always awaits us with the promise of new goodies – both software and hardware. Normally, the first of the ‘big-guns’ to flex, is the release of a bevy of new OS, normally, in September.

This year, though, it has been confirmed that iPadOS will not be with us until October. That will be breaking an eleven-year precedent of releasing iOS and iPadOS side be side.

It would seem that the timetable this year, though, is to stagger releases – with iOS 16, and watchOS 9 being released in September, and then macOS Ventura and iPadOS released the month after. While on the face of it, it makes sense to bundle together macOS & iPadOS together, as they will both be running Stage Manager, make no mistake, this was not planned.

A bit messy

So, sure Mac & iPad go together, and clearly watch & iPhone go together, but, there is some major crossover of the OS, and the month delay between the two could lead to confusion for developers & users alike.

At WWDC, we were told about a raft of new features that should’ve worked seamlessly between iPhone & iPad – features such as the un-send or edit an iMessage, the updated Mail app, or handing-off FaceTime calls between devices. Clearly, that universal functionality, will now have to wait a month or so.

And if developers have been feverishly working away this summer, developing app bundles to run on both iOS and iPadOS, those plans too are now in tatters. I guess they will have to make a choice between, waiting to ship all apps until October, or splitting the releases. Either way, it’s far from perfect. Not quite the slick Apple rollout we are accustomed to.

Wrapping up

So, with the latest messy, ‘will-they-won’t-they’ release of iPadOS 16, and another botched attempt at multitasking with Stage Manager, I wonder is the time up for iPad?

Even since M1 was put inside iPad, there has still been an enduring, steadfast resistance against letting pro users have pro apps such as Final Cut or Logic on their iPad. We know the internals can handle it; we know the users want it…so why the delay? It’s time to give the iPad purpose.

Something, somewhere, does not add up to me. The iPad story seems confused, fractured and disjointed. Some argue the iPad mini, in its latest iteration, would have been the iPad Steve Jobs would’ve wanted.

That, I guess, we’ll never know, but I can tell you this – it’s all the iPad I want.

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