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A Closer Look at iPadOS: WWDC 2019 Showstopper, Laptop Killer?

Apple’s iPads have come a long way from the first iPad launched almost a decade ago. Since then, a growing ecosystem of accessories and hardware components have honed it to the incredible machine it is today.

Last year, Apple released the 2018 iPads Pro, which so thoroughly impressed us (and almost all of the tech community ) that the mirth directed at Apple’s viral commercial entitled “What’s a Computer” effectively dissipated.

Most of the reservations remaining around the iPad had concerned its software-side limitations. File management crutches, dumbed-down websites, and subpar multitasking. It seemed at times to be more powerful than a laptop, yet little more than a large smartphone at others.

Apple’s WWDC 2019 might have been its most bold, powerful one yet, and iPadOS is at the heart of it. Apart from a landmark, long-awaited update to its Mac Pro line of professional desktop computers, the iPad got a software update, effectively freeing it from the clutches of iOS that it had previously shared with the much smaller and physically limited iPhone. Here is everything you need to know about how the iPad will potentially kill laptops.

Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering announces iPadOS. Image: Apple

User Interface (UI)

To better utilise the unique form-factor of the iPad, Apple has redesigned the way users interact with their iPads, starting from the home screen. With a tighter app grid layout at 6×5 apps (up from 5×4), in addition to pinning pre-set widgets on to the home screen by swiping from the left, making a large amount of information accessible from the home screen.

Apple CEO Tim Cook presents iPadOS, with tighter 6×5 app grid and widgets visible. Image: Apple

Split View has been a long-running feature for some time now, but Apple has added a new Slideover that floats an app like a card above another for easy multitasking. This is accessible with a swipe from the right side of the screen. Users can drag apps from the dock to change the card in Slideover, and toggle and change the Slideover app with gestures like on an iOS device.

Craig Federighi showcases how Slideover apps can be fanned out with a swipe up – like on iPhone. Image: Apple

Multiple instances of the same app can now be run simultaneously in Split View, paired with the same or with different applications. This works for Mail, Notes, Safari, and even third-party apps like Microsoft Word. Users can also bring up all the instances of a specific application running on the iPad through App Exposé by tapping on the app in the dock. This means class-leading multi-tasking performance that matches the iPad’s class-leading hardware.

Two Notes app running side-by-side. Additional documents from the app can be opened in Split View with other applications, too. Image: Apple

File Management

Long a gripe with iPad power-users, file management has been drastically improved. A new icon view, list view and an all-new column view mean that files on the iPad appear like on MacOS, showcasing important, rich metadata like file size and date modified.

Column View on the iPadOS Files app allows users to view greater hierarchies of files, along with accessing key metadata. Image: Apple

iCloud Drive supports folder sharing, with support for SMD file server sharing for enhanced collaboration and teamwork.

External storage mediums like external hard drives, thumb drives and SD cards now show up in Files, and Photos are imported from cameras directly into Lightroom. Exactly like on Mac.

iPadOS enables seamless external storage through the Files app. Image: Apple

Web Browsing

Another key gripe has been the dumbed-down web-surfing experience on iPad, that opts for the simpler, scantier mobile version of web pages. 

iPads running iPadOS (right) will now load fully-functional web pages designed for laptops. Image: Apple

On Safari, however, iPad can now access desktop-class sites with on-device optimisation. This means sites are sized perfectly for iPad while touch inputs are supported. More shortcuts have also been added, along with a download manager.

Text Editing

Key for coders, editors (like myself) and designers alike, the text editing experience on iPad has also been radically improved. Custom fonts are now supported on iPad. Major font providers FounderType, MoRiSaWa, Monotype, Adobe and DynaFont will be the first to be supported.

A new scroll bar on the right allows for greater speed in navigating lengthy documents, while a single-touch interface controls the cursor: simply pick it up and drop it down without any time-consuming long-presses required.

A three-finger swipe to the left undoes the last action. Image: Apple

Most notable are the new multitouch three-finger gestures: grab to copy, double-grab to cut, spread to paste, and swipe to the left to undo.

iPad keyboard also supports Quick Path like on iPhone, and shrinks down to a tiny keyboard for better one-handed operation.

The iPad keyboard can be compressed to one side for easier typing. Image: Apple

Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil has been improved, too. With an already industry-leading latency of 20ms, it has now been decreased to 9ms. The Apple Pencil now also has a full palette of tools natively that can be shifted around for better ergonomics.

The extended palette of tools, available on native and third-party apps through PencilKit. Image: Apple

Dragging the pencil up from the corner brings apps into Markup, which enables editing and annotating. If it is a “long” site that requires scrolling, the Markup supports it too.

Markup is accessed with a simple swipe with the Pencil. Image: Apple


iPad apps come to MacOS via Catalyst. News, Stocks voice memos and Home have already made their debut, but Developers on iOS can now access Catalyst on Xcode, allowing Mac features to be automatically implemented on iOS apps when reimplementing for Mac. This allows one development team to work on an app across iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Asphalt 9: Legends took a single day to be redesigned for Mac, and Twitter for Mac was running with native Mac features in just days.

Ian Ling
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

One thought on “A Closer Look at iPadOS: WWDC 2019 Showstopper, Laptop Killer?

  1. OCG

    Oh, after the latest WWDC my next purchase will iPad Pro, thats for sure, an amazing OS update.

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