This is what iPadOS needs before the iPad can truly replace a computer

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This is what iPadOS needs before the iPad can truly replace a computer
I have been trying to use a variety of iPads and Android tablets as PC replacements over the years, because like many other tech enthusiasts, I see the potential behind the idea. iPads are much lighter and easier to carry around than a laptop. They're also quiet, with longer-lasting batteries, often much better build quality, and... simply way more fun to use than a Mac or PC!

Apple has indeed been marketing the iPad as a PC replacement for a while now, and considering the newer iPad Pro models are faster than many laptops, iPads are definitely ready to replace your PC, on paper.

But there remain glaring software-related issues that still hold the iPad back from being a competent PC replacement for most users.

Multitasking is still a mess

Any PC user who switches to an iPad will immediately be turned off by its mobile phone interface and single-app-at-a-time experience. Yes, you can use Split View, which pauses many apps' playback when you need to go to the home screen and pick a second app. You can also use Slide Over, which is unusably small and tall, often covering way more vertical screen real estate than it needs to, especially when used with apps such as YouTube.

At the very least, iOS multitasking should be as fluent as it is on many Android devices nowadays, where if you're running YouTube and want to launch another app in split-screen, going to the home screen in order to open it won't pause YouTube's playback. Android also allows for windowed apps and vertical split screen, iPadOS still doesn't.

iPads should not only allow for better multitasking, but go the extra step towards how a PC handles apps, with support for app minimizing and switching like on MacOS. It should keep an app active and accessible in the dock even when the user switches to a different app. It seems like a no-brainer to just do multitasking like it is on MacOS, instead of still sticking to a mobile phone solution for multitasking.

Desktop apps need to come to iPad

iPad already has some amazing desktop-class applications, such as Safari and Photoshop, and a variety of high-quality apps for productivity, like Procreate and LumaFusion.

But to really attract a majority of professional PC and Mac users, Apple has yet to bring its own highly popular desktop apps such as Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro to the iPad. Final Cut Pro alone is many professionals' excuse for owning a Mac, so it's reasonable to expect that porting it to iPad would make the device highly appealing to pros.

More console games should be ported to iPad

Just because Mac can't compare to PC when it comes to its gaming library, that doesn't mean the iPad should overlook "real" gaming too, and stick with just mobile games. If games like Skyrim can be ported to the Nintendo Switch and its inferior hardware, they can be ported to the iPad too. Apple should seriously consider encouraging developers to give that a go.

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Right now, on an iPad we can either play 90's console and PC games, such as Sonic The Hedgehog and Doom, or a few games from the early 2000's, namely Max Payne and Grand Theft Auto. And while that's great, and those are fun, they were ported all the way back in 2011. The iPad's hardware has vastly improved over the last 9 years, yet it still only has those, and mobile games.

File management still needs work

When I wanted to transfer my downloaded music library from a Windows PC to an iPad, I quickly discovered that it's basically not meant to be possible. After a long period of trial and error, the solution for me was to download the VLC Player app on my iPad, and use iTunes on my PC to transfer the music into VLC's folder. So now I can only play my music library through VLC, and not the Music iPad app.

Turns out, the Music app only works for music you bought via iTunes. But, as Apple clearly hasn't figured out yet, there are plenty of other ways for one to build a music library.

This is just one of many anti-consumer experiences you'll stumble upon when trying to use an iPad as your main computer. Another one is – at the moment, the Files app only lets users see the size of a single file at a time, you can't see the sizes of folders or multiple files. Although file management on iOS / iPadOS has improved vastly over the last few years, it still can't be defined as PC-class.

Better widgets for Today View

Anytime you see a modern iPad being used, the user has Today View active on the home screen, but with no useful information actually on it. It's often kept on because it looks nice and sells us the promise that in the future, it may become useful.

Let's take the Mail widget. If you've ever used a mail widget on Android, you'd know how it's supposed to work – showing you a list of your latest emails along with their subjects, sender name and sometimes more. The Mail widget for Today View on iPad however shows nothing, you're supposed to "Add VIPs", which means priority accounts. It's a very niche thing to expect from the average iPad user. Most people expect to see their newest incoming emails in a widget like that, so that's what it should be doing, or at least have the option. A Music or Media widget to control more than just Apple Music would be nice too, like we have in the Control Centre.

Better kickstand cases for iPads

This isn't about iPadOS per se, but it's still worth mentioning. As we know, Apple is all about the pretty and simple design language. Having that in mind, I doubt the Cupertino company will ever add a kickstand to the iPad itself, like the Microsoft Surface tablets conveniently have. But we should at least have better options for simple, thin and sturdy kickstand cases. If I'm forced to buy an expensive case with each new iPad, just so it could stand up on its own, I'd at least like the case options to not make the iPad thicker, heavier, or worse-feeling. But most case options out there, including those from Apple, just aren't very good.

Apple's own first-party "smart folio" solutions still use the folding "origami" design with weak magnets, which offer nowhere near a decent or secure, adjustable kickstand solution as what we have on Microsoft's Surface tablets. Apple's smart folio cases aren't even adjustable, you get one viewing angle and one "typing" angle, that's it.

We should expect from a computer replacement to be able to stand on its own in several usable positions, or at least for it to have a variety of quality kickstand cases available. I'm aware that Apple's new Magic Keyboard (seen below) has adjustable viewing angles, but that's a $300 keyboard and trackpad accessory, and it's only for the newer Pro models.

In conclusion

The iPad is an amazing device, and can already replace a PC for light users. But for many, it continues to be held back by Apple's choice to still treat it as little more than a large iPhone, at least when it comes to its software.

Apple splitting iPadOS from iOS was a promising step in the right direction, but iPadOS is in its infancy, and still too much of a phone operating system. What is your wishlist for future iPadOS versions, and do you think an iPad can already sufficiently replace your computer now?

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