Apple Pundit: The iPad is Doomed

Apparently debunking iPad misinformation has become one of my hobbies. Sometimes I’m able to just walk away but the lure of “someone is wrong on the internet” is strong, so, here I am. The latest is Michael Gartenberg at Business Insider. Of course, it begins with a pure link-bait title: I Was a Die-Hard Apple iPad Fan. Not Anymore ā€” Here’s Why. . It’s behind a paywall but you can use Safari’s Reader Mode to get around that. Not that I encourage you to give them the click. I’ve got full quotes below.

The article came to my attention when I was browsing the iPad hashtag on Mastodon. I found Michael’s post via another user’s response. I engaged him but, like the article, found his responses lacking substance. These articles really are just filler text for clicks, all repeating the same narrative and offering little in the way of actual thought. And they get paid for this.

Let’s get this over with.

I still own an iPad Pro, but I hardly ever reach for it. It’s a cool device and significantly better than what was introduced in 2010. At the same time, it’s a jack-of-all-trades but master of none, so I can no longer justify its existence as part of my ecosystem.

Okay, Michael admits that he hardly uses his iPad. In my exchange on Mastodon I pointed to this as evidence that, perhaps, if he’s not regularly using the device it’s also possible that he’s not keeping up with the new features. Other Apple Pundits often complain about missing features that are not actually missing and are often easy to find if given minimal effort. But he assured me that he’s very familiar with iPadOS.

Also note his mention of it being a “jack-of-all-trades” but master of none. In this context it would seem he’s referring to the iPad as a general purpose computer to which I would respond: Yes, exactly. We’ll get back to this later but he’s not really clear on what he actually means here.

One of the iPad’s biggest issues is that its hardware is increasingly overpowered relative to the apps available for the device. With each new iteration, the iPad has gotten faster and more capable, but the quality and quantity of iPad apps have not kept pace, despite Apple’s promises of “desktop class” apps for it.

I believe he’s referencing last year’s WWDC when Apple introduced iPadOS improvements that would enable new options for the toolbar in apps. Apple’s own apps such as Pages, Keynote, and Numbers now take advantage of this as do some third party apps. It’s up to developers to add these new features to their apps.

So iPad users, like myself, are paying a premium for hardware that is far more advanced than the software we are able to run on it.

I’d be curious to know what apps Michael actually wants to use that are unavailable. What I see of Apple pundits is that many seem to earn their living writing or talking into a microphone. Are they also film editors, audio engineers and app developers on the side?

But really, it’s become a Apple pundit trope. It’s the exact same for all of these types of articles and it’s not true that pro-level apps are not available.

For writers like Michael there is a wide range of word processor apps. For general office work there are Apple’s own iWork offerings as well as Microsoft’s Office and lots of other excellent text and markdown apps.

Later in the article in further mentioning “pro” apps that are on the Mac but not the iPad he writes: “everything from Adobe’s creative applications to Microsoft’s Visual Studio, or for that matter, Apple’s own app-development platform, Xcode.”

See, these are probably not apps Michael needs at all. And I’d guess that it’s a very small group, proportionally, that needs Xcode or Visual Studio. The same for Final Cut Pro or Logic. Remember, the headline of this article is all about why Michael had to give up the iPad. He never actually says anything at all about his personal use case. This is really more about doing a hit piece on the iPad because that’s a popular thing to do.

But let’s play along a little further. He specifically calls out Adobe as missing. Weird. I’ve got the App Store open and Adobe Illustrator for iPad has 26,000 ratings with an average of 4.6. Photoshop has 52,000 ratings, average of 4.4. There’s also Lightroom with 31,000 ratings, 4.8 average, Premiere Rush, 107,000 ratings, 4.6 average and Fresco 30,000 ratings, 4.7 average. Also available is Adobe Acrobat for editing pdfs (there are lots of pdf editors). Wow, if only Adobe had some iPad apps maybe we could get something done over here.

Now, to be clear, I don’t use these apps and from skimming reviews these apps are not yet equal to their desktop counterparts. Even so, they have many thousands of reviews with a decent average rating. So, it would appear at least some out there find them useful. And in the end it’s on Adobe to develop these apps.

But what Michael does not acknowledge anywhere in the article is the fact that over the past several years many third party developers have worked very hard to bring pro level apps to the iPad. Before Adobe got in the game Serif brought Affinity Designer and Photo to the iPad several years ago. And with their most recent 2.0 update they’ve also brought Publisher into the suite for iPad. It’s a full on, fully capable competitor to Adobe’s InDesign and one of my most used apps.

Another noticeable pro-level app is DaVinci Resolve, a well regarded video editor was recently released for the iPad and another high quality video editor is LumaFusion which has been available for several years. Very well regarded video editing apps but ignored by Michael. Not surprising given that the existence of all these apps (and many, many more) are counter to the Apple Pundit narrative that there are no pro-level apps available for the iPad.

But he jumps into another popular meme which is less about the iPad and more about Apple’s supposedly terrible relationship with developers. That goes beyond the scope of post but I did want to point out that to make his argument Michael cites a Twitter post by a developer who’s having issues with a game:

If Apple plans to make the iPad a truly capable device with first-class apps, it’s going to need to take developer relationships a lot more seriously. Developers should not have to appeal on social media to get Apple’s attention on highly subjective App Store rules and whims.

So, to be clear, the App Store and developer relations are an iPad problem and the one anecdote he points to, citing “first-class apps”, is a game.

Let’s move on.

Another major issue is that the user interface, based on iOS, has become increasingly complicated over time. With each new release of iOS, Apple has added features and functionality, making the operating system more powerful but more complex. This has made it more difficult for users to find the features they need, leading to confusion and frustration.

Okay, now we’re getting into the complaints of iPadOS. A common complaint from primarily Mac using pundits is that iPadOS too limited, too simple. But here Michael is suggesting that it’s too complicated, with too many features and too much functionality. My head is spinning and I think I’ve got whiplash. How is iPadOS simultaneously too basic and not powerful enough and yet it is too complicated with added features and functionality.

And remember, by his own admission, Michael hardly ever touches his iPad. And yet he expects to know how to use the new features? Is this supposed to happen via osmosis when he touches his iPad? Look, if you want a more powerful, more capable OS you will have to take at least a little time learning those new features as they are added. Some actual effort is needed to learn how to use a more complicated, powerful device.

You know what else requires a new user to spend some time learning? A Mac. A new Mac user has to take time to explore and become familiar with the features. As iPadOS becomes more capable users that want to take advantage will have to do the same.

Some users will just use the more basic functionality that’s been present in the iPad for the past 13 years. My parents, both iPad users, have no idea that split screen exists, they’ve never used that feature. Using two windows of the same app side by side? Not a thing for them. What’s multi-tasking? They just happily use the very simple iPad. That’s the balance Apple continues to maintain for different users.

Michael then discusses yet another “problem” of the too simple, too complicated iPad: gestures. Yes, it’s true, the iPad started life as a touch screen computer! That meant learning gestures. 13 years ago they were simpler and over the years more have been added. Does Michael expect that a new user should just be able to pick up the iPad and by virtue of touching it they would know all of these gestures?

Here are just a few examples. The iPad supports a wide variety of gestures, including swipes, pinches, and taps, that can be used to navigate and interact with apps. But many users find these gestures hard to learn, and they are not apparent without some explanation or guidance beyond what the iPad offers.

Let’s be clear, these are all the same gestures that one uses with an iPhone but we don’t see an outcry about how hard the iPhone is to use! So weird that it’s only a problem on the iPad.

Somehow, my 80 year old granny who’s only computer use prior to her iPad was playing solitaire on an old Windows PC was able to manage her iPad within a couple hours of practice sitting next to a family member. Within a few days she was happily sending email, posting to Facebook, getting games, sending messages. The same for several others in my family that had never used a desktop computer. Did they pick up their iPad and suddenly know how to use it? Actually, those that had iPhones did. They got it instantly. Others needed a little guidance in the first few hours. But all became proficient in the basic, essential gestures within their first day or two.

But you know, for anyone that might need some tips or reminders going forward, there’s the internet. A search for iPad gestures yields this page from Apple.

Ever forward, we must push forward. We’re getting close to the end.

While the iPad is highly customizable, the process of customizing settings and preferences is more than a bit arcane. Configuring things like the “dock,” the “control center,” and your notifications can take some time to figure out, and the options are buried levels deep under settings.

Yeah, this isn’t the problem it’s being made out to be. This is called learning something new and it’s not specific to the iPad. Again, everything Michael mentions here is also true of the iPhone. Certainly, diving into the more powerful features of iPadOS, should a user want them, does require more effort, more time to explore and learn. Just as they might need to do on the Mac.

But at this point these “problems” of the iPad are greatly exaggerated and in some cases, not at all specific to the iPad. But, you know, juicy headline and all that.

Stage Manager, the iPad’s new showcase feature for multitasking, isn’t even turned on by default. It’s hidden away ā€” and for good reason. It’s difficult to use, and I would need to write a full-length review to describe just how truly awful my experience with it has been.

It is off by default. Again, Apple sides with simplicity to cater to the larger pool of users that likely don’t want or need Stage Manager and probably have not even learned of its existence. That’s good. The “pro” users will have learned of Stage Manager (advanced users are those that pay attention to Apple-related news, Apple’s website, WWDC announcements, etc). They will have learned about Stage Manager and will turn it on when they’re ready to check it out.

But hard to use? No, it’s not. It’s really not. Is it more complicated than the previous windowing offered on the iPad. Of course, by definition, yes. It’s a new feature that does more, has more options. So yes, it does require at least a little effort, a little practice. But again, this is an advanced feature for advanced users. It should be expected that some effort will be involved. I’m not special, no super powers. I turned on Stage Manager and got the basics within minutes. With a little practice I was comfortable and having no problems other than the instability and oddities that came with running a beta. By the time of the final release it was vastly improved and much more usable.

An in-depth review from MacStories’ Federico Viticci tells you all you need to know: He spends most of it venting about his inability to get the feature to work without crashing his whole system.

No. No, his review does not tell us all we need to know. Look, Federico is known as the iPad guy. It’s a part of his online brand and how he earns his living. It’s beyond the scope of this post but it’s become a meme that the largely Mac-using Apple Punditry point to Federico as the exception to the rule. The stubborn guy who has to work extra hard to make the iPad work for him. “You can’t get real work done on an iPad” is a decade old meme and Federico is the most known Apple pundit fighting that fight. All the while being told: Just get a Mac! It’s become a part of the iPad story for those that listen to Apple/tech podcasts or read the websites.

There’s a lot to unpack with Federico, his role of championing the iPad in this sphere and his current take on the iPad. Again, not really the subject of this post so I’ll leave it.

The specific point I’d make is that Michael calls forth Federico as the sole authority who’s opinion is all we need to know and that’s ludicrous. I’ve got a news flash for Michael, there are likely many thousands of iPad users who are not Federico, who are not podcasters, who do not have his tastes or preferences and those users might well be very happy with Stage Manager. I know I am.

Okay, winding down with the last bit of the article in which Michael worries about the future of the iPad should Apple make a touch screen Mac.

A touchscreen MacBook would kill the iPad

Presumably, it would arrive as a touchscreen-keyboard situation, a form factor that’s more familiar and traditional for laptop users. This would make the iPad practically obsolete. Virtually anything one could do on an iPad would now be possible on a Mac, while the reverse would not be true.

Again, spoken like an Apple pundit who apparently has no family members that are not just like him. Does it really not occur to him that maybe some of the users of hundreds of millions of iPads that have been sold over the past 13 years would be better served by an easier to use iPad than they would a Mac? Mr. Gartenberg I’d like to introduce you to my granny, my aunt, my uncle, my mom, my dad, my sister… all of them iPad users, none of them Mac users.

Speaking for myself though, I don’t want a laptop. Some Mac users seem to find it hard to comprehend than some of us using the iPad do not want a laptop. Sometimes I do want a laptop like experience and that’s when I dock my iPad to a keyboard. That’s it, laptop mode achieved. But other times I want my iPad just a screen to be hand held or propped up on a kickstand. Nor do I want macOS. I used the Mac from 1993 till 2016 at which point I came to prefer the iPad.

So, no, I don’t think a touchscreen Mac (only a rumor at this point) will kill the iPad.

Apple pundits, please, please, do some original thinking and stop with the clickbait. If you feel that drawn to write about the iPad how about doing some quality tech journalism that harkens back to the late 90s when we could get real reviews of software instead of this stream of despair and outrage.

1 thought on “Apple Pundit: The iPad is Doomed

  1. Clarke Ching

    Nicely put. You write and think well. And Iā€™m grateful for that šŸ™‚

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