Software UX

For those that are unfamiliar with our other articles, we reviewed iOS 9 at its release back in September. If you aren’t familiar with what has changed in the move from iOS 8 to iOS 9 I highly recommend reading it as for the most part I have nothing new to say in the context of what was covered in that review. Instead of treading old ground, it’s worth discussing the specific aspects of the user experience that are unique to the iPad Pro.

The first, and perhaps most obvious change is the display size and resolution. While the aspect ratio is the same as the iPad Air, the significantly increased display size and resolution also affects applications. For the most part I haven’t noticed any issues here. However, in some cases there are still applications that haven’t been properly redesigned for the larger display, so they end up simply being purely upscaled versions of applications designed to fit 7.9 and 9.7 inch displays. This tends to look fairly ugly in my opinion but it does work without issue when dealing with backwards compatibility.

In cases where applications are updated to fit the iPad Pro, designs are generally well-executed and take advantage of the additional screen real estate. It’s probably not a surprise to know that most applications fall under this category, but it’s worth mentioning at any rate.

The larger display size also greatly enhances the utility of split-screen multitasking on the iPad Pro, as it’s generally quite useful to be able to run two almost iPad Air-sized apps simultaneously on the iPad Pro. As discussed in the Apple Pencil section of this review, being able to read a PDF and take notes/do problem sets based upon a document opened in Safari is incredibly useful and helps with productivity. There are other applications here to be sure, but I think an education setting was where I found the most value. However, it's worth mentioning that the multitasking UI feels like it isn't really designed for a future where hundreds of applications will occupy the slide-out multitasking menu.

For the most part, iOS is smooth and performant on the iPad Pro. However, there are a few notable cases where I did notice frame drops. For whatever reason, this seems to be basically limited to the Notes application. It seems that as time has gone on it has become increasingly difficult for anyone shipping a mobile OS to make everything smooth all the time, likely a product of their increasing complexity and larger code base.

Overall, I don't have as much to say here. When the only two competing tablet operating systems worth discussing in comparison to iOS are either neglected (Android) or heavily reliant upon legacy applications that really need a mouse and keyboard to be used properly (Windows), iOS stands alone as basically the only touchscreen OS worth using. I don't think the solution to the problem of the keyboard with the iPad Pro means that it needs a touchpad, nor should using both keyboard and touch simultaneously in the deployed mode be the dominant method of interaction. Trying to do the former is basically just emulating a really terrible laptop, while the latter makes for poor ergonomics almost universally.

While it may be appealing to make a tablet that is also a laptop due to the nature of legacy Windows applications, trying to make such a convergence device is a great way to make either a compromised laptop or a compromised tablet. The other half of the functionality is almost never going to be used in practice if my experiences with Surface Pro are anything to go by. Android showed arguably even more promise than iOS as a tablet OS due to its more traditional computer than appliance OS structure, for whatever reason the promise that came with the structure of Android didn't pan out in execution.

As a result, the iPad line stands alone in software, for better or for worse.

Smart Keyboard Camera, Misc.
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  • MathieuLF - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    Obviously you don't actually work in a real office where they require lots of specialized software. What's the point of having one device to complement another? That's a waste of resources. Reply
  • LostAlone - Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - link

    Totally agree. For a device to really be useful on a professional level then it needs to be something that is useful all the time, not just when it suits it. If you already wanted a tablet for professional stuff to begin with (a pretty shaky assumption since pro users tend to be working in one place where proper keyboard and mouse are usable) then you need a tablet that can be the only device you need to work on. You need something that you can put in your bag and know that whenever you arrive somewhere you are going to have every single tool you need. And that is not the iPad Pro. It's not even close to replacing an existing laptop. It's certainly very sexy and shiny and the big screen makes it great for reading comics and watching videos on the train but it's not a work device. It's simply not. Even in the only field where it might have claim to being 'pro' (drawing) it's not. It's FAR worse than a proper Wacom tablet because the software is so hugely lacking.

    It's an iPad dressed up like a grown up device laying in the shadow of actual professional grade devices like the Surface Pro. You get a Surface then you can use it 24/7 for work. You can buy a dock for it and use it as your primary computer. You can get every single piece of software on your desktop plus anything your employer needs and it's easy for your work sysadmins to include it in their network because it's just another Windows PC. Just dumb stuff like iPads refusing to print on networked printers (which happens ALL the time by the way) exclude it from consideration in a professional space. It's a great device for traditional tablet fare but it's not a pro device.
    Reply
  • Constructor - Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - link

    Your straw man scenarios are just that. In reality most users don't need every last exotic niche feature of any given dinosaur desktop software as a praeconditio sine qua non.

    Which you also might be able to deduce from the fact that most of those features had not been present on these desktop applications either when "everybody" nevertheless used them professionally even so.

    In real life the physical flexibility and mobility of an iPad will often trump exotic software features (most bread-and-butter stuff is very much supported on iOS anyway) where the circumstances simply call for it.

    Actual professionals have always made the difference notably by finding pragmatic ways to make the best use of the actual tools at hand instead of just whining about theoretical scenarios from their parents' basements for sheer lack of competence and imagination.
    Reply
  • kunalnanda - Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - link

    Just saying, but most office workers use a LOT more than simply notetaking, email, wordprocessor and calendar. Reply
  • Demigod79 - Friday, January 22, 2016 - link

    Software companies only create crippled, lesser versions of their software because of the mobile interface. Products like the iPad are primarily touch-based devices so apps must be simplified for touch. Although the iPad supports keyboard input (and have for years) you cannot navigate around the OS using the keys, keyboard shortcuts are few and far between and and it still has touch features like autocorrect (and of course the iPad does not support a trackpad or mouse so you must necessarily touch the screen). The iPad Pro does not change this at all so there's no reason why software companies should bring their full productivity suite to this device. By comparison, PC software developers can rely on users having a keyboard and mouse (and now touchscreens as well for laptops and hybrids) so they can create complex, full-featured software. This is the primary difference between mobile and desktop apps. Just like FPS games must be watered down and simplified to make them playable with a touchscreen, productivity apps must also be watered down to be usable. No amount of processing power will change this, and unless the iPad Pro supports additional input devices (at the very least a mouse or trackpad) it will remain largely a consumption device. Reply
  • gistya - Sunday, January 24, 2016 - link

    This is just wrong. There are many fully-fledged applications available on iPad. It comes with a decent office suite, plus Google's is free for it as well. I haven't touched MS Word in a couple of years, and when I do it seems like a step backwards in time to a former, crappier era of bloatware.

    Sure, I still use Photoshop and Maya and Pro Tools on my Mac, but guess what? iPad has been part of my professional workflow for four years now, and I would not go back.

    Ask yourself: is a secondary monitor a "professional tool"? Heck yes. What about a third or fourth? What if it fits in your hand, runs on batteries, and has its own OS? Now you cannot find a professional use?

    Give me a break. People who are not closed-minded, negative dolts already bought millions of iPads and will keep buying them because of how freaking useful they are, professionally and non-professionally. They will only keep getting more useful as time goes on.

    The main legit critique I've heard is a lack of availability for accessories but that's a production issue, not a product issue. iOS 9 has been out for only a few months and the iPad Pro much less than that... companies have to actually have the device in-hand before they can test and develop on it. Check back in another year or two if it's not up to speed for you yet though.

    That's what I did, waited for iPad 3, iPhone 3gs before I felt they were ready enough. 3gs for its day was by far the best thing out, so was the 4s. I don't think the iPad Pro is nearly as far back as the iPad 1 or iPhone 1 were when they launched but give it time...
    Reply
  • xthetenth - Monday, January 25, 2016 - link

    If you consider features to be bloat, I guess you could say that the iPad has full-fledged applications. It's not true, but you could say it. Actually trying to do even reasonably basic tasks in google sheets is horrifying next to desktop Excel. Things like straightforward conditional formatting, pivot tables, the ability to dynamically order the contents of a table and so on might strike you as bloat but they're the foundation of the workflows of people who make the program the cornerstone of their job. An extra monitor is a much better professional tool if it doesn't have its own special snowflake OS with different limitations and way of moving data. Reply
  • Relic74 - Saturday, February 27, 2016 - link

    The fffice suits available aren't fully fledged applications, they are still just mobile apps. I can't open 80% of my Excel sheets on the iPad Pro simply because it doesn't support Macros. Visual Basic and Databases. Stop trying to convince everyone that the iPad Pro is a laptop replacement, it's not. It's just a bigger iPad, that's all. Which is fine and has it's uses, but the only people who would use the iPad Pro as an actual computer are the same ones who could get by using a ChromeBook. A professional person could use the iPad Pro, yes but they would have a focused purpose, which means only a few specific apps, the rest of time would be spent on a desktop or laptop computer. It's a secondary device. Reply
  • Relic74 - Saturday, February 27, 2016 - link

    Their not crippled, just mobile versions and they have their uses. The problem I have with these comments is when someone says that the iPad Pro is immensely better than the Surface Pro 4. These are completely different devices intended for completely different tasks. These comparisons honestly need to stop, one doesn't buy a Surface Pro 4 to use as a tablet and vice versa. The iPad Pro is a content consumption device first and foremost. Yes there are some productivity apps and certain professions like a musician or an artist could take advantage of the iPad Pro's capabilities however it is not and I cannot stress this enough, is not a laptop replacement . Those that can use the iPad Pro as a laptop are the same types of people who can just as easily get by using a ChromeBook. The iPad Pro is a secondary device where as the Surface Pro is a primary device.

    IOS is just to limited in it's capabilities to be even considered as a standalone professional device. No, an Architect would not use the iPad Pro to design an house with, the Architect might use one to show off the plans to a client, mark down corrections with the Pencil. No, a programmer would not use the iPad Pro to develope on, he however might use one to create an outline of what needs to be done or even as a second monitor for his laptop. No, a musician would not use one to create his album with, he might use one as the brain for one of his synthesizer, a recording device, instrument, etc. it's a companion device, it's an iPad, nothing wrong with that but stop trying to convince everyone that it's some super computer with fantasy powers. Just the file system issue alone should be enough to tell you that the iPad Pro isn't really meant for connect creation.
    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Friday, January 22, 2016 - link

    -- Modern software is very bloated memory consumption wise, especially software relying on managed languages, the latter are also significantly slower in terms of performance than languages like C or C++.

    well, that was true back in the days of DOS. since windoze, 80% (or thereabouts) of programs just call windoze syscalls, which is largely C++.
    Reply

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