Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

On Standards

Alison DeNisco Rayome, CNet:

The iPad just became a more useful multitasking tool for Gmail users. Google’s latest update to its email service finally added support for split-view multitasking, so you can keep your Gmail pane active on one side of the iPad screen while browsing through different apps on the other side.

[…]

Split View support for Gmail has been a long time coming: Apple first added the split view feature to the iPad back in 2015, with iOS 9. However, many popular apps did not support it initially. Google added Split View support for Docs, Sheets and Slides in 2016.

Apple added the API five years ago. Google is notoriously horrible at being a good citizen on others’ platforms, but five years is egregious even for them.

John Voorhees:

The bigger story here is that this version has been out 3 weeks and no one seems to have noticed, having given up on Split View in Gmail ages ago.

It appears that Apple flexed some of its platform ownership muscle as it announced at WWDC last year that, by April June, iPad apps would need to support multitasking views.

John Gruber:

Apple undeniably wields great power from the fact that the App Store is the exclusive source for all consumer software for the iPhone and iPad. Why not use that power in the name of user experience? Imagine a world where the biggest fear developers had when submitting an app for review wasn’t whether they were offering Apple a sufficient cut of their revenue, but whether they were offering users a good enough native-to-the-platform experience. Video app that doesn’t support picture-in-picture? You’re out of the store. App doesn’t support dynamic type size but clearly should? You’re out. Poor accessibility support? Out. Popular email client that doesn’t support split screen? Out.

Michael Tsai:

I’m against adding subjective quality requirements to the App Store, but requiring split-screen seems more like the objective requirements to support 64-bit or the iPhone X notch. It could nudge apps in a good direction without being onerous or unpredictable.

With the Hey debacle fresh in all of our minds along with continuing reminders of the inconsistent expectations of the App Store, it is a delicate balance to suggest Apple use more of its power to approve or reject apps based on nicety. If I were to play backseat Apple CEO, I would have allowed apps to be installed from outside of the App Store, with a Gatekeeper-like verification mechanism, and treated the App Store as a place where users would find the best apps with the best experiences. But this is not the world we live in and, anyway, I assume there would be unforeseen consequences to my half-baked wishes.

In the real world, where Apple has a degree of control over all native apps on iOS and iPadOS, I think it should be more aggressive in establishing platform expectations. There ought to be a list of standard features demanded of all apps and split-screen multitasking is unquestionably on that list. Same with support for standard keyboard shortcuts. Users ought to have platform standards, and there is no more powerful iOS device user than Apple.