The biggest problem for the iPad is Apple’s unwillingness to let it become its own thing. Development of iOS is driven by the iPhone, which probably shouldn’t have the tools of a regular computer. But the iPad needs at least some of those tools if it’s to fulfill Apple’s promise to be a laptop replacement. Being yoked to the iPhone is holding it back.
This feels exactly right to me. The biggest news in iPad in recent years was the introduction of split screen multitasking and picture-in-picture video, neither of which are available on the iPhone.
Apple has long said that the iPad’s big display provides the opportunity to create a completely different app experience. At the first Retina iPad event, Tim Cook even spent stage time mocking Android tablet apps that looked like large phone apps.
But now, five years after that event, it’s not so much the apps that are scaled-up versions of a smartphone, but rather that the operating system seems largely driven by what the iPhone can do. This was an early criticism of the iPad, but I felt it was unwarranted at the time — a larger version of a familiar interface is a great way to introduce a new product category.
Five years on, I wish it felt a little more like the iPad got to be true to itself. I’m not saying that it needs its own operating system or anything, but when I see a screenshot of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s home screen that looks broadly identical to an upscaled version of my iPad Mini, I see a less compelling rationale for upgrading.