I recently bought an 11″ iPad Pro to “replace” my aging 2015 MacBook Pro. My work has provided me with a 15” MacBook Pro that’s only about a year old, so there’s no reason for me to buy a new laptop for myself right now – especially when I’m working from home every day anyway. Given that I spend all day at my desk at home, the last thing I want to be doing is working with a traditional computer in my off hours. The iPad Pro is powerful enough for me to do most of my non-work tasks, and I can use it in a way that allows me to use it in different contexts (sitting, propped up at a table while drinking coffee, etc).
I’ve been super happy with the device and find myself using it way more than I did with my previous 9.7” iPad 6th generation. The screen and sound quality quality alone make a lot of media consumption like games and videos way more compelling, and it’s a best-in-class device for reading news, Instapaper and ebooks. I also really enjoy writing on it – whether it’s email for work or IA Writer for blog posts, the immersive writing environment helps me focus on the task at hand way better than I can on a desktop.
The area that the iPad still struggles a bit is the full-on laptop replacement. The recently-released Magic Keyboard is a fantastic companion that folks are raving about, and it seems to solve for about 90% of the things folks were asking for. There’s lots of little rough edges still to be worked out, though. None of it is really surprising as trackpad support is only about 3 months old and the idea of using an iPad as a full desktop replacement is still rather new. Heck, iPadOS is only a year old itself.
With WWDC approaching (you can see my wishlist here, which is somewhat duplicated here), I got to thinking about what Apple could do to make it easier for folks like me to treat the iPad Pro like my primary desktop machine, and not just a really amazing tablet.
External display support
The 11″ size of the iPad Pro is about perfect. It’s portable enough for me to use around the house and travel with (if traveling were a thing people still did!), and yet still big enough to be passable as a screen for most work tasks I have. To take things to the next level though, I’d love to be able to plug it into an external monitor and do more than simply mirror the content. I’d be smitten if I could have 2 apps open on my 24″ external display in split view with something else open on the actual iPad. Even if it’s a little limited in the first round (maybe the screen on the iPad is mirrored, but in the correct aspect ratio), I’d love to see some investment here.
Enhanced global keyboard support
Before I go all-in and buy Apple’s Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro, I want to see how they plan on investing in global keyboard shortcuts for media playback, brightness, homescreen etc. In a perfect world, I’d love to also be able to launch apps or shortcuts from key combos I define. Looks like there’s already some smoke on this rumor, so fingers crossed!
Better keyboard support
Related to the above point, I’d like to see more consistent keyboard support across the platform. Some of this falls to individual app developers, but I’d also like to see more tools for users to tab between split views and invoke (and close) the slideover view. In the same vein, I’d like to be able to switch between apps in slideover with the keyboard.
Key repeat rates are also not customizable currently, and that makes backspacing through sentences difficult. I hope we see some additional customization options for the trackpad & keyboard settings now that those input devices are first class citizens.
Better Safari tab persistence
This is a big one. When I’m typically working I’ll have multiple Safari tabs open as I switch between tasks. It seems like more often than not Safari will try its best to prioritize keeping web apps open even when the user switches to another application, but it doesn’t happen consistently. There are a lot of times where I come back to a form that I was working to add some data to and it refreshes. I’d love some sort of “pro mode” I could opt into if Apple is worried about performance. Let me make use of the insane power & RAM the iPad Pro has!
I’d like to see more options available when tabbing between apps. For one, I’d like more than 6 or 7 apps at a time. In addition, I’d like more options around searching for an app and opening it in split screen, slide over or as its own app. A situation I find myself in a lot is working in one app and wanting to change the music to something different. Rather than switching to the app, making the change and then switching back I’d like some sort of keyboard modifier that could open an app in an “active” slide overview instead. I could then make the song change with my document still open and visible, then dismiss the slideover and be on my way.
Apple should also introduce a picture-in-picture mode for videoconferencing. Just like the PIP videos, I should be able to move the video around the screen or even hide it (showing the ‘tab’ to indicate I’m on a video call). I’d love to use my iPad for video calls given how great the camera and screen is, but it’s fairly limiting given it takes over the screen – and can’t even do split screen!
Better Spotlight typing interface
Make it easier to do a lot of the things you can do with Spotlight on the Mac. Instead of the Spotlight search interface taking over the entire screen, emulate what we see on the Mac with an overlay panel that expands when options are available. Seems minor, but a lot of times I’ll be writing and need to do a quick calculation or search and would prefer the entire screen not be taken over.
Make the status bar more useful for iPad users
I should be able to make use of the status bar on the iPad more like what we can do on the Mac. I’d love a persistent calendar widget showing my next appointment, a music widget showing current playing song, or additional controls around Bluetooth, volume, brightness or more.
Multiple audio sources & control
Right now it’s not really possible to have 2 things playing like music and a video. Additionally, a use case from a few days ago really annoyed me that I hope we can see a fix to: I was playing music on my living room speakers via airplay and wanted to turn up the volume on my iPad to better hear the voice in Duolingo. Ideally, an advanced audio settings pane would allow me to adjust my output volume for multiple apps or destinations.
The iPad Pro is an amazing machine that helps me work or entertain myself in ways that work best for me. On top of that, last year’s iPadOS 13 is a really fantastic step in the direction of making iPads true laptop replacements for most folks. If Apple could focus on a number of the refinements that I’ve listed here as part of an iPadOS 14 release, I think I’d be smitten.