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Filling The Gap

With new features in the iOS11, iPads could get a new lease of life

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It was a little over seven years ago when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad to the world, touting it to be the modern touchscreen computer of tomorrow that could slowly ease you away from the PC era. Over these past seven years, iPads have gotten incredibly powerful and enduringly popular among owners — so much so, I know of folks still hanging onto 5-6-year-old iPads, finding them good enough to avoid upgrading to the latest hardware. Yet, something has always held them back from true ‘laptop-style’ productivity greatness, be it the limited multitasking capabilities, the lack of a proper file system, or simply the need to change your workflow (and your mindset) a little too much for it to be worthwhile. All along, we saw the iOS-ification of macOS, but few (if any) productivity-oriented features made it back to the iPad in return…

Until now, that is. At its recent Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple showed off a number of new features in its upcoming iOS 11 that could let iPads, particularly the newer Pro variants, come of age as viable laptop replacements for the large majority of users. iOS’s new dock — a placeholder for frequently used applications — for instance, feels like it has come straight from macOS. It lets you add as many apps as you would like, and there is even a contextual area on the dock that will suggest apps you are likely to use next.

The dock auto-hides when you are in an app and it only takes a swipe up to reveal the dock again, a handy gesture which allows you to move around in iOS quickly without having to reach for the home button. Dragging and dropping the app you want to multitask with on top of the current app creates a separate, resizable window for the second app. With the iPad’s highly capable new A10X Fusion chip and 4GB of RAM, you can even add a third floating app on top of the split screen view.

Add to that, the new app switcher for multitasking (inspired strongly by macOS’ Mission Control feature), which shows you all your open apps in a grid, including ones you have running in split-screen with another app…and you finally have a multitasking experience that makes iOS feel like a seamless interconnected workspace, instead of a bunch of disconnected apps. The new drag-and-drop capabilities only reinforce that feeling — you can now drag an object like a link, an image or a piece of text around iOS till you find the app you want to drop it in. Multi-selecting multiple objects has become way easier too — you press and hold on a single object and then tap on additional objects with another finger to select all of them together — which is a massive improvement over iOS 10’s one-file-at-a-time share sheet approach. Tying it all in together is Apple’s new Files app, which (finally!) gives the iPad a central file management tool to move stuff around, between apps and even between local storage and cloud storage services.

Granted, some of these changes are somewhat complicating the experience of using the iPad, but for the large part, all these new gestures and user interface tweaks make sense within a couple of hours of use, and the platform finally takes full advantage of the extra screen real estate the iPad offers. If you are someone coming from a Mac and are looking for your iPad to assume the lightweight work capabilities it has shied away from all this time, iOS 11 will stand up and deliver…and will likely reinvigorate sales in a segment that’s been stagnant of late.

As I finish typing these thoughts on an iPad Pro running the developer beta of iOS 11, I can’t help but feel the iPad will soon be able to fill that laptop-replacement gap with fewer compromises than ever.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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iOS11 ipads Magazine 8 July 2017 gadgets & gizmos

Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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