I want to like my iPad but I don’t…
I’ve decided to write my perspective on a 12.9” iPad Pro running iPadOS. Most, if not all posts I’ve seen on this sub have been overwhelmingly positive – which is great! I’m glad you like your iPad. I thought I would share some of my grievances to the party. I’m thinking of returning it, so change my mind!
I’m a fairly demanding power user who until now solely used a beefy desktop computer. I’m a long time OSX/macOS user, and have recently been using Windows. I have had a few laptops in the past, and have never owned an iPad. After hearing about iPadOS and how it would revolutionize this hardware I thought I would give it a shot and try to use it as a “secondary” computing device. I was almost sick with excitement prior to purchasing it, but I have been consistently let down over the past week and am seriously thinking of returning this $2500 CAD kit (12.9” iPad, keyboard folio, pencil, and dongles). Here are some of my grievances.
I’m typing this on a smart folio keyboard which is the most expensive keyboard I’ve ever bought, and yes, I own two custom mechanical keyboards. Including all of the rubber dome keyboards I’ve owned, this is the worst, by a long shot. The number of errors I have made in this paragraph alone demonstrate how frustrating an experience this is. My regular typing speed is >90wpm, but on this I am lucky to hit 70. Double presses are difficult, and the keys rock back and forth which doesn’t feel that great. Is it better than typing on the software keyboard? Of course. Is it as good as a laptop keyboard? Not remotely. Unless you’re on a desk the keyboard is extremely uncomfortable and smells like carpal tunnel syndrome – and the reason I got this was to get away from my desk. Not to mention the inability to remap any keys, and the lack of escape key. You can’t even change the frickin’ volume on this thing! WTH!
Usability of hotkeys
I get that the use of hot keys has been fairly small until iPadOS, and that they will probably get better over time. As it stands, it is very difficult to use the keyboard as the primary HID. That is, every few seconds you have to remove your hand from the keyboard and tap an area to focus the cursor. That’s what tab is for. Tab works as expected maybe 20% of the time. I never know where my iPad is focused.
I’m sorry, but why can you not change the output resolution on a “Pro” machine? It makes apps like CraveTV completely unusable when you plug it in. There are literally zero TVs that are in the shape of an iPad, so why are we outputting that aspect ratio? This makes my $90 dongle basically useless. Yes, some apps will resize while playing back video, but there is no option to force the appropriate resolution scaling.
The pencil is probably my favourite part of this kit – annotating PDFs has never made so much sense. But writing on a glass screen all day is not a replacement for pencil and paper as many would suggest. As a teacher and longtime student who has used many different writing surfaces (SMART board, Wacom, white board, chalk board, loose leaf, notebooks, etc.) this is the worst method of handwriting I’ve ever used (okay fine… SMART boards are worse). My pinky finger gets hot and sweaty as it supports my hand, and I can feel the heat from the GPU and CPU in certain areas on the screen. This leads to even more fingerprints all over the screen which makes my “sexy” device look slimy and germ-ridden. Not to mention that there is a different coefficient of friction on different areas, depending on where your oily hands have left their mark, which affects writing. My writing looks awful on this thing, and I write much slower than on paper. Maybe I’m just picky, and maybe I just need to get used to it, but when I’m writing I certainly do not want any distractions and I am very distracted on this thing.
Maybe it’s because iPadOS is new and Apple is introducing new APIs that developers haven’t fully adopted yet, but I find this part of the OS completely confusing. Most of my issues are with Apple apps anyways – especially Safari. I am constantly splitting screens by accident, and when I do try to split screens, it seems to take forever, with me closing the dock by accident until finally getting that app to turn into a window. Why can’t there be a key binding? As somebody who is used to a rich desktop environment where sharing the screen with 2 apps can be achieved in just a few frames, this doesn’t work for me. I am confused by the “sidecar” apps or whatever it’s called, and their history, too. I recently found a large number of instances of Safari that had been open for who knows how long, all hidden away as sidecars, despite me having closed safari a number of times. And why does the music’s Now Playing section have to look like a sidecar, but behave completely differently? The whole thing feels like a hot mess.
The cmd-tab hotkey is nice when it works. In this version of the beta I have to click alt-tab, and then swipe my finger onto the app I want to switch to… obviously a bug but it’s still surprising seeing that big of a bug in a beta released by the largest company in the world – it gives me the impression that the code behind iPadOS is messy and unstable. The onscreen app switching (swiping the bar or the 4-finger swipe) does not act the way I expect, too. Back when I was a heavy OSX user I became very accustomed to Spaces, and I keep being disappointed when iPadOS app switching does not work this way. With iPadOS I never know which app is to the left, or even if there is an app to the right. It seems as if there is a time limit that refreshes your row of apps chronologically which makes it very difficult to remember how to navigate to an app you were just using. There is no way to change this AFAIK.
Files App is a joke
Has anyone successfully used this file manager in a similar way that they would in Windows/macOS/Linux? Copying and pasting between OneDrive and Dropbox hasn’t worked for me, USB thumb drives mostly don’t work, and NAS support must still be in Alpha because it also is a joke. What does “on my iPad” mean? My offline Dropbox files are not there.
No access to command line
It’s probably too much to ask, but why do you need to pay for an expensive third party app to have access to a bloated version of compatible command line software that is free and open source, e.g. Python and LaTeX? Is it not possible to set up a sandbox environment with command line emulator? This coupled with the files app could be super useful and would certainly help the iPad Pro live up to its name.
No headphone jack
Yes, USB C is great. But now I have two types of headphones and two types of dongles; one of which does not work with my Apple branded headphones. I’m sorry but why isn’t there room on a gigantic device for a 3.5mm hole?
I guess at the end of the day my greatest disappointment is being stuck in iOS. I thought that iPadOS would be different, and that I’d be able to use it as an on-the-go daily driver. However whenever I pull it out of my bag I feel like I’m using a toddler’s toy, which in many ways it is (that’s not an insult, it really is the toy of many toddlers). The big cute buttons keep me wishing for something more streamlined and professional feeling. Doing a simple task like removing a page from a PDF suddenly becomes overly complicated in order to accommodate the sleek design philosophy of iOS. The lack of access to “deeper” parts of the operating system and hardware make me feel locked out of my own device (although maybe a jailbroken iPad could fix half of the things I’ve complained about). There is so much potential in this device but it is so locked down I find it almost unusable. I want to like it, but I just don’t. It looks so good but it feels like I’m trying to accomplish my work on a Nintendo Wii. I have 4 more days before I can return my device, and in this moment I’m leaning towards exchanging it for a Macbook and getting a used iPad solely for PDF annotation.
Fast boot time (great for iOS updates or any necessary reboots)
Great network connectedness (blazing fast access to network… when software allows it)
Nice screen – but I can’t seem to get ANY 4k media to play on it (local or service based)
Refresh rate is so good that it makes other screens feel like an N64 (no hate)
Annotating PDFs is handled exceptionally well
Pencil is the perfect weight for flipping around fingers
Steam Play lets me play Witcher 3 in bed
The magnets on the folio are so strong I can mount my iPad on the fridge and it reverberates very well