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Things that the iPad really needs.

A few months ago I got an iPad. When they were first released, I like a lot of people looked on them with a doubtful “really?” considering them to be nothing more than a giant iPod touch. When a guy I know bought one on a whim I got a chance to really use one for more than five minutes in an Apple store and my opinion did a total 180°. It all made sense. Using the large touch screen simply feels like the most natural way to use a computer. Instead of interacting with a device which moves a cursor which then interacts with a UI element, you just interact with the UI directly.

Since owning one myself, I’ve fallen even more in love with it. With the exception of writing code and designing, it’s my main computer. I’m even writing this post on it. I’ve linked my Dropbox to a service called DropDAV that allows me to open and save iWork documents directly to the cloud and then on any other machine I use. My email, calendar and contacts are all synced across my phone and iPad via google. I use the iPad more efficiently than any desktop computer I have ever owned and because of this I find myself more organised. As well as doing the stuff I already did on my PC, the iPad has allowed me to consume news, blogs and RSS feeds in a way that I simply wasn’t able to keep up with on a PC.

All of this is great, but until Apple add a few things and tweak a few others it isn’t a fully viable PC replacement, and no, one of them isn’t the addition of Flash. Let me explain:

1. User accounts.

iOS was originally called iPhone OS. The clue is in the name. It’s an operating system designed for personal devices. You’re the only one who uses your phone and it’s the same with your iPod touch. The iPad, however isn’t necessarily a personal device. You might have one for your household and keep it in the living room for casual browsing for the whole family. If this is the case, things get sticky. When you use the device you want your email accounts in the email client. You want your twitter account in the twitter app and you want your bookmarks and saved passwords in safari. There are a multitude of other preferences that any one user might want to set slightly differently as well; wallpaper, home screen layout and screen brightness for instance. It’s even more important than it is on a desktop PC. This is because on a PC users use the browser more than individual apps (though this is changing) so they can simply log in to their services as they browse to them but unless you want to add and then remove your twitter account from the twitter app each time you use your iPad, we’re gonna need a user account system.

2. Slide to unlock? Really?

This is yet another symptom of the OS being lifted directly from a pocket device. On your phone you need to make sure that the device doesn’t unlock itself in your pocket but on the most part this simply isn’t an issue on a tablet. When people put them in their bags, they tend to use a case which will largely prevent buttons being pressed and the screen being interacted with. I’m not saying it should be removed all together but I’d wager that the vast majority of users don’t need the feature so it could be turned off by default.

3. A native “My Documents” area.

The problem with each app having its own sandboxed document storage area is you can’t access these documents from other apps. This means one of two things; you either have to do things in a backwards way, (such as tell a photo to put itself into an email rather than composing an email and then attaching a photo to it.) or not being able to do the thing you want to do at all. To be fair a lot of apps can access the photos folder, which is okay but what about documents, or notes, or contact cards? You just can’t access these things because they’re all held hostage by the app that created them. Just think how amazing it would be if you could access your Dropbox from whatever app you wanted to. This leads me nicely on to my next point…

4. File uploads from web forms.

I recently changed jobs. When I was looking for a new job I signed up to a few job search websites. You know the ones where you can upload your CV and employers can seek you out. Problem was, although I was able to make a nice looking CV in Pages, I couldn’t use the sites’ web forms to upload it. I had to fall back on to my PC, which was frustrating. If iOS had a central, native My Documents area that the browser and other apps could access this wouldn’t have been an issue. I could have simply uploaded my CV from that folder. At present you can’t even upload from the photos folder in most cases so setting avatars and profile pictures either has to be done on your PC or using the iOS app if there is one. Not ideal.

At the moment these are the only changes I can think of that would improve iOS on the iPad. Cue the Android fans jumping up and down going “God! We’ve been able to do that stuff for ages!” but guess what; I don’t want an Android device. I have yet to find one that offers the level of user experience found in iOS and even early reports of the Motorola Xoom, which some say is the first proper threat to the iPad, suggest it is clunky and sluggish even compared to the first generation Apple tablet. Not to mention that I could only find four things to moan about on the iPad. I might not complain about these four things in Android but I would bet a fair amount that I would find a lot more than four other gripes.

So what do you think? Are there any features that you would like to be changed or tweaked for the iPad?

2 comments

  1. Marc Gregory - April 30, 2011 2:33 pm

    Totally agree Dan. These are the only things that get me too, especially since me and Beth use the iPad. Form uploads probably annoys me the most. Android might be able to do it, but it does it a bloody complicated way that can get frustrating, even for me and I’ve been using it for years. Wouldn’t be able to live without mine then.

  2. Jason - May 1, 2011 12:36 am

    I agree with most of your blog and I use my iPad as my main device now as well.
    However with the smart cover on iPad 2 there is no slide to unlock. If this can be adopted into the iOS for iPad 1 I dont know.
    What I would like to see in order to totally irradicate the need for any other machine is for iTunes to integrate over the air updates to the iOS,over wifi only and plugged in would suffice.
    Other than that and the points you’ve already made the iPad is clearly a game changer.

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