The process is seamless if you’re using a newer model iPad Pro with a USB-C port, and we were even able to connect multiple drives and an SD card all at the same using a hub. However connecting external storage is impractical on a regular iPad as the ageing Lightning port doesn’t deliver enough power for faster drives.
Split-screen lets you run two apps at once, side-by-side, but in iPadOS the functionality has been expanded so that you can run two instances of the same app. For example this allows you to compose an email on one side while having another email open for reference. Multiple apps can also exist in the new Slide Over window which can be moved around and swiped away. I found Slide Over to be useful for running utilities like the ‘Files’ app, so I could attach files to an email at any moment by simply dragging and dropping them over.
Desktop class browser
Browsing the web on iPadOS will no longer bump you down to the mobile version or ask you to use the app equivalent, and will instead give you the full fat desktop experience. However desktop sites are optimised for mouse input and not touch so you will come across some sites that don’t behave how you expect them to.
That said, mobile sites and apps like Google Docs are quite limited when compared to their desktop counterparts, so being able to access the full blown version through a web browser on the iPad is a handy workaround.
New and improved home screen
iOS never really utilised the additional screen real estate of an iPad, with the home screen displaying only four columns of icons, the same as on an iPhone. This, thankfully, has changed with iPadOS, where you can now fit 50 per cent more app icons on each page. Flicking from the left of the screen gives you the ‘Today View’ which you can customise with a whole host of useful widgets. For instance, the ‘Files’ widget will show any recently opened documents and files while the calculator widget will allow you to do some quick calculations without ever launching the app.
Whether you’re using the keyboard cover or not, it simply isn’t comfortable to use the iPad for extended periods on your lap or on a desk. I found myself constantly in the hunched position when using an iPad with my arm fatiguing after an hour or so from having to regularly reach for the touchscreen. The new gestures such as the three finger swipe for copy and paste don’t feel particularly intuitive to use either.
Despite the ability to connect a mouse and keyboard, the iPad is still primarily a touch device (in fact the mouse support is very wonky and only designed as an accessibilty measure for folks who have difficulty touching the screen), and the operating system has been designed accordingly. Apple claims that by September it should be possible to use the iPad entirely from the keyboard, but that sounds like a lot of new shortcut combos.
Desktop class apps MIA
Apple claims that the iPad Pro is more powerful than the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but that is meaningless when there are no desktop class apps available on the platform to take advantage of all that power. This could change when Adobe finally releases the full version of Photoshop, which might just open the floodgates for others to do the same. Until then what we have is stripped down mobile apps that pale in comparison to their desktop counterparts.
Krishan is a multi-award-winning Australian technology journalist.