Some Thoughts on WWDC

I originally published this to my blog, but the full text is copied below. This mostly covers a few of the iPad specific changes, because that’s what interested me the most after watching the keynote.

WWDC 2019

Contemptible camel case aside, one of the most interesting developments form this year’s WWDC event hosted by Apple was the announcement of iPadOS. This is the separation of the iPad’s version of iOS into its own distinct product, and should allow the iPad to diverge more from the iPhone, allowing Apple to make better use of its bigger screen.

This makes a lot of sense. The largest iPads are bigger than the smallest MacBooks, but are forced to adopt many iPhone-centric interface patterns because iOS was previously, more-or-less, a one size fits all solution. Now the iPad will be the iPad, the iPhone will be the iPhone, and while they’ll have a common code base they can approach problems differently.

All the same I think they should have opted for padOS and phoneOS as the names for the operating systems.

There’s an irony in the separation of the iPhone and iPad in the iPad’s improved multitasking features. Slide Over, the iPad’s ability to have one app superimposed window-in-window has been modified to directly resemble the interface of the iPhone X. This is not only in it’s long/thin rendering of the app which looks like an app would appear on an iPhone screen, but it has the indicator bar at the bottom of the window indicating where near-identical swipe gestures can be performed to navigate between apps.

It’s a very smart way to expand the functionality; to do it with a paradigm that is already familiar to a large number of users. Probably a majority of users that are likely to purchase a larger iPad Pro on which these features are most advantageous.

There are other iPad specific changes that I like the look of. Increasing the density of icons on the home screen on it’s own is not much of an improvement — I do not fill my home screen. It does make better use of the screen space to be fair. The sparse distribution of icons on the largest iPad, the 12.9” iPad Pro, was a little ridiculous. Alongside this change however is the ability to display a column of widgets, previously only available on the Today view, on the left side of the screen. This makes the home screen, for the first time, useful as an information source and not just as the launch point for apps.

Multiple ‘windows’ of the same app will be possible, allowing for example, two Pages documents to be shown side by side. This is going to be useful for a lot of people — probably not for me. Markup tools are embedded throughout the operating system. This is something that’s happened in stages over the last few iOS releases. It’s especially useful on an Apple Pencil enabled device. Undo finally got its own gesture; no more raising and shaking your iPad. This worked alright, I guess, on an iPhone but was just not OK on a 13” tablet.

There are many other changes, not only to iPadOs, but iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and HomePod. These are all summarised on Apple’s website and I’ve only touched on a few things that I found particularly interesting. I think this is a great year for OS updates and I’m excited for September!

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I agree totally, and thank you for writing about the changes objectively. It is a relief to read positive information about the subject. I can not imagine what it is like to be on a Apple development team, and having to decide which direction they need to take the product. That has got to be nerve racking! Each decision must be based on the underlying foundation to which they can continue to build on, while at the same time, keeping tomorrow’s perceived needs in mind.

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They absolutely should have done this. The only reason I can think of as to why they didn’t is that perhaps switching to “phoneOS” may have implied something new.