There’s only about two months or so to go before iOS 11 comes to all supported devices, but we already know enough about its features from the early developer beta versions and the more recently available public beta to see what a tremendous difference it can make to the iPad.
In one word, productivity.
iOS 11 is unashamedly iPad-focused, probably for the first time in its history. No doubt it carries over some very important changes from the current iOS 10 that is significant for iPhones, but iPad is clearly the protagonist in this narrative.
There’s one question that nags me about iOS 11, though: why focus on features for the iPad when it’s actually iPhone’s 10th anniversary year and a very critical one for Apple in terms of iPhone sales?
The answer to that lies with Microsoft, interestingly. The focus of the Surface Pro tablet has always been productivity, and its target: the enterprise segment, and business “power users” in general. That appeal was so strong that it drew individual consumers to itself as well.
But what it also does is make the iPad look like a toy. Don’t get me wrong, I think the iPad is a very robust device that does what it does beautifully. But it has never successfully managed to make the crossover from being an entertainment device to also being a productive one – until iOS 11 came along.
With this year’s major iOS update comes a dramatic change in the iPad’s capabilities. That’s why Apple probably thought it was more important to focus on these features rather than add more bells and whistles to the iPhone’s capabilities.
To be honest, iPhone 8 is more than capable of standing on its own feet even without a major update like iOS 11. The iPad, however, is not.
So, what’s so special about iOS 11’s iPad-focused features? Let’s list them:
Files app for better folder and file management across devices and locations
A Mac-like Dock for a better navigation experience
Multi-tab, multi-app Split/Slide View feature
Drag and drop functionality
New App Switcher that displays split views as you opened them
At first glance, these features could look like they should have been present on the iPad all along. And you’re right. That’s what makes them so intuitive to use. You basically end up thinking: My God, I can’t believe they never had these features on iPad before now.
If you look a little deeper, you’ll notice that all of these features are designed with one thing in mind – to make the user more productive by saving time and effort.
Take the screenshot annotations, for example. Until iOS 11, if you wanted to scribble something down on a screenshot before sharing it, you’d have to go through at least a couple of apps before you got your iPad to do what you wanted it to. No more, no more.
The drag and drop is even more amazing. When I first heard about it I thought they were joking, because this really is a very simple feature that we often take for granted. But when you start using it, you realize how tremendously productive such a feature is on a tablet device. Even ‘awesomer’ than that is the ability to select multiple items and drag them all together into a new app. Don’t knock it till you try it.
As you go through each of these features, the same theme keep leaping out at you over and again: simple, intuitive and super-productive.
You really can’t compare it to the 2017 Surface Pro, because that runs on Windows 10, a purebred desktop OS. But Apple has done a bang up job of making iOS 11 the best possible mobile OS it can aspire to be.
In summary, while iOS 11 does do justice to iPhones, it does more than that for iPads. It might not make your iPad as powerful or versatile as a Windows 10 tablet like the new Surface Pro, but it goes a hell of a long way in closing the productivity differential.