iOS on the iPad is stuck in the past and it's kind of embarrassing

When Apple launched the iPad, many thought it was simply a giant iPod touch. Yes, the similarities are quite obvious, but the iPad was closer to that of a notebook in terms of usability, than the iPod touch. While the company's hardware has continued to push forward, Apple’s software for its tablet have not kept up with the industry trends.

When the iPad hit the market, it set the stage for what consumers could expect in the re-launched tablet space. A well-built, relatively thin device with great battery life and software that was finger-friendly and ready for anything you could throw at it (besides Flash). It was great, Apple sold millions, made billions, and it all went according to Apple’s grand vision of dominating the segment.

I won’t argue that Apple executed extremely well, there is no question there. The hardware of the iPad is the best on the market and they continue to make quality and durable goods with each new release. Where Apple has fallen short, however, is that its software has not kept up with the industry in many ways. Why do the iPhone and iPad have the same software features?

It’s not a secret that I have a healthy mix of hardware in my house. I have lots of Apple gear and loads of Windows machines around from reviews past and present. While inevitably, when writing any kind of editorial such as this one, you will get labeled a fanboy, I do use a bit of everything, as I use what’s best for my needs, not what’s best to portray a certain type of image.

A few days back, I pulled out my iPad 3 and charged it up, mostly to make sure that it was still working. It had been so long since I had used it that it still had a version of iOS 6 installed, so I promptly updated it after charging the battery. What I had forgotten is that Apple keeps its tablets locked to the same feature set as its phone, as if both devices are used for the exact same thing.

When using the iPad, which has a nearly 10-inch display, you can’t run two apps (aside from music) at the same time. What? I completely forgot about this, as I had grown accustomed to Windows and Android tablets that can run two apps at the same time on this size of a display. I’m a prolific Twitter user, and not being able to see my feed while browsing the web forced me to jump between both apps constantly – hardly a fun experience.

iOS on the phone not allowing multiple apps to be displayed at once makes sense. You have a small screen, and viewing two apps at the same time would offer a poor experience. But on a tablet, especially the iPad Air, the screen real estate is not used to its full potential.

It’s a missed opportunity to expand the capabilities of Apple’s tablets.

Sure, you could argue that iOS on the iPad is made for the simpleton and should not include fancy multi-app layouts, as that goes against iOS basic premise, or the fact that apps are not designed to handle split screen, you could say that. But, only building a device that appease the lowest rung on the intellectual pole is not a strategy for the future. The hardware inside the iPad is become increasingly powerful and capable of running fantastic applications but again, only one at a time.

It’s a missed opportunity to expand the capabilities of Apple’s tablets. By increasing the usability of the device, it opens up more possibilities where the iPad could cut even deeper into the PC space but for now, it seems Apple is content on staying the course for what was working 4 years ago in the software world.

For Apple, iOS is doing what it needs to do to stay relevant on smartphones – no argument there. But in the tablet space, iOS needs differentiating features for larger screens as what works well on a 4-inch screen does not take full advantage of its capabilities on a nearly 10-inch screen, causing iOS to fall behind Android and Windows.

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