Where does the iPad fit?

Earlier this week I wondered what might be possible if Apple made an iPadOS. Based on the feedback I got, many people seemed to assume I was petitioning for "yet another operating system", different in kind from iOS. In other words, one more thing for Apple to have to manage or maintain. To be clear — I wasn't. What I was petitioning for was something akin to WatchOS — a variant of iOS optimized not for the smaller wearable but the larger tablet.

The iPad is already different from the iPhone is several ways. Just like Apple Watch has no Safari browser, the iPad has no phone app. Where the Apple Watch has a taptic engine and the iPhone has a vibration motor, the iPad has neither. Where the iPhone has no four-finger navigation gestures, the iPad does. Soon, the iPad might have multi-window apps, or pen input, or other distinctive features. My point is, it's already distinct, so perhaps thinking about it that way might help make it even more distinctive.

Being a big iPhone was brilliant when the iPad launched, but we have big iPhones now. Being a lighter, longer-lasting portable was amazing as well, but we have light, long-lasting Macs now too. It's not that iPad needs to be something more — it's that it can be. Whether it gets its own software label or not, in that sense, is symbolic. Yet symbols can be powerful.

Apple is emphasizing what the iPad can do with its Start Something New campaign, the follow on to last year's Your Verse. It's focusing on productivity and creativity, both of which can benefit from the iPad's larger screen and more powerful processor. It could likely also benefit from distinct features that let it take even more advantage of both those things.

Federico Viticci of MacStories recently wrote about how the iPad Air 2 has become his primary computer. He's all about productivity, which makes for an incredibly informed, incredibly interesting opinion.

My mom, an artist and teacher by trade, uses the iPad as her main computer as well. Actually, she uses two of them. She uses an iPad Air most of the time, but when she runs it down, she switches to her old iPad 2. She has an iMac in her office, but she only uses it now when she has to, and that's not very often.

Those are just two examples of people who've found where the iPad fits in for them. I wonder how many more there could be?

For those who don't want multiple Apple devices, I don't think it's a problem for anyone, including Apple. If all you have is $1000 dollars, I don't think Apple cares whether you spend it on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, which is why the company has made sure it has all three options for us.

If you do want multiple Apple devices, however, I think things are becoming more interesting.

Personally, I've switched from using my iPad mini to using my iPad Air, but in a very different way. Because I have the bigger iPhone, I don't travel with the smaller iPad any more. But because the iPhone isn't that big, I now use my iPad Air more at home. Since I don't have to travel with it, the bigger size makes it no less convenient.

I imagine the Apple Watch will only enhance that shift. It'll do all the convenient things right on my wrist so I can leave my iPhone in my pocket or bag more often. That'll reduce the downside of having a bigger phone. Maybe it'll even help push me towards an even bigger iPad, if one ever becomes available. If I have a bigger iPad, maybe I won't need a MacBook as much, and the iMac will be even more attractive.

Right now it feels like the iPhone 6 Plus and the MacBook Air are compacting the iPad between them, but as the year progresses, and new products and new features roll out, I wonder if it won't feel like R2 has found a way to shut off that compactor and pop open the escape hatch? I wonder if we won't get a clearer idea of where the iPad fits?

In case you missed it:

  • Georgia Dow, our good friend and licensed therapist, kicked off our new "experts" column with a great piece on using the iPhone to kick procrastination to the cub. The column will run every Wednesday and accessibility writer Steve Aquino is on-deck next.
  • Jason Snell, a long-time inspiration of mine, kicked off our new "backpage" column with very personal piece on Apple as change agent. That column will run every Friday and next up we have games journalist Maddy Myers.
  • I'm thrilled and incredibly proud of both columns. We're fortunate to have built a really big stage with iMore and it feels like our responsibility to fill it with the best voices in the Apple community.
  • We spent most of the end of last week diving into Apple's Photos for Mac beta. We posted both a Photos for Mac FAQ, a Photos for Mac first impressions, and a Photos for Mac podcast. Needless to say, more to come!
  • Sadly, we ran out of time and weren't able to launch the new podcasts this week. Soon though! We did manage to debut the new album art for the iMore show and in my totally biased opinion, it looks hot. Huge thanks to Jose and the Mobile Nations graphics department for that!

I'm traveling this week, so I'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say, I'm not going to miss the carbonite that's currently covering most of my city...

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.