Why You Hate iPadOS 15

I'd just posted my WWDC 2021 iOS 15 for iPhone keynote reaction video when you all started commenting — raging in the comments! — about iPadOS 15. So, I scrapped the video I was working on about that and, instead of talking about my thoughts, I decided I should listen to you and answer your questions and concerns.

I asked you why you were angry or disappointed about iPadOS 15 — what specifically you were angry/disappointed about — and you let me know!

And here are the answers!

Literally everybody is gonna lose their over this video. Sponsored by CuriosityStream with Nebula. So I finished watching Apple's WWDC 2021 keynote. I got my iOS 15 video for iPhone live, my reactions to the keynote, and then I started getting ready, I started editing my iPad OS 15 reactions, and I started noticing a lot of comments, a lot of your comments coming in, and they were just hella mad, hella angry, about iPad OS 15. And so I stopped. I took a break. I set aside everything I already edited and instead of talking to you about what I felt happened or was announced at the keynote for the iPad, I started listening to what you were saying, what you were telling me, what you were asking me, and I just decided, ultimately, I could not post that video even though it was more than halfway done being edited and would have been live a day or two ago. I had to stop, burn it down, and start over with this video so that I could provide you not the information I wanted but the information you wanted. So that's what I'm gonna do now. I'm gonna go through all the questions, all the concerns that you raised, and address them as best I can. And by that I mean I'm going to explain to the best of my ability why Apple made the decisions that they made. And I'm not apologizing for Apple in any sense of the word. I'm just providing you with information.

Some of Apple's choices here I will personally agree with. Some of them I will personally very much not agree with. But I wanna make sure that each and every one of you has the best possible information so that you can decide for yourselves which choices you agree with and which ones you don't so that if you're gonna love things, you're loving them informed, and if you're gonna hate things, you are hating them smart. Because what I think is happening all too often lately is Apple, who just never explains implementation details, who doesn't consider implementation details worthy of or worthwhile explaining, it leaves this huge void. And instead of using that as an opportunity to inform, to educate, to empower, all too often people use it as an excuse to rage bait, to just pander to that negative sentiment in order to get their own sort of negative attention out of it, and that to me is, you know, the second-worst cardinal sin after not explaining things to begin with. So let's do that now.

Why did Apple put a Mac chip in the iPad Pro and then not put macOS on the iPad Pro? So a couple things there. First, Apple didn't really put a Mac chip in the iPad, and I think Apple, in hindsight, made a really big mistake in how they handled and announced this, everything from choreographing Tim Cook's "Mission Impossible" sequence where he literally took the M1 chip out of a Mac and put it into an iPad. And also just using the name M1 for the iPad chip, that created a huge amount of expectational debt because to just most people, the idea of the M1 is synonymous with the idea of Apple silicon on the Mac. So bringing the M1 to the iPad gave a lot of people the idea that Apple was, in fact, bringing the things that they wanted from the Mac to the iPad, including macOS, including Mac apps, things like that. And in truth, it's not a Mac chip going to the iPad. It's an iPad chip that went to the Mac. We saw that as early as last year's WWDC when Apple first announced custom silicon for the Mac. The developer kit used the A12Z from the iPad in a Mac mini shell to run macOS Big Sur for a developer so they could begin to transition their apps to what became the M1. It has always been part of Apple's A-series of chips. They just used to use a different name for it. We got, for example, the A8 and the A8X, the A10 and A10X, the A12 and the A12X and then A12Z. And this year, instead of having an A14 and an A14X, Apple sort of took an A14X Plus concept and called it the M1. But when you look at it architecturally, it's very, very similar to what we got with the A12Z and there are some things under the hood, like the A12 had greater memory bandwidth and the A14X or the M1 has specific things for the Mac, like virtualization acceleration, x86 translation acceleration, and those Thunderbolt ports, which turn out to also be useful for the iPad Pro now, but it's very much an iPad chip working in a Mac and it's just because Apple has been making such good iPad chips for so long that it can run rings around what Intel was providing.

And I think the second part of this is while a lot of people on tech Twitter and tech YouTube will say they really want macOS on an iPad, we represent an extreme minority of the market, like maybe 10% at most, and, of course, you know, I'm part of this, and we all consider our opinions to be majority opinions, what we want to be what the majority of people want, and they're not. They're really small, minority opinions. The vast majority of the market, the 80-plus, 90%, have very different needs and expectations than all of us caught up in the echo chamber of Twitter and of YouTube. And for a large percentage of those people, macOS would not be an advantage on the iPad, it would be a detriment. The same way Windows wouldn't be an advantage on the iPad. It would be a detriment, a deterrent. When Steve Jobs originally conceived of the iPad, and I think why he said it was the most important project he ever worked on, was that he had this constant relentless drive to popularize, to democratize computing technology to make them even more and more accessible to more and more people.

You know, from the Apple II to the Mac to the iPad, it was just ever simplifying it. And as much as he loved the Mac, he believed that it was still not accessible enough, that there were people who found even the Mac just too complicated, too inaccessible, too alienating, too off-putting, too intimidating, and so he wanted to make the iPad. And originally, the iPad was just gonna be literally a big iPhone, even using the exact same apps just blown up to fill the iPad screen, and the UIKit, the AppKit, not AppKit, sorry, but the app teams convinced them that that wasn't the best approach on a big screen, that they could do much more with that real estate, and so they came up with the split view, with, you know, the master list and then the detailed specific item list became signature to the iPad. And then, of course, Steve, as he usually did, would just go full in on that new idea and would end up complaining or belittling how Android tablets were just blown up Android phone apps. But he really wanted to keep them simple. He was really enamored with the idea of full-screen apps where, for example, a normal, regular person would never have to worry about, oh, I lost my email app, just because it was behind their browser app and they had no idea how any of that worked. And so you only really had that full-screen app and that Home button, that escape button, that would restore you to a known state all the time and he pushed back hard on any more complications from that, you know, even disallowing apps themselves to do sort of widgetized views, multi-window views. That became a hard rule, and I think to this day you still can't make apps that do that on the iPad. They just did not, Apple, Steve Jobs, just did not want the iPad to be a big Mac. You already had that. That device already existed. And I'll go so far as to say we nerds, we power users, we traditional computer users, we have the Mac, we have the PC, we have Android, we have Linux and the various flavors of Unix, and there's very little that mainstream customers have.

They have the iPad and they have Chrome, but because we covet the iPad hardware, because it is such nice hardware, we wanna take that too and we wanna make that into a traditional computer because that's what we're used to. Those are the workflows we have and we wanna be able to do those workflows on the device we wanna do them with and we don't really have the empathy or the perspective-taking for the vast majority of the market who just want something simple. And by no means are they any less intelligent, any less sophisticated than we are. They just could not care less about the underlying computing technology or comp sci metaphors that have sort of evolved over the years, the cruff that has built up. They're architects and designers and scientists and people who just wanna get their work done and can do that perfectly well, yes, even on an iPad Pro that handles all the apps and all the activities that they wanna handle without any need to manage large amounts of file systems or multi-window views of apps. It's just a different type of pro. And I know that we all think that a pro is basically anybody that has our exact workflow or what we consider to be slightly more complicated, like a northerner is anybody who comes from one town further north than we are. It's all completely relative. But there is just a vast swath of people with pro needs that are just very different pro needs and the iPad was designed to be the computer for everybody else, not a Mac. For anybody who wanted the Mac, there was the Mac.

And I think sometimes we confuse wanting macOS on the iPad or petitioning Apple for macOS on the iPad for just wanting a better Mac, for petitioning Apple for a better Mac, up to and including touchscreen, hybrid, transformable Macs. Because if that's the system, the paradigm we want, there is that product already, we just need it to better suit our needs. Why use M1 hypervisor acceleration and then not let us run macOS in a virtual machine? And I think, you know, in the normal course of events, previously, Apple would have just made an A14X for the iPad the way they made the A12X and Z for the iPad, the A10X for the iPad, but because they needed something to go in the Mac, they tweaked that to be the M1 but it is just so similar to what an A14X would have been that there was no need to make a separate chip. It would have been a waste of money. It would have lost the economies of scale and the efficiencies that come from making, Apple making custom silicon for this many premium devices. The same way Apple put the A14 into the iPhone 12 and the iPad Air gives the iPad Air the economies of the iPhone scale, this gives the Mac the economies of the iPad scale and vice versa. And then the sum total of us nerds just spat from our heart cannon all of our hopes and all of our expectations around that only to set us up for the mother of disappointments or to set up Apple to deliver us the mother of disappointments, depending on which way you wanna look at it. But I do think the concept of the iPad being able to bring up a virtual machine of macOS, I think those are really, really good ideas and ideas worth lobbying for. Those just aren't the ideas that Apple either has or is willing to ship at this point. What's even the point of an M1 iPad Pro if it can't do anything more than a 2020 iPad Pro? I feel that sentiment so much, but if we're being intellectually honest about it, the M1 can do way more than the A12Z. It's two generations newer, silicon architecture, so the cores are higher performance. It has the Thunderbolt controller, so it can do Thunderbolt, which the previous one couldn't, and it has updated versions of the image signal processor of all the encode/decode blocks. Just all of that is two generations newer.

But on top of that, Apple internally, I don't believe, thinks about year-over-year upgrades the way that so many of us, again, the 10% on tech Twitter and tech YouTube, obsess about it. We produce 90% of the content based on year-over-year upgrades. Should you upgrade from the last iPad Pro to the new one? From the last iPhone to the new one? Where 90% of the market just never, ever, not ever, thinks in that way. And I believe the typical cycle for the iPad, even the iPad Pro, is like every four to five years. So this is, designed is too hard a word, but this is intended for people who are still on the 2017, if not the 2015 iPad Pro, for people who have been using that for several years and it's just starting to feel its age, will no longer be getting all the iPad OS upgrades going into the future, or just people are looking to the capabilities of it, whether it's an mini-LED display or Thunderbolt or the sum total of all of the upgrades that have come out since 2015, 2017. Apple Pencil 2, the Magic Keyboard, all of those things together making it a compelling upgrade. So whenever you think about, it's not worth it in terms of last year's model, that's just not how the market thinks at all. The market, it's not, is it or is it not worth it compared to my four- or five-year-old model? Is the M1 just ridiculously overpowered for the iPad Pro? Yes, absolutely, totally, 100%, ludicrously OP, but not much more than the A12X and Z were for the previous iPad Pro, or the A10X. That is sort of the way that Apple operates and the only difference here, again, is that Apple named it the M1, instead of naming it the more understandable, I think, for most people, A14X. But the way that Apple operates is to build in significant silicon headroom in all of their devices. They want these devices to last both in terms of hardware engineering and software support for a number of years, four, five, six years even. I mean, iOS 15 is going all the way back to the iPhone 6S. iPad OS 15 is going back to the 2014 iPad Air, which shipped with the A8X chipset, and the original 2015 iPad Pro. So that's, math, carry the one, divide by zero, it's like five, six more years of useful, relevant life on these devices. The value of these devices isn't the year you buy them but every subsequent year that you keep gaining that value from them.

And that includes not only, you know, iPad OS 15 and those features and capabilities and some of the apps that we have now, like the heavier apps, the AR apps and the video apps and 3D apps, all of those things, but subsequent versions of iPad OS, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and whatever apps we get into the future, like the way we now have Photoshop on the iPad Pro after the 2018 iPad Pro update. There will be next-generation apps that will take further advantage of this hardware and instead of you only getting, you know, a chipset that performs well now but starts to scroll slowly and is not able to run apps that come out next year or the year after or the year after that, instead of thinking about it being ludicrously overpowered now, I think it's better to think about it in terms of how overpowered will it still be when we are in, you know, 2025, 2026, and we're running the kinds of apps that come out, you know, over the next two, three, four, all those intervening years. Why put up to 16 gigabytes of RAM on the iPad Pro if iPad OS won't let an app access more than five gigabytes? And I've seen this question so often and I think it's due to the fundamental difference of how Apple sees the iPad compared to how they see the Mac.

The Mac is a full-on traditional, preemptive, multitasking, multi-windowing computer that uses things like swapping from RAM, paging out to the hard drive, the SSD now, to manage memory, where the iPad OS was just never designed to work that way, especially in the early days, where just that style of multitasking was prohibitive in terms of battery usage and that kind of swapping was prohibitive in terms of the read/write cycles and also the power cost of keeping the drives swapping all the time that Apple just didn't do it and instead they came up with this process called jetsam where if any app started pushing pressure on memory, it would just be flushed. It'd be booted out, yoted, straight out of memory. And that has just evolved over the years. And so the way that Apple looks at it is if they have a five gigabyte ceiling on any individual app using RAM and then they give you eight or 16 gigabytes, that means that can just have more of those big apps sitting in memory. And if you go back to a time when there was lower memory iPads, even iPhones, you would open up a few apps and then try to go back and it would have to respawn completely, just reload completely, and that could be really frustrating because you might have to wait very long for a load screen. You might not end up, you know, if the app didn't properly save state, you might not end up exactly where you left off, especially if it was a game that you were just moving to look up something quickly or answer the phone or send a message and you came back and your game reloaded.

And as the RAM has increased, Apple's been better able to keep apps in memory. And on the iPad Pro, I've gone days with apps in memory, like I've gone back to an app I haven't used in several days, big apps even, and they're still there there in memory. So the increased memory on the iPad Pro wasn't meant to be used the same way that it was on the Mac in terms of making the sum total of that memory available to every app all the time. And maybe that's just anachronistic at this point. Maybe iPad OS needs to investigate doing things like swap or, in the very least, looking at the actual workloads of multiple people because there are a lot of what people would consider to be pro apps that this five gigabyte RAM limit will just never be a problem for but then there are certain types of users with certain types of workflows on certain types of apps, like Procreate, who maybe wanna have as many layers as memory possible on a device, and they're hitting that limitation hard. So everything is a trade-off. Everything is a compromise.

And Apple has to balance the needs of all of their users, the ones who will never come close to five gigabytes to the ones that are gonna hit all the time, and sort of figure out the balancing act there, whether it is to continue to tweak the implementation as is or investigate a whole new, or a whole old, implementation. How can Apple keep calling it an iPad Pro without putting their own pro apps, like Xcode, Final Cut, and Logic, on the iPad Pro? And yeah, I was really, really hoping for that moment, like that original iPad keynote moment where they showed off iWork for the iPad and just redefined the expectations for what a mobile app, what a tablet app could do, or especially the iPad 2 event where they showed off GarageBand and iMovie for the iPad 2 and it was just, it just blew me away in terms of how well they brought that software to mobile, and I was hoping we would have that again where, just, here is Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro completely reimagined for the iPad, Xcode completely reimagined for the iPad. And my understanding is they're just not there yet. They're not at a place where they have an interface and a value proposition that they think is worth it on an iPad. And I have a suspicion, a deeply rooted suspicion, that we are seeing the move towards that, though, although it's way slower than I think anybody, maybe even including Apple, would like, both with seeing new features in Swift Playgrounds that lets you do greater amounts of code, more amounts of code than ever before, but also for the first time deployed to the App Store, taking maybe the lowest level of pressure, the educational or the iteration level of Xcode, and allowing that to move over to the iPad, but also Xcode Cloud, because one of the challenges with the iPad still is even eight to 16 gigabytes of RAM isn't a lot and the interface certainly still isn't a traditional computing interface.

But if you start moving things like Xcode to the cloud and then, conceivably, Final Cut in the cloud and Logic Pro in the cloud, then you start making the devices themselves end points. Your projects live, if you choose them to do, they live in that cloud-based infrastructure and you can collaborate with them absolutely more than ever before, which is a feature that Final Cut and Logic are really lacking. Those, you have to look at third-party alternatives now, like, but if, conceivably, you have the project in the cloud, multiple end points, multiple people points, can interact with it and then it just becomes you choosing whichever one you think is most apropos for the task at hand. So you could sit there coding or editing on your Mac, on your iMac, with the big screen and then pick up your iPad and you're connected to the same cloud account and you can just continue the same project there and it's all syncing back and forth and you're not worried about moving enormous files. You're always working on these small, lightweight proxy files that, you know, you're editing on your iPad but maybe is syncing down to your Mac or your Mac Pro that has just way more cores, way more memory, way more storage, but you're able to sit there and use your Apple Pencil to edit something in a way that you couldn't or wouldn't, just didn't want to, on the Mac at that particular time and place. I think that's what we're slowly moving towards. But in typical Apple fashion, they're releasing it step by step.

They're putting the components in place, frustratingly slowly at times, but eventually we'll just see more and more of that come out until the whole big announcement is made. And again, that is just completely a guess. But rather than just having Final Cut on or just having Logic Pro or Xcode on the iPad, I would really like to see the next generation, complete next generation of those technologies on all of Apple's devices. Why is Apple intentionally holding the iPad back just to sell more Macs? And this is, again, one of those examples where I think we just do a profound disservice to our audience because it is so easy to rage bait, to perpetuate these kinds of urban myths, rather than to go, you know, through the effort of sharing more and better information.

And Apple has this doctrine, I like to ascribe it to the Phil Schiller doctrine, where they will happily cannibalize any of their products with another one of their products because their worst fear isn't losing sales on any one product from another one of their products but losing those sales to a competitor's products, to another company's products. So just like they replaced the iPod Mini with the iPod Nano and they replaced the iPod, one of their most successful products, with the iPhone, you know, and they allowed the original iPad to compete head-to-head with the Mac and the iPad's popularity soared but then it went down when the MacBook Air got its redesign. The Mac's popularity soared again and Apple didn't care because they were competing against themselves. Whether you bought an iPad or a Mac, you still bought from Apple, rather than them being protectionistic, almost Microsoft-y and about everything has to be Windows while people are jumping off the ship. You might be riding those profits but you're riding them straight into the ground if you're not willing to take that next leap, if you are not mistaking your products for your business but understanding that your products will change even as your business may evolve over time. So the thinking within Apple, as I understand it, is that the iPad's job is to get so good that a majority of people no longer need a Mac, and again, I'm not talking about us 10% tech Twitter, tech YouTubers who really have very specific Mac-ity Mac needs, but I'm talking about the majority of people who were buying a Mac because they had no other choice, is to get it better and better so that it serves more and more of their needs and less and less of them have to get a Mac that maybe doesn't fit them as well. But then it's the Mac's job to fight back, to push back, to prove that it deserves to survive, by taking on more and more characteristics that appeal to that wider audience, which is why, you know, Will keeps saying Apple's dumbing down the Mac or Apple's putting too much iPad features or iOS features on the Mac, where what they're doing is just trying to take what's best about iOS and iPad OS, the friendliness of those things, and bring it to the Mac.

And to totally abuse Steve Jobs' car and truck analogy, you know, we still need trucks but there's no reason why we can't have the amenities, the comforts, of the car at the same time. The good sound system, the comfy seats, all of those things. That's what Apple has been bringing to the Mac and using to help the Mac fight back, even up to and including now Apple silicon, which came from the iPad, going to the Mac to give it the same kind of performance potential that the iPad has had but for users and workflows that make just much more sense on the Mac.

So whenever I hear things like Apple's intentionally holding it back, I just think more like they have very set philosophies and markets in mind for these products and why have one product that fits well in one market and fits badly in another market when you can have two products that maybe have some overlap in the middle but each one is better suited, is best suited for a particular market? And I think in their minds, the Mac is that traditional computer for people who want and need traditional computing tasks and the iPad is that think different, compute different machine for everybody else, you know, the computer for everybody else. Why is the Files app still trash? I just really don't know. I've been lobbying, personally lobbying, you can go back and look at iMore, for years to have better file support on the iPhone. I was asking for, you know, a file picker and a Files app feels like, you know, eight years ago and then every year, year after year, I kept asking and we slowly got the document picker and we slowly got the Files app, but it always felt like begrudgingly Apple was doing it.

And I understand from a certain point of view that they don't wanna just port the complexity of Finder over to the iPad. They wanna make something that is more accessible to a much wider audience on the iPad. But there are simple things, simple affordances, simple considerations, like how big files are or like status bars. Even though the status bar is a lie. It's purely psychological. Humans operate off those kinds of psychologies. And there's this old joke about engineering where, you know, you don't wanna have settings because settings are complicated but you end up engineering around them in such a way that the complexity far outstrips the relativistic simplicity of just having settings, and this feels like that to me. It feels like Apple is doing everything possible to work around the simplicity, just making a functional Files app, and that's all they really need to do. This is one place, this is one app, where I think Apple really can lean totally into doing fan service for nerds. Why is external display support still trash? So the issue here is that all of the iPads forever have been close to 4:3 aspect ratio where most external displays are 16:9, if not wider, and so when you just mirror an iPad display, all you do is get these giant pillar boxes on both sides and it makes your eyes bleed, makes any power user's eyes bleed.

But one of the considerations here is that external displays are not used by the vast, vast majority of iPad customers. It is really, you know, one of those 10% features. But Apple does continue to show it off, both when they introduced USB-C to the 2018 iPad and now when they introduced Thunderbolt. Just front and center in the presentations are external displays and Apple is careful to show them doing what the current capabilities are and that is not mirroring but playing video or playing video games and they leave it up to the developers to implement that. But if you just wanna use it as extra desktop space, you only have mirroring. That is your only option. And so far, Apple's not provided anything to allow, nevermind extended desktop where you would just fill the screen with more app icons because the home screen has no concept of multiple states, one for the iPad display and one for the external display, but for developers to create arbitrary aspect ratios for their apps and then have that shown on external displays that are maybe 16:9 or 16:10 or ultra-wide screen, wrap-around-your-desktop displays. It just hasn't been built. Apple needs to build it. But because so many people don't use it, it is just not high on their priority list. Where is multi-user support?

And this one, again, is personally really frustrating for me, especially because Apple has multi-user support already built in to the iPad. It is just only surfaced in the educational applications, in classroom, where they provide really, really good multi-user support but only for students. And maybe you could argue that, you know, education and students is a controlled environment where the traditional lack of resources on an iPad, the lack of RAM, the lack of storage, wouldn't cause too many problems, especially in a student environment where the devices are essentially wiped every night and there's very little personal information stored and no personal information persisted on those devices. It's a more complex problem in a home or work environment where you want your stuff available any time, all the time, in a very Mac-like way.

But now that Apple has iPads that are coming with one, two terabytes, eight, 16 gigabytes, and as we've seen over the years, pro features get pushed down to the Air, get pushed down to the base model, as the resource limitations start to evaporate, I really hope we see Apple extend that currently student-only multi-user support just across the line of iPads because there are just so many situations, so many environments, where it just makes so much sense.