Multitasking on the iPad Finally Gets a Worthwhile Upgrade With iOS 11

BY Evan Selleck

Published 6 Jun 2017

Yesterday, during Apple’s keynote speech for this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, a variety of different individuals took the stage to unveil what’s new from the Cupertino-based company. There was so much to talk about, in fact, that even at just over two hours some of the parts still felt rushed.

Apple’s Craig Federighi, for example, had moments where it felt like he needed to take a pause and catch his breath. But as the keynote went on, the excitement that Apple’s executives obviously had for its new products, both in the software market and on the hardware front, was pretty obvious. And while it did feel slightly rushed, by the time the keynote ended it made sense why: There was a lot to talk about, especially with iOS 11.

Immediately following the end of the keynote, a friend of mine sent me a text that read, “Ugh I wanted so much more.” I’ll admit that it took me by surprise a bit at the time, but after discussing it with him for a little while we both came to the realization why WWDC 2017’s keynote speech was a bit disappointing for him: He doesn’t care about iPads. He actually owns one, but it only exists to play educational games for his son. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen him use it for his own personal gain in any way.

The aforementioned Federighi was obviously very excited about iOS 11 on the iPad Pro, and not simply because there was a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro to sell to the public (though I’m sure that was part of it). No, as he went through the new iOS 11 features that were specifically designed to improve the user experience on the powerful tablet devices, what Apple had created had obviously struck a chord with him.

Watching Federighi on stage made it feel like iOS 11, and specifically iOS 11 on the iPad Pro, was singlehandedly the most important part of the keynote. And I don’t think that estimation is wrong.

Yes, Apple had a lot to announce, from new features in watchOS 4, new iMacs and MacBooks, and even a brand new iMac Pro that you can’t buy until later this year. And let’s not forget the HomePod, a brand new smart speaker with Siri and Apple Music built in. macOS got a new “High Sierra” version that will release later this year, too, and tvOS 11 was announced — along with the future arrival of Amazon Prime Video — but managed to keep any of its new features a secret until later this year sometime.

But all of that, while sharing plenty of limelight on stage, still felt like it was just fluff compared to the main focus: iOS 11 on the iPad Pro. Which makes sense, because the iPad Pro is getting some major upgrade, especially in terms of multitasking. It’s moving away from the more leisurely approach, where one would go from one app to the next, and maybe used Split View when they could, and turning more into an actual workstation of sorts.

It’s pretty interesting to see how the iPad and its use cases have evolved over the years. I remember as the iPad popularity grew that many people actually preferred the device because its focus was on one app at a time. One full-screen experience to remove the distractions of other apps. Indeed I loved the fact that I could have a writing app open and not be immediately distracted by a Twitter app being open right alongside it. But things change, and what customers are looking for changes, too.

You can still obviously have a big full-screen app experience, especially on those 10.5- or 12.9-inch tablets, but now with iOS 11, depending on your iPad model, you can actually have three apps running at the same time. Two in Split View, and then open another in the brand new floating app window you can launch simply by dragging an app out of the brand new dock. The iPad has, for all intents and purposes, come a long way, and in doing so has gained a huge boost in productivity and multitasking with iOS 11.

The iPad Pro started out as a powerful device, and it’s only going to get stronger with each new iteration and design, and Apple has showcased yesterday that it intends to make that happen not only on a hardware front, but also on the software side. While the debate on whether or not the iPad Pro is a true replacement for a computer will rage on, as usual it will come down to a personal opinion and scenario. What might not work for one person will work for another, and it sure looks like Apple is still aiming on having the iPad Pro be a one-stop-shop for anyone who feels like it could be one in the first place.

And that’s not even really mentioning the other big new addition to iOS 11: Drag and Drop. This will surely be a welcomed addition for many customers out there, and while it would’ve probably been good enough to just implemented a simple draft-and-drop feature, Apple took it a step further. You can drag one item, and then use multitouch support to quickly tap on a few other items to immediately add them to your drag-and-drop collection. So, similar to choosing multiple items on your computer, you’ll be able to do the same thing on iOS.

As for me, iOS 11 basically secured a purchase of a 10.5-inch iPad Pro for me. I wasn’t expecting any radical redesign of the hardware, as some rumors had suggested, but the minimized bezels are a nice bonus. It’s the software, and especially the multitasking and that new dock, that guaranteed it’d be my next tablet.

Where do you stand on the new iPad Pro and iOS 11? Do you think this is a big step in the right direction for Apple’s powerful tablet lineup? Do you plan on picking up the 10.5-inch iPad Pro when you can?