I have a love-hate relationship with the iPad Pro. I use it as my main work machine, partly because it is more powerful and portable than most laptops on the market, and it has the best stylus on a commercial device. But the main reason is because it has exclusive access to LumaFusion, the best video editing software for intermediate-level video editors such as myself. Final Cut Pro is a bit too advanced for my skill level and needs right now, and PC video editing software such as PowerDirector simply aren’t as intuitive as LumaFusion.
But using the iPad Pro as my main work machine has required significant compromises on my end, because Apple had stubbornly neutered the device’s power and potential with limited mobile software and an insistence on doing things the Apple way.
For example, the 2018 iPad Pro uses USB-C, the do-it-all port that can transfer power and data at high speeds, but Apple’s software has mostly eliminated the latter, as the iPad Pro’s USB-C port does not support external storage. There’s also a very limited filing system that forces users to save files only to apps that support local storage.
These restrictions have created some absurd hoops through which I have to jump just to do daily work. To move videos shot with my Sony mirrorless camera to an iPad, I have to first transfer the video files to an iPhone (the iPad doesn’t support external card readers, but somehow the iPhone does) and then AirDrop the videos over to the iPad. When I need to download official press images off a company website, I can’t just tap on the download link and save the images to my local storage, I have to use a third party app to open the photos and then save them to the iPad’s photo gallery, one by one.
That I willingly put up with all these hassles despite no shortage of alternative computing options is perhaps the best compliment I can give Apple’s tablet and LumaFusion. After all, I’m not even an Apple loyalist. My main phone is usually an Android, and I prefer Google’s digital services over Apple’s counterparts. But the iPad Pro’s hardware is so good that I’m willing to put up with its draconian software.
But change is coming! At this month’s developer conference, Apple announced new software for all of its products, and while the iPhone and Macs will be getting some nifty feature upgrades via the software update coming this fall, the most important, groundbreaking changes will be happening to iPads.
iPadOS–the first time an iPad is getting its own software instead of simply running a supersized version of iOS–will fix all the nitpicks I just described.
I’ve been testing a beta version of iPadOS for the past few days, and most of the improvements Apple promised are already useable here in the beta software. They’re slightly buggy right now–as is often the case with beta software–but by the time these are consumer-ready, the iPads, especially the 2018 iPad Pro, is going to become significantly more capable.
I may finally be able to remove the “hate” part from my long-running love-hate relationship with an Apple product.
Finally, a real USB-C port
With iPadOS, the 2018 iPad Pros will finally open up USB-C to allow external storage support. Whether it’s portable hard drives, USB-C thumb drives, or card readers, iPadOS will recognize the storage. On my beta version of iPadOS, it is picking up my USB-C drive and external just fine, but still cannot pick up videos shot by my Sony camera via a card reader. But this should be fixed by the time the final software is released to the public, because an Apple representative has already confirmed it to me. In fact, LumaFusion will allow users to edit footage off an external storage device, without needing to first move the files to the iPad.
This will shave about 20-30 minutes of tedious file moving for me going forward.
An actual file system
iPadOS also improves the tablet’s file app, to make it more like a real file system used in computers. There is now an option to show files in multi-tier column views, and for the first time on an iPad/iPhone, the ability to download files directly to the device, and store them in a folder of our choosing.
Even better multi-tasking
Apple has been claiming the iPad could be a laptop replacement since 2016, a claim which I criticized due to the tablet’s lack of real multi-tasking. But in 2017, Apple offered split-screen multi-tasking that drastically improved the iPad Pro’s usability.
iPadOS improves on that even more. Currently, iPads can run two apps side by side and a third hovering off to the side in a feature Apple calls “Slide Over.” Now Slide Over can house more than one app, in fact, from my demo, I can get up to six or seven apps running before the machine began bogging down.
You can now also run two instances of the same apps side by side–for example, two Google Docs pages–which is something that had bothered me in the past, too.
More information dense homescreen
The homescreens on iPads have always looked awkward, because it used mostly the same layout and grid as UI that was designed for a smartphone. iPadOS addresses this by giving the iPad a tighter grid and smaller icons. This allows more information to be displayed on the iPad’s large screen real estate–you know, like a computer–including the ability to house widgets on the homescreen.
It may seem like a small change, but visually, it makes the iPad Pro feel more like its own device instead of a giant-sized iPhone.
Desktop-class web browsing; mouse support
Two more small updates that further push the iPad into computer territory: iPadOS’s Safari browser will natively push out desktop versions of websites, instead of mobile versions that look awkward on a large iPad screen.
And the benefits go beyond just aesthetics. Mobile versions of Google sites such as Google Docs and YouTube omit crucial features (on YouTube, you can only schedule a video publish time on the desktop site). This should no longer be an issue on iPadOS.
Finally, the iPad gets mouse support for the first time. Simply go into settings and make a few taps, and the iPad will no longer be a touchscreen only interface.
Pair the mouse with a proper keyboard–Apple’s first-party keyboard case is excellent–and the iPad Pro with iPadOS will finally be what Apple has been claiming for the past three years: a fully capable computer.