Motorola and HP proved that companies can make tablets with UI as usable, if not more so, than the iPad. Now, with the iPad 2 being announced next week, Apple is the one that needs to play catch-up to others. But is it possible without drastically retooling iOS?
The problem is that instead of designing an interface explicitly for tablets, as Google did with Android 3.0, Apple just took the existing iOS phone interface and engorged it. That was fine for a Gen-1 tablet, but now that a year has passed and many major designers have the benefit of actually seeing how people use these devices, the iPad feels clunky in comparison. A phone on a tablet is really just not enough anymore.
These are some major issues that need to be addressed.
Why is it when an app notification or an IM comes in, your current activity gets interrupted until you deal with that horrifically annoying popup? This is the number one usability complaint right now on both the iPad and the iPhone.
Apple’s current multitasking tray is decent, but it’s not perfect. It’s already shows the most recent 7 apps, but the number of taps needed to switch tasks is too many. And if you’re doing something like writing a document, you’re usually using a web page or an email as reference. It would be nice to have a split-screen view to have two apps take up half the screen each.
Or, Apple can port Expose, like multiflow (a jailbreak app). If they can combine the usefulness of seeing thumbnails of open apps with a gesture to trigger Expose view, they can cut down app switching to two motions (swipe and tap).
Another bonus of having both HP products: You can respond to texts and answer calls from the tablet, provided the phone is in range.
There’s not a whole lot Apple needs to change from HP’s implementation. Have your iPhone trade apps, links and photos when you touch it to your iPad. Have them talk to each other so you don’t need to pick up your phone to respond to texts, just doing it on the iPad when the two are in range.
Wireless app syncing
Having your apps and music wirelessly sync to your iPad would be great, and keeping them automatically updated based on settings you choose in iTunes would be even greater.
It’s very likely that Apple will be unveiling new software features for iOS 5.0 alongside the iPad 2 announcement. It’s also very likely that they’ll address the multitasking issues as well, since the rumours for that have been ramping up. But will whatever they introduce be as good as what HP and Android have added to tablet interfaces? Is the luxury of having one unified UI structure for both iPad and iPhone worth the limitations it places on Apple’s tablets? It’s hard to say.