The iPad’s Greatest Weaknesses: Text Entry and Multitasking

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It’s no secret that the iPad can be useful for far more than just watching movies or playing games. Musicians use it to create music. Architects use it to view blue-prints on the job. Photographers use it to display photos, or even use it for touch-ups that can be accomplished by programs available on iOS. Some journalists even use it as their device of choice for writing.

There are, however, two major issues that almost anyone who uses the iPad for more than the occasional game or web browsing episode has: text entry is just not fast or accurate enough, and the current multitasking system is pitiful, particularly when compared to the hardware that is powering the iPad.

Text entry is something that is actively improving on all platforms – except iOS. One of BlackBerry’s headline features was its new keyboard. This keyboard combined traditional typing with gestures to help reduce the time taken to input a full sentence. iOS’ keyboard started off its life as being the best of class, but has slowly stagnated and become just an average solution: the text prediction is fairly subpar, and the correction engine is often incorrect or mistakes a word for another.

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Luckily, there are various solutions to these issues, some of which are on iOS already. iOS 7 needs to contain improvements to the keyboard, for both the iPhone and the iPad – what was great five years ago is simply average now, and will likely continue to fall behind unless updated regularly.

Multitasking, on the other hand, presents a much wider problem. iOS, as it is currently architected, is set up to require minimal resources in order to provide the absolute smoothest user experience available. It is also set up in order to preserve as much battery life as possible.

Those are both noble goals, and certainly aren’t worth sacrificing. iOS’ signature responsiveness continues to be an advantage it holds over the competition. But the iPad, if it really is part of the “next generation” of computing, will have to find a more useful system. The multitasking UI and backend is annoying on the iPhone, but is almost a deal breaker on the iPad. As Graham Spencer pointed out, there is a moment of lag and unresponsiveness after switching applications on the iPad. This moment of lag is simply not present on a real computer, and it almost singlehandedly ruins the experience of trying to get something done on the iPad.

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The iPad, particularly the full-sized model, is powerful. It has a huge battery. It can handle a more advanced, technologically-taxing version of multitasking. If that means giving that model a more sophisticated operating system (imagine: iOS X) that is capable of handling more intense and complex operations (imagine: a file system), then so be it. Leave the iPad mini and all other “lesser” hardware SKUs on the traditional iOS.

Regardless, the hardware limitations of the iPad 1 days are over. We have more than 256 MB of RAM.

It’s time that the software catches up to the hardware. But then again, that’s been an unfortunate motif of Apple’s for the past year.

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