How Apple Can Fix The Pain-In-The-Rear Multitasking On The iPad

iPad crystal ball

Photo: Flickr/Bitterjug

As popular as Apple’s iOS operating system for iPhones and iPads is, it functions largely the same as it did when it was first introduced more than six years ago.That normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but as mobile OS usage eats into normal PC OS usage, it’s becoming more apparent that Apple still has a lot of work to do when it comes to productivity, content creation, and multitasking.

Kontra of Counternotions, a really smart anonymous blogger who comments on Apple design a lot, has a new post on the multitasking issue in iOS.

Here’s the key paragraph that demonstrates just how difficult it is to work between multiple apps:

In iOS, this involves double-clicking the Home button, swiping in the tray to find the other app, waiting for it to (re)load fully, locating the app view necessary to copy, double-clicking the Home button, finding the previous app in the tray and waiting for it to (re)load fully to paste the previously copied material. That’s just one operation between two apps. Composing a patient review for a doctor or creating a presentation for a student can easily involve many such operations among multiple apps.

What a pain.

Kontra has a temporary solution that Apple could implement in its next version of iOS, which is expected to launch as early as this summer. Apple could add what Kontra calls a “multi-slot clipboard” that would let you copy multiple items at once before plugging them into another app. It seems like such a feature would be easy for Apple to add without confusing users. Plus it’ll give Apple another full year to figure out a more robust way to multitask.

But even as Apple lags behind, some of its biggest competitors are already addressing multitasking on the touchscreen in their latest smartphones and tablets.

Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system, which was designed primarily for touchscreen devices, has a unique multitasking feature that lets you “snap” any app to the side of your display. It’s also very easy to cycle between apps in Windows 8 by swiping your finger from the left to right side of your screen.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 and 8.0 Android tablets also let you run two apps at once in a split screen, although there are only about 20 apps that utilise that feature right now. Some of Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones like the Galaxy S III let you run multiple apps at once in separate windows.

Finally, BlackBerry’s new operating system, BlackBerry 10, has the best multitasking function we’ve ever seen on a smartphone. Swiping from the bottom to the top of the screen reveals the apps you have running in the background, making it incredibly easy to switch between them.

Yes, adding a more robust multitasking solution to iOS could alienate and confuse some people who have become familiar with the operating system over the years. Just look at all the confusion Microsoft caused with its radical new Windows 8 design. 

But if tablets are going to eventually replace regular laptops and PCs for most users, multitasking and productivity are two very important things Apple will have to expand on.

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