Since the past couple of years, Apple has worked hard to position the iPad as a real computer, a true MacBook replacement. But the promotion videos and marketing campaigns felt hollow. Because the reality was quite different. The iPad Pro was just not fast enough or featured enough or had as many great apps to be a true MacBook replacement. But in 2019, the tide is turning.
The 2018 iPad Pros are actually faster than the base MacBook. And now, with iPadOS 13, Apple is adding all the software features that previously kept MacBook users from switching to the Macbook. Here are all the new iPadOS 13 features that make the iPad Pro a great MacBook replacement.
iPadOS 13 Features That Finally Make The iPad Pro a Worthy MacBook Replacement
1. Desktop Class Safari
The biggest thing standing between the iPad Pro being a real computer was the mobile version of Safari browser. While the Safari UI was updated for the bigger iPad screen, the underlying technology was not. And most websites do not have a size class for a tablet. So you’d end up with the 13 inch iPad Pro opening the mobile version of YouTube and Facebook by default. What was worse was productivity related websites. It was a nightmare using Google Sheets and WordPress on the iPad Pro.
Now, all those issues have been solved. YouTube’s desktop website works wonderfully on iPadOS 13 and it even supports the Picture-in-Picture feature that isn’t available in the YouTube app. Same goes for Google Sheets. In my experience, I found using Google Sheets in Safari much better than the app itself. The app’s view-only and editing modes are confusing. But in Safari, you just tap on a cell and start editing it. It’s simple and as it should be.
The same goes for banking websites, blogs, and more. All the websites that weren’t configured for the tablet size now work great on the iPad Pro and iPad Air. And sadly, that was the majority of websites.
The new Safari app also has separate customization for each website. You can set the dynamic text zoom level for each website. This will help increase the text size of older websites without messing with the design of the website.
2. Multiple App Instances At The Same Time
So far, you could only open one instance (or window) for an app on iPad. For a device that called itself the iPad Pro, it didn’t sound very professional. Now, that limit has been removed. You can actually open multiple windows of the same app quite easily. There’s a new feature called App Expose to help you monitor all open windows (we’ve written about it in detail here).
This feature works using the drag and drop functionality. Basically, you can take a part of an iPad app and open it in a different window. This can be a note in the Notes app, a conversation in the Mail app, and so on. As third-party apps update for iOS 13, this functionality will be available across all iPadOS 13 apps.
3. Safari Download Manager
This is another part of growing up and evolving as an operating system. We did not see this coming. You now have a fully-featured download manager in iOS 13. It’s the same feature that’s available in macOS and it works really well. In our testing, we were able to download a 2GB file from Apple’s server on the iPad even when the screen was locked and the iPad was turned off. For once, Apple has managed the background downloading process well.
When you tap on a download link, you’ll be asked if you want to download the file. Tap on the Download button and a new Downloads icon will appear at the top. By default, the downloads go to the Downloads folder in iCloud Drive but you can change the download location.
4. External Devices Support in Files
Both the iPhone and iPad now support external storage devices in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13. Even flash drives that are not designed for Apple hardware can be opened and used in the Files app. This works best on the new iPad Pros with USB-C port. You can now connect any flash drive or a large hard drive using a USB-C cable or converter. All the files in the drive will show up on your iPad. You can then move it to another place, like your local storage or offload files from your iPad to the drive. You can even preview and play files from the external hard drive.
If you’re using an SD card converter, you can now import photos directly to an app like Lightroom without using the Files app, which is a big time saver.
5. Local Storage Management in Files
Apple has opened the local storage to the user using the Files app. Again, this is just a silo inside the Files app and not root level access. Still, this isn’t something we thought we would see coming to the iPad any time soon. Previously only apps could create folders and save files to the local storage. Now, anyone can.
This means you can use the same file with multiple apps and avoid file duplication. Users can create folders, save files, move them around and even compress them, all without using iCloud Drive.
6. Better Text Manipulation
If you use the iPad with a keyboard, text manipulation becomes easier with the keyboard. But if you use your iPad Pro as a tablet most of the time, you can get frustrated with the text selection and manipulation process pretty quickly. Apple is solving this by adding many intuitive gestures.
First, the cursor is much easier to lift up and move around with just one finger (tap and hold and then move). And if you tap on a word and then swipe, you can just select a big block of text. Then you can pinch in with three fingers to copy text and pinch out with three fingers to paste it. We’ve talked about all the new iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 gestures in detail here.
7. Real Automation with Shortcuts
Shortcuts app is now built into iPadOS 13 and the shortcuts now show up in the Share sheet directly. Plus, Shortcuts app now supports real automation. Previously, a shortcut had to be triggered manually. Now it can be triggered automatically, or by using another separate action. For example, you can now initiate a shortcut when you open an app, or when you tap your iPad against an NFC tag.
For example, you can set up a shortcut to automatically start playing relaxing music and to open a new sheet when you open your favorite writing app. You can also have a shortcut that automatically puts your iPhone in Do Not Disturb mode, turns on Airplane mode and Low Power mode at 10 PM.
8. Mouse Support
Mouse support in iPadOS 13 is still not quite ready. It’s an accessibility feature and it basically serves as a replacement for a touch point on the screen. But it’s there and it’s live. If you don’t like using the iPad touch screen when working, you can now connect any Bluetooth mouse (yes, any) and use the buttons to simulate taps on the screen. What’s better is that all buttons on a mouse can be mapped, similar to the AssistiveTouch feature. So you can use a middle click or right click to go to Home or to open the app switcher.
In the beta, the mouse functionality is still not rock solid. We hope that in iOS 14, Apple actually makes this a full feature.
9. Better Home Screen
The iPadOS 13 Home screen is now tighter, with 6 apps across instead of 5. And you can now bring in the widgets section to the home screen with a simple right swipe. If you want, you can pin the widgets to the screen as well.
10. Dark Mode
Every professional needs and wants a dark mode. So it’s great that Apple brought macOS Mojave’s dark mode to iPadOS 13. Apps that work in dark mode are more pleasant to the eyes and easier to use.
I think iPadOS 13 is a solid base for Apple to build upon. The next challenge is going to be apps. And I think Apple’s Marzipan project will help. When it gets easier to make apps for both iPad and Mac together, the number and quality of both the iPad apps and Mac apps will go up. Of course, there are certain things that work well on a MacBook Pro or an iMac. Things like coding, web development, app development, 4K video editing and more still work best on a MacBook Pro.
But the iPad Pro is now a great replacement for the MacBook or the MacBook Air. For general productivity related tasks (web browsing, research, writing, apps, services, etc), the iPad Pro can serve as a worthy replacement if the user is willing to spend some time learning the new UI and interactions.
What do you think of the new iPadOS 13 features? Do you think they are enough to turn the iPad into a MacBook replacement? Share with us in the comments below.