App Development

iPad Multitasking in iOS 11

iPad resting on top of an open book.

With the introduction of iOS 11, Apple introduced several major improvement across all of their product lines. This year however, special effort was put into improving iPad workflows for users, especially in the area of productivity.

Apple’s investment in the iPad as a productivity device further blurs the lines between the tablet and the laptop as the go-to device for many users. Apple introduced key new features that push the iPad forward as a strong contender to replace your laptop.

Improved Multitasking

The improvements in multitasking are a huge leap forward for the iPad. macOS users will notice the familiar dock on the bottom of their screen, which houses their most used apps. Unlike previous versions, this dock can hold an arbitrary number of apps (I added 10 with no problem). This UX choice will be very familiar and seamless for macOS users. The dock also includes a predictive section for the system to suggest apps, based on the user’s patterns. The multitasking overhaul also includes a new app switcher. When combined with the dock, opening apps in a split view is easier than ever. Users can drag the app they wish to open directly from the dock onto another app to start split screen or multitasking mode. This change will feel very natural for most people, as this is quite similar to how traditional computers behave.

Drag and Drop

Perhaps the most fanfared feature this year at WWDC is the long awaited drag and drop. Users can now drag content seamlessly from one app to another. For many people, this is a huge change. Previous iOS versions often left the user isolated from other apps, making it feel more like a large phone rather than a potential laptop replacement. The multitasking introduced in iOS was a step in the right direction, but allowed no interaction between apps. iOS 11 helps bridge the gap between tablet and computer by allowing apps to interact with each other, edging the iPad closer to the experience users expect from their laptops

What does this mean for your app(s)?

The new changes in iOS 11 are a clear shift in the direction of increased productivity for the iPad. As more users adopt the iPad as their primary device over a computer, there are a few key takeaways for both your existing app and apps you plan to develop.

  1. Don’t settle for an iPhone only experience. iPad users expect a custom experience, not blown up version of the iPhone app.
  2. If you haven’t adopted adaptive layout and size classes, now is the time. If your app does not play nicely with other apps, users will notice. The days of running your app in isolation are gone
  3. Rethink your experience. The iPad is now a device designed to run multiple apps at a time. Does your app need to do everything? Are there other types of apps that would pair quite nicely with yours? Might you split your app into 2 separate apps, designed to work in tandem?
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