Ipac Mro Zagic…?

Err, iPad Pro with Zagg Keyboard and Apple Magic Trackpad 2

Using a 2011 MacBook Pro and a 2015 12.9 iPad Pro side-by-side really highlights just how far the iPad has failed to come, and what ‘usage scenario’ means.

Over the past forty years, the way we interact with computers has changed very little, and the changes that have come about, post-keyboard, have all come from Apple: the mouse, keyboard-trackpad layout, standardised key combinations, logical menus and multitouch. And now we have two fundamentally different ways of interacting with computers, but we still have point-and-click or touch fundamentals, requiring the use of the same appendages. 

Question number one:

Why the hell does a trackpad, made by Apple and connected to an iPad, operate in totally different ways than a trackpad on a Macintosh? Really – no pinch, no swipes, no scroll. The iPad team are not aware of the Mac? They deliberately ignored the Mac? Apple didn’t have the cash to develop any software work-arounds?

Actually, I think Apple is a victim of the same issue that Porsche went through with the 911 vs the Boxter – power and performance of the smaller MR car had to be deliberately limited so as not to make the inherently flawed design of an RR car look bad. The ARM-based, touch-centric iPad is technologically vastly superior to the Intel x86 clumsiness of the non-touch Mac. I can only assume this is why Apple has gradually elevated the iPad to be on-par with Mac in terms of processing – and most importantly, price – before it brings their functionality into equivalency.

Which brings us to the failure of iPad’s basic ergonomics.

The Cookie-Cutter has stated, since the Pro arrived in 2015, that he uses this device as his main computer. Buuuuuut there are the functions required in use of Mac vs iPad which have lead me to cast doubt on the verisimilitude of this statement, or it’s practicability. 

The 12.9 weights too much to use one-handed, meaning it must be supported otherwise. The Apple SmartKeyboard is useful for this function, but having to lift one’s arm to touch the screen dozens of times every few minutes is impracticable for extended periods. Third-party keyboards range from almost good to horrendous, and they do not remove or even address the issue of having to lift one’s entire arm to use the machine: it’s worse than using a mouse!

If you are not sure why I disparage the mouse, try using it with the opposite hand for a week, and see how your shoulder feels. I’m a trackpad boy.

I used iPad mini on and off for about eight years as my main mobile computer, but with my large hands, I can actually manipulate it one-handed for non-typing tasks and some reading tasks. Not bad, but for the other times, and non-large handed folk, even the smallest iPad is vastly oversized for one-handed use.

Which brings me back to the 12.9 as a daily-use computer.

I used mine as my main computer for two years. AAARRRGGHH!!! Here’s a pro-con list for your edification:

Yes: screen, sound, touch – Pencil and drawing, processor, software, security, speed, reliability

No: keyboard, touch – lifting entire arm, trackpad, mouse, usability

And now, we have iPadOS 1, or 13 – whichever – and iPad has now it’s very own OS bestowed upon it. iOS 11 and 12 both brought leaps with SplitScreen and whatnot, but now with it’s own OS, this is supposed to be a stand-alone computing platform. 

My Arse.

Using these expensive-yet-cheap keyboards is still like using a netbook. It looks the same, but everything just feels as if it hasn’t been prepared and organised properly. And this sense of awkwardness is exacerbated ten-fold when interacting with iPad with a trackpad. How could this have even shipped??

While typing, the trackpad pointer, a circle with your choice of rim colour, goes to sleep, meaning a press then a furious swiping until it reactivates. Then it doesn’t mirror the interactivity like any current modern trackpad, except perhaps the PowerBook 100? This. Is. Ridiculous. Thusly, I am ridiculing it! Hehe!

To scroll the page is like ‘grabbing’ the page – pressing down on the trackpad and sliding one’s finger in the direction we wish the page to move. Perhaps, original Mac? It’s as though the OS treats the screen like a PDF. These conventions are ANCIENT. Try using a trackpad with iPad next to a Mac, or even a crappy Windows piece of junk, and the awkwardness becomes grossly apparent.

Once the pointer finally becomes responsive, clicking on somewhere doesn’t always result in the cursor going to the pointer – which cannot be confirmed until the pointer is moved out the way. Sometimes, the cursor goes to the start or end of that word or that sentence, and sometimes to the start or end of that paragraph. 

I would expect this on Android.

Which had been side-loaded with a home-compiled kernel.

In southern China.

By a beginner.

Did I not say I would ridicule?

Knowing that this same ‘usability’ occurs with the maxed $2000us iPad Pro currently on sale boggles. Apple? Hello? 

Back to the Mac

The trackpad is flawless – this computer is eight bloody years old! EIGHT! And it is FLAWLESS! Yes, I did replace the battery and speakers, upgrade the AirPort Card to BT4.0, and install an SSD and 16GB of RAM, but the keyboard and trackpad make me not think at all about the hardware – I just do what I need to do.

The iPad hodge-podge of random add-on hardware devices makes me think non-stop about how bloody awful using this thing is, especially with the Mac physically touching it enabling real-world, real-time comparisons. So disappointed.

I have long praised the iPad, but that was while the iPad was a differentiated product which did as Jobs positioned the device: better at some things than either iPhone or Mac. However, this positioning is no longer tenable: either the iPad reverses course into a purely portable-first, multifunction device, or it adopts the same ease-of-use as the Mac.

A computer requires a keyboard and mouse/trackpad – Apple figured this out at its lowest point in the non-Jobs era of the early 90’s. They even had Sony help them perfect Mac laptop usability! So, perhaps the Cookie-Cutter could bring Sony back in to organise the iPad… 

Now, that was uncalled for, I know. Just venting 😉

Finally, there is neither need nor reason for Apple to merge the Mac and the iPad: until now, they have served very different purposes in different ways. The underlying computing architecture is the functional barrier preventing this, BUT, as the AX continues out-pacing the decrepit x86, iPad will naturally exceed the Mac in processing ability within the next few years, even at the top of the line.

Yet, the amateur nature of physical device interactivity with iPad is an inexcusable mess, dim-witted, unresponsive, and unintuitive. This is so un-Apple, and I’m not laughing. Apple set the standards for what trackpad capabilities years ago, before the iPad even had the ability to connect with a mouse or trackpad. But the iPad Pro is now in it’s sixth year and easily out-performs most laptops, and the pointer interactivity is an irritating joke.

Trackpad usage is there and easy to copy. If MS, Goog and SS can copy Apple, what is stopping Apple from copying Apple? Even having ridiculed so much, this pseudo-trackpad beats the hell out of having to lift my bloody arm to touch the screen!