iPadOS 15 Improves Multitasking, Adds iPhone Features

Originally published at: iPadOS 15 Improves Multitasking, Adds iPhone Features - TidBITS

With iPad OS 15, unveiled Monday at its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple has enhanced multitasking to be more discoverable and easier to use. iPadOS also gains features found in iOS since last year, including the App Library and Home Screen widgets.

I really wish Apple would make the iPadOS support multiple users. I can’t quite justify pulling the trigger on buying one (I would get the top of the line) without being able to share it properly with my Spouse…

Household iPads are often shared devices, so multi-account support makes a lot of sense. I have a hunch we’ll get this feature sooner or later.

That said, I’m the only iPad user in my household, and no one else has any interest in it :slightly_smiling_face:

This is something people keep asking for and I fully understand why. And I’m pretty sure it’s a marketing issue, not technical. At its heart Apple is a hardware company. They’d rather sell two iPads than equip one to be shared among two people. Android has offered this for years, I doubt Apple has much interest to follow now after they’ve resisted for a long time.

Although not at all designed to be a multi-user device, I used to use my wife’s iPad by simply logging her out of iCloud and logging myself in. Not at all the same experience as we enjoy on our iMacs, but was satisfactory at the time. I assume it can still be done today on an occasional basis, but not really something I would recommend for everyday use.

Apple has a solution for schools but it seems not optimal.

I think @Simon is right here. With iPhones and iPads, Apple sees them as personal devices, rather than a monolithic device that would be shared by multiple people. Multi-user support could be baked in, but it would undoubtedly cut into sales.

It’s possible there are some technical or user experience issues as well. Although I can imagine login being easy, such as with Face ID or Touch ID simply figuring out who was using the device, it might be problematic to switch user environments on the fly quickly. And you can imagine confusion when siblings are using an iPad and the user environment is always “wrong” because they keep swapping it back and forth.

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I am sure there is NO technical reason. iOS is basically macOS inside. An iPad would be an auxiliary device for myself and my spouse. We already have at least one Mac each. Would like to be able to have a shared iPad for travel and misc usage.

It is another case of corporate artificial scarcity.

I’m not sure that’s true. I imagine most people who want to share an iPad do so and just put up with a suboptimal software experience. The bigger problem with sharing an iPad is the physical limitation – if multiple people want to use an iPad at the same time, you need multiple iPads.

That’s a vast oversimplification. iOS runs the same kernel, but it’s not MacOS, and it has some significant technical differences that could impact features. For instance, iOS/iPadOS have no swap file or virtual memory. I’m not saying that technical reasons are why we don’t have multiuser iPads, but it can’t be dismissed out of hand.

My guess as to why this hasn’t happened (yet?) is simply a case of priority. At a minimum, there would need to be significant user experience design work. As @ace says, Apple sees the iPad as a personal device, and until recently they haven’t even prioritised adding and refining the features needed to use it to its full potential for single users. I think multiuser support is simply too unimportant to them at the moment.

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Swap files can be disabled on desktop systems (at least they can with Linux - Apple may restrict access to that configuration). Multi-user operation works just fine until you use up the RAM, then it starts killing processes instead of swapping. Depending on your usage and how much RAM you have installed, this may or may not be a concern.

I would be surprised if iOS didn’t use virtual memory. Note that virtual memory is not just for paging/swapping. It also avoids memory fragmentation issues by remapping physical RAM pages to different virtual addresses. I don’t think any modern OS kernel could function without it.

As for the UI design work, I don’t think it would be that bad. Windows 10 is a multi-user OS that works on tablets. You can log off from one account and then log on to another. When logged in, all the apps/preferences correspond to the user that is logged in.

When nobody is logged in, you would probably need to select a user before authenticating with FaceID or TouchID, but aside from that, I don’t see a real problem here.

I agree with others who are saying that it is a business decision, not a technical one.

Why have at least one Mac each? Well, in our case, because our organization and usage styles differ greatly. This applies to iPhones, aWatches, and iPads as well.

Multitasking does not require more than one user account to make life better for an iPad user. It is of great import to context awareness when working with more than one document or application. I applaud Apple for their improvements.

I wasn’t trying to imply that the lack of a swap file was a technical barrier to a multiuser implementation. It was simply an example of why saying iOS is “basically” MacOS is an oversimplification. They’re different OSes that share a lot of building blocks. There might not be technical challenges to multiuser on the iPad, but there might be.

Agreed, it might not be. But there is some work to do.

Fundamentally I agree that this is a business decision, not a technical one. It is certainly surmountable from a technical standpoint. What I’m not convinced about is that the business reasoning is to sell more iPads. I think the business decision is more likely to do with the fact that Apple just doesn’t feel it’s worth the effort and complexity it would add, at least at this point in time. More of a can’t be bothered.

I can agree there. I think it’s more along the lines of the fact that Apple’s strategy has the iPad classified as a single-user appliance, just like an iPod, a Watch or an iPhone. Given the fact that some people do share iPads among family members, that might not really be a good classification.

It’s worth noting that the Apple TV does have multi-user capabilities, which makes sense as a set-top box that is going to be used by many household members.

I wonder, however, how many people actually use this feature, since most of the streaming media apps (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc.) have their own multi-user capabilities, to allow family members to share a single account, so you don’t need to switch users for the entire device in order to access someone else’s favorites list.

This might be very different for people who use their Apple TV as a game console, so each user can have a completely separate set of save files.