Apple released the fifth developer beta version of iPadOS 13 yesterday. This included an improvement on the splash screen: an option to adjust the iPad symbol spacing.
In iPadOS 13, you can now adjust the density of the splash screen icons. This means you can choose between a 4 × 5 grid of apps or a 6 × 5 grid of apps. Any improvement here is welcome, of course, but even a 6×5 icon grid is a huge waste of storage space a 12.9-inch iPad. To offer an option to change it, but to do so in the very limited way, is a very missed opportunity …
I spoke out last year for what I called padOS, and Requested Three Changes:  While the iPad Pro does not try to be a Mac, it's an adult device and needs an adult operating system. No macOS, but a customized version of iOS, which should use the additional features of the iPad. What some people have called padOS.
I mean, just look at the home screen above. How ridiculous does this app-spacing look on a screen the size of a MacBook Air?
I do not think it needs a major overhaul to make an iPad-ready version of iOS. I would consider the following as an acceptable minimum specification for padOS – if you gave me these things, I would be very happy:
- A startup screen with a fully flexible layout
- Properly fenced apps
- Support for a trackpad
Of course, Apple finally gives the iPad a special version of iOS this year, including some of my wishes.
We have a (somewhat chunky) way to use a mouse with an iPad . We do not have properly fenced apps, but Apple has brought us a whole range of improvements in this area. We can now open multiple windows in the same app in split view mode, and the new three-finger copy / cut / paste gestures make it easier to work between windows. See our video guide for all the multi-tasking improvements introduced in padOS.
We also have two home screen enhancements. First, we can have denser symbols (albeit slightly). Second, our widgets can be an integral part of the home screen. Combine these two and we get a much more reasonable use of the space. But it could and should go further.
For me, one of the biggest differences between the Mac and iPad user interface is the flexibility you get in macOS. In terms of the desktop, I can display my icons anywhere and in any density I choose. I can have folder windows of any size and in any position. I can arrange my app windows exactly as you like.
In comparison, the iPad feels – even with iPadOS – still a bit like a toy. The actual apps are very powerful, but the operating system still feels limited.
I know Apple does not want the two platforms to converge too much for different roles. The simplicity of the user interface makes them very attractive to many who are deterred by the relative complexity of a traditional computer. And even for techies, one reason why an iPad is suitable for recreational use is that it does not feel like a work tool. I definitely understand that.
But if you want to offer people a choice of iPad symbol spacing, why restrict it in this way? Why not offer a full range of densities, right down to a Mac-like one?
That would not hurt anyone. This does not make an iPad more complex for ordinary users, as they will never approach this option. However, this would significantly improve the user experience for primary users who would be able to have more of their frequently used apps on the home screen and fewer screens overall.
How do you see that? Would more choice be better or would you choose between 4 × 5 and 6 × 5? Please join our survey and share your thoughts in the comments.
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