I tried split-screen multitasking on an Apple iPad, and here’s what I discovered

“My iPad Air is jailbroken, and for the last week I’ve been using a new jailbreak tweak called OS Experience, which allows me to have split-screen multitasking,” Alex Heath reports for Cult of Mac. “I’ve tried using it as part of my daily workflow. And what I found was surprising.”

“Over the last week I’ve discovered to my great disappointment that split-screen multitasking on the iPad has not been helpful,” Heath reports. “If anything, it has detracted from my ability to work.”

“I like to browse my Twitter feed and surf the web at the same time on my Mac, so I thought the habit would translate well to the iPad, right? Nope. The main problem is that the iPad Air’s screen size just isn’t big enough. My eyes are good with glasses, but text was pretty difficult to read even on the Retina display. I can’t imagine trying it on the iPad mini,” Heath reports. “Split-screen multitasking is pretty much just visual trickery. I tried running Pages and Simplenote side by side with the idea that copying and pasting text would be easier. It wasn’t. It was actually more tedious, largely for the same reason I’ve already mentioned: screen real estate.”

Much more, including screenshots, in the full article here.

30 Comments

        1. Tflint – unlike some people on this forum, who think their opinion is some kind of universal Truth, Arnold CLEARLY stated that this was HIS experience and HIS opinion for HIMSELF. Posting in this way is a good thing… not something to criticize.

    1. Bad analogy using a “jailbreak” vs Apples vision of splitscreen. I believe you will find Apples split screen will resize complement apps like email/messaging etc to say a browser of movie that will be sized properly. The jailbreak doesn’t come close to how Apple would use split screen. They would do it right so I would hold off commenting until we actually see their vision. ps Microsoft Surface split screen is also how NOT to do it.

  1. Basing your opinion of unannounced iPad feature on a broken 3rd party app is like saying you don’t like lobster because you ate an orange once and didn’t like it.

  2. Yes, because running a jail broken implementation on apps that haven’t been designed with that usage scenario in mind is exactly like any official feature would be like. On this logic all but the most ridiculously large smartphones would be completely useless for everything.

  3. There are two approaches to technology implementation in electronics:
    1. Throw in a capability just because it is possible and font worry whether it works or is useful. That is the approach used by PC makers for the last 2 decades and has been adopted with phone and tablet makers. The result is poorly implemented tech that is slow and buggy.
    2. Think about how new technology can help the user and implement it when it can significantly enhance the experience. Only Apple takes this approach and that is why their devices are often easier to use and more reliable.

    Just because it is possible to do split screen doesn’t mean that it is beneficial especially if it is implemented poorly and drains the overall performance of the device.

  4. The author gives an indication of why laptops with 13-15″ screens are still needed for serious work.

    I routinely have 5-6 apps open with a dozen total files, so for me I see no benefit of trying to do this work on an iPad. For me, an iPad is an accessory device allowing quick checks of online information.

  5. It all depends on the execution and user perception.

    With respect to user perception, people are now used to large displays. I have a 27″ display at work and at home, and my MBP Pro has a 15″ display. If you took a split screen iPad capability back to the early/mid 1980s, people would consider it to be miraculous. Even in the 1990s I had a Mac PowerBook with a 9.5″ passive matrix display. But, to paraphrase my parents, “we made do with what we had.” Naturally, going from a 15″ or a 27″ display to a 9.7″ display and then subdividing that with split screen is a big adjustment. But for the rumored 13″ iPad, split screen might be awesome.

    With respect to execution, Apple has one of the best user experience design team and software teams in the business. They are not perfect, but they have succeeded in making many routine tasks much easier and have advanced the operating system software to where it is becoming much more of a personal assistant with data detectors, etc., than a simple reactionary environment. There is still plenty of room for improvement, especially with iOS. Even today, I find it much more difficult to work with text on the iPad (selecting, cutting, pasting, editing). Probably the most frustrating issue for me is accurately moving the cursor within a text field. Other vendors might just slap together a split screen capability – just offer two windows and there you go. I expect Apple to do better than that. After all, if you have two windows/apps open concurrently, then you either want to see data from both, or you plan to mix and move data between them. The first is the easy two windows implementation. Facilitating the latter capability is a much more challenging issue in the iOS touch environment, especially with the relatively small displays compared to most laptop and desktop computers.

    iOS split screen version 1 may not be everything that you might desire. But Apple tends to gradually improve the user experience over time. That is one of the characteristics that I admire about our “fruit” company.

        1. I was going to say that, Arnold.
          And not only that… not only does he have all this fancy-schmantzy “logic” and “reasonableness”, his post is SEVERELY lacking in obscenity and insults.

          1. But we need all that—foul language, insults—for emotional colour and diversity. Other tech forums are too strait-laced, boring and irrelevant. MDN for the ratings win!

  6. Here’s the truth about multitasking:

    People cannot multitask. This guy says he likes to view his Twitter feed while he works on his Mac. No, what he really does is focus his attention on the work in an app, then switches his attention to Twitter for a bit, then switches his attention back to his work app.

    He’s not multitasking. He’s switching apps. The same thing the iPad already does very easily.

    People cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. That’s why texting and driving is so dangerous. We have to focus on one thing at a time. We may switch between things we’re doing, but if you’re playing a game on your iPhone and watching TV, you either miss parts of the show or your miss parts of the game. You cannot do both well at the same time.

      1. And from what I hear around town, you do them both very well.

        Similarly, I can drive AND talk, without immediately veering off the road. In fact, I think I could probably drive, talk AND fart.

        So, obviously, a level of multitasking is possible. But I am aware that when I’m conversing, my driving drops to ‘running on auto’ with a lower level of attention. If my brain perceives something unexpected up ahead (e.g. screeching brakes, child running out), I’ll stop in mid-sentence. The snapping to full attention on the road immediately commandeers the brain’s capabilities. It’s not even a choice. It’s just done.

        But the kind of multi-tasking above — yes, the brain can’t do that — applying consciousness and attention with original thinking and analysis to two tasks. Fast switching is the most that is possible – although it can certainly be very fast.

  7. Would not a “mission control” style of UI be better most of the time?

    Most efficient Mac users since Lion’s release know how to use multiple screens to interact with apps. When I want to copy and past between Word and InDesign, I rarely need to see both of them at the same time. I swipe over to Word, grab the text I need and swipe over to the design program to drop in the text.

    You can have copy and paste between apps without having them on the screen at the same time is my point.

    Now, there are times when it would be useful I suppose to see both at the same time . . . a nifty zoom feature on the apps would be necessary so you could focus in on the portions that matter.

    If you want to make my iOS devices easier to use, then make Air Drop possible between Macs and iOS devices so I don’t have to constantly message or email myself. And also make it so that I can browse for files to attach from the Mail program instead of having to start in the photos app and select from there . . . . Sometimes it would be nice to do “real” email that allows for multiple attachments from multiple apps (Pages and photos, let’s say) in a simple way — perhaps a simplified Finder that does allow for some file manipulation similar to how the modern Finder has an “All Files” option on it that isn’t particularly useful on a Mac but would be an improvement in iOS.

  8. The iPad’s screen is small, Apple was right to make apps run full screen, the productivity factor would’ve gone way down if they hadn’t and possibly would’ve been a detriment to its acceptance. Splitting a screen is NOT the answer to making a device more “productive”. What would make it more productive is getting instant access to pertinent data.

    If anyone thinks the only way to be productive is to have two apps running at the same time on the screen obviously doesn’t remember the DTP revolution of the late 80’s. Those Macs could only RUN one application at a time. you had to quit PageMaker, and then launch Photoshop. Make changes to something, then relaunch PageMaker. And even after the advent of the Multi-Finder, most displays were so small that it was ridiculous to try and view to windows at once.

    There are two things that Apple can do to make the iPad a much more productive system…

    1. Instead of splitting the screen, just have semi-transparent window pop-up of another app running in the background. But instead of it displaying the app’s iPad storyboard, it would default to its iPhone UI, which would allow it to run in the smaller window without usability issues. (Or as an alternative – apps could have a third UI storyboard specifically for running as a “widget” … for instance, Safari would just display the “reader” content in the pop-up.)

    2. A system wide data store (or centralized access point). When given permission by the user, an app would be able to access data from this storage location. The data/files themselves would always reside in the app’s space that created them. This centralized “library” would basically provide a link to that data at a system level. An app (“File” manager) could be created that allowed the user to organize those links anyway they wanted without disrupting the current system. To add links to this “library” all Apple would have to do is add another option on the “Share” sheet.

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