‘Shared iPad’ in Apple’s iOS 9.3 is a very big deal

“Apple this week offered a preview of features in the upcoming release of iOS 9.3. Those features include a range of consumer enhancements, including Night Shift, a viewing mode that minimizes the output of blue light that can disrupt sleep patterns; significant improvements in the iPhone’s health tracking capabilities; the ability to secure notes; and improvements to CarPlay and the iOS News app,” Ryan Faas reports for Computerworld. “The most significant changes, however, are aimed at the education market, though it’s likely those changes will eventually reshape iPad use in the office and at home.”

“The biggest advance is known as Shared iPad,” Faas reports. “As the name suggests, this feature lets students share iPads and it’s designed for schools where cost or policy concerns prevent implementation of a one-iPad-per-student program. Shared iPad allows students to log into an iPad similar to how they would log into a Mac or PC. The result is that a student’s apps, content and progress through various tasks will be available, regardless of which iPad they actually use.”

“Apple is supporting multiple users on an iOS device for the first time. That is extremely significant because the company has never shown any real interest in making iOS a multi-user environment,” Faas reports. “If this does become a standard iOS feature, it will mark a major expansion of capability on par with support for mobile management in iOS 4 or Apple’s Device Enrollment Program introduced in iOS 7. Whether Apple will move forward with multi-user support, to what extent, and in what form remain unanswered questions. But the idea is exciting from the perspective of educators, consumers, business users, and IT professionals.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Obviously, multi-user support would be useful for everyone and is long, long overdue.

As we wrote over three and a half years ago in May 2012:

It would be relatively trivial to bring at least Fast User Switching over to iOS from OS X. That Apple hasn’t done so long ago suggests to us that they’d rather sell an iPad to every family member than a single iPad per family.

If we’re right about why iOS still doesn’t have multi-user support, then Apple’s wrong.

Not only are they failing to “delight customers,” but they are failing to realize that it won’t impinge iPad sales, but enhance them. Enabling multi-user support, makes the iPad even more attractive to families and, once families get their first iPad, they quickly realize that they need more than one. One iPad, even between only two people, just isn’t enough.

Enabling multi-user support will actually end up selling more iPads. So, get on the ball, Apple. Enable multi-user support in iOS already!

(If it’s a storage space issue, make the feature available as “dual-user” on 32 GB iPads and “up to four users” on 64GB models. That’d give more incentive to buy more spacious and higher priced models and, since Apple already sells a 16GB model, they tacitly endorse 16GB as the base requirement for an iPad user.)

Apple delivers multi-user support for iPad – in schools only – January 11, 2016
Apple ‘currently investigating’ iOS multi-user support – May 7, 2012


  1. The lack of multi-user support is likely a legacy of Steve Jobs’s way of thinking. He often had extremely strong opinions on various things and it was a huge challenge to get him to change it. He would have likely never approved the Apple Music subscription service, holding a strong belief the people rent movies but buy music. He likely also never approved the idea of multi-user iPad iOS, which popped up very early on.

    Let us see if they decide to extend the concept beyond just education by the time iOS 9.3 becomes public.

  2. I love how often MDN comments so vociferously on things they know absolutely nothing about. “It would be trivial and easy” to bring an OSX style user switch environment to iOS. MDN constantly reveals how little they know about development.

    1. In all fairness, one of the commenters here stated the other day that he is a developer who knows UNIX underpinnings very well and claimed that creating a multi-user environment in iOS would be trivial.

      I must say, I’m reluctant to take this as reliable information mainly because it just sounds irresponsible to say trivial for something that isn’t simply swapping the position of toggle switches on an interaction panel. In order to work well, multi-user switching needs to be very carefully thought out. What would be the gesture to invoke it? Which type of (multi-finger) swipe? What sorts of assets would be shared between profiles (such as apps, network settings, etc), and which would be personalised (wallpaper, language/keyboard layouts, etc)? Trivial may well be the back end of it (the architecture of the OS that supports multiple users); that part likely already exists in iOS, where various internal users run various processes with various levels of permissions (in addition to the actual user of the device), but the tricky, and in no way trivial, part is building the proper GUI to make it simple and intuitive.

  3. The lack of multi-user support to date is not due to technical constraints or figuring out how to get the UX just right. Apple has solved much tougher problems far more quickly.

    This has been a business decision. They want your home to have more than 1 ipad, and it has worked.

    Now that iPad sales are leveling off, and Apple is starting to lose more to Google Chromebooks in the education market, it is the perfect time to reassess and introduce this feature.

    I would have loved it long ago myself, and glad its coming finally.

    Now if they can add Family sharing for Photos libraries I will be super happy.

  4. A home will always have the “personal Ipad” Someone upgrades, and hands down the previous unit. Apple products are notorious to be handed down 2-3 times before disposal (can’t say the same for windows/android, I don’t own any) I believe Steve Jobs thoughts on the Ipad we to be the most personal computing device (at that time). As the IOS matures, and the commercial end of the sector matures, the “personal computer
    has shifted from your fingers to your wrist. Now multiple users makes sense for commercial (business school, ect) Business models always have some sort of cannibalization of their own product as the sector shifts, and evolves. What drives this shift is the consumers and businesses looking for new faster ways of doing business. What you loose on the bananas, you make up on the oranges.

  5. From the description it’s not clear if each student has his/her own set of Apps or only the data for those apps are kept for each account. If the former, those iPads better have lots of storage space to support the expected multiple users.

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