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iPad & iOS 4: A Match Made In iPhone

The rumors were right: the iPad is getting iOS 4 in November. iOS 4.2, precisely, which will unify the operating system across all Apple’s mobile devices. From what we saw earlier today, iOS 4.2 seems to be the solution to our iPad-related problems: it’ll bring wireless printing (huge for business users), multitasking, folders, widget controls. It’s also got a new feature which I’m extremely excited about: AirPlay. Together with iTunes and the new Apple TV, AirPlay will allow you to easily stream content back and forth between your mobile device, computer and Apple TV. One click media sharing. It looks great.

But there’s one thing Apple didn’t with iOS 4 for iPad: they didn’t change it. They didn’t took the same iPhone codebase and revamped the experience to take advantage of the iPad’s unique features. They made it bigger. And it turns out, I was wrong.

Here’s the thing: iOS 4 on the iPad is not what you think. It won’t be a simple porting of the iPhone version. Sure it will look similar and will share the same base structure, but remember – we’re talking about two different platforms. A phone and a tablet, and seriously – you can’t think iOS 4 will just be bigger and scaled for the iPad.

That’s what I wrote a couple of months ago. I knew that iOS 4 for iPad was in the works (we all knew), and I though that Apple would come out with some spectacular original features and innovations by the announcement day. On a Music Event day, they decided to give us a sneak peek of iOS 4 for iPad. As much as I’m excited for the iPad getting multitasking and folders (and printing, too), I can’t help but being disappointed by the way Apple decided to port the iOS 4 experience to the tablet.

They made it bigger. They previewed exactly what I though they would never preview: an upscaled version of iOS for iPhone. A multitasking bar going all the way down the lower part of the screen. Larger folders. Weirdly-spaced widget controls. The same activation method (double click on home button) all over again. Boom, there you have iOS 4 for iPad: like the iPhone one, only Magical™.

Sarcasm aside, I still stand by my statement: the iPad is a different platform and it needs a unique version of iOS 4. I’m pretty confident, though, that the final version will indeed contain some unique features: have you noticed the popover controls in the multitasking drawer? That’s new. Now, I don’t know if Print Central is some sort of “app-like widget control” or an actual app - but think about the possibility of contextual menus for apps performing tasks in the background. Or a Services menu accessible through iOS 4’s bar. Just throwing it out there: what if the iPad gets customizable controls on tap&hold? Yes, just a possibility. Still, that’d make a similar version of iOS 4 for iPad a unique iteration.

The more I think about it, though, the more I realize this is how Apple rolls. It’s a continuos improvement. A slow process aimed at refining the rough edges, a process that takes time. Sometimes it even takes years.

iOS 4.2 for iPad is just the beginning. But it could be a better one.

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