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Apple iPadOS Review: First Impressions

Apple iPadOS Review: First Impressions.

In every major new iOS release, there are those who have been in beta for several months, those who update as soon as the final release becomes available, and those who postpone the update as long as possible.

This is the last category of people to read this article in particular, because you have to decide if you want to postpone the update, or if the new bells and whistles are worth potential drawbacks. We evaluated iPadOS in terms of day-to-day use and were impressed.

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Appearance section

On our 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the first impression you’ll get with iPadOS13 is space. Under iOS12, using the iPad still felt like a toy. Large, massive icons proportionally reminiscent of a telephone interface, optimized for one-handed use. A clear mismatch for the much larger iPad screen.

There is now plenty of room to breathe and no discernible effect on readability. Finally, the huge Retina display on modern iPads is noteworthy, and you’ll spend less time swiping between screens to get to the software.

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Most importantly, the recently unveiled dock is finally self-contained, with plenty of room for apps and folders. As more icons are added to the dock, it reshapes to make the icons smaller. On our iPad model, we could fit 16 icons, including three “recent apps” to the right of the dock bar.

With all this space, the iPad now looks like a “serious” computer and an entry-level MacBook alternative.


By far the biggest change to iPadOS from a user perspective is improved multitasking. Opening multiple apps, splitting them on the screen, or switching between them has never been easier or better.

The list of multitasking features is too long to be detailed here, but the new split view for individual apps only is well worth the price of entry. Here you can open the same app from both sides of the screen.

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This is very useful for the fairly recent Files app, because you can quickly copy files between folders by dragging and dropping them. As with the release of the original split-screen feature, this feature is currently mostly supported by Apple’s own apps, but you can rest assured that third-party developers will quickly figure it out.

The only drawback is that you have to learn a new set of gestures and conventions. It took us a while to figure out how to bring back split screen functionality after an update. Moreover, there is no pop-up menu, which was not there before.

However, once you get the hang of it, you wonder how you used your iPad to work before.


Apple is often accused of linking older devices to newer versions of iOS. With early generations of iPads, this is true. By the time the OS was last supported, devices like the 3rd generation iPad were so slow that they were nearly impossible to use.

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However, Apple has promised that there will be performance improvements for every device supporting the iOS13 family. How much better performance you get depends on the specific model, but at least no one should have a slower device.

Oddly enough, with our own iPad Pro, there really isn’t much of a difference. While apps may launch faster, you may need a stopwatch to measure improvement.

This iPad was already incredibly fast under iOS12, which dampens any perception of performance somewhat. Basically, it doesn’t seem like you should be thinking about performance with iPadOS anyway.

Console Support

Timed to coincide with the release of Apple Arcade, iPadOS and the entire iOS13 family now have native support for the Xbox One Bluetooth controller (not the one that requires a dongle on Windows computers) and most Sony PS4 DualShock 4 controllers on the market. Except for a few early units.

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Any game that works with MFi controllers is immediately compatible and we had absolutely no problem connecting the Xbox One or PS4 controllers.

Apple Arcade games that support controllers already have PS4 button prompts, but if you play games for MFi controllers that haven’t been updated, you’ll still get Xbox prompts. We hope the developer of your favorite game will update it if you prefer a Sony gamepad.

We ran into one rather serious issue with our Xbox controller. There seems to be a little drift on the left analog stick. That is, when the joystick is centered, it still accepts a small amount of input. In the game, this is manifested in the fact that the character goes to the left, even when the controller is not used, which makes everything unplayable. We’ve confirmed that the problem is indeed with the controller, but this is a fairly common problem.

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It didn’t show up on our Windows machine as you can calibrate any controller with the built-in utility. We were unable to find any OS-level controller calibration utility in iPadOS, which means that if your controller does detect slight drift, you will have to get it repaired or replaced much sooner than on other platforms that can be calibrated.

However, our PS4 controller worked like a charm, and playing games on an iPad with proper controls is a revelation. For iOS gamers who likely already have one of these controllers, iPadOS almost makes up for the big 32-bit cleanup that robbed us of the game developers we had abandoned.

Final Judgment

We can’t think of many reasons to avoid upgrading to iPadOS. This is by far the most complete overhaul of the capabilities of this thin and light computing device.

The iPad hasn’t seen such a performance boost since it first got split-screen multitasking. In a world of Ultrabooks and Microsoft Surfaces, the iPad absolutely needed a major overhaul, and as a low to mid-range device, iPadOS is finally making the iPad a viable laptop replacement.

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If you’re playing on iOS, iPadOS isn’t a problem. Apple Arcade and controller support bears this out. If you’re someone who uses your iPad for some productivity or want to get serious about it, iPadOS is irreplaceable.

If you only use iPad for web browsing, Netflix browsing, and e-book reading, you will hardly notice any difference. In this case, there is no compelling reason to update immediately.

That being said, iOS13 has already received three major fixes, so Apple is clearly keen to smooth out any wrinkles that should appear. This means that the more cautious of us may not have to wait long before iPadOS becomes the safer choice.

Apple iPadOS Review: First Impressions

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