Apple iOS 10 review (hands-on): “Biggest update ever”? We don’t think so

Apple says there are more than one billion iOS devices actually in use globally. That’s about the same as all the Windows PCs in use, and it means an update to iOS is a major event. Even the little things are significant, because they affect a billion people, so it makes sense to go with what works. The tried and tested. Why not let some other hapless mobile operating system developer take the risk first?

That’s what Apple seems to have been doing for some time now, and iOS 10 is no different. Not for the first time, I found myself reading through the list of changes and new features and thinking: “Do you know what? I’ve seen this somewhere before.” But is this necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think it is. In fact, I’m all for it, especially as Apple usually puts its own special spin on things.

So how about iOS 10? Well, there are plenty of things in this latest release to get stuck into, chew over and ruminate on the significance of. Most of them can be dropped in the “mmm, that’s nice” bucket rather than the “wow that’s going to change my life” one, but is it a dud or a work of genius? I’ve installed the beta on an iPad Pro and iPhone 6s to find out.

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iOS 10 review: What it means for iPad users

The one thing the iPad desperately needed from this version of iOS was a big improvement in its split-screen, multitasking view.

This should not be rocket science.

After all, if Windows 10 can do it, why not the most-used mobile operating system on earth?

Yet still developers need to build in support for the feature explicitly, resulting in some apps that work perfectly while others don’t work at all (Hello, Google Docs!). And that’s before I get started on its usability. Having to scroll through lists of icons to find the app you want to open in split-screen view – when it may not be on that list at all – is beyond irritating.

Apple has addressed none of these fundamental issues in iOS 10. Instead, we have split-screen Safari windows and side-docking Reply windows in Mail. Both of these features are useful in their own way; the latter particularly so, allowing you to refer to and browse your email while composing a message, without having to save a draft and exit first.

And it’s beautifully elegant. Simply drag the message window over to the right-hand side using the title bar, whereupon the message list and preview panes shrink and dock to the left. But do we really need more different ways to do the same thing? Apple needs to develop a solution that works for all apps and all windows, before it gets out of hand and we have a hundred different apps all doing split view in their own way.

Of course, not everyone cares as much about multitasking as I do. In fact, those who don’t own and use an iPad Pro every day will probably wonder what the fuss is all about. And then they’ll take a look at the rest of the changes and realise there isn’t much else to cheer about either.

Aside from the addition of a homescreen shortcut in the keyboard shortcut app switcher, there’s little here for iPad users, which is a disappointment.

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