An image of an iPad Air that shows the user interface of the iPadOS. This image is used for an article about the advantages and disadvantages of iPadOS.

Advantages and Disadvantages of iPadOS

The iPad line of tablet computers from Apple has evolved over the years through hardware improvements and operating system updates that have made it a viable alternative to laptop computers. The more recent updates to the iPadOS have taken advantage of newer hardware capabilities to deliver features and functionalities that have made newer generations of iPad devices ideal both for content consumption and content creation. This article reviews the pros and cons or advantages and disadvantages of iPadOS.

Pros of iPadOS: Notable Features and Functionalities

It is important to highlight the fact that the 64-bit operating system for the iPad started as a fork of the iOS. However, beginning in September 2019, the iPadOS branding was released to the public and came to compatible models and generation of the iPad to reflect the divergence of the iPad line from iPhone devices. This operating system has still similarities with iOS but it has also evolved to be more independent with unique features and functionalities.

The look and feel of this operating system are still similar to the iOS but it also has some notable resemblance with the macOS. It competes with the Android operating system for tablets, proprietary desktop-like Android features such as the Samsung DeX, the ChromeOS used in Chromebooks, and even other desktop operating systems such as Windows and Linux distributions. The following are the main advantages of iPadOS:

1. Clean, Intuitive, and Familiar User Interface and User Experience

Remember that the user interface and user experience of the iPadOS follow the straightforward and minimalistic design philosophy of Apple. Those who are familiar with the iOS of iPhone and macOS of Mac devices also would not have a hard time using an iPad. The operating system is intuitive and it looks and feels familiar. There are no system files and folders unlike in Windows and file management is simpler than Android. Installing in app is as simple as hitting the install button from the App Store. The iPadOS is best described as an extended version of iOS with some of the practical features and functionalities of the macOS.

2. Larger Free and Paid Apps and Games Library From the App Store

The main advantage of iPadOS over Android is that it has a better library of apps and mobile games. Some of these software programs are even more optimized for the operating system and the larger screen real estate of an iPad. Apple has a slew of free productivity software such as Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, and GarageBand. There are also apps from third-party developers such as the Google Docs Editors suite which includes Google Docs and Google Sheets, notetaking apps such as Evernote and Notion, editing apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premier, and communication apps such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

3. Notable Productivity Features and Key Multitasking Capabilities

What sets this operating system apart from iOS is its exclusive productivity features. Split View allows running of two apps side-by-side while Stage Manager enables a floating window interface for app switching and window resizing. The home screen can be customized with apps and pinned widgets to create personalized dashboards and quick access to specific app features. The support for keyboards and cursors transforms newer generations of iPads into laptop-like devices while the support for the first-gen and second-gen Apple Pencil or the Apple Pencil USB-C allows digital handwriting and art creation.

4. Hardware-Software Optimization and Apple Product Ecosystem

Apple has a reputation for strong hardware-software optimization because of its strong control over hardware design and software development. This means that another advantage of the iPadOS is that it runs well with the iPad. Software updates and upgrades are also consistent. An iPad tends to receive OS support for the next 4 to 5 years. The operating system and the device are also part of the Apple product ecosystem. This provides a unified and seamless user experience across all other Apple devices and software. The Sidecar feature enables a compatible iPad to be used as an extended monitor of a compatible Mac device.

Cons of iPadOS: Main Drawbacks and Limitations

The updates to the iPadOS since the iPadOS 16 and iPadOS 17 have indeed provided it with new features and functionalities that make them a viable replacement for desktop and laptop computers. However, when compared to the full capabilities of desktop operating systems such as macOS, Windows, and Linux distributions such as Debian and Ubuntu, it is important to highlight the fact that it remains a mobile operating system forked from iOS.

It is also worth mentioning that the multi-tasking capabilities of the operating system are not as extensive as a desktop OS and features such as Stage Manager are limited to newer generations of iPad devices starting from models running on the Apple A12X and A12Z systems-on-a-chip. The same is true for other features such as support for Apple Pencil and Sidecar which are limited to certain devices. The following are the main disadvantages of iPadOS:

1. Imperfect and Limited Multitasking Features and Capabilities

This operating system might have evolved over the years to feature adequate multitasking features and capabilities. However, when compared to certain Android devices, it still falls short. Take note that Samsung smartphones and tablets have better multiple-app and window-resizing features. Samsung DeX specifically transforms compatibility devices into a full desktop user experience that is more comparable to Windows. Split View and Split Over are not intuitive and require users to learn specific gestures and commands. Stage Manager only supports a maximum of four app windows and the size and placement of each window is predefined.

2. Restriction and Notable Inadequacies in Productivity Use Cases

Another disadvantage of iPadOS is its limited capabilities for productivity applications or use cases. It does not support external monitors very well. Available solutions only mirror the screen via a wireless connection and it does not extend nor allow different resolutions. The cursor support is a welcome addition to the user interface but it is limited to a circular shape and it does not change according to context. Productivity apps such as Microsoft Word and Adobe Premier, are still capable but they cannot compete against their respective desktop operating system versions or counterparts because of the absence of certain and more advanced features.

3. Expensive Operating System Due to High Price of iPad Devices

It is imperative to reiterate that the iPadOS is a proprietary operating system that comes only with iPad devices. It cannot be downloaded and used in non-Apple or third-party computer systems because it is developed for the hardware components of the iPad. Nevertheless, in considering this, it is also important to highlight the fact that it is expensive because of the high price of iPad devices. A mid-range Android device is priced about 60 to 40 percent less than the entry-level iPad. The iPad Pro can be as expensive as a capable mid-range Windows laptop and might be more expensive than a MacBook Air or older generation of MacBook Pro.

4. Key iPadOS Shortcomings Versus Desktop Operating Systems

The apps for this operating system are still designed and optimized for touch input and mobile devices. This is the reason why certain software programs do not have the same features and capabilities as counterparts designed for a desktop environment. Mac and Windows devices have a wider range of software programs for and a better selection of PC games. The iPadOS is also more restrictive than macOS and Windows when it comes to customizing the user interface. There is also less control over file management and certain user preferences.

Takeaway: Advantages and Disadvantages of iPadOS

Nevertheless, based on the points above, iPadOS offers a blend of advantages and disadvantages. It provides a clean and intuitive user interface, a robust library of apps and games, notable productivity features, and seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem. This operating system still falls short when compared to full-fledged desktop operating systems in terms of multitasking capabilities, productivity use cases, and customization options. Its exclusivity to the expensive iPad devices makes it a costly choice. The iPadOS excels in certain areas but it still has room for improvement to bridge the gap with desktop operating systems and provide a more versatile and cost-effective solution for a broader audience.