The Flip-Flop Between iPad Pro and Original iPhone

While responding to a tweet yesterday by Neil Cybart (@NeilCybart), I suddenly had an epiphany about the strange difference between the original iPhone and the iPad Pro.

Neil’s tweet was about an anticipated and continued drop in sales for iPads:

My response was much like the refrain from a real estate agent, but instead of location, location, location, I said this:

And that got me thinking about just how much has changed in the mobile industry over the past 8 years, since the introduction of the iPhone. (It can hardly be called the “mobile” industry anymore, though, as the iPad Pro at 12.9˝ is now larger than the Retina MacBook at 12˝, and iOS & Android work on everything from watches to TVs to cars to phones to laptop-like tablets.)

So, what was the epiphany?

What was most amazing about the original iPhone was the software. Sure, hardware was necessary for touchscreens, and miniaturization of components, GPS, and battery technology was all crucial. But in terms of sheer CPU performance, the original iPhone was dog slow.

But performance mostly didn’t matter because the software was fantastical. Remember the first time you pinched-to-zoom in Maps, or read The New York Times’ web site rendered perfectly on your 3.5″ iPhone screen? It was magical. Despite the slow hardware.

It was all about the software.

Fast-forward to 2015 and the introduction of the 12.9˝ iPad Pro. Sure, iOS 9 is miles ahead of iPhone OS 1. But iOS and the default apps in it are limited by having to run on everything from the fastest 64-bit iPad Pro to a five-year-old, 32-bit, fast-at-the-time-but-now-dog-slow 5th-gen iPod touch, iPhone 4S or iPad 2.

But the iPad Pro is an order of magnitude faster than those old devices. It’s a fast as an Intel Core i5 laptop. It’s got a screen larger than or as large as the Retina MacBook or a MacBook Air. It’s got a USB 3.0-compatible Lightning port. Super-fast RAM, and desktop-class storage performance. Amazing GPU capabilities. A keyboard. Apple Pencil.

It’s all about the hardware.

In fact, as I mentioned at the iPad Pro’s debut, it’s really hardware in search of software. The hardware is amazing and heralds the potential for great software. But where is that software?

I think the great handicap of iOS 9 is its backwards compatibility for all those old 32-bit devices. What will really help bring on great, powerful software that takes advantage of this fantastic hardware is ditching that backwards compatibility, and moving forward with 64-bit only apps. Apple will likely do this with iOS 10.

(In fact, I think one of the major reasons for the introduction of the iPhone SE is to provide a very powerful, cheap upgrade for users of those old devices when Apple announces iOS 10 will be 64-bit only.)

So the flip-flop is that the iPhone was low in raw hardware CPU performance, but made up for it with amazing software. Meanwhile, the  iPad Pro is amazing hardware in search of software that shows it off.

I’m predicting big things for iOS 10 at WWDC 2016. And then when Apple introduces new iPhones and iPads in the fall of 2016, it’s almost guaranteed that they will have one or more powerful (pro?) apps that will start to take advantage of the performance of the iPad Pro.

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5 thoughts on “The Flip-Flop Between iPad Pro and Original iPhone

  1. John says:

    Agreed. I love the iPad Pro (12.9) and use it all day long, often as an adjunct to a rMBP. The iPad could do a lot more with better software.

    I believe it was Gruber who said that Affinity Serif will bring full featured versions of their products to the iPad. That will be awesome. The problem I have now with a lot of iPad software is that it doesn’t have the same features as the OS X versions do.

    • Yep. One of the biggest things missing is dynamic content & filtering. The Photos app, for example, doesn’t show Smart Album content on iPad, even if you create it on your Mac.

      The Mail app doesn’t do junk mail filtering or automatic routing of messages.

      I can see how both of those things could be slow on older iOS devices, and chew through battery in no time. But on an iPad Pro (or iPhone 6s), they should be efficient and effortless.

  2. The way I explain the iPad drop in sales uses jobs to be done theory. The original explosion of iPad buying was down to people realising the iPad’s unique and apparently compelling ability to allow one to web browse, check email, watch YouTube, read Kindle/iBooks, Facebook and Twitter, etc. in relaxed situations (sitting on the sofa, in bed) where a notebook was awkward. Business saw and used the iPad as a portable clipboard and sales presentation books.

    The advent of larger smartphones ate away at some of those use cases. It’s not that most of the mass of people who bought iPads didn’t like them, it’s just that an iPad 2 could perform all of the jobs the iPad was hired to do. There was no need to move up to an iPad Air. In terms of what tablets traditionally did, the market is saturated and already owns a capable device.

    I think Apple knows this. They hooked up with IBM to develop bespoke business appllications for the iPad in 10+ business verticals. When Microsoft came out with Office for iPad Apple pushed it because Office, rightly or wrongly (wrongly I think) is associated with “real work” and Apple wants to capitalise on that. In order to stimulate new uses for the iPad Apple developed split screen, the Pencil, the keyboard etc. and I assume they will be bringing more powerful capability to iOS 10-15. But where is the productivity (in the larger sense, not just office apps) software? I’m hopeful that Afinity does develop its OSX software for iOS. They are a natural fit and Affinity appears to have no fear. Bez, the Bézier curve software for iPad is another possible indication that some developers are poking into finding new jobs that the iPad can do. There are fewer and fewer limitations in terms of hardware and OS for the iPad. The mass market of apps for social media, podcasting, etc is saturated. What is needed now is thoughtful quality professional software which expands the jobs the iPad can do. The community of Apple devs pride themselves on superiour software. We’ll see if they continue to earn their reputation. I think the future of the iPad hinges on that.

    • I agree. I have Affinity Design on my Mac and I love it. Kind of unbelievable how powerful it is. Bringing that to iPads would be phenomenal, especially the Pro’s with Apple Pencil. And using it on the iPad Pro 12.9″ screen would be nothing short of amazing—especially considering the screen is even larger than the Retina MacBook’s screen.

      Sometimes an iPad is even *better* than a notebook for certain tasks.

  3. Pingback: The iPad Pro is hobbled by software, and why iOS 10 could knock it out of the park | Lou Miranda

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