The Number One Feature I Want To See in iPadOS 14

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iPadOS 14 Extended Display Support

I’m sure some will disagree with me on its importance, but there is a feature that iPad power users have wanted for years that is close enough to feel within reach now. If you look at the evolution of the iPad Pro over the last 18 months, it also makes perfect sense. Everything required for this to work properly is now lined up and in place. The feature I want to see added to iPadOS right now more than any other is multi-screen support.

Before anyone rushes to the comments to tell me that the iPad already supports multiple displays, may I remind you how limited this feature currently is, and always has been. The iPad has had the ability to duplicate its screen to another source since the original launch back in 2010. However, duplicating the screen is all an iPad has been capable of over the last ten years. The only major addition over that time has been the addition of AirPlay for wireless screen transmission to an Apple TV. While this is a perfect aid for presentations and a handy method to throw a video you want to share up on the big screen, that’s just about all it’s good for. Now is a perfect time for that to change.

The progression of new iPad Pro hardware and software features seems to be leading directly to enhanced multi-display support. First, Apple switched the 2018 iPad Pro’s port from Lightning to USB-C, making it easier to charge and connect multiple accessories at the same time. This of course includes displays. For example, the USB-C hub shown in the picture above has both HDMI and VGA ports, making it easy to connect to just about any monitor.

Apple’s new Magic Keyboard will extend this capability further when it arrives next month. It includes another USB-C port that can pass-through charge the iPad Pro, opening up the port on the tablet to use exclusively with accessories. This will make connecting an external display to an iPad Pro even easier.

While the addition of USB-C made physically connecting an external display more practical, there were still software roadblocks in iPadOS to extending the screen, rather than just duplicating it. Since the vast majority of external displays available are not touch-enabled, there used to be no way to manipulate whatever you might want to display on a second screen. Without a way to control the content, there was no point in adding display extension in the past.

However, this situation changed two weeks ago when Apple released trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4. With additions of a cursor and a secondary input method, power users now have the ability to manipulate everything on the screen without having to use touch. Touchpad support was the last domino that needed to fall to make extending content across multiple displays a useful feature on the iPad.

So what could we do with an extended display on an iPad? As well as multitasking apps in split screen works, especially on larger iPads, the ability to connect an external display would take things to another level. If you are working with multiple documents, the extra real estate you get extending to a external monitor greatly enhances the experience and is easier on the eyes. If you are researching a topic, you can have multiple sources open on one screen in Safari while you write or take notes on the other. If you are all about work and play at the same time, forget the small, floating video window. With an extended display, just move your full-size Netflix window over and you’re good.

Some of you who spend most of your time on a desktop or laptop may be scoffing at this, since traditional computers and OSs have been capable of all the things listed above for many years. That’s fair. However, with iPadOS, we are talking about an operating system that is still evolving into something more than it started out as. This is about extending the capabilities of hardware that has proven to be both extremely popular and powerful over the last 10 years.

As iPadOS continues to expand and add features, it makes sense that it will add features that have been part of the traditional computing experience for a long time. The iPad is already capable of becoming the primary computing device for many users who don’t have specialized needs. Apple’s goal now has to be adding on the features that will tip that scale for more and more users over time.

Along those lines, there has been a steady march of new iPad features geared toward pro and power users over the last few years. Features like Multitasking, ProMotion, TrueTone Color, the Apple Pencil, and again, USB-C have pushed the platform forward and started to change the way people look at the iPad as a computing device. It isn’t just the “3rd device” that sits between a laptop and a smartphone anymore. It hasn’t fully arrived and still has plenty of room for polish, but the iPad and iPadOS are on the road to becoming much more than what they started as.

The ability to extend the usable workspace across external displays feels like the logical next step toward making the iPad Pro a legitimately pro computing experience. It’s been getting closer and closer and iPadOS 14 seems like the perfect time to make this frequent power user request a reality. No matter what form WWDC takes this year, I am betting this will be one of the announced new features in iPadOS 14.

 


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8 thoughts on “The Number One Feature I Want To See in iPadOS 14”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for a thoughtful and well done suggestion for incrementally stepping up the quality of my iPad experience!

  2. Hi,
    I bought the new iPad Pro and I’m waiting for its delivery in the next 2 weeks. That was quite a difficult choice, because I’m a writer and am using Scrivener on my old MacBook Pro: Scrivener version on the iPad is limited respect to MacOS version, but I really cannot afford now the new premium prices of Apple notebooks—we have went back to pre-iMac era again, where prices where for elites. Sob.

    That said, I tried to understand something about which is the resolution that an iPad Pro output with USB-C and which monitors can be used. I have enough information about the latter, but I still don’t understand how resolution works. I see images in which the monitor is partially used. I guess it replicate the same resolution to the external monitor, and the rest of the screen remains unused.

    If it is so, I definitely agree with your article.

    My desire is to buy a wide-screen, but does that make any sense with USB-C output resolution with the iPad Pro? Could you please dispel my doubts?

    Thank you very much in advance, if you so please.

    1. To be honest, since I don’t really use it in its current form, I’m not an expert on the current constraints with outputting to a monitor. I think it has a lot to do with the content you are showing on the screen, though. If you are showing the Home screen like in my picture for this article, it’s the device’ native resolution. The same goes for Screen Mirroring using AirPlay.

      However, if you are using an app that is set up to project content, this changes. These would include Keynote and Powerpoint for presentations and any video playback app. They should output at the resolution the content is recorded in, or at least at the max the monitor is capable of.

      If Apple were to adopt the feature I am proposing, the status quo would need to change. They would need to allow the output to the second monitor to scale up to some degree so you can make use of the extra room available. If Apple would give us the same level of control and customization that they just did for trackpad support, then multi-monitor support should work like users want it to.

      1. Understood! Thank you for your answer.

        So, it’s the iPad native resolution (I was talking about projecting, but about extending the screen or even having the same, but extended to full monitor resolution).

        They *must* start to support that. The iPad have enough power to manage it, so it’s a matter of software—another thing is to project videogames, for example, because that would need a “powerful bandwidth”, so to say; but I’m not a gamer, I talk just about professional software, used to produce.

    2. This might be a tad late but I hope you haven’t bought your monitor solely for your iPad Pro yet.

      The way Resolution works in simple terms: Monitors put out rasterized images made up by tiny little dots called pixel. When a monitor has a native Resolution (the max. resolution the Monitor can display) of 1920×1080, then this means the image displayed by the monitor has 1920 pixels along the horizontal axis and 1080 pixels along the vertical axis.

      The iPad Pro 11″ does indeed have a native resolution of 2,388 by 1,668 which sounds like as if it would fill out the average monitor solely by looking at the resolution. However, we also have to consider the aspect ratio of the iPad and monitor screens itself. The iPad Pro 11″ has an aspect ratio of 1.43:1 and the average monitor and tv have an aspect ration of 1.78:1 or 1.6:1 (also widely known as 16:9 and 16:10 respectively). The aspect ration stands for the relative dimenson of the the screen’s width and heigth. We can already tell that the aspect ratios of the iPad and an average monitor screen do not match.

      Now, when we connect the iPad Pro 11″ to an average 16:9 monitor with an 1920x1080p resolution, the iPad will scale the image, that is larger in resolution than the monitor, to fit the monitors screen. It will, however, not match the aspect ration, as this would result in a stretched image. This, of course, can be circumvented if your monitor allows you to stretch the image post rendering (wouldn’t recommend it though). Or apple would allow you to adjust the aspect ration manually on the iPad, which is unlikely, unless they adjust the UI elements as well in a future update to fit the an 16:9ish ratio.

      So to finally answer your question: No, it would make no sense (at this moment!) to buy a wide-screen just for the iPad Pro, unless you can live with the black bars left and right due to the mismatch in aspect ratio.

      Hope this helps!

      1. This is a barrier today, but as with media and display apps that can scale up, it is possible for apps to make their content available in resolutions that exceed the current limits of the iPadOS aspect ratio. For example, apps like Keynote or Powerpoint for presentation and Netflix for video display can do this. I expect that Apple would give developers this option when they choose to implement a fully functional multi-screen mode. As for iPadOS, Apple would only be bound to the aspect ratio in a mirrored display mode. Even then, it would be possible to re-scale most background images to get rid of the black bars. As for an extended display mode, Apple would likely choose to implement multiple choices to match common available monitor resolutions.

        We may not be able to assume that these things will be added, but a true multi-monitor mode won’t be complete without them. Apple isn’t going to go halfway when they do add it.

  3. I would also love to see extended desktop support on the iPad. This would be extremely easy to implement as well. No options or settings exposed to the user really needed. If external monitor and mouse are hooked up at the same time then start a second desktop. Otherwise use mirror mode. After all without a mouse you can’t touch anything on the extra display so it wou be useless.

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