Apple just added mouse/trackpad support to iOS and launched a line of keyboards and trackpads for the iPad. The iPad is being marketed as a portable computer that you can replace your… well… computer with. But unfortunately, it’s not. Not without user accounts.
The iPad has been around for over a decade and the current line of iPads offers serious computing power that, in some cases, outperforms current generation MacBook Pros.
I can easily share may family iMac and MacBook Pro due to support for multiple users and iCloud accounts in macOS. But the iPad is a user experience nightmare. Whenever I share my iPad with family members to, say, read a book, it’ll start syncing that book via iCloud onto my Mac. Whenever they play a game that I also play on, say, my phone, there’s a change they’ll delete my saved games. If somebody decides to listen to a podcast, their podcasts suddenly show up in my podcast library on my Mac. There isn’t even support for guest accounts, so giving your iPad to guests means giving either giving them access to everything or nothing.
This means that by Design, a household using an iPad can only have a single books library, address book, browsing history, podcast library, notes etc.
It means that when I receive a phone call, the iPad will ring, even if somebody else is using it at the moment.
Why is it designed like that? Why? Why would it be considered great user experience design to have somebody else delete my Safari tabs and add people that I do not know to my address book? There used to be a time where driving a shared car was terrible, because all the navigation bookmarks, seat position, climate controls were set up for them. But car companies relaized that that is a terrible experience and now cars will recognize users and adjust things accordingly. Buty the iPad still doesn’t.
I love the interaction of iOS but without user accounts, It all doesn’t matter and the iPad, which could be considered a full-featured computer and professional tool becomes a mere toy.
Some might argue that we just buy additional iPads but this is just as ridiculous as buying a separate washing machine for every family member. A product like this must be designed to be used by multiple users and the current implementation of multi-user support (or lack thereof), the iCloud mess that is created as a result is the opposite.
It’s also not possible to have separate user data for the same App on the same iPad. A workaround is to just use separate Apps. We can install separate media player Apps on the same iPad and then each use a different App with different playlists. But that’s not always possible. If use a banking app and a household member has an account at the same bank, they cannot easily use a different App and cannot use the same App because I’m already logged in.
FaceID and TouchID already support multiple faces. A 20 year old PowerBook has support for user accounts. So the only explanation I have for this design is that it’s intentional and the idea is, indeed, to buy multiple iPads. But even if this would be affordable for an average household, we should consider the environmental impact of this. We would waste many times more resources for something that could easily be fixed in software.