A Night with iOS 9 on an iPad Air 2

Last night I joined the ranks of iOS developers who have since WWDC picked up an iPad Air 2 to make sure we’re understanding the 2 app paradigm and testing properly for it. After only one night (after all I can only use my apps and Apple’s apps in split screen) I’ve already formed some opinions.

I am an iPad mini preferrer and was thoroughly annoyed by this last fall’s “update” which in iOS 9 does NOT gain simultaneous split screen apps but only pull-over apps. I tried this on an A7 powered retina mini and performance is a little on the painful side, even for a beta 1. Then I saw user videos of their iPad Air 2s not stuttering even while running two apps AND a PIP video. My just purchased Air 2 behaves similarly smooth. The only thing that isn’t is the new app switcher but using two apps plus a PIP video is incredibly smooth.

I found nothing ambiguous about the implementation of split screen apps. The left app is the primary and controlled by the home button switcher. The left is handled with gestures. I really liked it. It seemed far less ridiculous than how Windows 8 works, although I’ll admit I haven’t checked out any of the more recent Windows 10 Betas.

Like the split screen feature on the Mac, Safari is a little weird about this. If the webpage you’re on has a proper meta viewport=device-width header, the feature works as expected. If it doesn’t, however, it scales down a 1024pt wide viewport which can be uncomfortably small. Since the iPad and Mac continue to send their normal User Agent Strings while this feature is being used (I think) it looks like we have to hope and pray that our favorite websites finally get onboard with using CSS3 to do responsive design and stop relying on user agent sniffing.

Even as thin as light as it is, the iPad Air is still really big with really big text even on the smallest setting (I use the smallest setting on my mini so that’s what I’m used to) and I find I get slight motion sickness if I use it closer than arms length, so I’m going to be really bummed if there’s no updated mini this fall.