Apple: The iPad is falling behind the competition in one area

Summary:The iPad is still enjoying good sales, but the competition has left it behind with the ability to display more than one app at a time.

Apple's iPad competitors have been regularly trying to best the top seller in a number of areas. One of those has the potential to knock the iPad off its pedestal, and Apple better be thinking of a way to bring similar functionality to its tablet.

Note 10 Multi view
Multi-view on Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. Image: Screenshot by James Kendrick

The feature that has the iPad beat is the ability to display at least two apps on the screen at the same time. In Windows 8, this is called snap view, and on Samsung Android tablets, it is multi-view. Both of these features let the user put one app alongside another at the same time to provide increased utility to the user.

This may not be easy for Apple with the iOS design of running one app at a time. There are strictly controlled exceptions to this rule, primarily to allow audio to play in the background while other apps are running onscreen. That's sorely lacking compared to the functionality in Windows 8 and on Samsung Android devices.

While the Windows snap view is pretty handy, I find Samsung's Android implementation to be more useful. This is largely due to the ability to resize either of the two app panes in any way that best fits. Windows restricts one app pane to be narrow and the other to take the rest of the screen.

Note 2 multi view
Multi-view on the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 phone. Image: Screenshot by James Kendrick

Samsung first brought multi-view to its phone line, and then spread it to its Android tablets. I have used it heavily on both the Note 2 phone and the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. It positively rocks on the tablet, with enough screen real estate to make this a highly useful feature.

It's so good, I rarely use the Note 10.1 without having two apps onscreen with multi-view. It's not uncommon for me to have email on a narrow pane on the left, with another app, perhaps the web browser, in a larger pane on the right. Or I may have a Twitter app (Tweetings is my favorite) on the left, and the browser on the right. This is especially useful for tapping hyperlinks in tweets and having them open in the browser on the right.

I do similar things on Windows 8 with good results.

Cascaded windows Note 10
Four windows open at once on Galaxy Note 10.1. Image: Screenshot by James Kendrick

Samsung has also included the ability to cascade multiple app windows on the screen, so more than two apps at a time can be running and displayed. This can come in handy, as any app window can be selected and resized as desired. The windows can be positioned anywhere on the screen, so it's possible to have several apps displayed next to each other for those times when this makes sense.

The single app nature of iOS will no doubt make this functionality difficult to implement, but Apple better be working on this. As more consumers see that this is possible on other platforms, and the OEMs should be all over the advertising to let them know, they are going to ask themselves: Why can't they do it on the iPad?

Like any company in a competitive market, Apple needs to be moving the iPad forward in features and functionality. That means the ability to run and display multiple apps at the same time in this writer's opinion. While I have been known to state in the past that I like single app focus, and that's still true for intense work sessions, having used multi-view a lot, I have changed my view on how useful it can be at other times.

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Samsung, Tablets, Windows 8

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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