The iPad Pro 2024 is proof that Apple needs to blow up iPadOS and start over

The iPad Pro 2024 on a bench
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It's been over 12 years. 12 whole years since Tim Cook uttered these words about potentially merging its laptop and tablet products. 

"You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those aren't going to be pleasing to the user," as reported by ABC News

Well, that reasoning may have made sense over a decade ago when Windows 8 was still fresh, but we're now in a different era of computing. And the iPad Pro 2024 is proof.

The best tablet...but for what?

iPad Pro 2024 being held

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The new iPad Pro is the ultimate tablet in terms of hardware. It's the first Apple device of any kind to feature the new M4 chip, which blows away the best Windows 2-in-1 laptops in terms of performance, not to mention the best Android tablets.

For example, the iPad Pro M4 benchmarks show that the new iPad nearly triples the score of the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in the Geekbench multi-core CPU test. Its score even beats the Dell XPS 16 with an Intel Core Ultra 7 chip.  

Then there's the 13-inch display, which uses a new Tandem OLED panel to deliver obscene levels of brightness. We saw over 1,500 nits in our testing, compared to just 592 for the Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra. In fact, the color saturation, black levels and contrast add up to one of the best screens we've seen on any device.

There's more good news. The iPad Pro lasted over 13 hours in our battery testing, which involves surfing the web over Wi-Fi. That beats Samsung's tablet by over 2.5 hours. 

Even the Magic Keyboard is great, with a new function row (finally), sturdier aluminum deck and larger touchpad. You might be thinking, "this could replace my Mac!" I'm here to tell you, no, and the reason is iPadOS.

The problem with iPadOS is that it was originally designed for content consumption. I remember Steve Jobs sitting back in a leather chair for the original iPad launch back in 2010, showing us how easy and seamless it was to surf the web, check email and other tasks. But productivity was definitely not this tablet's primary focus.

iPadOS multitasking still isn't great 

iPad Pro 2024 Stage Manager

The iPad 2024 is super powerful, but Stage Manager feels like a watered-down way to multitask.  (Image credit: Future)

Fast forward to 2024 and iPadOS tries its best to offer multitasking. The Stage Manager feature puts the app you're using front and center and then fans out the other open apps in the background off to the left, making it easy to switch between them. But if you want to run two apps side by side, you have to turn Stage Manager off (in Control Panel) and use Split View. It's just confusing.

Meanwhile, macOS makes it easy to use two or three apps on screen at once, though I cheat a little bit and use a third-party app called Rectangle for the Mac that makes it simpler to snap windows to the left or right just by dragging them. 

Stage Manager puts the app you're using front and center and then fans out the others in the background. But if you want to run two apps side by side you have to turn Stage Manager off and use Split View. It's just confusing.

During my review of the iPad Air 2024, which is another great tablet, I tried to do my normal workflow I do on my MacBook Pro M2 and failed miserably. Why? Because I rely a lot on the Chrome browser and Google Workspace apps like Excel and Google Docs, and I hate being forced to use discrete apps instead of browser tabs.

Worse, Google has done a horrible job making its iPad apps optimized for larger screens. Selecting from drop-down menus in Google Sheets, for example, had me ping-ponging around the screen for no good reason. It's basically a glorified iPhone app.

To be fair, there are plenty of apps that are optimized for the iPad, which is why it remains the best tablet you can buy. But Apple needs to take a big leap and give us macOS on the iPad or something closer to it. And I would start with iPadOS 18, which is set to debut at WWDC 2024 in June.

Time to press the reset button

Apple Silicon has become so advanced that I think that Apple simply needs to blow up iPadOS and start over. Maybe that won't happen overnight, but there's nothing wrong with taking major steps in that direction.

For example, what if iPadOS ran while you were undocked, but once docked in the Magic Keyboard, macOS automatically kicked in? All of your files would still be in the same place but the interface would change.

We're also hearing a lot more about AI and iOS 18. But how could Apple leverage AI to make iPadOS 18 more intuitive? I could see Siri summarizing emails, documents and helping you find or even create images. But AI is not going to make the iPad live up to its full potential — human designers are.

Back in 2016, Apple said it took 'courage' to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. And it's going to take a lot more courage to admit that the iPad has outgrown iPadOS. It's time to move on and give us the best refrigerator-toaster the world has ever seen.

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Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.