What it is: iOS 9 is the next version of the operating system for the iPhone and iPad, but it specifically includes two new features designed to make using the iPad easier.
If you want to take advantage of the latest iOS 9 features coming this fall, you’ll need the latest iPad Air 2 or the rumored larger screen iPad Pro. Only these two iPad models will be able to use iOS 9’s multitasking feature that will let you view multiple apps on the screen at the same time in side by side panels or in overlapping images where one app fills the screen and another one appears in a tiny window that you can move around. This can be particularly handy for viewing video while working on something else.
In the old days of MS-DOS, you had to shut one program down to use another one. With iOS, you simply hide one app in the background while you use another one. However with iOS 9, you’ll be able to get true multitasking so you can run two or more apps side by side and copy and paste data between them. This will feel like the leap from MS-DOS to Windows.
While multitasking is important, a second feature might be more useful, especially for people who type and edit text. Right now typing text isn’t much of a problem, but editing text is. To edit text, you have to point your finger on the screen and keep tapping until you get it just right. Some apps have arrow keys you can tap to move the cursor more precisely, but iOS 9 now offers a virtual trackpad.
As you type, the virtual keyboard appears at the bottom of the screen. However, if you press two fingertips on the virtual keyboard, it turns into a virtual trackpad, allowing you to position the cursor where you want it. Lift your two fingers off the virtual trackpad and it turns into a virtual keyboard again for typing.
This simple use of the virtual keyboard shows its versatility in being anything you need it to be. Now you’ll be able to control the cursor with trackpad-like efficiency, making editing text far faster, easier, and simpler.
These two features alone might not drive people to replace their current iPads, but they’ll likely make it harder for people to decide between a laptop and an iPad. An iPad will be lighter and easier to use while a laptop will be slightly heavier and able to run programs unavailable on the iPad like Xcode.
The distinctions between the iPad and MacBook will likely continue to merge as the MacBook gets lighter and thinner and the iPad gets more capable. Either way, Apple will likely continue selling more products whether people want a laptop or an iPad.
Remember way back when critics kept saying the iPad was only for consuming content instead of creating it? That myth can now be put to rest with the multitasking and virtual trackpad features of iOS 9. The world is moving towards mobile computing as either ultralight laptops or more powerful tablets. With those two choices, your best option is simply personal preference.