Follow Up to Using iPad as Primary Computer/Apple as a Service Company

Since early September I have been using my 12.9” iPad Pro Gen 3 as my primary computing device and I must say it is handling the task with very few complaints.

Furthermore, my complaints are mostly about how iCloud works rather than how the device works. All of them center around services that Apple offers that, if they worked better, would make a huge difference in usability on the iPad.

My first annoyance is with Apple Notes. It syncs across devices and across accounts with shared folders. But it does so with glacial speed. If I scan a pdf of a document and add it as a note it will take as much as a day to propagate across all of the devices and users it is shared with. I have noticed it comes in two stages.

Uploading to the cloud from the original device seems to take the longest time and uploading does not seem to work in the background. Not only must the uploading device be open, it appears the Notes app must be in the foreground for uploading to complete.

Additionally there is no control to force a two way update of the notes app. This leads to many iterations of shutting down the app, reopening it and hoping whatever is in iCloud chooses to sync down to the device.

Of course this is totally silly and should be unnecessary. New notes should sync in the background, whatever the status of the app, silently, quickly and without the need for user intervention. Evernote does it so why not Apple?

The next is Files. Now Files solves many problems and I am grateful that Apple finally discovered that people who want to make full use of their great hardware need to access and manipulate files outside of the apps that created them and on external drives. This is a huge step for iPad OS and, along with a multi window interface makes using the iPad as a primary computer possible.

However, Files still has issues with cloud services like Dropbox or One Drive. They appear to work well in Files but when push comes to shove, when you need to do something quickly and accurately, they fail.

I don’t know where the blame for this issue lies. It may lie with how the other providers have built their interfaces with Files. I use One Drive right now and it has enough internal inconsistencies (just try opening a file shared with you by someone else in the file selector interface of Excel, its a mess), that I hesitate to mark this as an Apple issue. Perhaps the access Apple permits is a problem or perhaps its the third party software. Either way this would not likely be a problem if ——-

iCloud Drive could share folders. This feature was promised with the rollout of iPad OS 13 and is now slated for delivery sometime in 2020. If/when that happens I hope it does not share the issues that Notes has with synching. If Apple wants to be a services company, it seems to me that the biggest service people are willing to pay for is cloud storage that allows sharing of folders full of files with co-workers, family members, etc.

The beauty of file sharing as a service is that all Apple has to provide is the infrastructure (this could be said about Notes too). The users make the content. This should be infinitely more profitable than music where Apple must pay for infrastructure and content. I will be paying for iCloud Drive storage because, while I don’t really trust Apple, I trust them to handle my data in a slightly more secure and private manner than Microsoft or Google.

And last, there is Photos. Where to start. Apple’s view of its customers appears to be that we are all single individuals living in lofts in a big city. Hipsters doing hipster stuff. Hanging out with friends, dating, tweeting everything that comes to mind. But mainly, that we don’t have people we share our lives on in a significant way.

Think about how Photos is organized. All of my pictures are collected in a single place, every selfie, every photo of a mountain every screen shot. I can only share them with my wife by creating shared items and adding photo’s to them. These albums cannot contain sub albums and are limited to 5,000 items. In addition if the person you are sharing the photo’s with has optimize photos turned on, they will see the shared photos at reduced resolution. Since I assume the later is true of photos they take themselves, this is not a big deal. Full res photos can be obtained from iCloud.

I could live with the 5,000 items if I could nest shared folders. I could probably organize by year, like I do now on One Drive, with subfolders for events. But it can’t be done.

The question is why? Why is there not a shared family album? Why can we not tag pictures contained in our iPhotos albums (if there is I can’t find a way)? Security cannot be the reason because the meta data could be contained on device and only transferred to another user with permission.

I understand that Apple wants to be at the forefront of security, I want them to be, but they could securely give us shared photo management capabilities that are common in other ecosystems without compromise to security.