It’s time, iOS 11 is coming soon and there’s a lot to be hoping for. Today we’re going to looking at a feature that probably should have come about a lot sooner: User Accounts.
User Accounts is a relatively simple feature in concept. An account holds all the data, settings, and information specific to the user. So when someone makes a new account, the iPad will have all the same apps, music, and other downloads, but no user specific information, like playlists or credit card data. It’s quite a convenience, and practically an industry standard at this point, making it quite odd that Apple hasn’t bothered implementing this into the iPad by now. Yet, despite the iPad users clamoring for this to be addressed over the last few years, they’ve allowed their competition to gain a long head start. Windows has, of course, been doing this for decades, and with the Surface running full Windows they have a strong foothold with user features. Android and Amazon’s equivalent devices have had a User Accounts system for a while, and even other Apple products, such as MacBooks and desktops, make good use of it. All this makes the iPad feel strangely archaic on this point, and that’s the last thing you want to call your product in as fast-moving and competitive a market as this.
One of the reasons iPad users in particular have been asking about this has to do with the common household status of tablets. Not accounting for the recent, less expensive addition to the shelves, iPads have never, and likely never will, come cheap. Therefore, entire families often end up sharing just one device. How many times have you had to hear “Five more minutes,” from the kids, or “I’m almost done,” from your significant other? That’s because these things have pretty much completely taken over the roles desktops used to fill. All the basic tasks of the PCs and Macs, web browsing, gaming, email, bills and budgeting, video and music streaming, can be accomplished faster and easier on a portable device. Especially one with such a long battery life.
This is where the nightmare begins. So many different people living their digital lives through a single device quickly becomes a pandemonium of keeping some people out of something while making sure others can get in, and keeping track of whose account is currently logged on to which app. It leads to you constantly having to switch things on and off, log in and out, and worry about messing with someone’s business and them messing with yours. You have to finish everything in one sitting, because if you take just five minutes to do something else you might come back to find everything rearrange beyond recognition.
It’s concerns like these that have made User Accounts such a standard on most devices. It’s a valuable luxury, something Google and Amazon have taken advantage of to give them an edge on the market. Why then, is Apple still asleep at the switch where the iOS is concerned? Well, their recent efforts give one fairly simple impression. Over the last two years, Apple has largely focused on the market for their iPad Pro, as home users had been buying and upgrading tablets less frequently. As the name implies, these are meant more for professional use than personal, and professionals are unlikely to make a habit of sharing their tools. Comparatively then, a feature like User Accounts, meant to streamline the process of sharing, has little importance. However, no matter how much marketing they throw in the Pro’s direction, the Air 2 and Mini 4 have held a strong position as Apple’s best sellers.
Thus, a transition seems to be taking place, evidenced by the new iPad release. The Air 2 and 9.7” Pro had an unhealthy number of similarities in features, size, and most importantly, price. Right now it appears as if Apple is trying harder to differentiate their professional and consumer products, with more thought given to buyers of a frugal mindset. Recent testing information fully supports this idea, as Apple takes measures to cut the cost, without sacrificing solid performance and plentiful features, enough to bring existing iPad users back for an upgrade, and win over customers that might have overlooked it in the past. Hopefully then, with more attention being given to the consumer portion of the tablet market, User Accounts will rank higher on Apple’s list of features to be implemented.
It doesn’t end there either. Another reason Apple is likely to implement this feature sooner, rather than later, is because they already have. After a fashion that is. The education market is a profitable one, and Apple hopes for it’s new iPad to emerge in the pole position. Chromebooks and other devices more easily purchased en masse have provided stiff competition, and this new entry is likely to decide the winner, for now anyways. But it isn’t just now that Apple’s been looking for ways to compete in this market, not even this year in fact. As early as iOS 9.3 they developed the Shared iPad feature, which allows for multiple User Accounts to be created and switched between on a single iPad.
When phrased like that, this sounds like exactly what we’ve been looking for. When you break it down however, it becomes clear that it’s not even close to what needs to happen for it to become a feature in household use. It can only be managed via a server unique to the education market and an outside application used solely for the classroom. In this way, the accounts are not actually created within the device, just cached there to better facilitate alternating between multiple accounts. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and this is a step alright. Unfortunately, Shared iPad is more of a stop-gap to maintain a competitive edge in a specific niche, than it is the prototype of a full-fledged system.
Still, the door’s been opened a crack and it seems as if it will open further. Evidence suggests that this new iPad will be designed and marketed specifically for use by consumers and in the classroom, so a more fully realized User Accounts feature, similar in concept to Shared iPad, is quite likely to happen in iOS 11.
Of course, it’s not as if the next generation of iPads will be ruined by the absence of such a feature. We’ve lived without it this long, so I’m certain we can make it to the next iOS update without losing our minds. But if my assertions are correct, if Apple is indeed taking the first steps in implementing a User Accounts feature, I know I will be looking forward to spending more time with my iPad and less time worrying about who used it last.
Where does all this leave you? Are you anxious about this upcoming feature as well? Or does the idea of User Accounts not sound like it would be all that substantial to you? Well, I hope this article was encouraging for the former and informative for the latter, and helpful in some way for anyone else I might have missed. Thank you all for reading!