Device Parity

It’s verboten to admit such things, but there are times when I actually want my iPad to be a big iPhone.1 Of course, I want it to do more than my iPhone, too. Apps like Editorial satisfy that requirement, but there are still tasks that I can perform on my iPhone that I can’t perform on my iPad.

For some reason, I find this lack of parity troubling, and I think it’s tangential to the discussion that cropped up recently concerning device ecosystems. Matt Gemmell wrote an excellent piece about it focusing on why you should be okay with owning and traveling with a phone, tablet, and laptop; each excels at different tasks, and you should use what’s most appropriate for whatever you’re doing. Mr. Gemmell:

Compromises don’t make for great products, and nor do they make for great experiences.

That’s why you have more than one device. That’s why it’s perfectly reasonable to pack and travel with several of them. And that’s also why a more rational view of a piece of technology is that it’s part of an ecosystem – your own personal one, encompassing your work, leisure, interests and utility needs.

Having multiple devices is fine. Picking the best device for the task is logical. My irritation manifests when I’m using one device that would be 100% suitable, appropriate, and capable of performing the task at hand but can’t because it lacks the necessary software.

Here’s a common scenario: I’m reading my Twitter feed with Tweetbot on the iPad. I get a message from someone on App.net. Since I don’t have a suitable App.net client on my iPad (or my Mac), I have to pull out my phone to reply instead of simply using my iPad. Multiple devices become an annoyance rather than a luxury.

In this case, the best device for the task is the one I have in front of me. But it isn’t up to the job because of a lack of software. Thus, instead of picking the right tool for the job, I’m forced to use the tool that has the app I need access to. If I wanted to live or travel with just an iPad, I couldn’t.

This likely sounds trivial and silly, but the time I waste switching between devices while performing the following tasks could be better spent.

Checking the Weather

I used to rely on Perfect Weather for radar and Weather Line for forecasts. Both excel at what they do, but both are iPhone-only. About halfway through writing this article, I switched to—wait for it—Check the Weather. It’s a solid app, but it lacks the UI polish of Perfect Weather and Weather Line. It’s universal, though, so I can use it on both my iPhone and iPad, which is a big win.

Communication via App.net

Felix is nice on the iPad, but I still prefer Riposte, and I love Whisper for ADN-based private messaging. And with the addition of Broadcasts, the App.net Passport app is now more useful, but it isn’t optimized for the iPad yet, so I only get broadcast notifications on my phone.

Automating Workflows

I’ve come to rely on Launch Center Pro for a number of tasks, including creating events and reminders, bookmarking URLs via Pincase, generating Markdown links, and more. Launch Center Pro serves as the glue between a few of my core apps, and having an iPad-optimized version would be a welcome addition to my toolset.

Creating Calendar Events and Reminders

Fantastical 2 brought with it a number of enhancements, but it didn’t bring a universal interface. Flexibits is working on a version for the iPad—I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Fantastical 2’s support for x-callback-url is a key part of how I deal with creating events and reminders on iOS.

Going Universal

This problem manifests largely in one direction: apps are written for the iPhone but not the iPad. Writing an app with an interface for both devices is not trivial. It’s almost as difficult as building two separate apps, so I don’t begrudge developers who build for one device and not the other.

That said, I’m hopeful that the continued high sales of the iPad will provide developers with the incentive to start supporting both devices out of the gate.


  1. Gasp. Shock. Horror.