We’re sure you’ve come across those people who carry a silicone-covered keypad for their iPads. We’re also sure you’ve wondered why exactly a gadget meant exclusively to be used as a mini-computer might have an addition that essentially pushes it a step further into being a full-blown laptop computer. Add to it the ease and convenience of a good ol’ wireless mouse. What do these additions mean for your apps?
New Tricks, Old Dog
In case you missed it, the latest update on the iPadOS 13.4 brings with it mouse & keypad support. Not just that, but it has been declared that Apple will also come up with hardware dedicated to work in tandem with this new UI. Along with Apple, other third-party hardware manufacturers are providing users the option to convert their iPad tablet into a makeshift laptop by producing cases equipped with trackpads and keyboards.
What Difference Will This Make?
Although a pretty recent update, tracking this shift is crucial in gauging the gradual changes in how users engage with apps. Given the fact that almost everyone is now cooped up at home and in quarantine, adding a keypad and/or trackpad with a mouse to their iPads can now enable designers, work-from-home freelancers, artists, architects, etc. a better, more accessible set-up to produce their work in; it’s no surprise that searches for “iPad trackpad with keyboard” in the United States have increased more than tenfold in the month of March alone, according to Google Trends, 2020. Additionally, native iOS apps could potentially replace web-based apps such as Chrome, Firefox, etc., making users convert entirely to using native iOS apps for their daily engagement.
What Can You Do About This?
Run a quality assurance test with keyboard and trackpad. Try not to limit your testing to just your apps—run a test on your competitor’s apps as well to study keyboard & trackpad behaviours across multiple and diverse platforms. How does your app fare as compared to another? Does the keypad work smoothly, or does the trackpad have a slight lag? Is scrolling smooth and at the right speed? Is it user-friendly? Observe points that require multi-finger gestures, that can prove to be a little difficult to navigate. You could alternatively provide another, simpler option for such moves: for example, adding a double tap to zoom in feature in place of the pinch or three finger-zoom.
Stick to stock iOS and iPadOS development software as much as you can. What fills the loopholes in most stock UI interactions is that trackpad engagement is automatically converted into touch events, thus making for a more superfluous experience. Make sure you observe any special actions that are considered complex in order to be seen as legitimate. Luckily, for iOS and iPadOS users, the Apple UIKit automatically adjusts the pointer appearance based on your interactions; you can, however, specify customizations should you require any.
Keep track of the percentage of your target audience that actually used a keyboard & trackpad addition. One of the best ways to collect data and test user engagement with these tools is an in-person focus group, which will give you real-time feedback pertaining to the performance, convenience and efficiency of the keyboard & trackpad combination.
Adapt according to preferred patterns. If your data shows that your target audience is adapting better to using a trackpad with their iPadOS, then provide for a more customized experience by employing the Apple APIs. A pre-emptive optimization technique that favours the trackpad will allow for a more comfortable feel for your audience along with a more powerful performance, every time.
All in all, adapting an iPadOS to perform just as well as a laptop computer especially in times when working from home has become the new normal, providing the accessibility of keyboards and trackpads make for a more wholesome, efficient and smoother experience. Making sure your app [or apps] are on par with these additions is a sureshot to retaining your target audience and potentially acquiring a larger one as the world of the iOS moves towards a user-friendly approach with each update.