iPad app fatigue: Is it happening to you?

A lull seems to have settled over the release schedule of new and exciting iPad apps...or is it just us?

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read

I've been noticing something funny lately, and it seems to be happening to iPad owners everywhere: they're starting to lose a little bit of interest.

A few of CNET's editors have mentioned this, and I'm also feeling it a little. Especially as of the last few weeks. We even discussed it on the Digital City podcast. Why? Well, it's simple. For some reason, there haven't been many good iPad apps lately. Maybe it's the App Store economy, and higher-priced iPad apps are simply not generating enough sales yet. Maybe it's the more than 80 million iPhones and iPod Touches that make a far more compelling development landscape than the 1-million-and-growing iPad audience, and developers are still focusing attention there.

Brushes: One iPad app that helped convey my feelings. Scott Stein/CNET

Or, maybe, just maybe, people aren't thinking of the iPad's design factor when making apps.

I've noticed that when it comes to iPad-oriented apps, they're mostly either hybrid cross-platform products that share many of the same elements, or they're resolution-upgraded versions of their smaller selves. We found this to be true when it comes to games, and it seems true in many other apps.

Worse, many of the interfaces in these larger-screened versions still don't seem to take into account the extra screen real estate and two-handed multitouch opportunities. As a friend pointed out, it's odd that the iPad's Mail app still stows its account list and "back" button all the way at the top left of the screen, instead of a more intuitive method that doesn't require reaching up to the top.

A number of big-name iPhone apps have also, to this date, still not made it iPad-side. Facebook is a big one (although Facebook on Safari does work quite well on the iPad, perhaps rendering an app moot), and so is Twitter (formerly Tweetie). In fact, we still haven't seen a great killer Twitter app on the iPad. Tweetdeck, for instance, seems to waste its vertical space on extremely large featured tweets, and its capabilities are still nowhere near what the iPhone's Tweetie 2 capabilities are.

One app surprise to staunch the fatigue I've been feeling lately is a screenwriting iPad app called Scripts Pro that's actually an extension of the already-popular iPhone-iPod Touch app, adding iPad-optimized resolutions. It helps tackle a need I thought the iPad would help with, but even Scripts Pro suffers from a few design quirks that probably worked better on the iPhone (tapping the screen to auto-complete words instead of hitting the return key on the keyboard, for instance).

After such promising video-streaming apps as Netflix and ABC's player, the river has run dry. Hulu is still nowhere in sight. And when it comes to futuristic print-replacing magazines and newspaper apps, the ones that exist are either too expensive or too slow to develop. Others, like the New York Times, never really materialized outside of a demo-esque Editor Choice app.

Maybe this is a calm before iPhone OS 4.0 hits the iPad in the fall and encourages new app ideas. Maybe this is a lull before the next iPhone is likely revealed next month at WWDC. Maybe it's because of a certain recent conflict. Or, maybe we've been spoiled by the iPhone's infinite app landscape and are just getting trigger-happy one month in. Either way, we hope it's temporary, because the iPad's potential is still far greater than anyone seems to be giving it credit for. Bring on the better apps--the iPad needs them.