iOS 9’s Split View for iPad is everything you hoped it would be



Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac


When iOS 9 rolls out to the public this fall, it’ll be iPad users that appreciate it most, thanks to the many improvements Apple has made to multitasking. One of the biggest is Split View, a feature that’s exclusive to the iPad Air 2, which lets you run two apps side-by-side — just like you would on your Mac.

Split View lets you read articles in Safari while composing an email in Mail, enjoy a novel in iBooks while taking notes in the Notes app, and talk to friends via iMessage while organizing your schedule in Calendar.

But is Split View as game-changing as it looks at first glance? You bet it is.

Activating Split View is as easy as swiping your finger in from the right side of the display. You’ll see Slide Over initially — another feature that’s new to iOS 9, which I’ll talk about in another piece — but if you select the second app you wish to use and then enlarge the window by dragging its left edge into the center of the screen, you’ll enter Split View mode.

You can now use both of the apps displayed on your screen simultaneously — as if they were one. There’s no need to keep double-tapping the home button to jump in and out of apps, and there’s no reloading, so you get a seamless experience between the two.

I’ve been using Split View as much as I could over the past few days, just to see how well it works in different scenarios. It’s incredibly useful just for the simplest of things — like continuing an iMessage conversation while you’re browsing the web — but it really shines when you need to get stuff done.


I’ve used my iPad for work before, but it’s always been a painful experience. It normally involves switching between countless tabs in Safari — that keep reloading when you don’t want them to — or switching between apps using the app switcher. Everything takes twice as long, and I find myself itching to return to my computer.

Notes alongside Mail in Split View.
Notes alongside Mail in Split View.
Screenshot: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

While lay in bed on Sunday morning, I used Split View to draft a number of articles in Safari while referring to notes I’d made in the Notes app, or press releases I’d received in Mail. The whole experience was just as smooth as Apple promised it would be, and it no longer felt like the iPad was holding me back.

In fact, I felt more productive.

At my desk there are three monitors, each of which is displaying windows that grab my attention when I should be concentrating. I get distracted by my Twitter timeline, RSS reader, Slack (the chat app we use at Cult of Mac, and other programs. But on my iPad, all I see while I’m working are the two apps I need.

Having fun

Split View doesn’t have to be about getting things done, of course.

While watching your favorite movie, you can use Split View to quickly open up Safari and find out who that actor is, or the name of that catchy song in the soundtrack. You can use it to find restaurants or book movie tickets while chatting to a friend on FaceTime, or to find directions in Maps while putting together a trip itinerary in Mail.

Editing photos while watching a movie? It's possible in Split View.
Editing photos while watching a movie? It’s possible in Split View.
Screenshot: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Let’s say you want to learn how to edit photos to turn your drab holiday snaps into stunning masterpieces you can put into an album. You can find a tips or tutorial video in Safari, or download one and put it into the Videos app — then edit your images in Photos while you learn.


Once you’re using Split View, you can quickly swap the app you’re using on the right side of your display by dragging down from the top of the screen, then selecting another other one. You can also adjust the size of each app by dragging the slider in the middle of the display to either side.

In landscape mode, you can have both apps take up a fair share of the display — half each — or allow one to have three quarters, while the other takes the rest. Split View surprisingly works in portrait mode, too, but the only setup allowed there is the second one.

If you want to return to using just one app, you can drag the slider from the middle of the display right to the edge. If you drag it to the right side, you’ll be left with the app displayed on the left, and vice-versa.

One of the great things about Split View is that your setup remains intact when you switch apps. So if you’re using Safari alongside Notes, for instance, and you switch to Messages to reply to something, when you switch back to Safari it will still have Notes alongside it, and you can pick up where you left off.


Split View isn’t quite there yet, however.

The feature is limited right now because it only works with select Apple apps — those that are baked into iOS. But Apple is making the necessary APIs available to third-party developers so that they can make their own apps Split View-compatible.

Many will already be working on this, so we’ll likely see more Split View apps by the time iOS 9 rolls out this fall — with plenty more to come later on. And as that library of Split View apps gets bigger, the feature is going to get better and better.

In time, you’ll be able to use YouTube alongside Twitter, Evernote alongside Chrome, and Pages alongside your banking app. Combinations like this will make the iPad an increasingly useful productivity tool — one that really could replace your notebook for good.

The only apps available in Split View now are Apple's.
The only apps available in Split View now are Apple’s.
Screenshot: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Ditching your PC

This is what Split View and Slide Over and the other improvements Apple is making to multitasking on iOS are all about.

Since its debut, Apple has billed the iPad as a post-PC device — an ultraportable machine that can do everything from browsing the web to editing movies to writing novels. But it has been held back by its lack of true multitasking functionality, and iOS 9 hopes to change that.

The 9.7-inch display will continue to be a stumbling block for many, but rumor has it Apple will solve that with a 12-inch “iPad Pro” later this year. Until then, I think I can get used to using Split View on my iPad Air 2. It has already made my device a lot more useful.

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  • Chris Alexander

    I am a die-hard apple fan and have been since the Macintosh SE back in the 80’s. At some point, though, we have to look at things like this and be honest that the Android world had it first. When are we going to get back to being the leader of the pack, not trying to redo or fix everything that is out there? I’m sure many of you will take umbrage to this comment, as Apple has cemented tunnel-vision fan boys out there- and rightfully so- but it has to be said. I love my Apple products, and would never dream of switching sides because of quality…. but just a thought on Apple’s recent lack of leading the pack.

    • Jim

      Apple leads the pack in many ways. I’ll never understand why people say this when some feature is discussed and then they make these broad sweeping generalizations. There’s so many things Apple lead with, while many other things they didn’t. So what? By the way, Android did NOT lead the way here, Windows did, and Android in fact DOES NOT support split view. What you are thinking of is the split view on Samsung devices and that is a feature of the TouchWiz skin, not of Android. A Nexus 9 tablet can’t do split view for instance.
      Just remember, every time you see something that Apple caught up to, there’s also something Android caught up to Apple with. Did you watch the keynote for Google IO this year? 5 of 6 headlining Android M features are features iOS already has, some of them for a few years already. Remember when iOS introduced actionable lock screen notifications in iOS 6 over two years ago? Android just got that feature in Lollipop last fall. Cortana on Windows is just another version of Siri which came first. These are just a few points in a long list and I don’t care to spend the time listing it all, but don’t let yourself think that Apple is just not leading the way in general because that’s absolutely false. They are leading the way in many things and catching up in others, just like all of the big 3 do.

      • utarasone

        The reason this stuff comes up is because Apple is typically condescending when companies copy Apple. But when Apple copies another company it is seen as Apple “reinventing” or “revolutionizing” what the others did. So it’s kinda like…Apple had it coming. Haha.

      • Tom

        And for every ying theres a yang! Google now was invented by google labs and was introduced in 2012 but was in the makeing for years, It actually won science invention of the year. Thats why apple bought siri from the store. Vlingo was in the android store it was a personal assistant at the same time. So apple bought siri but could not keep up with google now, so apple bought cue and beats music, and aded shazam music intergration to keep up with Google now. In ios 9 this has come together as apple scratching to catch up to the google service. Give me the made from scratch google now over the all bought inferior stuff apple bought, even there maps app was bought. Did you know i have had lock screen notifications and actions for 5 years and i dont have a rooted android, And Android is leading the way as well because samsung make there own 14nm processor and the next iphone will have a samsung 14nm processor and ddr4 ram and probably 2ufs storage but not a Qhd screen

    • Killian Bell

      I don’t really see what difference it makes, to be honest. Android didn’t have it first – Samsung did – and they’ve taken plenty of features from Apple and iOS, so it’s only fair.

      Besides, Split View works incredibly well on iPad, so who really cares whether another platform had something similar first?

      • Yes if you have an iPad Air 2. That’s really sad that the iPad Air, which I have had for a very short time is not compatible with having two (or more) windows open at the same time? I paid $800 for my tablet, while I can get a $300 Samsung that already has this and a multitude of more efficient features. These are ones which Apple either refuses to implement or is just going at turtle speed in releasing them. It took 5 years to implement split screen multi-tasking? Seriously? As much as I love my iMac/MacBook Pro, I won’t be upgrading my iPad anytime soon and will look for something that “just works.” I mean, even Windows 3.1. in 1992 had split screen multitasking.

      • Richard Ludwig

        Wow… did you copy/paste your comment? It’s like when people complained that Siri wasn’t going to be available on the iPad 2.

        Yeesh. It’s one feature that’s not available. Did you buy the iPad Air expecting that Apple was going to come out with Split Screen and make it available on your device and that’s the only reason you bought it?

        iOS didn’t have it when you bought it and hasn’t had it since the original iPad – and yet you still bought an iPad. BTW – if you’re that much of a “power user” that you NEED Split Screen and this is a do-or-die for you, then why didn’t you splurge and get the Air 2?

        And have you TRIED the $300 Samsung tablets that have Split Screen? They shouldn’t have it – it works like crap on an underpowered device (Heck, Android works like crap on an underpowered device).

      • Er.. no. I did not copy/paste my comment. LOL. I wish I had, as it would have been a lot easier. :) These are my own musings and if the look familiar then that should tell you something. For me, Siri was a no brainer, and I had the iPad 2 and without complaint,.I happily upgraded to get this new technology that was not around in 1992, so the comparison fails.

        You are absolutely right, no argument against the fact that I did not buy the iPad Air expecting that Apple was going to come out with Split Screen and make it available on it, etc. etc. so of course I’ll be keeping it and using it for everything I currently use it for. I simply will not be continuing the endless sell and upgrade treadmill just to get something that a 1992 Windows PC could do. Er… the last part of your second last paragraph makes no sense to me… how could I possibly foresee either the iPad Air2 or split screen when I bought the iPad Air when it first came out? Maybe I’m missing something…

        Yes iOS didn’t have it forever and the way iOS implements multitasking is hugely inefficient, at least for me. For example, double tapping the home button and swiping through apps to find the one you need is a lot less efficient than swiping down from the top and having a list of available apps that are open right there for you. That’s why I installed “Launcher” on both my iPad and iPhone, so that I can have the most used apps in one place and save tapping. One swipe, one tap. Being able to have split screen would have allowed me to need to do one less thing.

        Having hated Samsung products for awhile now (shamelessly ripping off others etc) I tried a friend’s Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (2014) with a Quad Core processor and 3G of RAM. Is that what you mean by underpowered? As much as I hate to say it, rather than being open-minded, you’re starting to sound like an Apple fan boy rather than someone interested in facts. In real world testing, it seemed to work just fine and I loaded up tons of apps and it showed no lag whatsoever. Maybe I need to test it more, as I’m not familiar enough with Android’s pros and cons yet. If it has what I want and need, I will go with it. If Apple can’t get it’s act together in a reasonable amount of time, and keeps doing stuff like this, I and others will go elsewhere. I’m keeping my iMac and MacBook Pro though… you’ll have to pry those from my cold dead hands… ;)

      • Richard Ludwig

        I won’t deny that Samsung makes some nice tablets – I owned a Samsug ATIV for a year before upgrading to a Surface Pro. I also owned a Note 8.0 (which I used mostly for drawing).

        Here’s the thing though – if you have a frustration with Apple and this one feature, you are in for SUCH a rough ride with Samsung. Apple is paradise with overflowing generosity in comparison. Samsung software upgrades are done on Samsung’s good time – you won’t get the latest version of Android right out of the gate – maybe never – not to mention features that may or may not be included. As far as I know, Magazine UI never did come to my Note.

        As for your question about power… It’s not a question of raw horsepower, it’s how the OS and applications are able to use it. Some things in Android are super fast while others are super laggy. You do NOT have the continual smooth experience of iOS. The Android experience IS better on higher powered devices, but even on the larger, more powerful Galaxy tabs the split screen experience is not great.

        Don’t misunderstand me – I have no hate against Samsung or Android, just more frustration than I’ve ever had with iOS. Each user experience will vary, and Android is fantastic if you want a scaled down desktop experience on a tablet/phone – personally, I don’t. I find Android interesting to play with, but would never rely on it for a main tablet (I would never have the faith in it that I do in my iPad Mini).

        If it works for you, by all means go with what works for you. My point is that if you’re upset with SplitScreen not coming to the iPad Air, Samsung holds no golden key for you.

      • Richard, thanks for the fair warning. I appreciate it. Every time I’ve been tempted to jump to Android, and tried various flavours and brands that support it, I’ve come away being satisfied with iOS. I’ve found ways around the things that drive me mad with UI/UX in iOS and am greatly relieved when some new simplistic feature is released for iPhone and iPad. I sometimes wish I could just get a hold of Jony Ive or whoever does the UI/UX design there and say, look.. here is a better way to do it… and others better than me already have and mocked stuff up beautifully.

        Yeah I hate that on Android you get whatever version of the OS that’s baked into the product you’re buying unless you can root the device and put something newer on it… Love that I can update iOS anytime and even on older devices like my iPhone 4s from years ago.

        I’m also finding that many of the apps I used on iOS are not even made for Android, so yeah like you, I can’t ever use it as my main tablet so jumping just doesn’t work for me. I will just continue to use my iPad Air, which is fantastic and not worry so much. Thanks for your insight and help.

    • Richard Ludwig

      I think YOU’RE the one with tunnel vision. Apple rarely (if ever) leads the pack by inventing something brand new – they lead the pack by refining ideas and making them work better and more naturally than others. First to market is not BEST in market. Who remembers the Diamond Rio or the Creative Nomad Jukebox? Both portable mp3 players out before the iPod. Remember Kyocera 6035 Palm phone? A smartphone before the iPhone. How about Microsoft’s Windows XP Tablet Edition in 2002 or even the “Origami” concept? Yep – tablets before the iPad. What do all of these products have in common (besides not being around anymore)? They were cool technology demos that didn’t catch on with the general public. When Apple came to market with their devices, they did so with the average person in mind – not the technologically minded.

      That has ALWAYS been Apple’s thing, ever since the introduction of the very first Apple Computer – the goal is to bring computing concepts to everybody and allow us all to experience advanced technology without having to be bothered with knowing all about advanced technology.

      Android and Samsung are for people who like to focus on the computer they’re using. Apple is for people who like to focus on what they’re using the computer for.

      • FootSoldier

        This is very true. I’ve used Samsungs split screen, and there implementation was horrible. Glitchy, no clear indication of what will work with all the apps that supposedly enabled it. Some Apps would even just cut off some of the content (horrible implementation!). Also Apple may bring allot of mainstream apps to enable split screen, because of the huge developer devotion they usually demand with there ecosystem. The Android OEM’s did a bad job, with support all over the place, and many apps not even working right. Windows did allot better, but there App Store is like a wasteland.

      • Thanks for posting this, it will help me get a clearer understanding of what real world users experience using Samsung’s implementation of split screen. Can you tell me what device this was on and possibly specs?

      • FootSoldier

        The Samsung Galaxy Tad S 10.5″. And the Galaxy Tab 4 10.1″.

      • I have to agree with you on this point as the facts seem to speak for themselves. Creative Nomad?!?!? Bwahahaha… a blue one! It died after about a year… compare that to an iPod Touch 5 now…

    • FootSoldier

      But this may be the biggest implementation of splitscreen seen on any platform. Windows did it first, but they didn’t have the Apps. Samsung did it, but there implementation was horrible, with no clear indication of what will work with all the apps that supposedly enabled it, and Apps not working properly. Now IOS has the Apps, and an army of developers drooling at the chance to include every new feature, and API in IOS 9. No different than in IOS 8, and before. Apples developer devotion is actually off the freakin charts. Microsoft, and Android both would kill to have this. I think this is way more important than just being able to say I did it first. Splitscreen on IOS may get so much mainstream support, we may be able to see how powerful the feature can truly be.

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  • Jim

    It’ll take competent developers about 5 minutes to make their apps Split View compatible because the system is baked right into the core OS. Unlike on Samsung tablets where it’s a feature of the TouchWiz skin and not supported in native Android.
    This is definitely “game-changing” for iPads, not for the industry of course since Windows tablets already had this.

    • FootSoldier

      It may just be game changing, because of the huge developer devotion Apple demands with there ecosystem. Windows had this feature, but they didn’t have Apps. There App Store is like a wasteland. Just imagine all the mainstream, and polished tablet optimized IOS apps that can take advantage of this feature. Windows, and Android both would kill for this type of developer devotion.

      • mildmanneredjanitor

        Windows Snap blows away this pale imitation of a feature.
        Not only does it run on ANY device (from $60 tabs to 13inch tabs to 18inch tabs to 84inches), with up to four fully resizable, fully miltitasking snap panes, it works with any Store app (which actually isn’t a wasteland, note I’m typing this on my Disqus app friend), and any conventional Windows application, the back catalogue of which is 10 times what will ever be on your iPad.
        Oh yes, and in Windows10 iOS developers can simply port those apps to the Windows Store, as can Android developers, as can website developers package their website, as can conventional Windows apps.
        Sorry, you were saying something?
        PS, pen and mouse work with all of these too %). Proper pens by the way.
        Keep smiling!

      • FootSoldier

        Don’t get me wrong. Windows did a good job with this feature, but being a long time user of Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 beta,the Windows Store is still a huge problem for Windows. It is indeed a true wasteland of apps. The Windows Store has been out for years, and there still struggling to get App support. IOS, and Android App ports have been promised since Windows 8 was announced. Developers not supporting Windows Store, is exactly what makes it a wasteland. And the surly have not supported it. Using this with the Disqus app is exactly my point (which I couldn’t find on Windows Store). There isn’t even an official Tumblr App, which is crazy. Now the Snap feature is actually horribly implemented on desktop Apps, because you sill have to resize the windows. We’ll see what happens with Win 10, but App Store support will still be a Huge Uphill battle for Windows. ie. Using Windows right now.

  • shout4ks

    Splitting windows is a natural UI development on any platform. At some point they will all have some form of this. The people screaming ‘xyz had this first’ is just noise. It’s now coming to iOS 9, I’m super happy, but I’m not going to argue with anyone about who is better, first or otherwise about a feature that’s been around since the first GUIs in the late 80’s.

    • Tom

      Yes but i think a lot of comments are saying apple has just done it so it has to be a revoultion! dont you think,, those pixies are so magical.

  • Bill Latronica

    Any word if the 6 plus will inherit these new features?

  • Thank you for the explanation, but yes, I understand that. The fact that the iPad Air only shipped with 1GB of RAM whilst the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (2014) Note comes with 3 is mind-boggling. Why do you need a tri-core processor to have two windows (apps) sit side by side on a tiny (compared to a computer monitor) screen? Use a bit of the flash storage memory to act as a virtual memory storage area just like full-fledged computers do. It cannot be that hard to do, can it?

  • Thank you, Sir. :)

  • Who cares “who had it first”? I use Apple devices because I love Apple’s hardware and OS implementations. Apple’s products are durable, fun and easy to use. I don’t care if they’re more expensive than other devices, because they end up lasting much longer and provide a solid and reliable user experience than other, cheaper manufacturers. I just save up my money and get what I want. I bought my first Mac in 1989 and have stuck with the company ever since due to its exceptional quality and terrific service. I’m glad that Apple has finally come out with split-screen view, as it will finally give me a reason to buy an iPad. Apple isn’t perfect, but I find it so consistently much better than the alternatives that I stick with the company. I really don’t get all the nitpicking and bitching in these comments. Use the devices that work best for you and shut up. If you find Android to be the cat’s meow: USE ANDROID, and don’t try to minimize or criticize Apple users for their choices. In case you hadn’t noticed, Apple is doing just fine as a company (the most valuable in the world), and despite the bitchers in the world, the vast majority of Apple users are delighted with their experience.

  • raindog308

    Nice to see Apple catching up with Surface…which has had this feature for years.

    And thanks for making this an iPad Air 2-only feature. Typical Apple.

    • Jocelyn

      That’s really true lol