Why Apple should make iPad landscape-first

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iPad needs to be redesigned to be landscape-first
This is how most people hold their iPad.
Photo: Roberto Nickson/Pexels CC

Apple is holding its iPad wrong. The company designs its tablets as if the best way to hold one is in a portrait orientation. But landscape is actually more common, and Apple should make changes to the iPad’s design to reflect that.

I did a quick poll of friends, family and co-workers who use tablets to see how they prefer holding their computer before writing this. It was landscape by a landslide. Portrait had some supporters, of course, but a wide majority of people said they mostly position their iPad so the display is wider rather than taller.

But Apple had it wrong from the beginning. It considered putting two charging data ports in the first iPad so it’d give equal access to landscape mode. But then Apple changed its mind and went down the wrong path.

Start with the Apple logo

To be fair, Apple already started to wake up to this fact. iPadOS 14.5 will display the Apple logo right-side up when an iPad is booting in landscape orientation. It’s no longer locked into portrait mode. (Hurray, it only took 11 years.)

The next step is to flip the Apple logo on the back panel. This would be a sign that the designers realize the iPad is a landscape-first computer.

Move the front-facing camera

I, and I’m sure many of you, did more video conferencing in the past year than in all the preceding years put together. And the experience really made clear that the iPad’s front-facing camera is misplaced. It needs to move so it’s at the top of the tablet when in landscape mode.

Currently, when an Apple tablet is held the way most people prefer to, the FaceTime camera is way over on the left side of the screen. As a result, when you’re looking at someone in a Zoom call, it looks like you’re giving them serious side-eye. If you need a definition, side-eye is “a sidelong glance or gaze especially when expressing scorn, suspicion, disapproval.”

That’s not good.

Switch the power and volume buttons

With an iPad in landscape mode, the volume buttons sit along the top edge. Volume up is on the left while volume down is on the right. That’s not the least bit intuitive. They should move to the left edge, so up would be up and down would be down.

The power button can switch places with them. It belongs on the top in landscape orientation anyway.

Require iPad app developers to support landscape mode

Most iPad applications support landscape mode. But there are some huge exceptions. You need look no further than Instagram for an example. And TikTok. But they aren’t alone: My bank’s app is portrait only.

This is hugely inconvenient when you’ve got a keyboard attached to the tablet. And it’s likely a sign that the developers dismiss iPads as nothing more than big iPhones.

Apple needs to require third-party software that supports iPadOS to offer users a choice between landscape and portrait orientations. Even for games.

iPad should be a landscape-first tablet

To be clear, the iPad should be landscape-first, not landscape-only. There’s still a role for portrait orientation, and there are plenty of people who prefer it. But the current design is portrait-first, and that’s not the way most people use their tablets.

Apple needs to realize that fact and embrace it. When future iPads go on the drawing board, the screen should be in landscape mode from the very beginning. The necessary changes are obvious from there.